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This past weekend (January 7-8) saw the first race of the 2012 Shimano Winter Series presented by Southridge USA in Fontana, California.  This series is fast becoming the primer that most serious contenders for the World Cup series are using as their off-season training and work up for the cup races that are a bit on the “pedaly” side of downhill racing.  The first World Cup race will again be in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa in March and for those of you who don’t remember last years race it was long on pedaling.  The Fontana course typically has two pedal sections split up by a rock garden, and all of this comes after the real downhill part has taken place so conditioning if the key to victory at Fontana.

Shane Murphy making moves during his race run.

Saturday held great Southern California weather with mild temps and loads of sun.  There was one course for all classes, so a level playing field with which to judge a riders performance across the board.  The course was typical Fontana, dry and dusty with off camber turns and g-outs followed by 90 degree turns.  But let’s remember where this race is held….Fontana.  And low and behold as the sun went down and many riders made the trek to Anaheim to watch the first race of the Supercross series, the winds picked up and started to create havoc.  

Neko Mulally made the journey to SoCal to test how his winter training routine is paying off.

As the sun rose on Sunday morning, the wind had picked up even further and was a consistent 20+ MPH with reports of gusts on the hill that were in excess of 70MPH.  The pits looked like a ghost town because none of the teams or sponsors wanted to put up their tents or awnings due to the high winds.   When race time came around, most racers had just accepted that this was going to be a difficult race and anything could and did happen.  Waylon Smith was the first out of the starting gate for the Pro Class, and by the time he had made it down to the first pedal section he was like a man possessed.  He literally had his head down and was driving as hard as he could to get to the last rock garden and the subsequent drag race down “The Wall”.  His race run set the standard that all the rest of the Pro Class needed to better.  

Waylon Smith was untouchable at this event.

Neko Mulally had a great run, and Mitch Ropelato (Winalotto) actually went down on his race run at the top and did a full barrel roll on the ground before picking himself up and moving on.  Even with this little mishap, Mitch ended up taking third place.  Many racers fell victim to the torrid winds and were either pushed completely down to the ground or pushed so far off their lines that they crashed.  If you didn’t get pushed around, you fell victim to going head on into the swirling wind and some were pushed backward so hard that they almost come to a dead stop.   

Pro Results
1. Waylon Smith – Hyper Bikes
2. Neko Mulally – Trek World Racing
3. Mitch Ropelato
4. Elliot Jackson – Yeti
5. Cody Johnson

The next race in the Southridge Winter Series presented by Shimano with be the weekend of January 21-22.  For details go to 
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