Sunday, May 3, 2009

Decker, Pennington take Mudslinger/OBRA XC Champs

(Photos courtesy of Oregon Velo.)

BLODGETT, Ore. -- OBRA racers flocked to Blodgett for the 2009 21st Mudslinger Sunday. This year's race marked the return of the Oregon State Championships for cross country as well as the fourth stop in the Oregon XC Series.

Carl Decker (Giant) became the first rider to win two Pro Men's series races this year with a close-but-decisive victory, and he did it on his singlespeed.

Veloforma's Alice Pennington (pictured) scooped the win and the championship from Sue Butler (MonaVie-Cannondale) in the Pro Women's race.

The win marked Pennington's second year in a row on top of the Mudslinger podium. The duo continued their battle from the week before at Bear Springs Trap on Mount Hood, where Butler snagged the win in the snow. This time Pennington came out on top, covering the course in 2 hours, 7 minutes and 56 seconds and proving she's still a force to be reckoned with. Butler finished more than three minutes later. Karen DeWolf of Team Dirt was third at 02:16:23, and Tina Brubaker (Veloforma) was fourth, nearly six minutes later.

The win gives Pennington a solid lead in the Oregon MTB XC Series ahead of Butler, Stephanie Blasi and Sami Founier.

The Pro Men began with a gradual climb to the top of Supertree trail. Shannon Skerrit (Gary Fisher/Bike Gallery) jumped early with Evan Plews (Capitol Subaru/ScottUSA) also eager to test his legs on the climb. Plews quickly dispatched Skerrit but was unable to open a definitive gap on a chase group of four, including Decker, Sean Babcock (Team S&M), Erik Tonkin (Kona) and James Williams (Cannondale). The quartet entered the first section of trail on Plews' wheel.

The group rode together with each rider taking turns at the front until they reached the stair-step climbs near the top of the course. Williams was the first to crack while Decker (pictured) and Plews forged ahead with Babcock just behind and Tonkin dangling by a few seconds. Plews opened another gap but was contained by Babcock at the end of the Collarbone Alley section.

Plews pushed the pace as the group completed Panama Canal trail and the end of the first lap, attacking the front again as the quartet began the climb back to the top of the course. That's when Decker countered and put the other three into trouble. Plews was the first to drop with Tonkin next and then Babcock after last Sunday's Bear Spring Trap winner made a valiant effort to hold on. Babcock never quit fighting and re-joined Decker as the singletrack trails began.

Near the top of the course Plews battled back ahead of Tonkin and closed to within seconds of the leaders only to lose time on the Root Down section. Tonkin rallied and was able to dipatch Plews when the Capitol Subaru rider stopped to pick up tools he'd lost on the first lap. Tonkin closed the gap on the leaders during the slog through the now-eviscerated Panama Canal and then dropped Babcock as he caught Decker on the rolling gravel road to the finish. Only then did the championship slip away from the Kona strongman as Decker rebounded and sprinted ahead for victory.

Decker covered the 24-mile course in 1 hour, 40 minutes and 37 seconds, with Tonkin trailing just 16 seconds behind. Babcock finished third less than a minute later, while Plews rolled in for fourth at 1:43:40. Williams rounded out the top five, crossing the line 4 minutes and 8 seconds after Plews.

The Mudslinger win gives Decker a boost in the Pro Men's series. Plews, Williams and Babcock came into the Mudslinger tied for the overall lead with 60 points. Spencer Paxon (S&M) followed with 40. Tonkin had 35 and Decker had 30.

The next race in the Oregon MTB XC series is the Cascade Chainbreaker May 10 in Bend.