Gerken wins U-23 national title |

Gerken wins U-23 national title

Steve Yingling

Even though the South Shore contingent was sparse at the Chevy Truck National Mountain Biking Championships last weekend, it had no trouble finding the podium and medal stand.

Four riders came away with two national titles and three top-three performances as some of the world’s-best riders assembled in Mount Snow, Vt.

Matt Gerken, 21, of Stateline ditched Jeremy Kobelski of Denver, Colo., to capture the pro under-23 cross-country crown Sunday. Gerken finished 18th overall – the sixth American – to win his first national title in for his new Chevy Truck sponsor. Kobelski was well behind in 73rd place.

“Today was my biggest thrill so far. I’m on top of the world. The association with my new Chevy team definitely boosted my confidence for this race,” said Gerken, who finished 10 minutes, 57 seconds behind overall winner Tinker Juarez of Downey, Calif., in the 28-mile cross-country race.

Gerken’s performance also endeared him to U.S. coaches, who selected him to train for the next Olympics. He will also make his fifth consecutive appearance at the world championships next month in Mount St. Anne, Quebec.

Meanwhile, Shaun Palmer of South Lake Tahoe made a successful return from a broken collarbone with a third-place downhill finish Saturday.

More importantly, Palmer earned the final spot on the U.S. team going to the world championships. Six of seven world championship berths went according to the National Off-Road Bicycling Association’s points list, with the remaining spot earmarked for the highest placer at nationals not among the top six in points.

Palmer beat out last year’s national champion John Tomac to make the world team. Like Palmer, Tomac was riding for the first time since breaking his collarbone at Big Bear, Calif., earlier this summer. But Tomac finished eight seconds slower than Palmer and settled for eighth place.

Steve Peat of England won the downhill.

Amber Ramos of South Lake Tahoe was bidding to complete a sweep of the NORBA cross-country races national races. She won the first four, but ran into world champion Celia Potts in the national finals.

The 11-year-old, who was racing in the women’s 15-18 category, lost sight of Potts four miles into the 14-mile event and wound up third as Megan Long of Oklahoma City, Okla., overtook her late.

“I was really close with her until the running part of the course. It was too hard to ride in spots, so we ran our bikes. I was running and tripped once and that kind of knocked off my concentration,” Ramos said. “I tripped a few more times and she was gone. I lost some hope because I couldn’t see her in front of me, and that’s when the second-place finisher sucked me up.”

Potts finished 1:28 ahead of Long and 2:28 in front of Ramos. Although she finally lost, Ramos felt good about an eight-minute improvement she made against the world champion.

“The last time she was 10 minutes out of my reach. I gave it my hardest and I know I couldn’t have done any better. I’m not mad that I didn’t win. You can’t win every time,” Ramos said.

Trevor Snowden’s dominance of the wheelers division continued in his national debut. The former pro snowboarder won the downhill by a resounding 38 seconds and was runner-up in the slalom.

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