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MTB News & racing round-up for July 27, 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.

Kabush and Vanlandingham on form at Snowmass

By Steve Medcroft

Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) (file photo)
Photo ©: Colin Meagher
Click for larger image

Although the Mountain-Cross event was marred when a freak thundershower after men’s cross-country on Saturday destroyed any chance of there being a Mountain Cross final, the Aspen, Colo. Snowmass NORBA National Series race was a showcase in winning by two of the most dominant North Americans in mountain-bike racing.

Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis) won his second NORBA cross country and third short track of the season at Snowmass, maintaining series leads in both disciplines, while Shonny Vanlandingham (Luna Chix) continues to show that she’s just about untouchable with her fourth cross-country win in a row (including the Phoenix NORBA where Vanlandingham won the race itself even though series points for the cross-country win went to three-stage GC winner Sue Haywood under the race’s scoring rules).

Kabush says he’s settled into a veteran’s role and takes a more mature approach to racing. “I’m learning to pace myself,” he said. In both Snowmass wins, he sat behind the lead group and waited for the early-race aggression to die down before making what turned out to be winning counter attacks.

With two World Cup podiums to accompany his NORBA series lead, Kabush says he’s finding good form right now on altitude courses. Which is encouraging leading up to his attempt at the World Championships in Livigno, Italy (Sept 4, 2005). “Worlds is also at altitude and it’s been in the back of my mind for a while now that I might do well there.” If he won, he would be the first Canadian world champion since Roland Green’s back-to-back World’s wins in 2001 and 2002.

To be ready, Kabush says he’s needs to focus on staying fresh for the next few weeks. Which means a week off followed by racing in the last three NORBA’s. “NORBA finals are the weekend before Worlds,” he says. “I’ll be going to Livigno straight from there.” Kabush says he will compete in the Cross Country Team Relay three days before the men’s World Championship race.

Shonny Vanlandingham (Luna) (file photo)
Photo ©: Marek Lazarski
Click for larger image

Vanlandingham says her run of success is due to year after year of consistent, progressive training. She works with Coach Rick Crawford in Durango, Colo. “His program seems to really be working for me,” she says. “We’ve put in big hours in the past three winters and I think I’ve just accumulated fitness over the years.”

Her current form and success in the NORBA series has Vanlandingham’s mind on World Championships too. “I’m excited for it. I’m hoping I can hold my fitness and reach another peak for Worlds.” But there isn’t much of a break between now. There are three NORBA races left and Vanlandingham has a vested interest in defending her NORBA Series title.

Snowmass NORBA roundup

Besides being the site of a clinic in winning by Shonny Vanlandingham and Geoff Kabush, the Snowmass NORBA was also the site of the first Australian win in men’s downhill since Chris kovarik won at Snowshoe in 2003 when Joel Panozzo (WTB-Fox) took top honors.

In women’s short-track, Dara Marks-Marino (Ford/Specialized) won her first-ever NORBA event.

Snowmass was also a qualifying event for the U.S. Mountain Bike National Championships. The top-ten finishers in every pro race qualified to compete in the Mammoth Mountain, California national championships race (Sept. 15-18, 2005).

Snowmass reports & full results:

  • Race 1 - July 21: Marathon
  • Race 2 - July 23: Super D
  • Race 3 - July 23: Cross-country
  • Race 4 - July 23: Four-cross
  • Race 5 - July 24: Short track cross-country
  • Race 6 - July 24: Downhill

Dara Marks-Marino wins her first NORBA

By Steve Medcroft

In her five-year pro career, Dara Marks-Marino (Ford/Specialized) has stood on a NORBA podium more times than she can remember. She’s finished second behind some of America’s best cross-country and short-track racers. But the win had always gone to someone else. Until Sunday, when she won the NORBA short-track race in Snowmass, Colo.

“It felt so good to win,” she said with a smile in her voice from her home in Flagstaff, Arizona on Tuesday. “Finally.”

Marks-Marino started racing professionally in 2001 after competing in the Arizona State mountain-bike series and select (read: close enough to drive to) NORBA nationals as an amateur. Sponsored by Chandler, Arizona-based Titus Bicycles, she “finished in the teens mostly,” she says of her first year’s performance as a true pro.

But she stayed with the sport and in 2003, as a member of the Sobe/Cannondale mountain-biking team, she had a break-out short-track race and earned her first podium. “I’ve had a really steady progression in results from there,” the former 3rd-Grade teacher said. For the next three seasons, she returned to the podium numerous times. Although never to the top step.

During that time, she raced her first World Cups. “I also did the World Championships and World Cup Finals.” She took those experiences into her role with her current team; Ford Racing. “Last year, I had more podiums including three second place finishes - cross country at Sonomo and the National Championships in both cross country and short track.” Marks-Marino says she was second behind Alison Dunlap (Luna Chix) in all three races.

“This year has been interesting. I had a hard time at the start. But before the season started, I knew I had to make a tough choice; come off strong in March and struggle the rest of the season or stick to the training plan and trust that I would do better later in the year.”

The training program, and her form, which she attributes to her physical maturity as an athlete, is now paying off; her second half of the season has been amazing. “I had two fourths in Deer Valley, a second in both races in Sandpoint (cross country and short track) and a second and a first in Snowmass.

As for that first; she may have known the short-track win was coming. In her online diary, Mark-Marino wrote about the previous week’s NORBA short-track race in Idaho, where she came second to Sue Haywood (Trek/VW) by less than two seconds.” I was suddenly much closer to Sue than I had been on the last lap… I closed in behind and by the time we got to the last corner of the last lap, I was on her wheel. But since it was a hairpin turn and the finish was just ahead, I couldn’t pull out the win. I think I needed one more lap…”

In Snowmass, she got that one extra lap by holding off an on-form Shonny Vanlandingham. “Heather Irmiger (Tokyo Joes) set the pace for the first three or four laps,” she says about the Snowmass short-track. “I would move forward each lap. I felt smooth; kept getting wheels, kept accelerating. I started to notice that people were sitting up a little bit so I went for an attack at about twelve minutes in. Four of us got off the front; myself, Shonny, Sue and Katarina (Hanusova – Luna Chix). We were all attacking. No one would relent.

“With three or two laps to go, I went to the front. In the last lap, Shonny attacked on the climb. I felt like I had the legs to go with her and I countered at the top.” Marks-Marino says she locked handlebars and elbows with Vanlandingham briefly but managed to edge out the advantage.

“I was worried about the last corner – there were two lines and I knew she could come inside me and it would have been a sprint for the finish so I stayed really calm.” She powered through and found herself with enough of a gap to close the race and take her first-ever NORBA win.

As for the rest of the year, Marks-Marino says she’s met one of her major goals. But, “I’d like to win more NORBA’s. And I would love to win the Cross-Country National Championship.” If her current form holds through September, she just may get her wish.

National Championships

During the past couple of week’s numerous nationals have held their national championships. Here’s a round-up of race reports and results:

Norwegian DH Championships
Norwegian XC Championships
Austrian Championships
Netherlands XC Championships
Spanish Championships
French XC Championships
Italian XC Championships
Swiss XC Championships
UK National Downhill Championships
UK National Marathon Championships

Prokop and Berteen Win Michigan Jeep KOM

The podium
Photo ©: Jeep KOM Series
Click for larger image

For mountain bike racers Brian Lopes and Jill Kintner, the second leg of the Jeep King of the Mountain 2005 series in Grand Rapids, Mich., was supposed to be a prime opportunity to further demonstrate the American teammates’ dominance thus far in the series. But international champions Michael Prokop of the Czech Republic and Anneke Beerten of the Netherlands had a different game plan in mind as they dominated the competition and captured the respective men’s and women’s titles.

Report & results

Tinker Juarez to Lead Rides at Pedrosfest

David "Tinker" Juarez will be a special guest at the 11th Annual Pedro's Mountain Bike Festival, Aug. 5-7 in Western Massachusetts' Berkshire Mountains.

Juarez is a legend of mountain bike racing. A native of Southern California, he powered to stardom in the late 1980s as off-road cycling rose from a fringe activity to an Olympic sport.

After success in BMX during the 1970s, Juarez crossed over to mountain bike racing in 1986. He has been America's most consistent international racer. Juarez won three NORBA national championships, earned a spot on two Olympic teams, won a Pan American gold medal, and earned a berth in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. Long after most of his contemporaries retired, Juarez moved into the world of endurance racing, winning four 24 Hour Solo National Titles. At 44, he continues to race endurance events and has announced plans to compete in the 2006 Race Across America.

But Juarez is especially noted for his rapport with fans. He is often seen working with first-time mountain bike riders and kids, helping them to develop their skills.

"I think that going to Pedrosfest is a chance to meet a lot of people who want to know about and have fun with cycling," said Juarez. "I've gotten so much out of mountain biking but it's also good get back to the sport by just going out and riding with a bunch of people and not worrying about who's going to beat who."

2005 Great Wall Bicycle Festival set for September

China very well could be the cycling capital of the world and they want you to come and see why for yourselves.

According to Nordic Ways, promoter of the 2005 Great Wall Bicycle Festival (held September 25-26 in and around China’s 2008 Olympic bicycle venues in Beijing’s Laoshan suburb) over 300 million Chinese ride their bikes on a daily basis and cycling is transforming from a mere means of transportation into the lifestyle and fashion statement it is in the West. Even now, in the early stage of development, China has over 200 official bicycle clubs and associations, with millions of active members.

The Festival hopes that these facts, and the opportunity to take in Beijing in an unusual way, are enough of a draw to bring international athletes and hobby-cyclists to China.

The 2004 event featured Olympic Cross-Country Gold Medalist Gunn Rita-Dahle (Multivan Merida) and U.S. National Champion Sue Haywood (Trek/VW) among the 500-strong field, making it China’s biggest amateur/professional bicycling event.

More information can be found at www.greatwallbike.com

SE Qld Mountain Biking Championships

Leader of the Queensland Mountain Bike Sunshine Series, David Whitney (Gold Coast) will be out to cement his domination this Sunday at the SE Queensland Championships. Over 150 riders from as far away as Bundaberg, Ipswich and Toowoomba will be out to battle each other and the terrain of the Mt Cotton course near Karingal Scout Camp. Overall eader of the Sunshine Series, Whitney will have to contend with Mark Frendo (Corinda) on his return to racing after missing three of the Series races due to university commitments. Another real threat to Whitney could come from double U/17 National champion, James Maltman(Stretton) who finished third overall in the Series.

World Junior Championship competitor, Erica Oldfield (Ipswich) will use the title race to fine-tune her preparation for the World Championships in Italy at the end of August. The Championships will mark her final race in Australia before heading off to America a week later for training camps and one Round of the NORBA Series. Oldfield will ride in the Elite Women division but will have to hold off Sunshine Series leader, Lee Schultz (The Gap). Other contenders include multi National champion, Sharon Heap (Gold Coast) and Brisbane's Imogen Smith. Australia's representative in the World Orienteering Championships, Anna Sheldon (The Gap), will use theevent as preparation.

Following the Championships on Sunday, Cross Country riders will then prepare for the 12 hour Teams Challenge at Kooralbyn on Saturday 6 August.

Storms in Aspen – Chris Davidson diary

I really love the high altitude venues on the NORBA circuit, putting the 'mountain' back in mountain bike racing, writes pro mechanic and Cyclingnews diarist Chris Davidson. Up this far in the mountains you can always count on one thing; rain in the afternoon, every afternoon. We definitely got the rain this afternoon, and there is no doubt about the altitude here, just try and pedal and it hits you.

Thursdays are always really low-key at the venues. This year there is a tonne of construction going up on the mountain at Snowmass, and this has led to some changes to the race courses from last year's event. The 'tech area' is a series of tiered parking lots on one side of Snowmass Village. These lots are long and thin and this arrangement breaks off the community that is the usual pit area at a NORBA. The barriers for the start/finish area run right in front of our trailer. We will get to see all the racing up close, but it will be hard to racers who need our services to get to our trailer. The volume of service should go up substantially tomorrow.

Read the complete diary here

Geoff Kabush diary - Storms on the course

The last couple of weekends the racing continued with the meat of the season and a couple of NORBA stops in Schweitzer Mt, Idaho and Snowmass, Colorado, writes NORBA champion and Cyclingnews diarist Geoff Kabush. Both should have been dry and dusty mountain races, but this year we weren't so lucky.

Sitting in the Team Maxxis condo in Idaho on Saturday morning, Toulouse and I watched the skies darken and the thermometer drop from 80 to 70, then 60 to 50F...then the skies started to open; a little bit of rain and then the hail started. Sheets and buckets of it poured down on the road and piled up on the roofs; enough to have some hail ball fights in the tech site. Luckily the course was fairly dry and sandy so most of it held together. Mr Craig fired it up once again from the start as I tried to hold on for the first of three laps. Liam came flying by after one lap followed by Trebon and Green (who both skipped the Angel Fire World Cup); felt like I got into a good rhythm on the last lap but only good enough to slip by Adam for fourth.

Read the complete diary here

U.S. Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day

IMBA will celebrate the second annual U.S. Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day on Saturday, October 1, 2005. This is a great opportunity for you to pass your passion for pedaling on to kids! Participating is as easy as 1, 2 or 3.

1. Organize a ride in your local area. IMBA can help you plan an event - either large or small; please register so that we can announce your ride on the IMBA website. View a list of scheduled events.

2. Spread the word. This event is a great opportunity for kids and groups to experience mountain biking for the first time or to get back on the saddle again.

3. Take a kid on a ride. Plan to go mountain biking on the first Saturday in October - and bring a kid along for the ride! Register your participation. Check out these helpful tips for taking kids riding and learn about other kids cycling programs.

IMBA National Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day celebrates the life of Jack Doub, an avid teenage mountain biker from North Carolina who had a true passion for the sport from an early age but passed away in 2002. Funding is provided by the Jack Doub Memorial Endowment. The event will take place each year on the first Saturday in October.

Australian Commonwealth Games selection criteria

Cycling Australia has recently published the criteria for selection in the MTB event at the 2006 Commonwealth Games to be staged on the newly constructed Victorian MTB facility at Lysterfield Park.

Essentially athletes will be selected on the basis of performances at two events:

1. The cross-country round 3 of the National MTB series held at Lysterfield Park, December 11, 2005

2. The Australian national championships cross-country events to be staged at Mt. Beauty, January 12 -15, 2006.

The full selection criteria document is here.

Polish Worlds Team

The Polish Olympic Federation (Polska Fundacja Olimpijska) has announced its selections for the 2005 UCI World Cross Country and Trials Championships. The awards are as follow:

Elite woman: Wloszczowska Maja (Lotto), Sadlecka Magda (Lotto) and Pyrgies Marlena (UKS Zywiec).

Junior woman: Dawidowicz Aleksandra (Lotto), Pyrgies Magda (Lotto), Solus Katarzyna (Gorskie Orly Raba Wyzna).

U-23 Men: Batek Dariusz (Lotto).

Junior men: Dzialakiewicz Adrian (Optex Opoczno), Sroka Karol (Optex Opoczno), Zywer Daniel (Lotto), Siebor Boleslaw (Paged Scout Czestochwa), Smaga Leszek (UKS Dobra).

Trial: Kumorowski Rafal.

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