For fellow professional mountain bike racers and California residents Brian Lopes and Jill Kintner, it’s never too early to get a leg up – or two as the case may be – on the competition, and the pair delivered on that premise by racing their way to respective men’s and women’s titles and earning critical points at the first stop of the [L=http://www.jeepsports.com]Jeep® King of the Mountain 2005 Professional Mountain Biking World Championships[/L] in San Luis Obispo, Calif.With crystal blue skies, pleasant temperatures and a crowd of over 2,000 local and regional race enthusiasts helping create an unmatched race environment at the renowned Madonna Inn, 16 of the most decorated national and international professional mountain bike racers battled one another and a physically demanding, high-speed racecourse known as “the Y” for a share of the richest prize purse in the sport.
Lopes, one of the most recognizable faces in the sport and mountain bike racing’s career victories leader, held off a strong charge by 2004 World Champion Michael Prokop of the Czech Republic to capture the title in the Championship Heat. The Temecula Canyon, Calif., resident earlier in the day took care of defending Jeep King of the Mountain World Champion Wade Bootes of Australia and Chris Powell of La Jolla, Calif. The top-seeded Prokop earned a spot in the finals by taking down San Diego’s Mike King, a former World Champion who has amassed 67 career top-three finishes, and Brian Schmith of Lancaster, Calif. Bootes held on for third place in the competition after defeating King in the Consolation Heat. Rounding out the standings were Nathan Rennie of Australia, runner-up at the 2005 U.S. Mountain Bike Open and 2005 Australian Mountain Bike Open and a former winner of the Australian National Series Championship and Sea Otter Championship, Powell, local fan favorite Travis Collins of San Luis Obispo, Calif., and Brian Schmith of Lancaster, Calif.
In the women’s bracket, top seed Kintner swept through the competition without losing a single race, knocking off fellow Golden State racer Tara Llanes of Corona, Calif., a four-time Winter X Games medalist and 2003 U.S. Mountain X Champion, in the Championship Heat. To get to the finals, Kintner topped defending Jeep King of the Mountain World Champion, Katrina Miller of Australia and Marla Streb of Los Oslo, Calif. Llanes had an equally impressive day on the racecourse, topping Vanessa Quin of New Zealand, the 2004 ICU World Champion and England’s Fionn Griffiths, the 2003 NORBA Champion. Quin captured third place by knocking off Miller in the Consolation Heat. Melissa Buhl of Chandler, Ariz., placed fifth, followed by Anneke Beerten of the Netherlands, number one overall at the 2004 World Cup, Griffiths and Streb.
First Leg ResultsMens Division
1. Brian Lopes - Trabuco Canyon, Calif.
2. Michael Prokop - Czech Republic
3. Wade Bootes - Australia
4. Mike King - San Diego, Calif.
5. Nathan Rennie - Australia
6. Chris Powell - La Jolla, Calif.
7. Travis Collins - San Luis Obispo, Calif.
8. Brian Schmith - Lancaster, Calif.Womens Division
1. Jill Kintner - San Jose, Calif.
2. Tara Llanes - Corona, Calif.
3. Vanessa Quin - New Zealand
4. Katrina Miller - Australia
5. Melissa Buhl - Chandler, Ariz.
6. Anneke Beerten - The Netherlands
7. Fionn Griffiths - England
8. Marla Streb - Los Oslo, Calif.
Adding to the intrigue of the head-to-head match-ups featuring the sport’s premier athletes was the racecourse on which they competed. The exclusive “Y” course utilized by the Jeep King of the Mountain Series combines the two most dramatic and popular forms of mountain bike racing into one unique discipline. Competitors begin the race on a dual slalom courses (the prongs of the Y) before converging midway to a single course (the bottom of the Y). In the bottom section, racers must navigate a series of banked turns, tabletops, step-down jumps and rollers before the track climaxes with an all-out sprint to the finish. The “Y” has been described as the ultimate format for mountain bike racing, as the overall winners must have a diverse set of skills to win the coveted Jeep King of the Mountain title, symbolic of the World Professional Champion.
World Professional Champions are crowned based on a system of cumulative points earned throughout the Jeep King of the Mountain Series, In addition to competing for Jeep King of the Mountain honors, the racers are battling for a share of the record prize purse, which tops $100,000, and the keys to a new 2006 Jeep Commander
Having completed this first leg of competition in San Luis Obispo, the Jeep King of the Mountain Series will continue its tour to some of the most spectacular, scenic outdoor havens in the U.S., each providing for a unique backdrop and world-class recreational facilities. The event next heads to Pando Ski Area in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Saturday, July 23, before finishing the season with the grand finale at Jack Frost Mountain in the Pocono Mountain, Pa., on Sunday, August 14.Each Jeep King of the Mountain event will be broadcast to a national television audience. Two one-hour specials will be nationally syndicated during the June, July and August time period, with the finals airing on CBS Sports. The kick-off event in San Luis Obispo, Calif., will air starting June 25 in over 130 television markets including WABC – New York, KABC – Los Angeles and WLS – Chicago.
The Jeep® King of the Mountain was established in 1993. Jeep® is the title sponsor for the Jeep King of the Mountain Series. The Professional Mountain Biking World Championships (www.jeepsports.com) is the sister competition to wintertime’s prestigious Jeep King of the Mountain Skiing & Snowboarding World Championships, now in its 12th season as the most prestigious event in professional snow sports. Other marketing partners include Columbia Sportswear, Infinity Sound Systems, John Paul Mitchell Systems, Mopar and Sirius Satellite Radio.