HOHENFELS, Germany — Jack Cartwright of Würzburg won for the fifth time in six races on Saturday to clinch at least a tie for the 2004 U.S. Forces Europe Mountain Bike Series season title.

Saturday’s victory would have clinched the title outright had he not encountered bad luck in Stage 5 of the 11-race series — the one race he lost.

“I had a flat tire last time at Kitzingen,” said Cartwright, a former college road racer, “and ended up second.”

Cartwright, who was the runner-up in this series last year despite competing in just four races before being deployed to Iraq, didn’t have any tire trouble Saturday.

Turns out, he didn’t have much competition, either.

He completed four laps around a demanding 5-kilometer course, which circled a rocky hilltop at the Hohenfels Combat Maneuver Training Center, in 74 minutes, 12.96 seconds to win the active-duty open crown.

Runner-up Kelly Lauderbaugh of Aviano was well back at 85:01.26, and that was fine with Cartwright.

“It’s easier when you’ve got someone to chase,” Cartwright said, “but I was hoping that I wouldn’t have any competition today. I’ve got a road race [of 140 kilometers] tomorrow, and I wanted to be able to save my energy.”

Although his victory was easy, Cartwright said the rocky course, which begins with a steep 30-meter-plus climb, wasn’t.

“This and Aviano are the toughest courses,” he said. “I rode up [the steep ascent] on the second and third laps, but there’s a big rock near the top and you have to get off. The other two times I got off and ran up.”

Cartwright, who began mountain bike racing when he arrived in Germany four years ago, can clinch the season title at the next stop in the series, July 10 at Ramstein.

After that, the series travels to Giessen on Aug. 7, Ansbach on Aug. 14, Dexheim on Aug. 21 and the finale in September at Garmisch.

By then, active-duty women’s leader Katherine Freasier of Darmstadt will probably have joined Cartwright as a series champ. Freasier won the 15-kilometer women’s event in 84:02.40 for her third victory of the season. She beat last year’s series champion, Caroline Kim of Hohenfels, by almost 23 minutes on Saturday, despite the challenging course.

“This course is way harder than the others,” said Freasier. “I got off and ran on the steep hills.”

In the active-duty seniors category for riders 30-39 years old, the Aviano duo of Jason Patton and Leslie Handy outraced defending series champion Dave Gallagher of Rhein-Main. Patton clocked 82:33.30 to beat Handy by 59.54 seconds and Gallagher by 1:42.

The masters title for military riders ages 40-49 went to Kevin Hawkins of Stuttgart in 88:33.24.

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