Mashing through mud |

Mashing through mud

Photo courtesy of Troy BumgardnerProfessional mountain biker Katerina Nash, of Truckee, rides through the muddy conditions at the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey last week. Nash placed third overall in the women's pro-elite field.

Truckee mountain bike racer Katerina Nash finished third overall in the women’s pro-elite field at the Sea Otter Classic last week at Monterey’s Laguna Seca raceway. And she got muddy in the process.

“The conditions were very different this year,” Nash, 28, said of the four-day race series. “Just like here, it’s been raining quite a bit (in Monterey).”

While it was not raining the entire four days, Nash said the hundreds of athletes racing on the already-saturated ground made for a sloppy mess.

“All the grassy hills in the area turn into mud. It turned into a mud festival,” said Nash, one of four competitors representing the LUNA Women’s Mountain Bike Team, or LUNA Chix. “But it’s mountain biking. We have to be ready for everything. It didn’t surprise me. I’ve raced in all kinds of conditions.”

Called a “celebration of cycling” on its Web site, the Sea Otter Classic is one of the largest bike events in the United States, with mountain bike races, road racing, circuit racing, dirt jumping and gravity contests drawing a competitive field of international racers and thousands of spectators.

Nash, competing in her fifth Sea Otter Classic, earned third overall by way of a fifth place in the Super Cross-Country on Thursday, fifth in Friday’s Time Trail, second in the Short-Track on Saturday and eighth in Sunday’s Cross-Country.

“Those were good results because it showed I can do well in all the events,” Nash said. “It’s not easy to race four days in a row.”

Fellow Luna Chix Jimena Florit, of San Diego, placed sixth overall and Georgia Gloud, from Ketchum, Idaho, finished seventh. Edging Nash for first and second place were Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa, of Norway, and Mary McConneloug of the U.S.

“This year was the most competitive I’ve ever seen,” said Nash, adding that her third-place finish equaled her best result in the event. “There was quite a good international field.”

Formerly known as Katerina Hanusova before marrying Truckee’s Marcus Nash last September, Katerina moved to the United States from the Czech Republic in January of 2000.

After cross-country skiing for a semester in Boulder, Colo., she moved to Truckee when she received a cross-country ski scholarship at University of Nevada, Reno, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree December 2004.

Nash skied for her native Czech Republic in two Winter Olympics ” Nagano in 1998 and Salt Lake City in 2002, where her best finishes were 21st in the 30K skate and 19th in the 15K skate, respectively.

She then switched from Nordic skiing to mountain biking when she ran out of college eligibility in 2002 after winning three NCAA ski titles for Nevada.

The transition went smoothly, as Nash ” who had also raced mountain bikes for 10 years ” again earned the chance to represent her native country. This time it was in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, where she placed 19th in the cross-country mountain bike event.

With her focus shifted to mountain bike racing, Nash hopes to place in the top 10 at the 2008 Summer Olympics, as well as win the NORBA National series title.

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