NORBA packs up and heads to Vermont
Durango loses annual National Finals to Mt. Snow
A rider banks a turn during the 2003 NORBA National downhill finals at DMR. Despite a contract to hold the nationals at DMR through 2006, NORBA has moved this year's finals to Mt. Snow, Vt./Courtesy photo.

by Will Sands

National mountain bike racing kicks off this weekend in Boerne, Texas, and Durangoans Todd Wells and Shonny Vanlandingham will be at the starting line. But don't bother looking for Wells, Vanlandingham or the 2005 NORBA National Mountain Bike Series at Durango Mountain Resort this summer. The series culminated in Durango with the NORBA National Finals in 2003 and 2004. However, this year the finals have been transferred to Mt. Snow, Vt., despite a three-year contract with DMR.

NORBA first brought its National Mountain Bike Championships to Durango in 1986. At that time, mountain biking was a relatively new creation, and the podium was dominated by now legendary names like Tomac, Murray and Overend. In ensuing years, Durango would go on to host four additional NORBA races and eventually the first-ever internationally sanctioned World Mountain Bike Championships in 1990. However, a shift in energy and interest hit not long after that watershed year, and NORBA paid its last visit to Durango for more than a decade in 1992.

That changed in August of 2003 and 2004, when Durango again hosted the NORBA National Finals. At the time, Jeff Frost, one of NORBA's managing partners, credited Durango's rich cycling heritage, strong community energy and a steady partnership with DMR for NORBA's return.

"It's really the heart and soul of mountain biking," Frost said last August. "Durango was really the first stamp on mountain biking."

The 2004 event marked this first year of a three-year contract between NORBA and DMR. At the time, Frost indicated, "This is year one of a three-year contract. We don't see any reason why it won't continue beyond that point."

However, that contract is apparently now in pieces on the floor. Frost was unavailable for comment, but USA Cycling, NORBA's parent group, said that the finals were transferred to Mt. Snow for unspecified reasons.

"Durango wanted to host the finals as it has in the past couple years, but they have been passed to Mt. Snow, Vt.," said Andy Lee, communications director for USA Cycling. "I can only assume that being unable to host the finals, Durango opted to not host a NORBA event at all."

Matt Skinner, DMR communications director, concurred that the resort was disappointed to lose the finals. But on the contrary, he said scheduling, not sour grapes, prevented another NORBA event from coming to the resort.

"The finals were not offered to us this year," Skinner said. "Our preference was to host the finals, but that didn't preclude us from hosting another event. They just didn't offer us any August dates, and that's our ideal timeframe."

Skinner said that NORBA did offer DMR the option of hosting an event early in the summer, but that it conflicted with other plans. "Early summer does not work as well for us," he said. "The dates they offered conflicted with summer operations and other events."

Kendra Holmes, local event director for the NORBA finals, concurred, saying, "We had to say 'thanks but no thanks,' and we decided to take the year off. We're shooting to host the finals again next year."

Skinner added that DMR would love to see NORBA and the finals come back again next summer. "We love having NORBA here and look forward to hosting further events in the future."

In the meantime, the NORBA-sanctioned, five-race Purgatory Downhill Series will return to the resort. Open to all levels, the series runs from mid-June to mid-July.




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