Vail’s Ross shoots for stars |

Vail’s Ross shoots for stars

Shauna Farnell

WHISTLER, B.C. – In 24-hour mountain bike racing, losing a deraileur, at best, means losing a loop. And losing a loop usually amounts to losing at least one place.Vail mountain bike pro Nat Ross has been climbing his way up international podiums this season and hopes to land on top Thursday at the one-day National Off-Road Bicycling Association Championships in Mammoth, Calif.Two weeks ago, Ross competed in the 2004 World 24-Hour Solo Championships in Whistler, B.C., and landed third place. It would have been second had it not been for some mechanical mishaps.”I broke my rear deraileur on the fourth lap,” Ross said. “It was really just the gnarly terrain. Stuff flies up in your drive train because it’s full-on canopy type riding. I was about six or seven miles into the lap. I rode single-speed the rest of the way.”The race is only open to those who qualify throughout the season in designated events across North America. Ross, however, was “grandfathered” into the championships because he took third place last year. There were about 185 international racers competing in the race, which featured 11.7-mile laps, each gaining 1,300 vertical feet. The biggest distinction between a mountain bike race in British Columbia versus one, well, anywhere else in the world, is that B.C. is renowned for its technical terrain.”They made some modifications in the course this year,” Ross said. “It was less jeep road and more singletrack. Whistler’s already known for its structures and obstacles. It’s a different world out there. You look at some of the stuff – the logs and roots – and you can’t see that people can ride it. It’s mind-boggling. We know that Colorado is getting some terrain stuff, but it will take years and years to get to Whistler standards. It’s one of the most technical courses anywhere, and they’re really proud that it’s such a demanding and grueling course.”Ross said conditions weren’t made any easier by “a monsoon” that hit right before the race. Ross was one of few racers that only crashed once, but the kicker for him didn’t come until his 20th lap, when he broke a shift pod.”If it didn’t happen, I would have gone on to my 21st,” he said. “But that’s the way it goes in 24-hour racing.”Chris Eatough won the race in 21 laps, while Ross’ Gary Fisher teammate, Cameron Chambers, took second, also riding 20 laps.Ross was leading NORBA’s marathon series, but missed the last race and is now sixth place overall in the nation. He’s hoping to jump back into the top spot in Thursday’s championships, and also land a victory in this year’s 24 Hours of Moab, which begins Oct. 16. Last year, Ross finished third in Moab, and he hasn’t been the NORBA champion since 2000.”The goal is to take the stars and stripes jersey at the championship,” he said. “Last year wasn’t bad at Moab, but this year, I need to win. Just because … I need to.”Shauna Farnell can be reached at Colorado

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