Geoff Kabush started his Moab Rocks 3-day stage race title defense with a birthday bash and a win on the opening stage. After three days of racing, the Canadian Olympian rides away from Moab, Utah still on the top of the podium. Whatever celebrations happened off course after Saturday’s first stage (rumours involve cupcakes), Kabush’s competitors weren’t giving him any gifts once the start gun fired. After three days of racing, Kabush had just 3.4 seconds over his closest rival in second place.
The opening stage began with a fast paced 14 mile climb up Sand Flats road and ended with Kabush leading a trio of riders down Porcupine Rim trail, back to the valley below. Chris Baddick and Payson McElveen finished second and third behind the birthday boy, five and seven seconds behind, respectively. Nearly one hour forty minutes into racing had passed, but there was very little to separate the top three riders.
Moab Rocks second day of racing sent riders into the Klondike Bluffs trail system for a more rolling day on the trails than the long climb and descent of day one. Riders had to keep alert, though, as trails marked by pain spots on the rocks were the only way to navigate through an otherwise impassable landscape of gigantic rock slabs and boulders.
After the first days close race to the line, Kabush was looking to take the race to his rivals and led for most of the day. McElveen (Orange Seal off road) and Chris Baddick (Boulder Cycle Sport) were with him again, as well as Justin Lindine (Apex/NBX). Baddick couldn’t repeat the previous days performance, and fell off the front group thirty minutes into racing. McElveen again held Kabush’s wheel to the line, finishing three seconds behind Yeti/Maxxis’s Canadian, while Lindine rolled in 30 seconds later. Two days into racing, and only nine seconds separated the top two, while Lindine had moved into third another 90 seconds in arrears.
The final stage of Moab Rocks led racers into the Magnificent 7 trail network, and straight into an early morning headwind on the road section out of town. The winds were enough to keep a large group together until the race turned off onto a steep 500 ft. climb, when a fight for position ahead of the first singletrack section quickly spread out the field. Looking to unseat the defending champion, McElveen had pushed hard on the climb to open up a 30 second lead over Kabush by the time the trails pointed downward.
What followed was a fast, rocky descent down Bull Run and Great Escape trails all the way back down towards the finish.Kabush was able to use the technical descent to his advantage, closing the gap to McElveen by the time the pair hit the valley floor.
One last 500 ft. hill was all that remained between racers and the final finish line of 2018 Moab Rocks. McElveen attacked again, gaining a narrow five second lead over Kabush, who wasn’t letting the Orange Seal rider open up too much of an advantage. The Canadian couldn’t make the catch though, and McElveen stayed away to win the stage. With Kabush just behind, it would all come down to the time gap: there was just nine seconds separated the two racers in the overall ranking at the start of the day. McElveen had gained a handful of second on the day but, in the end, Kabush would retain his lead by a razor thin 3.6 second margin. Justin Lindine would finish third, 3 minutes 40 seconds behind.
In the women’s pro race, Sparky Sears (Pivot/MRP) took a big lead on stage one, and was able to hold on to enough of that advantage over the next two days of racing to win the overall classification. Sears raced proactively throughout the three day event, pushing hard up the opening climb even on day 3 racing. Jenny Smith (Kenda/Cannondale) and Marlee Dixon (Pivot/Pearl Izumi) followed not far behind. Smith was able to track down Sears once the race entered the singletrack climb and, after racing together with the race leader for a section, pushed on to open up a lead of her own. Smith would hold on to her advantage to win stage three, and claim second overall, but it wasn’t enough to topple Sears sizeable GC lead. Dixon would finish third on the final day, and third in the GC.