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MTB news & racing round-up for December 23, 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

Leadville Trail 100: Landis vs. Armstrong?

Floyd Landis (Phonak)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

The 2007 edition of the Leadville Trail 100 may turn out to be a battle of former teammates and Tour de France winners Floyd Landis and Lance Armstrong. Earlier this week, Landis said he would compete in the race after accepting an invitation from race director Ken Chlouber, who spoke with Cyclingnews. Armstrong announced his participation nearly a month ago. The two will battle on August 11th.

The endurance event will mark Landis' return to mountain biking, the discipline where his cycling career started as a young junior in central Pennsylvania. He later gave up mountain bike racing to embark in a full-time road racing career in 1998.

Chlouber, who's retired from Colorado's state senate, described the race's locale to Cyclingnews. "Leadville has one stoplight and is a small mining town. Lance Armstrong coming to Leadville will be our greatest visitor since 1878 when President Grant came here. We're equally excited to have Floyd Landis. This is a tough race, these are tough guys, they are coming here to win. It's unbelievable to have two Tour de France winners on our starting line."

"I started my racing career on a mountain bike in 1993," remembered Landis, who anticipates returning to his roots. "Training for Leadville will be great preparation for a return to the Tour de France. With my successful hip resurfacing and my training load increasing, I'm very much looking forward to racing my bike again." Landis is recovering from hip surgery on September 17th. Leadville will put his new hip joint to the test.

Lance Armstrong
Photo ©: Sirotti
Click for larger image

Landis is without a team for 2007, and his pro racing eligibility remains in question due to ongoing proceedings for a positive doping test from Stage 17 of the Tour de France. If the positive test is upheld, Landis will be suspended from competing in sanctioned races, but Chlouber said Landis will be welcome in Leadville.

"Without question, Landis will still be able to compete in our race. We are more than grateful for him to accept our invitation to race. Personally, I believe that Landis will be exonerated, and his Tour de France win will be upheld." Referring to both Armstrong and Landis, "We have a deep and abiding appreciation for these two guys, and I'm not going to tolerate anyone being negative about them. One thing the mining industry has taught us over the last 120 years is a high degree of integrity. We expect that of ourselves and others."

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. Altitude is perhaps the most challenging feature of the race. Its lowest point is 9,200 feet, and the highest point is 12,620 feet. The race will accept registrations from January 3-31, 2007. A lottery will then select participants from the entries received. Typically, 750 racers start and about 500-600 finish.

Clearing up the confusion: US mountain bike calendars

Although grassroots racing in the US will be organized similarly in 2007, the structure of elite-level mountain bike racing will get a makeover.

No longer will top racers target the NORBA National Series, as it has been known for years. Instead a new, expanded National Mountain Bike Calendar will replace the old series, which typically consisted of six to eight major races. USA Cycling has announced a partial version of the National Mountain Bike Calendar, but will publicize the complete version soon after the new year begins.

Sue Haywood at a 2006 NORBA National event
Photo ©: Mike Pinewski
(Click for larger image)

In the meantime, elite racers can begin some planning. There is significant overlap between the grassroots American Mountain Bike Calendar (AMBC) and the National Mountain Bike Calendar (formal acronym still to be announced). Although somewhat confusing, both series span the entire country, but the AMBC consists of more local events. The National Calendar will include large regional and national events and will be divided into three sections: gravity events like downhill, Super D, and four cross; cross country events; and ultra-endurance events like marathons, 100 milers, and 12-hour and 24-hour races.

Two key national events are the two UCI Category 2 events happening April 29th in Greenbriar, Maryland, and May 12th in Callaway, Minnesota.

Lest any confusion remain with the names of mountain bike series, USA Cycling used to own and run a National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS). The name and the series still exist, but Tom Spiegel and Jeff Frost co-own the rights, and in fact, the name now refers to only six events, all of which are expected to be part of the National Mountain Bike Calendar.

Independently of USA Cycling, Granny Gear Productions hosts its own national series of 24-hour races, and last year an affiliation of 100 mile race promoters formed to run a 100 miler race series; however there has been no official word about the continuation of the latter series for 2006.

The AMBC series, as announced by USA Cycling, consists of the following races for 2007. Races with an * denote events that are known at this time to also be on the Mountain Bike National Calendar. Other events are expected to join these National Calendar events.

11      SERC#1 (AMBC) - Reddick, Florida                               
25      Chicksaw Trace Classic (AMBC*) - Columbia, TN

1       SERC#2 (AMBC) - Bryson City, NC                                 
15      SERC#3 (AMBC) - Athens, GA                                      
22      Tiger Rag (AMBC*)- Clemson, South Carolina                     
29      Greenbrier Challenge(AMBC*) - Frederick and Hagerstown, Maryland

6       SERC#4 (AMBC) - Ducktown, Tennessee                           
6       Stump Jump (AMBC*) - Spartanburg, South Carolina              
20      5th annual Coyote Classic (AMBC*) - Boise, Idaho                
26 - 27 Chile Challenge (AMBC*) - Angel Fire, New Mexico               
27      SERC#5 (AMBC) - Jackson, Georgia  

3       13th Annual Bump & Grind (AMBC*) - Pelham, Alabama            
17      SERC#6 (AMBC) - Fontana, North Carolina                       
24      Dawg Dayz MTB Classic (AMBC) - North Little Rock, Arkansas      
24      12th Annual Bulldog Rump (AMBC) - Andover, New Jersey           
30 - 1  DINO Challenge (AMBC) - Vernon, Indiana
1       SERC#7 (AMBC) - Clemson, South Carolina                        
14 - 15 Blast the Mass (AMBC*) - Snowmass Village, Colorado            
15      SERC#8 (AMBC) - Anniston, Alabama                             

18 - 19 Subaru Cup (AMBC*) - Mt Morris, Wisconsin                      
31 - 1  Camp Eagle Classic (AMBC*) - Rocksprings, Texas                

15 - 16 Plattekille Extreme (AMBC*) - Roxbury, New York               

6 Road Apple Rally (AMBC) - Farmington, New Mexico                   
14 Piney Hills Classic XIV (AMBC*) - Ruston, Louisiana                

To see Cyclingnews' newly released full calendar of UCI and various national mountain bike events, click here.

Australian national series Round #3 continues at Threadbo

The Australian national cross country and downhill series continued at Threadbo on December 15-16th.

Cross country

Sid Taberlay
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

Athens Olympian Sid Taberlay led from start to finish and claimed the quickest lap of the day. After six laps and an overall time of 1:47.37, Taberlay took the win in his stride. "I just powered up the hill in the first lap and didn't see anyone after that," Taberlay said.

Adelaide based Chris Jongewaard had the unluckiest ride of the day after riding five laps in second position before striking trouble. Jongewaard missed a feed on the final lap before suffering a flat tyre that caused him to drop six and a half minutes and finish in ninth place. Jongewaard was passed by the trailing trio of Dylan Cooper, Aiden Lefmann, and team mate Lachlan Norris who finished second, third and fourth respectively. A third place by current series leader, Lefmann maintained his series lead by a slim margin of two points

European-based rider Kate Potter caused an upset in the Elite Women's category at Thredbo. Potter made the winning move just before the final lap to pass early leader, Tory Thomas. A surge of energy from Potter was too much for the current series leader, Thomas.

In the early laps Thomas looked like she had the race sewn up until an old injury caused havoc on the climbing sections. The Victorian was told she would never ride again in 2005 when she was serious injured after being struck by a car. Thomas' second place by was enough to maintain the series lead.

For the complete cross country race report, click here.


Nathan Rennie
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

World bronze medallist Nathan Rennie proved he is one of the best mountain bike downhillers in Australia by winning the third round of the National Mountain Bike Series at Thredbo. The reigning national champion qualified third fastest after blistering runs from Canberra's Ben Cory and Wollongong's Amiel Cavalier claimed the top two positions. On his first event since returning to Australia, course record holder Jared Rando placed second. Current series leader, Amiel Cavalier, secured third place to maintain his comfortable series lead with 178 points.

An upset in the women's downhill race saw veteran downhill rider Joanne Fox take the win over the race favourite, Emma McNaughton, by a clear four seconds. After being convinced by her husband at the last minute to ride up with Elite Women, Fox was elated but exhausted at the finish line. "I knew it wasn't going to be easy to win today," said the Sydneysider. "The first thing I'm going to do is have something to eat, I'm starving!"

For the complete downhill race report, click here.

Oregon and Scotland earn top marks on IMBA report card

According to the eighth edition of the 2006 IMBA report card, Oregon and Scotland are the top places to mountain bike while Montana and British Columbia need some remediation. The annual report card "gauges the riding opportunities and advocacy strength in the United States, Canadian Provinces and nations with significant IMBA activities." Unlike other report card editions, IMBA no longer assigns letter grades to each state, province, or country.

Oregon earned the Top Dog award for the US with grade of "A". Besides its well-known trails, Oregon can boast a state-wide recreation trail development plan and strong advocacy clubs like the Columbia Area Mountain Bike Advocates (CAMBA), Central Oregon Trail Alliance (COTA), Oregon Mountain Bike Alliance (ORMBA), and Portland United Mountain Pedalers (PUMP). Two other recent accomplishments include a bike-friendly land management plan for Mount Hood and the establishment of freeriding resources by the Black Rock Mountain Bike Association (BRMBA) working with the Oregon Department of Forestry. Last year, Virginia took top honors among the states.

Internationally, Scotland was labelled "Global Superstar" with an "A+" grade. Scotland is the first nation to win top honors in two consecutive years, largely do to its efforts to promote the sport in many ways including a nationwide plan for a network of bike parks on Forestry Commission lands. The Scots have it covered from cross-country to downhill riding, and their mountain bike centers are sometimes cited as models of successful adventure tourism.

Montana was designated the "most endangered" mountain biking place with "C-". Riding opportunities there are now in jeopardy due to a Forest Service proposal to ban bikes from many roadless areas across the state. The forest service is planning to treat bicycle travel like motor vehicle traffic despite the fact bicycles are human powered and quiet compared to motorized vehicles. 700 miles of singletrack are at risk, and the state has few mountain bike advocates.

Despite its reputation as a mountain bike wonderland, British Columbia was given "alert" status. A new plan could affect the way mountain bike trails on Crown lands in British Columbia are managed. If the plan is adopted, individual trailbuilders and mountain bike clubs will carry the burden of maintaining trails to the government's standards, including providing liability insurance for trails with technical features. If the plan is adopted, it will put the onus on individual trailbuilders and mountain bike clubs to maintain trails to the government's standards - and possibly to provide liability insurance for trails with technical features. Yet issues of where to acquire such insurance coverage and how to pay for it have yet to be resolved. Because most trails in the province are technical, the alert poses a risk to mountain biking across British Columbia.

Two championship events for South America in 2007

Following a successful continental (aka Pan American) mountain bike championships held in Brazil in October of 2006, the Villa de la Angostura, in Argentina, will host next year's continental championships in March 2007. In 2006, American Mary McConneloug won the elite women's race while Columbian Hector Leonardo Paez Leon, also the winner of the 2006 La Ruta stage race, took the men's elite race.

The Latin American championships will happen later in the year: June 29 - July1 in Medellin, Columbia. Look for Paez Leon to make his mark on his home turf.

Highland Fling to serve as 2007 Australian marathon championships

Organizers of the VAUDE Highland Fling announced their annual event will serve as the 2007 Australian mountain bike marathon championships next year on November 11th. The race receives no sanctioning from MTBA and no UCI ranking points although in 2006, the race attracted 1,100 riders to its challenging course across the Southern Highlands of NSW.

In 2006, the same event announced itself as the Australian mountain bike marathon championships, but controversy ensued, and the MTBA actually award the 2006 title status to another marathon race in Queensland.

Team G Cross Honda announces team

Team G Cross Honda will return in 2007 with riders Greg Minnaar (Republic of South Africa), Matti Lehikoinen (Finland), and new addition Brendan Fairclough (Great Britain). All riders will contest the UCI World Cup Downhill and selected Maxxis Cup events, British National Point Series events, Crankworx, and the Lisbon Downtown.

Pushing hard at Angelfire
Photo ©: Marek Lazarski
Click for larger image

Minnaar, 25-years-old, joined the squad in 2004 and begins his fourth season. He would like to win worlds and take back the world cup overall title he won in 2005.

Lehikoinen, 22-years-old had a successful 2006 by winning the world cup of Brazil and the Red Bull Empire race in Peru and by finishing sixth in the world cup overall. In his third season on the team, he targets a top five World Cup overall finish and a few trips to the podium in individual world cup races.

Fairclough, 18-years-old, won the inaugural Junior World Cup Downhill overall in 2006. In addition to his two World Cup podiums as a junior, Brendan impressed the team with his all-around approach to racing.

Martin Whiteley, Team Director, will serve as team director and lead the squad to their first 2007 appearance at the Maxxis Cup in Gouveia in Portugal on March 18th; however Minnaar will not start his season until April at the opening round of the British National Points Series.

Gehbauer joins Multivan Merida Team

Robert Gehbauer (Austria)
Photo ©: Rob Jones
Click for larger image

The Multivan Merida Biking Team has signed Austrian Robert Gehbauer, who won the junior world championships in Livigno in 2005 and then went on the secure both the world and European junior championship titles in the sport of winter triathlon.

Gehbauer joins other the rest of the team, which remains unchanged from last year: Cyclingnews' diarist Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa, Nina Göhl, Ralph Näf, José Hermida, and Moritz Milatz. The team will meet at its first training camp in Mallorca in February.

"I’m greatly looking forward to this fantastic opportunity," said the 19-year-old Gehbauer. "In years to come, I want to learn as much as possible from these top athletes. And if possible I’d like to follow them in their footsteps of course." Team manager Andreas Rottler hopes Gehbauer will give the team a strong presence in the U23 category.

The team’s two world champions, Dahle Flesjaa and Näf, are preparing for the upcoming season in South Africa, while Hermida is competing in cyclo-cross for the first time. Milatz is currently preparing for upcoming races in Cyprus, and Göhl is training and studying at home in Freiburg, Germany.

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