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MTB News & racing round-up for December 22, 2005

Edited by Steve Medcroft

Welcome to our regular round-up of what's happening in the dirt. Feel free to send feedback, news and gossip to mtb@cyclingnews.com

Matt Kelly to Subaru-Gary Fisher

Wisconsin, USA's Matt Kelly will return to professional cycling with Subaru-Gary Fisher. "I'm really glad to be back on a bike again, and I think that Subaru-Gary Fisher is the perfect fit for me," said Kelly. "They are really supportive of what I want to do. I know that I can race with the best, but it may take a little time. They're cool with that.

"My goals are pretty simple this year. I want to be a contender in the NORBA circuit and build towards the US National Championships in Mammoth."

Subaru-Gary Fisher team manager Jon Rourke said, "We are really excited to have Matt join the team. We see the fire in his eyes. He is excited to be on his bike and be racing. We are going to try to provide him with the environment and the tools for success. Most of all we want him to enjoy what he is doing because that is the character of our team."

Matt Kelly gained international attention in 1999 when he won the Junior Cyclocross World Championship. He quickly became one of cycling's brightest stars, earning a factory mountain bike contract when he was 18. However, he decided that he didn't want to put his youth on hold for the sequestered life of a career athlete, and travelled to Hawaii for a backpacking holiday. That led to a number of things non-cycling related, but eventually the bug came back to him when he returned to Colorado. He began racing in the Wisconsin Off Road Series (WORS) this year, regaining fitness and form, and at the end of the season he was offered support from a cyclocross team.

Kelly showed that he was ready to race at the top level of the sport by winning a UCI cyclocross race and finishing fifth at a snowy US Gran Prix in Gloucester, MA. He also stayed in contact with the people at Gary Fisher, and a week before Christmas, he signed a one year contract to race for them.

GT contract news

The GT team has announced the re-signing of Todd Wells, Hans Rey, and Bryn Atkinson to its squad for 2006.

U.S. national cyclo-cross champion Todd Wells will be riding MTB XC, cyclo-cross, and road in an ambitious schedule next season. "I will compete in the World Cup, select NORBAs, National Championships and select UCI CX races and National Championships," said Wells. "I will also compete in Road in the San Dimas SR, Tour of Georgia, Tour of the Gila, the Fitchburg SR and the USPRO National Championships."

Wells' 2005 highlights include 1st place at the Park City NORBA National STXC, 3rd-place at the Brainhead NORBA National STXC, 2nd place MTB National Championships XC, 2nd place at the MTB National Championships STXC, 2nd Overall at the Tour of Connecticut Stage Road Race, 1st place at the Tour of the Gila Crit, 1st place at the USGP #6 in San Francisco, and 1st place at the Cyclocross National Championships.

His goals for 2006 are no less ambitious. Todd wants to win the World Cup, the MTB National Championships, the Cyclo-cross National Championships and the US PRO Road National Championships.

Hans Rey, the consummate performer and the Godfather of Freeride, returns to the GT squad in 2006 for his 20th year. Hans was also featured on 20 magazine covers in 2005 and launched his charity, Wheels 4 Life. "My other 2005 highlights were my two main Adventure Team trips to Copper Canyon, Mexico and the Alta Rezia (in the Swiss/Italian Alps) Freeride," said Hans.

In 2006, Hans' goals are to continue to focus on his Adventure Team trips and getting exposure for his sponsors. "I'm looking at several possible destinations, including the Philippines, Greenland, and Turkey," said Hans. "I will also continue working closely with my sponsors, doing trials shows, workshops, and other PR-related stuff."

Finally, versatile Aussie Bryn Atkinson will race for the GT MTB team again in 2006. Highlights from this season include his second overall finish at Sea Otter and taking seventh in the downhill at the World Championships.

"My goals for 2006 are to place in the top five at the World Championships, and to place consistently in the top seven at World Cups," said Atkinson.

Andrew Neethling signs with Mongoose

Mongoose Bicycles announced this week that Andrew Neethling has joined the Mongoose MTB team. The South African 4X, downhiller and dirt jumper was a six-time member of the South African National Team and had a solid 2005 including a first at the Sand Point, Idaho NORBA, seventh place at the Angle Fire World Cup and fourth overall in the NORBA downhill series.

In 2006, Neethling will focus on the full World Cup and NORBA circuits. His main focus is DH, but Andrew can't wait to put his EC 4X bike to the test in 4X and Slalom. He will also compete in select Jump comps/jams and freeride events.

"I am very excited to be a part of the Mongoose company and team," said Neethling. "It has always been a dream to be part of a major team and player in the industry. It is great knowing that coming into the new season that I have a great bunch of people backing me and supporting me with my goals."

Greg Minaar signs sponsorship deal with Honda South Africa

2005 Downhill World Cup Champion and South African cyclist of the year, Greg Minnaar, was handed the keys of a brand new silver Honda CRV by John Laurence, Marketing Manager of Honda SA, earlier this week. Minnaar's amazing mountain biking talents and skills accentuate the versatility and adaptability of the Honda CRV, making the new partnership the perfect match according to Mr Laurence of Honda South Africa: "We have had many athletes approach us, but being affiliated with Greg just seemed like great synergy".

After yet another awesome season and championship title won in the colours of Team G-Cross Honda aboard the spectacular Honda RN01, Greg is quickly becoming an icon in South African sporting circles. The 24 year-old from Pietermaritzburg will be sporting his new set of wheels at various exciting Honda product launches early next year until he crosses the waters to defend his World Cup title.

"It's awesome to be affiliated with Honda SA and I look forward to building a relationship with them. The car is slick, it drives great and I just want to say thanks again to John & Chantel from Honda SA and Darryl & Grant from Bandit Signs for doing the vehicle graphics." said a clearly happy Minnaar.

The Honda CRV has but one goal: "To help you accomplish your goals whatever they may be." And it's with this slogan that Honda SA will be supporting Greg Minnaar in achieving his goals for the 2006 season.

Gareth Dyer to Norco

Norco Performance Bikes, Canada's top race and freeride company, has announced the addition of Gareth Dyer to the Norco Factory Team this week. In addition to being a founding member of the Superheros and starring in Superheros 1, 2, and 3; Gareth has appeared in numerous films including: New World Disorder 5, Kranked 4, and Highways.

Originally from Prince George, BC (the 'true' great white north), Gareth has called Whistler, BC home since 1998, when he moved down to pursue his dream of becoming a professional athlete. While in Whistler, he quickly developed his reputation as a talented, versatile freerider by competing in a wide variety of contests from freeride & slopestyle, to dirt jumping & street.

If you haven't seen him cruising the Whistler Bike Park, or hanging out in the village in the past little while, that's because he has spent the greater part of his last two seasons riding in Europe and designing the course for Austria's highly publicized Adidas Slopestyle. Gareth has also applied his intuitive talent for course design to the Woodward West facility in California and to several bike parks in Europe.

On top of being one of the industry's premier course designers, Gareth is also known as one of the most skilled and aggressive riders in the world. At the 2005 Redbull District Ride, his first competition following a serious shoulder injury, he pulled out an impressive 10th place finish.

In addition to working with Norco, Gareth will also be riding for Marzocchi, Magura, DT Swiss, Adidas, and Fizik this season. For more information about Gareth and other members of the Norco team, check out www.norco.com

2006 Jeep King of the Mountain schedule released

Eclipse Television & Sports Marketing, LLC, has announced plans this week to expand television coverage of the Jeep King of the Mountain 2006 World Professional Mountain Biking Championships to include three hours on CBS Sports, with international coverage also in consideration.

The Jeep King of the Mountain Series features 16 of the world's top riders competing head-to-head to capture the title of World Professional Champion as well as a share of the richest cash payout in the sport.

Based upon the ratings success of last season's Championship telecast from The Pocono Mountains, Pa., Jeep, Eclipse and CBS Sports have agreed to expanded airtime for the 2006 World Professional Mountain Biking Championships. The three hours of race coverage will represent the most extensive national coverage offered to professional MTB racing in recent history.

World professional champions are crowned based on a system of cumulative points earned throughout the Jeep King of the Mountain Series, which will include three races to be held between June and August 2006 throughout the U.S. An elite field of international professional racers - six women and six men - will be pre-qualified to participate in the World Professional Mountain Biking Championships. The balance of the 16-athlete field - two men and two women - will qualify using a national open qualifier system similar to that used in the wintertime Jeep King of the Mountain World Professional Skiing & Snowboarding Championships.

"Last season's World Professional Mountain Biking Championships achieved an all-time record for attendance and television ratings, which can provide the industry an unparalleled integrated marketing platform to reach a highly targeted national core audience," said Henry Schneidman, president of Eclipse Television & Sports Marketing. "We are now looking for the cycling and action sports industries to step up and become promotional partners and to use their resources to grow this program and the sport overall."

This year's World Professional Mountain Biking Championships will again be staged on the Jeep King of the Mountain Series' innovative Y-shaped racecourse. The daredevil racecourse, known simply as "The Y," combines the two most dramatic and popular forms of mountain bike racing into one unique discipline. Competitors begin the race on a dual slalom courses (the prongs of the Y) before converging midway to a single course (the bottom of the Y). In the bottom section, racers must navigate a series of banked turns, tabletops, step-down jumps and rollers before the track climaxes with an all-out sprint to the finish.

Additional details regarding the 2006 World Professional Mountain Biking Championships, including sites, athlete line-ups and CBS Sports broadcast airdates will be announced in the coming months.

International riders expected at New Zealand MTB series

Downhill mountain biking world champion Fabien Barel and Elite women's world number two Sabrina Jonnier, both of France, are two of the many big names riding in New Zealand during the 2006 New Zealand Community Trust Mountain Bike National Series.

Also entered are Oz Golan, Israel's second ranked Downhill rider, Lechner Eva, leading Italian cross country rider, Nathalie Schneitter, a member of the Swiss national cross country team, four members of the Scottish national cross country team, and up to 40 of Australia's elite and junior cross country and downhill riders. Australia is using the Oceania Championships as a key part of their selection criteria for their world championship team. Expected to be included in the Australian team are Sam Hill, who came second to Barel at the 2005 World Championships in Livigno, Amiel Cavalier who won the junior mens downhill world championship, Liam Panozzo, who was fourth in the junior men's down hill, and Daniel McConnell who was 8th in the Under 23 cross country at Livigno.

BikeNZ Events Manager Ted Jones said "the quality and quanity of international riders competing at some stage of the national series will be by far the best ever seen in New Zealand. A lot of the riders are competing at the latter end of the series, but a few will be competing throughout taking the opportunity to see New Zealand as well as acclimatise for the Commonwealth Games and also the World Championships in August."

As well as some of the world's best, New Zealand's elite riders will be competing, so Kiwi riders will be able to compete against them which will provide a reality check leading up to the World Championships.

The series begins January 7 in Wanaka and ends March 5 in Rotura.

Virginia and Scotland top 2005 IMBA Report Card

The 2005 International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) Report Card hails Virginia and Scotland for outstanding mountain biking and successful bicycle advocacy, while pointing to Rhode Island and California as potential trouble spots for 2006.

The IMBA report, now in its seventh edition, utilizes input from IMBA's network of reps, online polling from IMBA members and staff evaluations to gauge the riding opportunities and advocacy strength in the United States, Canadian Provinces and nations with significant IMBA activities.

A complete list of Report Card rankings and scores can be seen at www.imba.com.

CORC 24-hour returns to Majura Pines, Canberra

Canberra Off Road Cyclists organization is once again holding its annual 24hr Solo Mountain Bike race at the fantastic Majura Pines area. Places are limited and entries are open online at the CORC website from February 1st. Entry prices are the same as last year and there will be heaps of great prizes including a special finisher's pin.

Watch the CORC website for additional details.

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