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MTB News & racing round-up for January 6, 2006

Edited by Steve Medcroft and Jeff Jones

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

Meirhaeghe back at Landbouwkrediet-Colnago

2003 MTB world champion Filip Meirhaeghe has signed a three-year contract with Belgian Continental Pro team Landbouwkrediet-Colnago, for whom he had already raced in 2002. The 34-year-old will participate in road and MTB races, as this discipline is still the Belgian's greatest ambition. Therefore, the team has announced the creation of a mountainbike squad named Versluys-Landbouwkrediet-Sportstech.

"I've known Filip Meirhaeghe as a valuable rider on road, mountainbike and even track," said the team's general manager Gerard Bulens. "Indeed, I'm a great supporter of his and want to give him a second chance." Meirhaeghe tested positive for EPO at the Mont Saint Anne race in Canada in June 2004 and then admitted his doping offence openly. While being punished with a 15-month ban from cycling, the Belgian wrote a book Positive. His ban is due to end on January 14, 2006.

"I'm very happy and would like to thank all my sponsors," said Meirhaeghe. "I will keep on fighting and do everything I can to fulfil my promises. I shouldn't say this, but Beijing 2008 could be a goal for me; at least I have two years to prepare for it," he added.

Haro Bikes signs Eric Porter, re-signs Cody Warren

Eric Porter
Photo ©: Haro Bikes
(Click for larger image) Eric Porter is joining the Haro MTB team in 2006
Cody Warren
Photo ©: Haro Bikes
(Click for larger image) Cody Warren  is re-signing for the Haro MTB team in 2006

Haro Bikes recently announced the consolidation of it's 2006 MTB team roster with the addition of Eric Porter and the re-signing of 2005 breakout Cody Warren.

Freerider Eric Porter will compete on Haro frames in all the major slopestyle and freeride events, along with many filming and photo trips. “I am really psyched to be riding for Haro for at least the next 2 years,” said Porter. “They have always sponsored the best riders in the world: Voreis, Strait, Nyquist, Mirra, the list goes on, so it’s a real honour to join that group of riders”.

In addition to several podium appearances, Porter has appeared in videos and magazines worldwide. He’s also credited with being the first rider to grind handrails on a mountain bike without pegs and the first rider to do flairs on a mountain bike. “We’re thrilled to have Eric on board,” said Jill Hamilton, Haro Mountain Bike Brand Manager. “After 3 great years with Iron Horse, Eric has switched to Haro to expand his opportunities and work on new projects”.

2005 U.S. National Downhill Champion Cody Warren returns to Haro for the 2006 season and will be looking to defend his title on Haro downhill and mountain cross frames. “I’m very happy to have re-signed with Haro for the upcoming season,” says Warren.

Warren had a breakout season last year, finishing 2nd overall in the NORBA mountain cross series standings and 5th overall in the NORBA downhill standings. He was also the top American finisher in downhill at the 2005 UCI World Championships. “Haro has supported Cody for the past three years; it’s been really exciting to see him grow as an athlete,” says Jill Hamilton, Haro Mountain Bike Brand Manager. “We’re obviously really excited to have the opportunity to support Cody again this year”.

Cody Warren and Eric Porter join Haro freerider/racer Cameron Zink to round out the Haro Bikes roster for 2006.

Chris Kovarik to MS-Intense Factory-Racing

Australian DH and 4X star Chris Kovarik has signed for MS-Intense Factory-Racing for the 2006/2007 seasons. After a couple of top results in his comeback season in 2005, Kovarik is aiming for the top three in overall UCI world cup and the UCI world championships. He will join his Swiss teammate Claudio Caluori and the Australian newcomer Darren Pokoj to represent MS-Intense Factory-Racing at all UCI world cups, the European IXS series and chosen international events like the Sea Otter Classics or the Crankworx Festival.

Beside the international riders, the Austrian athletes Petra Bernhard, Mathias Haas and Georg Engel complete the team with main focus on European events.

"We are very lucky about the actual team structure and the development of MS-Racing," commented team manager Lukas Haider. "The closer cooperation with Intense cycles and the engagement of C.K. are further steps on the way to realise the vision of the MS-Racing founder Markus Stoeckl of an ideal working mountain bike racing team."

Jill Kintner to GT

24 year-old gravity specialist Jill Kintner has signed with GT Bicycles for 2006. Kintner has a background in BMX riding, which she was very successful at in her late teens, before switching to MTB when she was 21. In 2005, she won the 4X World Championship, World Cup, US Championship, Jeep King of the Mountain, Australian Series, Sea Otter, Crankworx, and took first place in the NORBA Slalom at Deer Valley.

"I'm a competitor and want to win every time I compete, but I also enjoy the camaraderie of the sport," said Kintner. "I have met extraordinary people from around the world and feel very lucky in my life to have had these opportunities through my bike racing.

"GT has always had the best of the best on their program, so for me to make it to that level and for them to recognize my accomplishments means a lot."

IMBA announces 12 U.S. National Parks bike projects

This week, the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) and the National Park Service (NPS) announced twelve partnership trail maintenance projects for 2006 including three pilot programs to be carried out in Big Bend National Park (Texas), Fort Dupont National Park (Washington, DC) and Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio).

Big Bend National Park (Texas): John King, Big Bend's superintendent, says his park is close to initiating an Environmental Assessment study, a necessary first step toward creating opportunities for singletrack riding in the 801,000-acre park. "I expect that we'll be able to start the study in a matter of weeks," says King. "First, we'll find out if mountain biking is appropriate for Big Bend. If the results of the study are favourable, we'll move forward with a rule-making procedure that would open the way for mountain biking in non-Wilderness areas."

Jeff Renfrow, a local mountain bike advocate with the Big Bend Trails Alliance, is excited about the prospect of working with park staff and IMBA. "We are especially honoured to be a part of a process that we hope will lead to the creation of additional mountain biking opportunities in the national park system," says Renfrow.

Fort Dupont National Park (Washington, DC): Fort Dupont provides a unique opportunity for singletrack mountain bicycling inside the Beltway with eight miles of existing trails open to biking. However, the trails are in need of repair to make them more environmentally sound. "National Capital Parks-East is very excited about the opportunity to work with IMBA and its local affiliate, the Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts," says Superintendent Gayle Hazelwood. "The assessment of the hiking and biking trails within the Fort Circle Parks will greatly assist our park with the goals of improving both trail sustainability and visitor access and enjoyment of the trail system."

Dan Hudson, for Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts (MORE), added: "The Fort Circle Trail is a great resource for trail users on the east side of town. There are segments where erosion has become a concern. MORE is excited to help repair and protect this valuable resource."

Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio): "We are keenly interested in examining mountain bicycling as a possible component of our next trail management plan revision," says Bill Carroll, deputy superintendent at Cuyahoga.

While the timetable for establishing a pilot mountain bicycling program in Ohio is still in development, local bike advocates are hopeful that preliminary studies will be approved. "The park is only 15 minutes from downtown Cleveland, and is no more than an hour and a half from more than 4 million residents of northeast Ohio. This trail has the potential to become one of the best in Ohio and a destination for the entire region," says Mike Farley, of the IMBA-affiliated Cleveland Area Mountain Bicycling Association.

IMBA trail advocate wraps Aussie tour

The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA)
Photo ©: IMBA
(Click for larger image) The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA)  and the National Park Service (NPS) announced twelve partnership trail maintenance projects for 2006

Joey Klein, a master trail builder and trail advocate for the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), recently wrapped up a six-week tour of Australia. Operating on a whirlwind schedule that called for daily presentations to mountain bike clubs, land managers and bicycle industry leaders, Klein made the most of his time in Oz.

Here's a by-the-numbers look at Klein's visit:

  • Visited 7 out of 8 territories
  • Met more than 500 land managers
  • Rode with 20 local bike clubs
  • Gave 26 presentations
  • Conducted five Trail building Schools
  • Inspected 28 mountain bike sites
  • Built 1.6 kilometres of new trail
  • Flagged 4.5 kilometres of trail for future projects

"The final weeks of the trip were incredibly productive," says Klein. "I attended a series of meetings in the Capitol Territory, many of which focused on Australia's National Parks, which are at a crucial turning point."

Klein described the key issues facing Australia's Parks:

  • National Parks in Australia are managed at a state level (not federal), so mountain bike clubs have to create partnership's with each state's Department of Sustainability and Environment.
  • Many National Parks are adjacent to cities, and even though these parks have a front-country atmosphere they are managed much like back country Wilderness in the United States - including bans on riding singletrack trails.
  • Every state and territory in Australia is adding new National Parks which potentially negate current riding opportunities in State-managed forests .
  • Some National Parks could be designated as "World Heritage Areas," making them off-limits to riders.

Despite the obstacles that Australian riders face, Klein reports that there are many hopeful signs. Land managers are beginning to open their eyes to shared-use trails, and partnerships between IMBA-affiliated clubs and state officials are increasing. "During the final days of my visit, I had positive meetings with high-level managers for the lands surrounding Canberra. The nation's largest  mountain bike club, the Canberra Off Road Cyclists turned out in force for my "An Evening with IMBA" slide show - more than 70 singletrack-starved mountain bikers came away from that show determined to find new solutions to their access problems," says Klein.

"IMBA's Trail Solutions book is well regarded here," notes Klein. "It's really gratifying to see that the book and the previous tours I've done here are helping make a difference in what has to be one of the most varied and thrilling places in the world to ride a bicycle."

More changes to '06 NORBA National Series

USA Cycling announced two significant changes to the previously announced 2006 National Mountain Bike Series on Thursday. Organizers of the series have added a seventh event and both the date and the venue of the opening round in Southern California have changed.

Compressing the NORBA season into just four short months, the originally scheduled Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park in San Dimas, Calif. on April 22-23 season opener has been moved to Southridge Park in Fontana, Calif. 50 miles east of Los Angeles and scheduled for May 5-7 .

The new event is scheduled at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. July 15-16.

Updated 2006 NORBA Series Schedule

NMBS#1 May 5-7: Southridge Park - Fontana, Calif. (XC, ST, DH, MX, SD)
NMBS#2 June 10-11: Sugar Mountain Resort - Banner Elk, N.C. (XC, ST, DH, DS, SD)
NMBS#3 June 17-18: Mount Snow Resort - West Dover, Vt. (XC, ST, DH, DS, MX, SD)
NMBS#4 July 8-9: Deer Valley Resort - Park City, Utah (MA, XC, ST, DH, DS, SD)
NMBS#5 July 15-16: Infineon Raceway – Sonoma, Calif. (XC, DH, MX)
NMBS#6 August 5-6: Brian Head Resort - Brian Head, Utah (MA, XC, ST, DH, DS, SD)
NMBS#7 August 12-13: Snowmass Resort - Aspen, Colo. (XC, ST, DH, DS, SD)

Shimano named Presenting Sponsor of MTB World Cup

The UCI and Shimano have announced a renewed sponsorship agreement for the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup covering the next three years (2006-2008). Shimano will be the “Presenting Sponsor” of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, as well as being the exclusive provider of neutral technical assistance, in accordance with the recent pit-stop style support rules for UCI sanctioned cross country races.

The newly-updated contract runs at least until 2008. In this period, Shimano will continue to be the official supplier of technical services at UCI World Championships in Mountain Biking, Road Racing, Track Racing and Cyclo Cross.

Dusk 'til Dawn 12 Hour

Queensland's Gold Coast Hinterland will be the scene of the inaugural Nite Rider Dusk Till Dawn 12 Hours; a nighttime-only endurance race scheduled for January 21st and 22nd. Two Wheel Promotions has designed a challenging event which spares riders from the summer sun as they hit the sweet single trails Kooralbyn is famous for.

“Who needs daylight saving when you can jump on a plane to Queensland and race all night?” said event promoters Bill & Libby Van Haren. Kooralbyn is the ideal set-up for the Nite Rider Dusk till Dawn, with accommodations at the resort adjacent to the race circuit and just a 75-minute drive to the airport in Brisbane or the Gold Coast.

The event is open to solo competitors as well as teams of two, four, and six. For event details and race entries online click www.twowheelpromotions.com.au.

Arizona promoter to hold 300-mile desert MTB race

Arizona based MTB endurance rider and University of Arizona PhD student Scott Morris is inviting all comers to join him for three to five days on the Arizona Trail for the inaugural Arizona Trail 300. Scheduled for April 14th, the race will follow the Arizona Trail from the Mexican border south of Tucson to Superior, in the north of the state. "It follows suit with the Kokopelli, Grand Loop and Great Divide Races," Morris says. "There will be no entry fee, no prizes, no support and plenty of awesome back-country mountain biking."

The course features everything from 9000 foot alpine riding to low Sonoran desert singletrack and significant stretches of hike-a-bike. Morris speculates that the race could be completed in as few as three but maybe as many as five days. "There's only one way to find out," he says, "and that's to head on out to Tucson this spring and give it a try."

For more information, including a route description and pictures, visit www.topofusion.com.

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