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As we roll into February and get that much closer to the start of the 2012 World Cup season, the Shimano Winter Series Presented by Southridge USA is at the mid-point with the third race of what will sure to be an amazing  and memorable 2012 downhill mountain biking season.  The talent pool that emerged out of the 2011 season here at Southridge ended up not only capturing the overall World Cup Championship, but the US National Championship as well.  We are seeing a new group of young guns rise to their potential in the Jr. Cat 1 class, and the riders in the Pro class are jockeying for position as they find what works with their training programs and pushing the envelope even farther.  

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We know that “you never know what to expect” when it comes to Fontana, and riders got a new challenge with this past weekend's race.  We had seen glimpses of this race course in the previous weeks with fresh berms going in at different points on the hills at Fontana and those new features were at the forefront of this race.  Over the course of Saturday’s practice, the condition of the new berms got worse and worse.  The sand in the upper berms  became at least 2-3” deep in some sections, and the silt buildup in the lower switch backs made for a new line as each rider came through on their run.  The middle section saw a fast line through a familiar off-camber rock slab and the bottom section had racers going off to the right side of the hill giving spectators a great view of the entire upper course from the access road.  As practice came to an end Saturday evening, a few motivated individuals produced shovels and cleaned and reformed the upper berms so that everyone had a clean slate with which to start Sunday’s race.

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When final practice runs began Sunday morning, the same motivated people who had done some much needed maintenance on the upper berms did the same to the lower switch backs.  Thank you!  But as racing started and the pro field got things underway, it became evident that the dry and soft conditions would end up reaking havoc on the days event.  A strong skill set was necessary to not only make a clean race run, but to do so with speed.  

Gwin made quick work of the dusty Fontana course.

When all was said and done, it was Aaron Gwin of Trek World Racing taking top honors in the Pro class.  It looks like Aaron is well on his way to defending his World Cup crown, but he knows that everyone will be gunning for him and he will have a big target on his back come March in South Africa.  Eric “Hurricane” Carter of Hyper Bikes finished in second place and Kevin Aiello of KHS Racing finished third.  Rounding out the podium was Logan Binggeli of KHS Racing in fourth and Neko Mulally of Trek World Racing closing out the podium in fifth place.  

Logan Mulally doing work in the junior class.

In the Jr. Cat 1 class, Jason Schroeder of the ODI/Trek Satellite Team got the team's first victory.  This team of talented riders led by Rich Houseman is sure to get their share of podium time this season, and Jason has stepped into the forefront of this group to lead the way.   Cody Kelley finished in second place just 1.57 seconds off of Schroeder’s time.  In third place was Luca Cometti and closing out the podium was McKay Vezina in fourth place and Cole Picchiottino in fifth place.  Watching this class of riders is like watching a group of sharks swimming in a pool of blood.  They all smell victory and will do whatever they have to in order to get the top spot.  These guys just rip, plain and simple!

Pro Podium

The next race in the Shimano Winter Series will be the weekend of February 18. Visit www.SouthridgeUSA.com for more details. This next race will be double points!

Pro Class
1. Aaron Gwin - Trek World Racing - 2:03.66
2. Eric Carter - Hyper Bikes - 2:07.00
3. Kevin Aiello - KHS Racing - 2:07.59
4. Logan Binggeli - KHS Racing - 2:08.75
5. Neko Mulally - Trek World Racing - 2:08.78

Jr. Cat 1
1. Jason Schroeder - ODI/Trek Satellite - 2:11.23
2. Cody Kelley - Specialized - 2:12.80
3. Luca Cometti - 2:14.60
4. McKay Vezina - 2:14.87
5. Cole Picchiottino - 2:14.93

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