by Darrell Moody
Canadian Geoff Kabush (Scott) raises his arms in victory as he crosses the finish line of the Pro Men's Fat Tire Criterium Friday night in downtown Carson City.
Brad Coman/Nevada Appeal |

Geoff Kabush has good memories of Carson City, and it’s easy to see why.

Kabush, who lives in North Vancouver, B.C., won the Fat Tire Crit and the 50-mile backcountry race at last year’s inaugural Carson City Off-Road, part of the Epic Rides series, and he’s looking forward to defending his titles this weekend.

“I have good memories from last year,” he said in a recent phone interview. “Hopefully I can repeat.”

Kabush led Colorado rider Russell Finsterwald, fellow Canadian Jeremy Martin, Colorado’s Benjamin Sonntag and Arizona’s Kyle Trudeau to the finish line in the criterium last year.

And, Kabush topped Sonntag, Finsterwald and Todd Wells by approximately a minute last year in the 50-mile backcountry race. The latter three had a photo finish to decide second through fourth. Martin was fifth, finishing four-plus minutes behind Kabush.

If Kabush can repeat in the 50-miler, he’ll be doing it on a different course. Heavy snowfall made some of the trails unusable this year. Kurt Meyer, event manager, said the original course could be used next year if it’s available.

Kabush spent a lot of his year in Truckee, and he may be the only male rider who has ridden the new layout.

“I went over a couple of weeks ago (and rode the new course),” he said. “I was here in the winter, so it’s no surprise they had to change it. The views were so iconic (last year). The new format will be great for spectators.

“A lot of the (Epic) riders live at altitude. Truckee has been a nice place to train. It will be a really short trip over to the race. It took an hour to get here. I don’t have to jump on an airplane. Hopefully that will help.”

Kabush said the new course could be more difficult because of the climbing involved, and Finsterwald agreed. Riders will climb more than a 2,200 feet each loop and obviously descend the same amount of feet.

“I think it will be tougher because there are more punchy climbs; a lot of stop and start because of the switchbacks,” Kabush said earlier this week.

“It (lap format) makes it a more different type of race,” said Finsterwald, who recorded two top-5 finishes last year. “I don’t know if it’s more climbing or less climbing. I get into town on Thursday, so I’ll ride it sometime after that. Last year’s course was a good one for me. Last year was the first time I’d done one of those (Epic Rides events). It was a good way to start. I liked the format.”

Currently Kabush and Finsterwald sit in second and fourth, respectively, and both are chasing event leader Howard Grotts, who eclipsed the 3-hour mark in winning the Grand Junction 50-mile races and had the second-fastest time at the Whiskey Off-Road in Arizona.

Groots has an almost 13-minute lead over Kabush and nearly 17 minutes on Finsterwald. Sonntag, who’s third in the standings, isn’t racing this week because of an injury, which means Finsterwald should move into third by next weekend.

“Howard has quite a lead,” Kabush said. “Hopefully I can give him a run.”

Finsterwald has had a solid two outings, placing third behind Grotts and Kabush in the 50-miler in Grand Junction, and he was 13th in the crit and 17th in the 50-miler at the Whiskey Off-Road in Arizona.

“The Whiskey Off-Road is a brutal course,” Finsterwald said. “You go through Skull Valley. It’s a 24-mile up and back. That’s hard.

“I’m excited about next weekend and seeing how things play out.”

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Kabush said he didn’t get involved in bike racing until after he graduated high school, concentrating on soccer, track and basketball.

It was a match made in heaven. He became one of the best riders in the world, chalking up 12 Canadian National championships, nine World Cup podiums, three top-10 world championship finishes, a Pan-American championship in 2007 and 11 U.S. Grand Prix CX podiums.

And, he made the Olympics three times in the cross-country event, finishing ninth at Sydney in 2000, 20th in Beijing in 2008 and eighth in London (2012).

“For 15 years I was on the World Cup circuit chasing points and rankings, and the Olympics as well,” he said. “It was hard to mix events (national and international).

“The first time I made the Olympics was Sydney, and it was unexpected. It (the Olympics) was a cool experience.”

In more recent years, he has concentrated on events in North American events, and he said there are plenty of those to keep him busy.