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MTB news & racing round-up for September 3, 2006

Edited by Steve Medcroft

World Championships wrap-up

By Steve Medcroft

Julien Absalon (France) claims his win!.
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

The 2006 UCI mountain-bike World Championships, held in Rotorua, New Zealand, ended last weekend. Striped jerseys were given out in fourteen championship categories.

Numerous champions defended their titles, including cross-country racers Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa (Norway) and Julien Absalon (France). Dahle-Flesjaa stormed away in typical fashion and left 2:45 worth of trail between herself and second-placed Irinia Kalentieva (Russian Federation) by the end of the race. Absalon's win was his third world championship victory in a row. His was not so as won as Dahle-Flesjaa's though; he held off Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) by a mere 43 seconds.

Jill Kintner also repeated her 2005 world championship four-cross win with a victory in Rotorua. An estimated crowd of 7,000 people lined the wide-open course to watch her do it. Michal Prokop (Czech Republic) regained the world championship jersey he lost last year to American Brian Lopes in men's four cross.

There was plenty of room for new champions as well. Aussie Sam Hill won the men's downhill event, and countrywoman and phenom Tracey Hannah, who we saw taking her first international win in the U.S. based NORBA series, won the junior women's title. Sabrina Jonnier (France) finally got her world championship in women's elite downhill now that her dominant countrywoman Anne Caroline Chaussen has retired from racing (Chaussen won the title every year from 1993 on - a streak interrupted only in 2004 when she crashed in training and could not race the Worlds).

Ren Chengyuan
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Fresh faces on World Championship podiums were also seen in the younger rider's events; the People's Republic of China went one-two in the women's U23 cross-country (Ren Chengyuan and Ying Liu), proving that they are taking success at the 2008 Beijing Olympics seriously and Slovenian Tanja Zakelj scored that country's first-ever World Championship in mountain biking.

Cyclingnews brought you an incredible amount of coverage from Worlds; 14 full competition reports, full results from all categories, pro bike and athlete feature articles as well as almost a thousand photographs. And you can get to it all through our 2006 World Championships home page.

Bishop posts best U.S. men's result in eleven years

By Steve Medcroft

Jeremiah Bishop (USA)
Photo ©: Robert Kilvington
(Click for larger image)

Despite a number of mechanical difficulties disrupting the performances of male American riders at Worlds (a broken chain for JHK, seat problems for Adam Craig and a DNF after a crash for U.S. National Champ Ryan Trebon), the American cross-country program scored a success when rising NORBA star Jeremiah Bishop gave the U.S. its strongest world championship showing in recent years with an 8th place, the first time a US rider has made the top 10 since 1995.

After a poor starting position putting him at the back of the grid, he "treated the first two laps like a short track to get up there. It was important to get to the front as quickly as possible. Once I got up to Frischy, I tried to do what I could to help him beat Meirhaeghe."

Bishop says that the result is due to a change in attitude towards the opportunity that racing offers him that came about after a back injury in 2005 (Bishop fractured the bony spines on the outside of his three lowermost vertebrae one year ago this week). "It was a reality check," he says about the injury. "It made my realize how lucky I am to not just be walking, but doing what I do for a living."

Bishop says that realization was motivation to train harder and focus on building his race resume. "Since then, I believe in myself more and I've been trying to prove that I am among the best. I think people are taking notice that I can do it."

Bishop plans to carry his success into the 2007 season. "My focus is on the Olympics, on racing at a top international level," he says. "With the importance of international racing and the points criteria, I will do a full World Cup slate next year."

Australia third in World's medal count

Australia has placed third on the medal table at the Mountain Bike World Championships in Rotorua, New Zealand. Australia claimed two gold and one bronze medal to finish behind Great Britain (two gold, two silver and one bronze) with Switzerland topping the table with a total of nine medals, three of each colour.

Australia's medals all came in the downhill competition where Sam Hill and Nathan Rennie placed first and third respectively in the elite men's race and Tracey Hannah won the gold in the junior women's competition.

Ultra MTB Endurance series finale this weekend

By Steve Medcroft

Harlan Price
Photo ©: Cathy DeSanto
(Click for larger image)

The U.S. National MTB Ultra-Endurance Series comes to close this Sunday at the Shenadoah Mountain 100 in Harrisonburg, VA. Rolling out at 6am from Stokeville Park, the event is a mixture of riding tests. “The highlights are the off-camber singletrack and the dark deep feel of the Eastern hardwood forest,” say promoter Chris Scott.

The four competitions in the series will be decided on Sunday. In the Open Men's category, Harlan Price (Independent Fabrication) has an insurmountable advantage and based on series rules, needs only to appear in the race to win. The Pennsylvannia-based freelance photographer has placed highest of all the Ultra Series competitors in every race he's attended this season. He won the series opener (Mohican 100), and the last East Coast race (Wilderness 101), and came second to Chris Eatough (Trek/VW) and Josh Tostada (Giant) at the Lumberjack 100 and Brekenridge 100 respectively.

In the Masters category, John Majors has been the only 50+ rider to stick with the whole series - race four of the six total available races as required. If he had a challenger, he probably would be in the winning position anyway though; he won three of the four.

Dan Jansen.
Photo ©: Jymme Perrone
(Click for larger image)

In the Singlespeed category, a bit of a horse race has developed for the final day. Dan Jansen (Founders Ale/ Alger Racing) won the first two races but stumbled at Breckenridge and again at the Wilderness 101 to let the series lead slip to Matt Ferrari (Mt. Nittany Wheelworks). The lead is tenuous though; by his own calculation, Ferrari can lose no more than one hour to Jansen in the final race to hold onto the series lead. In a 100-mile, back-country epic on soaked, technical terrain, losing an hour is a very real danger so these two riders will be doing everything they can to manage the outcome of the race to their favor.

The women's race has suddenly developed a little drama as well. Through the first three races, TransRockies teammates Tricia Stevenson (Landrover/Cannondale) and Karen Masson (Litespeed) had traded the lead and set themselves up for a head-to-head battle down to the finale. But a crash in TransRockies has put Stevenson out of the series and a broken collarbone sidelined Masson so a real chance to make an impression at the finale has opened up for three other women; Hillary Harrison is flying to Virginia from Washington state to take her shot, and regional racers Ruth Cunningham (Jet Messenger) and Tiffany Mann (Independent Fabrication) have a chance as well.

Since the Shenandoah Mountain 100 is in the backyard of some of the East Coast's most successful mountain-bikers, the race should be alive with action. Jeremiah Bishop (Trek/VW; fresh off eighth place at mountain-bike worlds - the best American male finish in eleven years - and SMT100 course record holder at 7:23:36) will be there. As will Bishop's teammate Chris Eatough. The recently-crowned U.S. 24 Hour Solo National Champion will be looking for a high-speed tune-up before he attempts to win his seventh 24 Hours of Adrenalin Solo World Championship in Georgia next month. In fact, a cadre of Trek/VW regional and national riders will be in Harrisonburg trying to fight off local favorites like Paul Buschi, who has won the SMT100 before, and Nick Waite (Kelly benefits Strategies) who we saw on the NORBA podium for the first time in 2006.

Racing gets underway at dawn on Sunday. Check back on Cyclingnews for results and a full race report as we get them.

Marathon National Title tackled in Toowoomba

Toowoomba will host the inaugural Australian Marathon Mountain Bike Championships this Sunday. Over a 1000 competitors from Perth in the west to Cairns in the north as well as New Zealand and Canada will compete over the weekend. Most will line up on Sunday to compete in the challenging 100 km Flight Centre Classic with a chance to wear the green and gold. Others will start at Mt Sylvia for the 50km Pure Blonde Half Epic.

The event starts at the Preston Peak Winery just south of Toowoomba and follows parts of the Bicentennial Trail finishing at Peppers Hidden Vale resort. Each competitor must pass through three checkpoints during the race and navigate some very hilly terrain.

With the first ever national jersey in the marathon distance up for grabs, racing will be fierce and the race record of 3 hours 45 min set by Murray Spink (Dingley, VIC) last year could be shattered. Currently only six other riders can lay claim to a sub-four hour including Shaun Lewis, Mark Frendo Craig Gordon, Perren Delacour, James Williamson and Richard Vollebrecht.

Spink raced only one week ago at the World Mountain Bike Championships in Rotorua finishing 45th but could be challenged by 2004 winner, Perth's Tim Bennett or Ironman legend from the Gold Coast, Guy Andrews .

Melbourne's Commonwealth Games rider, Emma Colson, will return to racing alongside fellow Victorian and national Short Course Cross Country Champion, Tory Thomas. A bout of flu could affect Queensland Cross Country Champion, Imogen Smith's chances of improving on her second place against last year's winner Narelle Ash also from Brisbane. Return of Canadian and first Epic women's winner, Emily Miazga to the event could see a battle for the finish line.

Triathlon World Champion Miles Stewart will race the Pure Blonde Half Epic. This year there are four out of the six previous winners trying to repeat their success.

Racing begins at 7.30 am on Sunday.

Previous Winners

Male: 1st Murray Spink, 2nd Shaun Lewis, 3rd Mark Frendo
Female 1st Narelle Ash, 2nd Imogen Smith, 3rd Elin Hedstrom

Male: 1st Tim Bennett, 2nd Tony Mann, 3rd Peter Herzig ,
Female 1st Jill Burston, 2nd Lee Schultz, 3rd Narelle Ash

Male: 1st Mark Frendo 2nd Dan San Martin, 3rd Roger Hawley
Female 1st Emily Miazga, 2nd Trish Pullos, 3rd Collette Hallman

Gibo ends season on a mountain bike

The Trofeo Melinda was the last road race of the season for Gilberto Simoni, who will round off his season with various mountain bike races.

Simoni's team, Saunier Duval-Prodir said that the rider has been looking for new motivations to finish his season and has given him permission to finish his road season early, stating that he has done a great job so far

Gibo will participate in the following races: Rampilonga (10 September), Adamello Bike (16 September), Italian MTB Championship (25 September), Gimondi Bike (1 October), and Roc d´Azur (6 October).

Renee Junga update

Australian downhiller Renee Junga underwent surgery in Auckland City Hospital on Friday to stabilize spinal injuries after crashing in four-cross practice last Tuesday.

Junga broke the C1 and C2 bones in her neck, two ribs and her sternum and sustained spinal chord damage at the T6 vertabrae.

"The surgeons say they are happy with the way the (10 hour) operation went," said Junga's mother, Sallie Howie. "They put rods and screws in to straighten her back and fused the two broken neck bones.

"They've told us there is a one in 800 chance she may regain feeling below T6 but that is a chance and doctors really don't know why some people with spinal injuries regain feeling and others don't," said Mrs Howie. "There isn't really anything more they can do surgically."

Doctors say her ribs and sternum are healing well and they hope to have Junga sitting up by Tuesday. Barring any complications she is expected to be flown back to Australia by mid-September.

Kiwi Vincent to race in Pakistani charity MTB race

New Zealander Tim Vincent, winner of the Eschlikon, Switzerland 24-Hour MTB championship in 2006 has confirmed his participation in the "Tour of the Karakurrams" International Mountain Bike Race. He will be competing against 36 other world class cyclists in this three day race, being organized in the Kaghan Valley from September 1st to 3rd by the Kaghan Memorial Trust in close collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Tourism and The Pakistan Sports Trust.

The participating international riders represent Germany, New Zealand, The Netherlands, England, The Republic of Ireland, Scotland, China, Canada, Poland and Australia. As well as Vincent, the competing riders include four National Champions, two World Record Holders, and two National Record Holders. Six top cyclists from Pakistan will also compete.

The race aims primarily to raise funds for the Kaghan Memorial School Project of the Kaghan Memorial Trust. Other objective include reviving the tourism industry in the Kaghan Valley, focusing international attention back on the Kaghan Valley almost one year after the devastating earthquake of last October, and introducing a new and exciting sport in Pakistan with the help of some of the best cyclists from around the world.

This race is being staged with the help of generous contributions and support from the Chief Minister and Government of Punjab, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGC), Tineli Performance Bikewear (Switzerland), Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC), Synergy Computers (Pvt.) Ltd. (SCL), and the Tehsil Administration of Balakot.

Detailed information can be found at www.kmt.org.pk/tok.asp

Pro bike: Steve Peat's Santa Cruz V-10

By Mikkeli Godfree

The fastest bike in seeding
Photo ©: Mikkeli Godfree
(Click for larger image)

Nathan Rennie posted the fasted time in qualifying for the world Downhill championships and picked up the bronze medal on his machine on Saturday. Steve Peat finished narrowly out of the medals on his V-10, but was second on Thursday's seeding run.

Even if the V-10 bike doesn't win the World Championship, Peat is poised nicely to take the World Cup Series with an almost unassailable lead as the riders head off to the last round after the World Championships down under.

We talked to the Santa Cruz mechanics Ed Chavez and Matthiu Dupelle about the setups on both Rennie and Peat's bikes after the seeding runs. "The two greatest differences between the two bikes is the suspension setup, Rennie's is harder. Tyres also is a big area of difference. Peaty always goes with a little harder compound and a narrower tyre (a 2.2" on the back).

Nathan does a little adjustment to the upshift lever on the XO shifter and he also runs way wider bars, almost 20m wider - Nathan runs little extensions on them actually (little solid aluminium ones). Peaty doesn't use lock-on grips like a lot of other riders. The grip on them is better than most of the lock ons and he doesn't like the metal edge on the lock-ons.

"The greatest similarity between the bikes is that they both have Nathan Rennie stickers on them! Nathan likes Peaty's bike so much he put his sticker on it. Steve's got a sense of humour though so he just left it on. It does confuse people though!

See the entire Steve Peat's Santa Cruz V-10 pro bike article here.

Wild and wonderful; The Gunn-Rita Dahle diary

It was absolutely fantastic to become XC World Champion once again, and way round on the other side of the world this time. Even though there were only a few Norwegians lining the tracks, all the spectators were wonderful here in Kiwi-land. This was my best and most incredible race-day in the whole season of 2006.

Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway)
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

There are many different thoughts and feelings tumbling around inside my mind and body as I sit here in my hotel room. It's only a few hours since I crossed the finish line as a new World Champion, and it's going to take many days before it really sinks in. This year we have taken two gold medals out of the two available. It's amazing to once again have hit the bull's-eye on the most important day of the whole season.

Lene Byberg took a respectable 12th place, thus demonstrating that she belongs in the world elite, also at large championships. This was her best World Championship result ever, and she can look back on an impressive 2006 season. Lene has definitely taken a large step further with what she's achieved this year.

The preparations down here have been optimal for both of us. The Norwegian group has been small but rock-solid. We've had lots of fun together, which is important when waiting for the most important happening of the whole season.

See the entire Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa diary here.

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