By Ernie Clark - CORINTH - For someone who makes his living on a mountain bike, Adam Craig will be spending much of September in the air.
The 24-year-old Corinth resident flew Sunday to Geneva, Switzerland, where he will prepare for the 2004 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships that begin Wednesday in the heart of the Alps in nearby Les Gets, France.
Craig will compete in the elite classification of the world cross country championships Sunday, the first of several major events that mark the climax of the mountain biking season.
After the UCI Worlds, Craig will head to Italy for the final race of the World Cup season on Sept. 19, then fly back to the United States to compete in the inaugural U.S. Mountain Biking Championships at Mammouth Mountain, Calif., on Sept. 24-25.
"It's a busy month, for sure," said Craig, who races for the Giant/Izumi Pearl team.
After not qualifying for the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team, Craig spent the summer in the western United States training and competing in a series of NORBA (National Off-Road Biking Association) races.
He earned seven top-five finishes on the NORBA circuit, and was the top American in the final event of the year Aug. 27-28 in Durango, Colo.
Craig placed second in both the short track race (a timed event that lasts 20 minutes and two additional laps of an approximately 1-mile course) and cross country event, both behind Geoff Kabush of Canada.
"It was definitely good to have good races there," said Craig. "We were racing at super high altitudes, about 9,000 feet at the top, so that's always a good workout."
Craig is a veteran of the UCI (International Cycling Union) world stage, but will compete in the elite division for the first time after previously racing in the U-23 (23-and-under) division.
"It's hard to tell how I'll do," he said. "I've always raced with the older guys in the World Cup races, and I'm in good form right now. I'd be happy with a top-20, and I'd be very happy with a top-15. I just want to see where I stand."
Craig earned his way onto the U.S. elite squad through his NORBA performances as well as a top-10 finish in a World Cup race at Mont Sainte-Anne, Quebec, in June.
"It's a good time of year to be doing well, especially now heading overseas," Craig said. "It's also good to be racing well in front of a lot of the sponsors, because everybody's looking for jobs for next year."
Among those likely to compete at Les Gets are 2004 Olympic gold medalist Julien Absalon of France, silver medalist Jose Antonio Hermida of Spain and bronze medalist and 1996 Olympic champion Bart Brentjens of the Netherlands.
Other Americans scheduled to race include 2004 Olympians Todd Wells of Durango, Colo., and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski of Boulder, Colo.
When Craig returns stateside after the World Cup event in Italy, he plans to race in both the short-track and cross country events at the U.S. nationals. This event marks a change in U.S. mountain biking, which previously recognized its champions through a yearlong point system but is switching to a one-day event to crown its top competitors.
"I like the idea of having a series championship," Craig said. "But the rest of the world does one-day nationals and it should be intense, so I feel good about it."
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