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MTB News & racing round-up for November 11, 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

Pruitt seeks '06 sponsor

By Steve Medcroft

Kathy Pruitt on the way to the win at Snowshoe NORBA in 2005
Photo ©: Steve Medcroft
Click for larger image

After shuffling the deck of the Luna Women's MTB team for 2006, team management unfortunately left former junior world champion and 2005 NORBA downhill series champion Kathy Pruitt off the roster.

"Back in September, I had no idea Luna was going to give me the kind of news that I got the day before Interbike," Pruitt said from her winter stomping ground in Volksrust, South Africa. "I had a lunch meeting with team director Paul McKenzie in Oakland, CA." At the meeting, Pruitt was told Luna was not going to renew her contract.

"Kathy is a fantastic rider and we'd love to keep her on the team," McKenzie said on Wednesday. "But several factors have come into play which have influenced our decision." McKenzie says that with Marla Streb moving away from competition, it is economically difficult to support only one gravity rider and, according to McKenzie, "the state of female gravity competition in the U.S. right now is such that Kathy doesn't have much competition so we didn't want to add another gravity rider."

McKenzie says Luna felt they couldn't support Pruitt's ambitions to expand her role in downhill either. "Kathy wants to/needs to compete on the World Cup circuit," he said. "Our products are distributed only in North America so that's not our focus."

The final factor affecting the decision is that Luna "plans to branch out more next year, competing in some road races, 24 hour events, and XTERRA events." Types of events that don't line up with Pruitt's strengths.

Where does that leave the NORBA series downhill champion? "The change in plans was quick," Pruitt said. "Luckily, I still had Interbike to spread the word that I was now unemployed and looking earnestly for a new sponsor. It's the middle of November. I'm two months into my search for a new team and sponsors to represent during the upcoming mtb race season." And have not yet settled on a program.

"I do have some positive leads though and I truly hope that one of them works out," she says. "It's important for me to continue to represent a company while showing people around the world how fun a mtb can be. It's great to see young kid's faces light up when you are riding down a trail full tilt past him and you hear him say, "cool". Or "that was a chick, wow"

While she searches for a new sponsor, Pruitt will ride out the winter in South Africa. "I go home to Northern California March 26th," she says. "Hopefully, for the racing season to begin and for me to get out there and compete." But without a team, she may be faced with sitting a year out.

Parties interested in talking to Pruitt about opportunities to represent them in 2006 should email her at KathyPruitt@earthlink.net.

Tinker Qualifies For RAAM

Ultra-endurance mountain biker Tinker Juarez moved one step closer to his goal of competing in the 2006 Race Across America by qualifying for RAAM with a second-place finish at the Furnace Creek 508; a five-hundred eight mile ultra-endurance bicycle race that transverses California's Death Valley every year. This year's edition was won by duathlete Kenny Souza, who switched from the team to solo events at the last moment when his team-mate was hit by a car.

"I've watched (RAAM) several times on TV and never really gave much though about doing it myself," said the 44 year old Mountain Bike Hall Of Fame member before this year. But recognizing it as the ultimate endurance challenge, Juarez has publicly made plans to enter in 2006.

To work his way into ultra-endurance road racing, and since it used the same roads around Southern California he's trained on for many years, Tinker decided to participate in the Aids/Lifecycle 4 ride from San Francisco to LA this June. Even though the event was not a race, anytime you put a number on his bike, it becomes a race to Tinker. After pedaling 585 miles over the 5 days on the Aids ride, Tinker decided that his next challenge would be to do nearly the same distance without stopping.

This year's Furnace Creek 508 boasted the largest number of racers ever to take on the challenge. 150 racers started in Valencia CA and peddled through severe heat and winds that would make a camel look for cover through the Death Valley Desert . Despite the more than 35,000 feet of climbing, Tinker and his team of supporters put in a great time; completing the race in 27:24:07. The result earned Tinker a 2nd place finish and more importantly, a spot on the starting grid for his next, and biggest challenge of all: RAAM.

For more information about the man and his next endurance challenge, visit www.TinkerJuarez.com.

Mick Hannah moves on from Haro

Haro Bicycles announced today that it has released Australian downhiller Mick Hannah from their professional mountain bike team. 

"Mick has done a great job representing Haro during the past three years he's ridden for us," said Jill Hamilton, Haro's Mountain Bike Brand Manager.  "We simply chose not to match an excellent offer Mick has received from another team.  All of us here at Haro certainly wish Mick all the best with his future plans."

"I have had some great years at Haro and all the staff and team have been a hugely supportive of my plans for the future," said Hannah.  "I want to pass a huge thanks on to Jill Hamilton, Jim Ford, Mike Varley and Rusty for all their help and wish Haro all the best for the 2006 season."

Haro will concentrate its efforts on finding a replacement to fill the slot Hannah leaves on the gravity side of the team.

Hannah has not released the name of his new sponsor although Cannondale has been mentioned in rumors. Cannondale says it is also not ready to release news of its 2006 gravity program until all the details are final.

The Iceman Cometh closes out the U.S. MTB season

By Brian Matter

Adam Craig
Photo ©: John L. Russell
Click for larger image

The final race of the mountain bike season took place last weekend in Michigan at the Iceman Cometh Challenge; a 27 mile point-to-point mountain bike race (which is famous for epic, cold conditions) held traditionally on the first Saturday in November between Kalkaska and Traverse City. With above average temperatures and great course conditions the pro men and women set some blistering fast times at the November 5th event. Adam Craig (Giant) took home top honors for the men and Kelli Emmett (Ford/Specialized) for the women.

The competition was like no other Iceman before; a world champion, Tour de France finishers, Olympic athletes, NORBA national champions, three past Iceman champions, two Chequamegon champions and an Ore To Shore champion raced the event. The pro racers started later in the day so the other 2,000 competitors could turn into super spectators and cheer like crazy as the pros approached the finish in Traverse City.

The Iceman is a 27 mile point to point race starting in Kalkaska, MI and finishing in Traverse City . The pro men took off at 2:30pm with last year's champion (Brian Matter, PCW Cycling) taking the lead into the first singletrack. Doug Swanson (Trek Midwest) soon took over the pacemaking as the racers approached the first singletrack. National pros Jeremeny Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru/Gary Fisher) and Adam Craig started taking turns at the front as the group of leaders got smaller and smaller.

With such high speeds for a mountain bike race one little mistake and you are gone; both Matter and Horgan-Kobelski found this out the hard way. Matter's skewer was pulled open after some riders took a wrong turn and the group bunched up and crashed into each other. Soon after that Horgan-Kobelski overshot a corner when his stem twisted loose.

Last years champ Brian Matter
Photo ©: Iceman Cometh
Click for larger image

The two were soon working together chasing the lead group of 5 riders containing Craig, Swanson, Tristan Schouten (Trek Midwest), Canadian Jesse Jakomait, and Travis Brown aboard his Gary Fisher 29er. As the leaders approached the final miles of the race, Adam Craig started to pull away in the singletrack and Swanson would close the gap on the climbs. In the end, Craig proved the strongest as he cross the line riding a wheelie with a 14 second advantage over Swanson. Schouten attacked Jakomait to grab the last spot on the podium and Brown rounded out the top 5.

The women's race was won by two-time Iceman champion and Michigan native Kelli Emmet. Sarah Kylander-Johnson (Trek Midwest) finished second after a great season (First, Ore to Shore and second at Chequamegon) and defending champion Kerry Barnholt (Subaru/Gary Fisher) was third.

For more photos and full results (all 2000 of them!) from the Iceman Cometh, click here.

Longest bicycle skid world record holder competing at La Ruta

By Steve Medcroft

How's this for an obscure fact? Lining up for the three stage Costa Rican MTB stage race, La Ruta de los Conquistadores, will be a Spokane-based cyclist by the name of James David. Starting Friday, riders will cover, 320 kilometers over 9,000 feet of climbing in the three days of the race in what is predicted to be nasty, soggy conditions. David's presence in the field means that UCI marathon world champion and Pan Am Championships gold medallist and native Costa Rican Deiber Esquivel will only have more to contend with than just several hundred hard-core mountain bikers from twenty-seven countries; they'll be up against the guy who set the Guinness world record for longest continuous skid on a bicycle.

David set his record in April 2001 at the Spokane International Raceway Park. For his feat to qualify as an official Guinness record, David had to adhere to a few strict rules in his attempt: The surface had to be flat, he had to run two skids in opposite directions to balance out any wind or incline and his vehicle had to be human powered with pneumatic tires. His record is 337 feet.

The rest of the La Ruta field is said to not be particularly concerned about David as a contender for the win but no-one wants to ride behind him in case he locks up his rear tires in an attempt to re-live his glory days.

You can learn more about David's record on www.superskid.com. On a more serious note; check back on Cyclingnews for race reports, results and photos from La Ruta de los Conquistadores.

Sunshine Cup schedule announced

For the past eight years, European-based MTB pros have flocked to sunny Cyprus for some spring tuning competitions before the World Cup series gets underway. the 2006 schedule for the so-called Sunshine Cup was announced on Thursday.

"Since the World Cup starts early next year," says Sunshine Cup race director Michael Hadjioannou, "we've managed to set all the events in the series between the 19th February on for 4 weeks until the 12th of March."

The 2006 Cyprus Sunshine Cup schedule:

February 19, Klavdia - Larnaka Sunshine Cup #1
February 26, location TBA, Sunshine Cup #2
March 3-5, Macheras Mountain, Sunshine Cup #3
March 12, Lythdrodontas, Sunshine Cup #4 Class 1 - XCP

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