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Ross goes for national 24-hour title

Jason Starr

It’s the first mountain bike race of Nat Ross’ season; it’s also the most important.

Since 24-hour mountain bike racing became popular a few years ago, Ross, of Breckenridge, has been in the upper tier of American competitors. But he has never been able to beat the best of the best.

He’ll get another shot Saturday and into Sunday when the 24 Hours of Adrenaline NORBA National Championships take place in Monterey, Calif.

A national mountain bike championship in May?

“It’s kinda difficult to prepare yourself,” said Ross. “You have to go off last season and past performances instead of your last couple races because there are no last couple races. It’s unnerving.”

When mountain bike legend Tinker Juarez recently began competing in 24-hour races, he quickly filled the role of Ross’ nemesis. The Breckenridge rider hasn’t been able to beat him, finishing second to him twice last year, including in Monterey.

Ross’ other main foe is Rishi Grewal, former world 24-hour champion and Carbondale resident. Grewal and Ross split their head-to-head matches last year, with Grewal beating Ross in the 24 Hours of Moab and Ross beating Grewal at the Gorge Games race in Oregon.

Ross would accept finishing behind Grewal and Juarez this weekend, especially since he’s recovering from a broken thumb and collarbone.

“I need to finish top-three to be happy with myself, but I’d like to finish first or second,” Ross said.

Another thing working against Ross this weekend is that he’s had less time on his mountain bike than Juarez, who rides year-round in California.

“I haven’t raced in the early season races that give you the mental confidence to roll in with,” he said. “This is my first mountain bike race (of the season). On my road bike, my fitness is there. It would be good to know it was there on a mountain bike, too.”

The race starts at noon Saturday and runs through noon Sunday. In addition to the solo category that Ross, Juarez and Grewal will try to win, there are also team categories. The all-female Colorado Sunflowers of Summit County competed last year at Leguna Seca.

In order to compete with the warm-weather, year-round riders, Summit County 24-hour competitors usually break out their Nordic skis to maintain fitness until the roads and trails dry. Even though that happened early this year, skis were still a major part of the training, at least for Ross.

“I’ve been preparing for it since October,” he said.

Jason Starr can be reached at (970) 668-3998 Ext. 231 or at jstarr@summitdaily.com.


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