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MTB news & racing round-up for August 4, 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

Prokop & Kintner aim for threepeat at Jeep KOM

World champion Michael Prokop
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

The first round of the Jeep King of the Mountains 2007 Mountain Biking World Professional Championship series kicks off at the Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah, Saturday. Czech Republic's Michal Prokop and Seattle's Jill Kintner will suit up with the goal of making it three in a row.

For the past two Jeep King of the Mountain seasons, these young standouts have weathered a storm of bumps, bruises and frayed nerves inflicted by the most savvy, accomplished athletes in the sport to capture their fair share of the sport's richest cash purse. Having already earned a pair of Jeep vehicles, including a 2006 Jeep Commander and 2007 Jeep Compass, Prokop and Lopes will attempt an unprecedented three-peat to protect their throne and add a 2008 Jeep Liberty to their rapidly expanding vehicle fleets.

While there's no match for sheer talent, a good deal of luck also comes into play during the high speed, close shoulder action taking place on the Y-Cross race course unique to the Jeep KOM series. Not only will the duo have to navigate banked turns, tabletops, step-down jumps and rollers, but they'll have to do so within inches of any one of seven highly skilled foes just itching to break the streak and earn their own place in history.

Heading into Park City, Prokop and Kintner, both reigning UCI World Champions, have shown equal brilliance on the dirt. After stunning 2006 seasons, Prokop has added a Czech Republic BMX and Mountain Bike National Championship, as well as multiple World Cup podium finishes to his list of achievements, while Kintner has captured two World Cup titles.

On the men's side, Brian Lopes, the three-time World Champion, five-time World Cup Champion, and nine-time National Champion will challenge Prokop along with Australia's Jared Graves, veteran Australian Wade Bootes as well as Americans Rich Houseman and Eric Carter.

Lesser known open qualifiers will include local Park City's Chris Van Dine, perhaps best known as the first rider to stick a barrel roll and one of the few athletes with wins in downhill, slalom, BMX, mountain-cross, and road disciplines, and Cody Warren.

Jill Kintner (GT)
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

On the women's side, those pursuing Kintner are long-time friend and foe, Tara Llanes, the 2006 US Downhill National Champion and two-time national four-cross champion. Another athlete to watch is Denmark's Anneke Beerten, who has earned two World Cup wins in 2007 to go along with her accolades as a two-time BMX World Champion and six-time BMX National Champion.

Other top contenders include Melissa Buhl, Joanna Petterson, and Fionn Griffiths. The women's open qualifiers include Kathy Pruitt and local Gale Dahlinger.

The Y-Cross race course combines two dramatic and popular forms of mountain bike racing into one unique discipline. Competitors begin the race on separate sides of the course (the prongs of the Y) before converging midway into a single course (the crux of the Y). In the bottom section, racers must navigate a series of banked turns, tabletops, step-down jumps and rollers before the track climaxes with an all-out sprint to the finish. Top athletes input on the racecourse design. In 2006, Mike King and Brian Lopes helped create the layout.

The second and third rounds head to the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, California, on Saturday, August 18, and Beaver Creek Resort in Beaver Creek, Colorado on Saturday, September 1. All three races will be televised in the US on CBS Sports, with the Park City race airing on August 18. The series, started in 1993, has a wintertime sister competition in skiing and snowboarding.

Speculation grows about Lance vs. Landis in Leadville

By Brian Metzler

Landis negotiates some singletrack
Photo ©: Beth Schneider
(Click for larger image)

Will Lance be in Leadville? Seven months after Lance Armstrong said he couldn't ride in the Leadville 100, there is growing speculation that he might enter the race after all.

Race director Ken Chlouber said last week Armstrong was in Leadville recently to ride a portion of the course with longtime Colorado Springs-based coach Chris Carmichael and believes the seven-time Tour de France champion will ride in the August 11 race. Landis confirmed last month that he plans to participate.

"They rode the course and Chris called me that night to talk about it," Chlouber said. "I think it would be great if Lance came to the race, and after talking to Chris, I think he's probably coming."

Carmichael recently wrote a blog on the Carmichael Training Systems website about the early July Leadville training ride, which covered about 45 miles and included four of the course's five climbing sections, but didn't say whether Armstrong would be doing the race or not.

"For the record, Lance is not only quite fit, but he's also very good on a mountain bike," Carmichael said in the blog.

Armstrong announced last November that he planned to ride in the Leadville race. The plan was to ride with Carmichael, who finished the race in 2006, and Bart Knaggs, president of the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team, Mari Holden, a world champion and Olympic silver medalist rider, and Morris Denton, vice president of global marketing for computer chip giant AMD (one of Team Discovery's sponsors). Carmichael later divulged the group's simple but potentially pricey wager: Last one to the finish line buys dinner and drinks in Aspen.

But in late December, two weeks after Landis said he'd also enter the race, Armstrong cited a scheduling conflict and backed out of his original commitment to ride in the Leadville 100.

Armstrong said three weeks ago at a press conference for the American Century Celebrity Golf Tournament in Stateline, Nevada, that he had been doing a lot of mountain biking over the last month in Idaho and Colorado.

Landis, the embattled 2006 Tour de France champion, is waiting to hear the results of his mid-May hearing with a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency arbitration panel. After his decisive win in the Tour's 17th stage last year, Landis tested positive for a high ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone, and also had traces of synthetic testosterone in his sample. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and has continually claimed the test results were flawed and based on sloppy lab work.

In early June, Landis finished a disappointing 36th in the 21-mile mountain bike race (losing to women's winner Shonny Vanlandingham) and eighth in the 9.7-mile road bike hill climb at the Teva Mountain Games. Since June 26, he's been busy promoting his new book, "Positively False: The Real Story of How I Won The Tour de France."

If suspended, Landis would likely be ineligible to compete in any event sanctioned by the International Cycling Union (UCI), USA Cycling or NORBA for two years. But if that's the case, Chlouber said he'll drop the race's NORBA affiliation and pick up insurance through an independent carrier to make sure Landis can participate.

The Leadville 100 starts on the streets of the historic mining town and sends 750 riders along dirt roads and trails of the Upper Arkansas River Valley at altitudes that range from 9,000 to 12,600 feet. Colorado's highest mountain, 14,433-foot Mt. Elbert, serves as the backdrop to the race.

Both Landis and Armstrong have significant mountain biking experience. Landis was a 1993 junior national mountain bike champion, while Armstrong finished third in the 1999 NORBA mountain bike cross-country national championships a month after his first Tour de France victory.

"I don't know officially if Lance is coming. But if he, we'd put him at the front of the starting line next to Floyd," Chlouber says. "I only wish he'd commit to it sooner, because that would mean instant network TV coverage for our community, and that would go a long way for our economy up here."

Four-time defending Leadville 100 champion Dave Wiens, the 2004 NORBA National Marathon Series champion, has heard the recent rumblings about Armstrong.

"It's interesting, but I felt like he was going to be there anyway," says Wiens, 42, who won last year's race in 7 hours, 13 minutes. "It will be cool for everyone involved if he's there and if Floyd is there, too. But we're not going to know until they fire the gun, so we'll just have to wait and see."

Lewis to return early to Australia

National Under 23 Champion Shaun Lewis
Photo ©: Andrew Connolly
(Click for larger image)

An injured SouthAustralia.com rider Shaun Lewis will end his season early and return to Australia to heal. The 20 year-old will miss out on representing Australia in next month's World Championships in Fort William, Scotland. Lewis was selected after winning the Under 23 national title in Canberra earlier year, placing a creditable fourth in elite.

Lewis' foot injury has been slow to heal, and a specialist at the Mapei Centre confirmed he had a bone bruise on the bottom of his heel combined with pain in his lateral ankle structure. The specialist said he felt it would be at least two weeks before significant improvement could be expected, which means that he will not be ready to take part in the Hexagonal which starting in one week's time.

In consultation with coach, Neil Ross, Lewis has made the difficult decision to end his season early to focus on recovery and commence his preparations for next year rather than struggle through to Worlds in September with injuries and poor preparation. Long term, Lewis has his sights set on earning a spot on the team for the 2008 Olympics.

Dylan Cooper will take Lewis' place on the SouthAustralia.com which also includes Daniel McConnell and Lachlan Norris.

IMBA picks 2007 Dirt Jump Grant program winners

Ten International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) clubs received US$1,000 cash grants to create new freeriding, downhilling, and dirt jumping opportunities in 2007. Sponsored by Kona, the grant program provides financial assistance in creating technically challenging riding facilities that are completed in partnership with progressive local land managers.

"Legal freeride opportunities that will be maintained as community amenities are at a premium," said IMBA Field Programs Director, Scott Linnenburger. "Kona is leading the way in working with IMBA to take dirt jump, freeride and downhill styles of riding from the back of the woods to the forefront, where community leaders can see the positive response from riders and the improvement in their recreation offerings."

Friends of Pathways (Jackson, Wyoming): The Teton Pass Area Downhill-Specific Risk Management Plan
Dirt Corps (Snoqualmie, Washington): The Snoqualmie Bike Skills Park
Gateway Off-Road Cyclists (St. Charles, Missouri): Klondike Park Advanced Features Development
Diamond Peaks Mountain Bike Patrol (Fort Collins, Colorado): Spring Canyon Park Skills Area
Southwest Idaho Mountain Bike Association (Boise, Idaho): Idaho Velodrome and Cycling Park
Minneapolis Off-Road Cycling Advocates (Minneapolis, Minnesota): Theodore Wirth Park Black Diamond Trail Redevelopment
Chicago Area Mountain Bikers -West (Plainfield, Illinois): Van Horn Woods East Bike Park
Fat Tire Trail Riders Club (Spokane, Washington): Camp Seikani Downhill Trail Improvements
Fraser Valley Mountain Biking Association (Abbotsford, British Columbia): McKee Peak Mountain Bike Park
Langley Mountain Bike Association (Langley, British Columbia): Willoughby Mountain Bike Park

Gran Canaria set for 2008

The Elite Men's field takes off.
Photo ©: MTB World Cup
(Click for larger image)

The fourth annual Marathon MTB Open Gran Canaria has been confirmed for March 8, 2008, one week prior to the first UCI Mountain Bike World Cup.

"The 38 kilometer long semi-marathon covers the same route as in 2006, from Parque del Sur in Maspalomas to Ayagaures and back through the valley. The long route with 92 kilometres distance contains parts of the 2005 marathon course which boasts stunning landscapes, great downhills and challenging climbs, however next year we ride it the other way around," said organizer Petra Wonisch. "It also includes the unique single trail from Chira Dam down to the valley. Our route partly leads through nature reserves. After crossing Tablero the riders head back to our fiesta at Parque del Sur in Maspalomas."

The MTB Open Gran Canaria serves as one of the season-opening fitness tests for many top pros, and many pros and amateurs come early for a training camp. Next year, the race will again award the Fabian Wonisch Trophy. The trophy was created in memory of Wonisch's mountain bike enthusiast son who was killed 2005 in a tragic road accident. After her son's death, Wonisch established a trust which aims to get children into mountain biking and educate them about road safety at the same time. Equipment donations are being accepted year-round to support the trust's mountain bike school.

Chris Davidson diary: Off in the mud

Puddles everywhere
Photo ©: Chris Davidson
(Click for larger image)

First off I must apologize for the lack of reports from both the Mt Snow National Championship and Sugar Mountain NMBS races. The excuses for the lack of updates can be enumerated like this, in descending order of importance:

1. Mud
2. Rain, cold temperatures and humidity
3. Mud
4. Lack of wireless internet connectivity
5. Mud
6. Travel logistics

I had to travel to the east coast for both of these two events and that usually means an increase in the levels of humidity that I am used to in the west. However, for two straight weekends the humidity for both Mt Snow and Sugar Mountain was greater than 100% most of the time. This leads to items 1, 3 and 5 above.

Bikes ridden at both venues required both 1+ hour washings, then meticulous relubing, swapping cables and housing, new chains, etc. Easily both weekends involved 12+ hour days to attend to four race bikes. Add to that working and washing in the rain at times and I was a pretty soggy mechanic at the end of the day, hence the lack on touching electronic devices such as my camera and laptop.

There are some advanced techniques that I employ in nasty conditions that may be of some interest to techy readers out there. The first would be for mud build-up on frames. Some like to add fenders to the bike, both commercial available ones and homemade soda bottle variants. I am not a fan of these, but I defer to the rider choice when they are trying to keep mud out of their eyes.

Instead I prefer to spray key mud build-up parts of the bike with Pam cooking spray. I suggest that you try this locally and see if it works for you, as some variations in soil/mud conditions work well, others not so well. I usually try to spray the back of the seat tube/seat post, under the saddle, the down tube and the back of the fork crown. Be liberal with this stuff, it easily washes off with soap and water after, and more rather than less helps mud from getting a grip on the frame tubes. Makes your bike transiently smell like fried chicken too. Bonus!

To read the complete diary entry, click here.

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