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MTB news & racing round-up for December 2, 2006

Welcome to our regular roundup of what's happening in mountain biking. Feel free to send feedback, news and releases to mtb@cyclingnews.com.

Edited by Sue George

Gary Fisher signs Sam Schultz

Schultz earned
Photo ©: Rocky Arroyo
(Click for larger image)

The Subaru Gary Fisher mountain bike team announced the addition of the current under-23 national champion, Sam Schultz, for 2007. The soon-to-be 21-year-old intends to defend his U-23 title next year and will tackle a full slate of NORBA national series races and the occasional World Cup. He'll also race at the Pan Am championships in March in Venezuela.

Of the signing, Schultz, originally from Missoula, Montana, but now living in Colorado Springs, Colorado, told Cyclingnews, "I'm psyched about it! I think it's a huge step forward in my career. I'm thankful for what the national team program has done for me, and I wouldn't be where I am now without it."

Schultz reflected on this past year in. "Sea Otter was a good race for me; I got third in the time trial, against an international field. I had a pretty consistent season in the NORBAs, too, but that's what I want to work on for next year. I'd like to have more peaks to get better results. I'd also like to make the team for worlds and go and do well." Schultz finished tenth overall in the national cross country series and eighth overall in the short track series.

Schultz intends to continue a relationship with the national development squad although he will race in Gary Fisher colors.

Brand manager Travis Ott had words of praise for Schultz. "He brings youth and a good personality to the team. We're excited about his signing." Ott said the full Gary Fisher team roster will be announced before the end of the year.

Bart Brentjens wins award for 2006 best off-road cyclist

Bart Brentjens (Giant)
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

The Dutch cycling awards were presented earlier this week at the Den Bosch's Orangerie hall, and the winner in the off-road category (including mountain bike and cyclo-cross) was Bart Brentjens. In 2006, Brentjens won in the Dutch national championships and a World Cup race in Curacao. Overall, he finished fourth in the 2006 World Cup. Brentjens will ride for Team Dolphin in 2007.

Runners-up for the award were Rabobank cyclo-cross riders Gerben de Knegt (second) and Lars Boom (third).

Other winners were Michael Boogerd (best male rider), Sebastiaan Langeveld (best new talented rider), and Marianne Vos (best female rider).

Armstrong to race Leadville Trail 100

Armstrong achieved his goals
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Retirement from pro road racing has opened new doors for Lance Armstrong. This fall, the former roadie and seven-time Tour de France winner tackled the New York City marathon, and next August, he'll try out the Leadville Trail 100, a 100 mile mountain bike race in Leadville, Colorado.

Race director Ken Chlouber confirmed the race was on Armstrong's schedule, which now consists of only a few races per year. "This is huge for Leadville," Chlouber told the Leadville Chronicle. He added that the race was well suited for Armstrong, who is known for surmounting tough personal obstacles like cancer.

The Leadville 100 began in 1983 and covers a 100-mile course through the Sawatch mountains. It features 15,600 feet of climbing and descending. The race is notoriously challenging because the entire course is at a high altitude. The lowest point is 9,200 feet, and the highest point is 12,620 feet. The race is so popular that a lottery is used to dole out the available slots. About 500-600 of the 750 starters finish the race annually.

It won't be Armstrong's first appearance off road, but it will be the first time he races an endurance mountain bike event. If he has time to train, the Tour de France winner could challenge for the win.

Taberlay and Thomas back on top in Australia's Mountain Bike Series #2

Round #2 of the National Mountain Biking race series for Australia continued in Tasmania last weekend. Sid Taberlay (Avanti-SRAM-Rock Shox-Truvativ) returned to the top spot after an average start to the national series in Yellowmundee. Not surprisingly, Taberlay put his dominating cross-country performance in Hobart down to 'training,' something he hadn't indulged in before the first round of the national series.

Taberlay absolutely obliterated his competition in his hometown of Hobart after a blistering start from Dylan Cooper (Ritchey-Conceptis) set the tone of the day. While Cooper, who was second in the first round of the national series, would drift off out the top five, the winner of round one, Aiden Lefmann (Cannondale-Maxxis) stepped up into second and held off a ferocious charge by Jongewaard (Avanti-Rock Shox), Shaun Lewis (Scott) and Lachlan 'Movember' Norris (Cannondale-Maxxis) to cement his lead in the national series.

Tory Thomas
Photo ©: Mikkeli Godfree
(Click for larger image)

Meanwhile Tory Thomas (Orbea) took her first victory of the season in the elite women category after being beaten in a sprint at the opening race in Yellowmundee. Attacks by two English-sounding but technically Aussie riders Caroline Jackson and Kate Potter ensured the race went down to the wire.

The battle Saturday's race endured represents an increase in the competitiveness of the women's MTB racing in Australia largely contributed to by the Dirt Road to London program, which aims to get women's racing in tip-top shape for the 2012 Olympics. "Women's racing has taken a huge leap. It's actually racing now, not just a handful of people riding around," said Thomas. "For selfish reasons I wish they weren't here as they make it hard! But, they are benefiting the sport in a huge way. We all have to lift, there's no such thing as an 'easy win' in women's mountain biking any more."

Youngsters dominate downhill

The irrepressible Amiel Cavalier takes the win.
Photo ©: Mikkeli Godfree
(Click for larger image)

Despite talk of overnight snow falling atop of Mount Wellington, which towers above the Glenorchy course, the sun came out to shine on the day's winners - Amiel Cavalier (Giant) who claimed the Elite Men's category while Tracey Hannah (Edge cycles) was the victor in the Elite Women. Meanwhile, an impressive ride from Joel Bane claimed the youngster the Junior Men's victory with a time that would have earned him eighth spot in the elite class.

Tracey Hannah (Edge Cycles) was similarly pleased with her crushing forty-second win over the Claire Whiteman (Kona-Mt Buller). Hannah dominated the course, showing all the class of the junior world champion title she recently claimed in Rotorua.

Sun falls on mountain cross battle

Arguably mountain biking's most spectator friendly event, the mountain cross lived up to its reputation as Terry Scarr, Caroline Buchanan, James Maltman and Sam Gardner took out Elite men, Elite women, U19 and Sport categories respectively on a true Glen Jacobs designed mountain cross track.

Click for the full report, results, and photos for the cross country, downhill, or mountain cross.

Land managers and mountain bikers meet in California

Public land managers are scheduled to meet with mountain bikers throughout California, to get ideas on how to accommodate mountain bikers in the state's 18 national forests. Forums from Redding to San Diego will be jointly sponsored by the US Forest Service and the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA). The goal is to help rangers manage and plan for mountain biking, which is booming state-wide.

"We’re seeing more and more use of [mountain biking] and so we’re trying to stay ahead of the game," said Matt Mathes, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest region to the Sierra Sun. He named two common concerns about mountain bike use: trail erosion and compatibility with other trail users.

Mountain bikers in California have faced various access issues lately, but local IMBA representative and Bicyclists of Nevada County president John Gardiner sees the meetings as a positive. "I think it is an opportunity to partner,” John Gardiner told the Sierra Sun. "The Forest Service is so short on staff." A partnership could lead to new and improved trails and may help California rangers adopt a uniform policy on mountain biking.

The land managers are using the forums as a chance to hear from mountain bikers and other trail users. Although not part of a formal comment process, the forest service will use input to develop a “mountain bicycle management strategy” for each California national forest to use to in managing increased mountain bike use.

The first session was held November 30th in the Sacramento area. Others are coming to the San Diego area (December 5th), the Los Angeles area (December 6th), the Redding area (December 12th), and the Bay area (December 14th)

2007 TransRockies Challenge sold out

Epic scenery and riding
Photo ©: Dan Hudson
(Click for larger image)

Long before 2007 registration opened, promoters expected the TransRockies Challenge to reach its field limit more quickly than ever. After a record-breaking 2006 edition which featured the largest field yet and a brand new course, the race's reputation as challenging, seven-day mountain bike stage race keeps growing.

Andreas Hestler and Seamus McGrath (Rocky Mountain Business Objects/Felt Racing) won the men's division in 2006 while Sue Butler and Anna Vacca (Bear Naked/Cannondale) won the women's race. Racers faced a variety of conditions from hail to baking heat and from dry fast conditions to soupy mud.

Registration for next year opened at 12:01 am (MST) on November 1st, and entries started pouring in from around the world. Within a few days, over 80 percent of the available 275 two-person team spots had been taken. The remaining spots filled quickly, and on Friday November 17th, the field was declared full, two months earlier than last year. 2007 marks the second consecutive year that the race has sold out.

This year's sixth edition of the TransRockies Challenge will draw teams from over 20 countries on five continents. The race starts August 12th and goes for one week throughout the Canadian Rockies. While the bulk of the teams are still from the US and Canada, in 2007, over 50 teams from the United Kingdom will start along with others from Kenya, Hong Kong, and Israel.

"We're really gratified to have reached capacity so quickly and we take it as a testament to the hard work put in by everyone in the TransRockies family," said event director Aaron McConnell. "We'll take a minute to celebrate it and then get back to work making sure that TransRockies VI is the best one yet."

Though the field is full, a waiting list is in place in the event of any withdrawals from the event. Teams who wish to be placed on the waiting list can do so through www.transrockies.com.

Geoff Kabush: Going to the chapel

It has been a busy couple of months since my last update. Since the MTB World Champs back in August; I have done a couple laps of North America by car and plane. First my fiancée Keri and I got back up to the Northwest for the start of the wedding season, with good friend, Mr. Pinfold of Symmetrics Cycling, hooking up first in my hometown Courtenay. Then it was back to Chicago for another wedding, followed by that little bike show in Vegas, one of my favourite CX races, Starcrossed, and finally, on a full moon and our two year anniversary, we got married on October 7 in Victoria.

The wedding was a really fun party. Being so transient it is not often I get to see all my friends in one place. We married at a beautiful placed called Hatley Castle, also known as the mutant school from the X-Men movie. Keri did a wonderful job planning it all and I picked the beer.

Just another walk in the park
Photo ©: Daniel Milnor
(Click for larger image)

After catching my breath from the wedding festivities I headed out to Philadelphia for Granoque and Wissahickon to try to score a few UCI Cyclo-cross points. Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, I got beat down pretty good - I guess that is what happens when you don't get to ride much for a couple months. I did, however, have a lot of fun setting up our new sound system/heckling machine from Fender. You can mix in music, guitars, and heckle with the two included microphones. Tom McDaniel, organizer of Granoque, put Team Maxxis up at his house and we had a good time playing some ol' school skee ball.

I decided to keep racing when I got back to British Columbia because training takes too much energy at this time of year. Even though I didn't make it to bed, bath, and beyond, I did put together a pretty nice little weekend for myself watching Canucks' overtime win on Friday night, a BC Cross Championship on Saturday and a Cowboy Cross Island Series win on Sunday. It is great to see Cyclo-cross is starting to gain a little momentum north of the border.

To read the Kabush's complete diary entry, click here.

Cyprus Cup announces early season races

The Cyprus Cycling Federation announced the Sunshine Cup 2007 which consists of four different events during the months of February and March. For several years, Cyprus has been a place for mountain bikers to complete their early season preparations, in good weather conditions, while also racing for UCI points.

The Sunshine cup events are open to the following categories, Men and Women Elite (competing for the UCI races), Junior Men and Women, U17 and Masters 1 and 2 categories.

The schedule is below.

February 25, 2007 Sunshine Cup #1– Tochni Village
March 2-4, 2007 Sunshine Cup #2 & #3 (3 stage Afxentia Stage Race)
March 18, 2007 Sunshine Cup #4 Voroklini -1- XCP

Dirt Sweat & Gears promises big money for new early-season race

The inaugural Dirt Sweat & Gears 12-hour race is reaching out to professional women and men to come to their big money early season race. In a sport in which men often earn more on the podium than women, this race promises an equal payout to men and women. The prize purse is estimated to be at least US$10,000 for the Fayetteville, Tennessee event.

Race director Clay Higgins said registrations are coming in daily. "Female pro athletes see this as a chance to back us up, to show up and make a statement," Higgins said.

Higgins expects some big names to attend, including Dejay Birtch, who in 2005 placed first at the 24 Hour World Championships and 24 Hour National championships. Birtch is looking forward to the new race. "I like hitting up first year events due in fact that the attention is mostly focused on the fun of the sport and you never really know who is going to show up to throw down."

The race will also feature a purse for the single speed category. The winning male and female single speeder will take home US$1,000 each.

Mountain bike cyclists of the year named in Australia

Katrina Miller
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Sam Hill and Katrina Miller were named male and female Mountain Bike Cyclists of the Year. Hill produced a thrilling run at the World Championships to claim the gold medal in the elite downhill. He was consistent throughout the year picking up two World Cup wins in Great Britain and Austria to finish second overall in the World Cup Series. He won the US NORBA Series and finished the year as the number one ranked downhill rider in the world. Miller's final year of international competition saw her again challenging on the international stage. She won the 4X at the Mont St Anne World Cup in Canada and was second in both the German and Brazilian rounds to finish the World Cup series ranked fourth overall.

On the junior side, Daniel Braunsteins (male) and Tracey Hannah (female) took the honors. Braunsteins is the Australian Short Track Champion and was second in the cross country at the Australian Championships and Oceania Championships. At the World Titles in New Zealand he placed sixth. Hannah had an exceptional year in 2006. She was the series champion and won up two rounds in the elite division of the NORBA series and ended her season with a gold medal winning ride to be crowned Junior Women’s Downhill World Champion.

Urban MTB event to Canberra

The seventh annual Urban Polaris mountain biking event takes to streets, parks and trails of Canberra this Sunday, December 3, 2006. An expected 600 riders will set out from the new Stromlo Forest Park with seven hours to search out checkpoints located throughout the city and suburbs and beyond into the Brindabella Mountains. Buildings, lakes, tourist icons, forest tracks, and some other locations will hold the secret as teams of two and solo riders plan their route to maximize their points in the urban mountain bike event.

Local knowledge will certainly help, but 70% of riders will be from other states.

The race appeals to many because riders can take it as hard or easy as they like. The winners will ride over 120-130km on the day while other teams will treat it as a casual ride with a coffee here, a lunch there and gather a few checkpoints to ride 30 or 40km.

Some strong teams are expected this year including Victorian world champion MTB orienteer, Adrian Jackson and partner Shaun Lewis, fresh from his victory in the VAUDE Highland Fling. Multiple winner Julie Quinn will partner with Gary Rolfe for what should be a strong team in the Mixed category. 2005 Women's winners, Gaye Camm/Kath Bicknell will have local knowledge but will be pushed by Martine Robin/Fiona Russell.

Answer Products acquired by HB Performance Systems Inc.

HB Performance Systems Inc., parent company of Hayes Bicycle Group, recently announced the acquisition of Answer Products Inc., including the Answer and Manitou brands of bicycle handlebars, stems, and suspension components. The company will be renamed HB Suspension Products and will be integrated into the Hayes Bicycle Group division, which currently manufactures Hayes bicycle disc brakes and Sun Ringlé wheels, rims, and hubs. The group also acquired Wheelsmith Fabrication just this past October.

The El Guapo is a new 160mm platform from Titus,
Photo ©: Titus Cycles
(Click for larger image)

HB Performance Systems (formerly Hayes Brake) and Answer Products have collaborated on a number of projects over the years, including the now-ubiquitous 74mm post-mount disc brake standard back in 1997. Although this acquisition was just finalised on November 3, rumors of Answer Products' auction-block status have been circulating for some time now, with Cyclingnews receiving firm evidence as such as early as November 2005.

Details on the integration strategy and business transition for the new acquisition will not be announced until early 2007, although company officials did confirm that the Manitou brand name would (wisely) be retained. According to HB Performance Systems President and CEO Rand McNally, "Bringing together complementary businesses that offer premium brands to the bicycle industry is part of our strategy in growing the Hayes Bicycle Group division. As an engineering company with 60 years of experience in design and manufacturing, HB Performance Systems delivers a superior level of engineering expertise and product manufacturing excellence, which it will now do for Manitou products."

For more mountain bike related tech news, click here.

NorCal High School mountain bike league grows

The NorCal High School Mountain Bike Racing League continues to expand and gain momentum. More than 25 teams and 350 riders will participate in the Spring 2007 season, and at a recent Leader's summit, 65 people attended to learn wilderness first aid, bike skills, and management of high school mountain bike teams.

The league is entirely self-funded with no support coming from the schools that struggle to fund more mainstream high school sports. To raise money, the league will host a dinner fundraiser with guest Tom Danielson (Team Discovery), winner of a stage in the 2006 Vuelta a España. They also screened the movie "Cobbles, Baby!" to earn US$16,000, some of which went to the Davis Phinney foundation.

The league is planning the following schedule of winter training camps and spring races.

2007 winter training camps

January 20 & 21 (Advanced, Co-ed)
February 3 & 4 (Boys)
February 10 & 11 (Girls)
February 17 & 18 (Boys)

2007 spring race schedule

Race #1: March 4, Fort Ord
Race #2: March 18, Folsom Lake
Race #3: April 1 (Tentative, venue to be announced)
Race #4: April 22 (Tentative, venue to be announced)
Race #5: May 6 (Tentative, venue to be announced)
Race #6: May 13 (Tentative, Bogg's Mountain)

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