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MTB news & racing round-up for April 25, 2007

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

Edited by Sue George

Surprise winners take cross country World Cup opener

China's Ren Chengyuan wins her first World Cup

By Rob Jones

Ren Chengyuan (China National team),
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

The first cross country round of the 2007 UCI World Cup in Houffalize, Belgium, brought together top riders from all parts of the globe and provided a glimpse of who's going fast early. The international season opener brought some new and different faces to the podium's top step in the men's and women's races.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was Ren Chengyuan, a Chinese woman who beat the almost unbeatable Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida). Over the past few years, the Chinese women have been steadily climbing the ranks on the world circuit, and Chengyuan showed she has reached the top. Her teammate Jingjing Wang also finished fifth - an indication that the Chinese women will have a strong and deep team going into their home-turf Olympics in 2008 in Beijng.

Marga Fullana (Spiuk-Tau Ceramica), reveling in the heat, the climbs and the lack of technical sections, bolted off the front in the women's four lap race. She was marked by Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida), Ren Chengyuan (China) and Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain-Haywood), the two-time World Cup winner last year in her first race so far this year.

Fullana and Dahle-Flesjaa traded places the first few laps, with Chengyuan just a few seconds behind. Sabine Spitz (Ghost international) was chasing solo at one minute, with Premont dropping back. By the start of the final circuit, Dahle-Flesjaa and Chengyuan had caught and dropped the Spanish rider. Spectators were witnessing something unusual - Dahle-Flesjaa was not out on her own, cruising to another victory. The duo came through the final corner onto the finishing straight with Chengyuan a few metres in front of a disappointed world champion. Chengyuan crossed the line first, with a small smile and raising her arms briefly to mark her historic win.

"Second is not too bad at a World Cup," noted Dahle-Flesjaa. "The problem is that people expect me to always win, and that is not possible. I did my best, I had to fight all day for this position. It is not surprising to me that the Chinese riders did so well here because they get better and better every year."

Hermida sets up for strong 2007

A jubilant Jose Hermida
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Although World and World Cup champion Julien Absalon was the clear favorite going into the World Cup opener, another rider would stand on the top step of the podium, José Antonio Hermida (Multivan Merida).

After local Belgian favourite and former Houffalize winner Roel Paulissen (Cannondale-Vredestein) suffered a mechanical that would drop him from an initial leading spot to an ultimate fourth place, Hermida, Absalon and perennial fast starter Fredrik Kessiakoff (Cannondale-Vredestein) soon separated themselves from the rest of the field.

Hermida had 30 seconds advantage over Absalon by lap two and 45 seconds by the end of lap three. Absalon caught him back, when Hermida had a stuck chain and later had to pull his bike from underneath the lead moto after it crashed and took out Hermida, too.

"When I looked at my bike, it was under the moto, so I thought that was it, but the spectators pulled the moto off my bike and it was okay," said Hermida, who did not give up and attacked Absalon on the downhills, eventually opening a gap he would hold until the end.

Hermida said, "I didn't expect to win today, it was the sort of day you always dream of having, and to have it here in Houffalize - I have always dreamed of winning here, so words cannot properly describe it."

Read full coverage, including a detailed report, photos, and full results for the men's and women's World Cup race.

Cohutta 100 kicks off National Ultra-Endurance Series

By Sue George

Six time 24 Hours of Adrenalin solo world champ
Photo ©: Steve Medcroft
(Click for larger image)

Not many 100 mile (161 km) races come down to a sprint finish, but that's exactly what happened in the women's race at the Cohutta 100, the first 100 mile race of the seven-race National Ultra-Endurance (NUE) Series held on Saturday, April 21.

After more than 8.5 hours of racing, Danielle Musto (Slingshot) outsprinted Carey Lowery (Outdoor Store). Her margin of victory was only two seconds or about the diameter of a wheel. Musto had been leading the race for nearly the last 35 miles when she was caught from behind by Lowery. The two women have raced against each other before - twice last year, Lowery won and once Musto won, so Musto knew she was in for a tough fight.

"It was one of the best finishes ever. There was a climb, everyone was screaming for us. I won by a wheel length. I've never had to sprint for a finish in my life, let alone at the end of 100 miles. It made it that much better," said Musto.

On the men's side, experienced 24 hour endurance races contested a relatively short race. Chris Eatough (Trek / VW) won the men's race ahead of Tinker Juarez.

Eatough initially pulled away from his competition in the early singletrack section of the race, but on the road, a small group eventually formed and caught him. That group included racers like Juarez and Brandon Draugelis (Bare Naked / Cannondale). Eatough later attacked and got away for good around the midpoint of the race.

"It was the fastest 100 mile mountain bike race," said Eatough referring to the quick times. He finished in 6:45:42. "I rode a lot of it by myself. I probably rode eight miles at beginning and middle with small groups. The rest of it, I did by myself."

Eatough finished about fifteen minutes ahead of Juarez, but he never knew the full magnitude of his gap, so he had to push the entire distance. "I knew it was a least a minute and a half because of places I could see back on the climbs, but beyond that I didn't know," said Eatough, who rode with confidence and good fortune, meaning no mechanicals, to victory.

Click here for full results and report. Look for both Eatough and Musto at several of the other upcoming NUE series races. The next event is the Mohican 100 on June 2.

Test race set for World championship cross country course

Women start at 2006 Fort William World Cup
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

The third round of the Scottish Cross Country Series, to be held May 19 - 20 in Leanachan Forest, Fort William, will be the official test event for the new course built specifically for the upcoming 2007 UCI World Mountain Bike Championships scheduled for September 3 - 9.

A one lap time trial will be held Saturday, May 19, and a cross country race with a C2 classification will let Worlds hopefuls not only preview the course under race conditions, but also earn some UCI points at the same time.

The course features 4km of new singletrack, built by the Forestry Commission Scotland as part of the Witch's Trail network.

For details, go to www.sxc.org.uk or email info@sxc.org.uk

UCI mountain bike rankings updated

The UCI updated mountain bike rankings on April 24. Current standings for cross country, downhill, four cross, and marathon disciplines are listed below. The rankings are particularly important for cross country as they will determine the number of starting spots for each country at the 2008 Olympics as well as individual selections to national Olympic teams for many countries.

Cross Country
 
Individual Men
1 Chris Jongewaard (Aus)                390 pts
2 Jade Zoli (Ita)                       380
3 Geoff Kabush (Can)                    375
4 Julien Absalon (Fra)                  320
5 Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe)              300
 
Men's Nations
1 Australia                             777 pts
2 Spain                                 667
3 Canada                                659
4 France                                626
5 United States                         599
 
Men's Teams 
1 Cannondale-Vredestein                 723 pts
2 Dolphin Bike Team                     661
3 Orbea                                 624
4 ASD KTM International Team            547
5 Multivan Merida Biking Team           423
 
Individual Women 
1 Sabine Spitz (Ger)                    370 pts
2 Ren Chengyuan (Chn)                   360
3 Georgia Gould (USA)                   340
4 Mary McConneloug (USA)                334
5 Margarita Fullana (Spa)               310

Women’s Nations 
1 United States                         864 pts
2 China                                 790
3 New Zealand                           712
4 Australia                             640
5 Chile                                 626
 
Women's Teams 
1 Luna Women's MTB Team                 562 pts
2 Ghost International Racing Team       450
3 Halls Professional MTB Team           405
4 Subaru - Gary Fisher                  391
5 Spiuk-Tau Ceramica                    351
 
Downhill
 
Individual Men
1 Oscar Yunge (Chi)                     240 pts
2 Nathan Rennie (Aus)                   240
3 Sam Hill (Aus)                        235
4 Markolf Berchtold (Bra)               220
5 Jared Rando (Aus)                     190
 
Individual Women 
1 Veronica Mirando (Chi)                350 pts
2 Scarlett Hagen (NZl)                  280
3 Jennifer Makgill (NZl)                280
4 Amy Laird (NZl)                       202
5 Diana Marggraff (Ecu)                 200
 
4x

Individual Men
1 Alex Lloyd (Aus)                      310 pts
2 Juan Fernando Franco Navarro (Col)    200
3 Luke Strom (Aus)                      180
4 Jared Rando (Aus)                     165
5 Cristian Araya (Chi)                  150
 
Individual Women
 
1 Caroline Buchanan (Aus)               310 pts
2 Sarsha Huntington (Aus)               210
3 Maria Belen Dutto (Arg)               200
4 Jennifer Makgill (NZl)                150
5 Patricia Roxo (Bra)                   150
 
Marathon
 
Individual Men
1 Hectro Leonardo Paez Leon (Col)       250 pts
2 Thomas Dietch (Fra)                   200
3 Alban Lakata (Aut)                    176
4 Marzio Deho (Ita)                     160
5 Roman Peter (Sui)                     146
 
Individual Women 
1 Pia Sundstedt (Fin)                   250 pts
2 Ivonne Kraft (Ger)                    200
3 Fabienne Heinzmann (Sui)              162
4 Helene Marcouyre (Sui)                160
5 Esther Suss (Sui)                     140

NMBS Round #2 heads to Santa Barbara

Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) won NMBS #1
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Round #2 of the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) continues this weekend, April 27-29, at the Ted Chamberlin Cattle Ranch and the Firestone Vineyard in Santa Barbara County, California.

It will be the eighth annual Firestone Santa Ynez Valley Mountain Bike Classic, but the first time the event is part of the NMBS. History buffs may recall that the first-ever NMBS race was held in Santa Barbara, in 1983, when the series was known as the NORBA National Championship Series.

NMBS points are offered for the cross country, the short track, and the Super D, but not for the downhill, although that event will still be contested.

Pros including Krista Park (Team Colavita/Sutter Home) and Barry Wicks (Kona Factory Team) will make their way to the event. Wicks won last year's pro men's cross country event and he scored an eighth place at NMBS #1 in Arizona one month ago. The NMBS points will draw a larger and more competitive field than in previous years.

Greenbriar ready as path to US Nationals

Katie Compton (Spike) will head to Greenbriar
Photo ©: FJ Hughes
(Click for larger image)

The USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships are coming to the East Coast for the first time since becoming a one-race event July 17-22 at Mount Snow in Vermont. To get to nationals, racers must qualify at pre-selected events which are limited to state championship races, AMBC races, Mountain Bike National Calendar races, USA Cycling Junior Development Camps, Alison Dunlap Junior Olympic Mountain Bike Series races, and the 2006 national championships.

One such opportunity to get to nationals will happen at the Greenbriar State Park in Maryland on April 29. The long-running race will serve as the Maryland state championships at which the top 15 licensed finishers in every age category will automatically qualify for Nationals. Given that only a few East Coast races provide qualifying opportunities and Maryland is centrally located in the populous mid-Atlantic region, the race will likely draw large fields.

Look for a collection of pro racers to make a strong showing, too. Greenbriar is awarding UCI Points, which will determine Olympic starting spots for each nation. Furthermore, UCI points will be the primary factor in selecting individuals to the US Olympic Long Team at the end of 2007.

Already confirmed are Jeremiah Bishop (Trek / VW), highest placed American at a World Championships in over a decade at the 2006 World Championships, former Olympian and multi-time national cycling champion Todd Wells (GT), perennial front-runner Sue Haywood (Trek / VW), and recent Sea Otter Classic short track winner and Katie Compton (Spike), who took second place in the World Cyclo-cross Championships in early 2007.

Leading up to the event, organizers were reporting record-breaking pre-registration numbers. "We already have 197 entries with nearly two weeks to go before the race," said the race's publicist Ken Getchell. The race will award over $10,000 in prizes.

24 Solo premieres at Sea Otter

By Sue George

In conjunction with a weekend of cycling at the Sea Otter Classic, Gripped Films hosted the world premiere of its newest film, 24 Solo at the historic Golden State Theatre in downtown Monterey. The cast and crew attended the Friday night showing along with many top past and current racers and industry representatives like Gary Fisher.

24 Solo follows six-time 24 Hour Solo World Champion Chris Eatough (Trek VW) on his quest for a seventh consecutive title. En route, travels take him to places like China and Wisconsin where he logs two victories before heading to the world title race. At the championship race in Conyers, Georgia, five cameras capture the action. Eatough and Australian Craig Gordon (Cannondale) push themselves to near life-threatening exhaustion. The film, set to a soundtrack by composer Haik Naltchayan, gives insight into the very intense but thorough support team of Eatough and in particular, Eatough's relationship with lead crew coordinator and close friend Jon Posner. Riders narrate the chain of events at the title race that ends up with one of the two protagonists hospitalized with severe blood poisoning.

Most cyclists never have a chance to be movie stars, but Eatough handled his new role with aplomb. He and wife Alison got a red carpet welcome into the theatre on preview night, complete with many flashing cameras, but nothing really prepares you for seeing yourself on the big screen.

"It was a strange experience. It was something I appreciate and enjoy because it's so unique, but it's definitely something I'm not used to," said a humble Eatough.

"The movie was real. It was how it went down. I don't think they missed anything." said Eatough who indicated that seeing his lost epic battle for seventh title played out in great detail for the general public wasn't upsetting. "Obviously I've gone over things many times myself already. It didn't affect me too much to see it on the screen."

24 Solo was produced by Gripped Films, who was also behind Off Road to Athens, a documentary about several mountain bikers' attempts to make the 2004 US Olympic team.

Stay tuned for a full review coming soon on Cyclingnews.

Sevenvision's Monterey opening

A second film, this one called Sevenvision, premiered one evening after 24 Solo at the Sea Otter festival. The movie, produced by CUT in conjunction with DH Productions, follows the team's inaugural season as riders travel the globe, all following their passion to ride.

Sevenvision is produced and directed by four-time Emmy Award winner Don Hampton and co-directed by front man Aaron Chase. Chase is joined by fellow cast members Mick Hannah, Carlo Dieckmann, Wayne Goss, Chris Van Dine, Christopher Hatton and George Ryan.

The film was shot on location in Utah, New Jersey, New York, California, Pennsylvania, Colorado, British Columbia, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, and Austria.

Ridley Factory Cyclo-cross Team announced

Ok, so it's not exactly mountain biking, but we're still talking about mud and dirt in a growing form of off-road racing.

The Ridley Factory team is busy planning for the 2007-2008 cyclo-cross season. Formerly known as the Alan Factory Team, the Minneapolis-based squad has announced it will be led by 2007 'cross world championship team members Bjorn Selander, Nick Weighall, and Jerome Townsend

The fifth-year team has forged a new alliance with Ridley Bikes, but management stays the same with Paul Schoening, President of GSG-USA (Custom Bike Wear) as Team Director. Dag Selander will serve as Team Manager and Coach.

Five elite racers will contest the USGP circuit, major UCI events across the US, and the nationals in Kansas City, Missouri. Several members also plan to race in Europe in preparation for the 2008 world championships in Treviso, Italy. However, the team will also continue to field a grass roots squad. Interested racers or potential sponsors should contact the team at paul.schoening@comcast.net.

Mary & Mike diary: Going far South

Hola! Greetings from Chile.

Here is a recap of our 20-day trip to South America for our official season opener, the Pan American Championships. We flew into Santiago, Chile, rented a dated four-door, short bed truck and drove it over 3,000km to the Patagonian region of Chile and Argentina. Our main priority was going well at this critical race, but after a little research, we decided that this was a great opportunity for some epic travels.

March 1 - Getting there

Does this Chilean bike shop
Photo ©: Mike Broderick & Mary McConneloug
(Click for larger image)

We arrived in Santiago, pretty worked over from 25 hours of buses, planes, and layovers. Still we felt as if this were more of a chance to rest when compared to the previous weeks of careful outlining, planning, and logistics. We were committing to packing everything necessary for our three weeks in South America followed by a week in Puerto Rico for an C1 race and finally a week in Arizona for the first NORBA (Technically speaking, this was NMBS #1 - ed.) national. We are not super picky with foods, so we didn't have to haul five weeks of soy milk or anything, but it is amazing how much equipment and supplies are necessary for training and racing abroad the "right way." Even though Mike brought nylon strapping to substitute for a bike stand and a sturdy road frame pump in place of the heavier but oh so much nicer floor pump, it still cost us around $200 in excess baggage charges just to get it all on the plane.

Mike
Photo ©: Mike Broderick & Mary McConneloug
(Click for larger image)

Communicating in Espanol, just off the red-eye was a colorful experience. I pried my tired brain for vocabulary. Getting directions out of the city from the rental car agent with charades brought the humbling realization that I was going to have to study my Spanish dictionary more. We got it all worked out after a few wrong turns that offered us an unplanned tour of this hectic city. It was just enough of a peek to make us feel really good about deciding to drive on rather than follow our cravings to go the nearest hotel and to sleep.

We had done enough preliminary research to find a quiet town that would be the perfect place to rest, build the bikes, and get in some all important training in the week leading up to the race. Pichilemu, a small town on the coast known for it’s epic surf and quiet back country feel did not disappoint. Although it is only about 300 km away from Santiago, a bit of being lost, overtired, and driving on back roads made our trip a long seven hours. We were both pushing our limits to be cheerful by this point, but happily made it to "Pichi" just before dark.

To read the complete diary entry, click here.

Chris Davidson diary: Off to the races

The author gets to work
Photo ©: Chris Davidson
(Click for larger image)

Well now that the off-season is over, it is time to head to the races. Convenient for me is the fact that the team that I have been coordinating all the off-season frame and parts selection for [Kenda/X-Fusion/Titus], happens to have its frame sponsor [Titus] in the same town as the first race of the NMBS calendar. So while parts started to accumulate at my house over the winter, some of it had to be forwarded to Titus, so I could assemble the last remaining bikes before the first event.

I am fortunate in that I have a close friend now working at Titus, Foye Troute, from my days at Shimano. Foye and I worked together for three years doing the Multi-Service support work at mountain bike races, and now he is the inventory and QC manager at Titus, and this would be the first opportunity that I would have to see him since Interbike last year.

I flew to Phoenix on Wednesday morning and went straight from the airport to Titus to get working on some assembly. Titus has amazing facility in Tempe where the bulk of the work takes place in building their legendary Ti and Exogrid ti/carbon frames. During my time there I got to take a look around and see the creation of their proprietary ti/carbon tubing and the welding of frames. It was interesting to find out that Titus' parent company, Vyatech Sports, uses the Exogrid and Isogrid technologies for many other sports applications, I saw ti/carbon golf shafts, sailing booms and softball bats while there.

After all the show-and-tell, there was work to be done, namely building bikes for the weekend's races. Each rider on Kenda/X-Fusion/Titus gets a custom ti Exogrid hardtail, and Racer-X dual suspension and an Oseo carbon Isogrid road bike.

To read the complete diary, click here.

Whiskey Off-Road returns to Arizona

More than 600 riders are expected to converge at the Fourth Annual Whiskey Off-Road kicks on May 19 for a 25 or 50 Proof race or a 15 Proof fun ride in the 1.25 million acre Prescott National Forest. The "Proof" theme pays homage to the infamous Whiskey Row element of downtown Prescott, Arizona, an entire city block of watering hole type of establishments; a "proof" in this case represents one mile (1.6km).

Among those attending will be Mountain Bike Hall of Fame inductee Keith Bontrager and endurance pro racer Mike Janelle (Tokyo Joe's/X-Fusion Shox), who won the four-person division of the 2006 Race Across America.

"The Prescott National Forest has been very supportive of mountain biking, and this is helping make Prescott a destination mountain bicycling community, with all the economic benefits that accrue," said Todd Sadow, president of Epic Rides, Inc., the event's organizer. "We're pleased to be a part of showcasing the great trails and friendly community in Prescott."

For more information, visit www.epicrides.com.

E100 is alive and kicking

Race organizers dispelled rumors of the demise of Endurance 100, scheduled for August 25 in Park City, Utah. The 100 mile solo race also offers 100km and 50 mile distance options. Due to major construction projects at the resorts, the race course will look different this year, but organizers promised it will be "just as challenging."

To hone their endurance, two other area races are being held: The 12 Hours of Endurance on June 23 and The E100 Team relay and 50 Mile Solo Race on July 21. For more information, visit http://www.thee100.com/.

Blue Ridge Triple Threat Series continues

Many Virginians competed in the first of three races in the Blue Ridge Triple Threat series near Charlottesville on Sunday, April 22. The event was held at the Blue Ridge School, where local students had logged many hours building trails for their school's team and the race.

The final two races in the three-race series will be the O'hill Meltdown in Charlottesville on April 29 and the Chimney Challenge at Walnut Creek Park on May 20. Proceeds benefit the World Bicycle Relief, an organization dedicated to providing access to independence and livelihood through the power of bicycles to help with disaster relief and healthcare mobilization. For more information, visit www.cvilleracing.org/Triple_Threat.html.

Granogue race to benefit cancer research

The "Escape from Granogue in Honor of Andrew Mein" mountain bike race, to be held in Montchanin, Deleware on May 20, will raise money for the HERA Women's Cancer Foundation through Team Bury the Dragon. Specifically, fund raised will be directed to the gynecological cancer research.

Held on a private estate, the race will feature a course with many technical sections. A marathon race option will be available for those who want to go the extra miles. For more information, visit http://www.racegranogue.com.

Philadelphians "Rally in the Valley"

The Philadelphia Mountain Biking Association, in cooperation with the Fairmont Park Commission and the Friends of the Wissahickon will be hosting the first annual Rally in the Valley on April 28, a day of mountain biking in the Wissahickon section of Fairmont Park to raise money and awareness for ongoing trail preservation efforts.

Wissahickon has been previously cited as a success story by IMBA; mountain bikers have worked for years with other types of users of the park and park administration to preserve and legitimize mountain bike access. A campaign is underway to re-construct many older, unsustainable trails to better server all users.

The Rally in the Valley is not a race, but a ride on any of three courses. Half of the proceeds will be donated to the Friends of the Wissahickon to support their long term effort to repair, maintain and rebuild the trails. This event will serve as an opportunity to educate cyclists who use the park about rules, trail conditions, and how they can volunteer throughout the year. For more information and directions, visit www.phillymtb.com or contact David Haberstroh at david.Haberstroh@Verizon.net.

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