MTB news & racing round-up for August 16, 2007
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Edited by Sue George
Swiss riders collect both marathon world titles
Christoph Sauser (Switzerland)
takes a five and a half minute victory
Photo ©: AFP
Christoph Sauser (Specialized Factory Racing) and Petra Henzi brought
home two World Marathon
Championship titles to Switzerland last weekend from Verviers in Belgium.
For Sauser, the marathon championship was his first world title, in any
discipline. It was "one of the best days in my racing life! Just
unforgettable! I can not describe the excitement on the last kilometre,
finishing the line or getting dressed in the rainbow jersey," said
an excited Sauser on his web blog, www.sauserwind.com/diary.asp.
"The feeling of being World Champion is indescribable. There were
tears in my eyes when I crossed the line," said Sauser, who already
has an impressive cross country resume. He's won 11 world cup titles,
including two overalls in 2004 and 2005, and he won silver at the Sydney
Olympics in 2000.
It had rained heavily in the days prior to the event, but racers were
greeted with clear skies and decently dry conditions for Sunday's race
on a rolling 105km course through the Ardennes forest.
Defending marathon champion Ralf Naf started the race hard, and he and
Sauser soon separated themselves from the rest of the field. Only Belgian
Roel Paulissen could mix it up near the front. However, Naf eventually
suffered mechanical problems with his chain and a flat tire, which left
Sauser alone at the front. Sauser ramped up the pressure, eventually winning
in 4:23:06 by 5'23" ahead of Paulissen. Frenchman Thomas Dietsch
was third, 7'26" back.
Compatriot and last year's silver medallist Petra Henzi won the women's
event in 5:12:11. The 38 year-old overcame back injuries that plagued
her earlier in the season and won by just 2'07" ahead of European
cross country champion, German Sabine Spitz. Pia Sundstedt (Finland) finished
third, almost 12 minutes off the winning pace.
Absent from the race was defending champion Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja, champion
in 2006. She has been forced to take off much of the 2007 season to recover
from an intestinal virus.
Thomas Frischknecht was the last Swiss marathon champion. He won in 2003
For full results and photos from the world marathon championships, click
Exciting NMBS cross country decided in sprint finish
By Sue George
Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) outsprints
Jeremiah Bishop (Trek/VW)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
The top two men from the most recent NMBS round at Sugar Mountain battled
it out again in Colorado for the final race in the series. Geoff Kabush
(Team Maxxis) and Jeremiah Bishop (Trek / VW), ended the series with a
sprint finish. Only one second separated the two riders.
Kabush, sponsored by a tire manufacturer, made a calculated gamble by
choosing to race with super light tires. He hoped the gains he would experience
on the climbs would offset any caution he'd have to employ not to flat
on the downhills, and no matter what happened, he'd still win the series,
if not the race.
Kabush had raced the tires before, at events like Sea Otter, and he knew
their appropriateness for climbing courses. He often races them on grassy
short tracks, too. "When I can use them, it drops over a pound from
my bike." The Maxxis tires weigh 310 grams, an asset on a course
that started out with 1,200 feet of steep climbing, but a potential liability
on rocky downhills, like the 20 minute descent that ended the race.
"I already had the series wrapped up, so there was less pressure,"
said Kabush. "It was craziest (rockiest) course I've ever ridden
them on. I tried to use them to go uphill as fast as I could and crack
the guys, but Jeremiah was riding really well."
"Kabush was running a risky setup in my opinion," said Bishop
after the race. "The one thing that would have derailed his day was
a double flat or a slashed sidewall. The wheelset was a shock to me when
we started the race and I saw what he was running. I can't believe he
didn't flat." After seeing the course, Bishop took the opposite approach
ran a full 2.2" mountain bike tire on the rear, which he said paid
off on the descents.
Although the two men employed different strategies, one to go fast up,
one to go fast down, they ended up at the finish together. Kabush would
sometimes shake Bishop on or just after the climb, but Bishop would always
get him back on the downhill.
"He caught up with me seven or eight minutes to go," said Kabush.
"It made for an intense finish. I'd push it on any uphill, but he
kept coming back to me. On the final grass sweeping corner to the finish,
we were neck and neck. We were both drifting on the gravel in the corner."
"It made for a really interesting race, probably the most exciting
race of the year," said Bishop. "We would yo-yo back and forth.
I would catch up to him and he'd pull away on steep climb, and I'd think
I was done and dropped, and then I'd rip downhill at a steady place, and
I'd see him slowing down for a stream crossing and I'd blast right through
and catch back up."
Kabush said he was not bothered by the altitude. When not travelling
for racing, he lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at 6,000 feet altitude,
not quite as high as the 9,000 feet at Snowmass. He'd had over a week
to re-acclimated after racing in North Carolina. In contrast, Bishop,
who resides nearer to sea level, chose the arrive-at-the-last-minute strategy
and said he felt fine at altitude Saturday, but suffered Sunday.
National champion Adam Craig (Giant) finished third, back 2'30".
Todd Wells (GT) and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru - Gary Fisher) rounded
out the podium for fourth and fifth.
The Canadian Kabush claimed the overall national series title with Horgan-Kobelski
in second. Bishop's strong two series-ending performances helped him step
up to third overall, and he said he felt on track for the rest of the
major races for the season. Wells (GT) and Barry Wicks (Kona) finished
off the series podium.
On the women's side, Georgia Gould (Luna Women's MTB Team) won the cross
country ahead of team-mate Katerina Nash and Heather Irminger (Subaru
/ Gary Fisher). Gould moved quickly and strategically to the front of
the field. "I had a good start and I knew it was important to be first
going into the singletrack. It's a 20 minute climb, almost all on singletrack
and pretty steep, and there was potential for gaps to form there." Gould
maintained her lead until the end, eventually extending it to 1'48".
Her win locked up her overall title with 910 points after completing a
perfect record by taking all six victories. Nash and Vanlandingham were
second and third in the series.
For Cyclingnews' complete coverage of all NMBS disciplines and
Copnall and others named to Britain's worlds team on second round
Four time British national cross
Photo ©: Jenny Copnall
Great Britain expanded its line-up for the World Championships on home
turf in Scotland, September 3-9, after the announcement of the initial
team stirred controversy
within the British mountain biking community.
"Following discussions with members, event organisers and stake-holders
in the Fort William World Championships, British Cycling has extended
the number of British riders who will compete at the event in September,"
read a statement on the federation's website.
The British team for worlds is now up to 57 riders including newly selected
male cross country riders: Simon Richardson, Nick Craig, and Paul Oldham.
Three female cross country racers were also added to the roster, thereby
addressing the concern that no elite senior women were named initially:
Jenny Copnall, Ruth McGavigan, Elizabeth Scalia.
Many members of the mountain bike community had responded strongly and
publicly when they learned that no senior women had been named to the
team. The omission put at risk the number Britain's starting spots for
the Olympics. Starting spots will be determined by nations' rankings compiled
from UCI events such as worlds.
The UK Sport's strict performance goals for all lottery-funded sports
were cited as one of the original reasons for not naming any senior women.
However according to British Cycling (BC), "Following negotiations
with UK Sport, BC's Performance Director, Dave Brailsford, agreed to a
special one-off dispensation to select additional riders for this 'home'
world championships," continued the statement. "It was agreed
to allow BC to run an additional number of riders in the event outside
these performance goals."
"We have listened to the many members who have got in touch with
us over this issue, plus Mountain Bike race organisers and the Trade,"
said Brailsford. "The groundswell of opinion was that the Fort William
World Championships is a unique event, a unique opportunity to cheer on
the leading home riders and that they would like to see a broader participation-based
selection than our strict performance-based policy would allow."
After her selection, Copnall said, "While there are wider issues
remaining (with regard to team selection), I am very happy that the immediate
situation has been resolved and that I can now focus on performing my
very best in the race on 8th September. I'd like to thank everyone who
has displayed their support for me over the past two weeks. There is no
doubt at all that the reaction to my initial non selection by so many
and from such a diversity of parts of the cycling community fuelled this
change of heart on the part of the governing body.
"One positive is that now we have, for the first time in years,
not one, but three women representing Great Britain in the cross country
race...," said Copnall. "We have an opportunity to display our
very best racers on the biggest stage, hopefully inspiring some future
champions along the way."
Blenkinsop readies for worlds
Photo ©: Bike NZ
New Zealand's downhill phenom Sam Blenkinsop is busy training and filming
in Eastern Europe, and is in the final phase of preparations for the World
Championships in Fort William, Scotland, September 3-9, where he will
again be representing his country. This year will be his first racing
in the elite category. He won silver in the junior race at the 2006 World
downhill championships in Rotorua, New Zealand.
The young 18 year-old rider suffered some bad luck earlier this season,
but has since logged fine performances in Italy and France. He also recently
launched his own website, www.samblenkinsop.com to keep friends, family,
and fans updated.
In Ravascletto, Italy, Blenkinsop took the win in the final round of
the Italian National Series. He travelled there with compatriots Nathan
Rankin, Glenn Haden, and junior Matthew Scoles, from their base in Morzine,
France. The Italian race format has qualifications in the morning, followed
by a best of two races run format in the afternoon. He won all three runs.
"The track had heaps of pedalling and was really dusty. We had
a good time there and the Italian races are well organised and fun to
do," said Blenkinsop after his return from the Avalanche Cup.
In France, he took third in the sprint Avalanche Cup in Oz en Oisans
and seventh in the Megavalanche Cup at the Alpe d'Huez.
Crocodile Trophy gets tougher
The main bunch going at a steady
pace at the 2006 edition
Photo ©: John Flynn
Shaken and stirred by the harsh reality of Australia's remote Far North,
a cyclist who twice vowed never to return to the Crocodile Trophy has
inked a deal to suit up to for a third shot at winning the race scheduled
for October 23 to November 1.
Austrian Stefan Rucker (Elk Haus) entered the 2006 Croc Trophy in career-best
form, but his dream of winning the coveted classic went horribly off-track
when he took a wrong turn on the opening stage.
"Stefan went up a dry gully last year, as you Australians would
say," Race Director Gerhard Schoenbacher said as the parcours for
the 2007 event was revealed.
"He gets another chance this year, but the course will be tougher
and the competition stronger in what I believe will be the most competitive
Crocodile Trophy we have yet seen." The retirement of 2006 winner
Christophe Stevens has opened up the race in 2007, and all eyes are on
the return of consistent Hungarian Attila Marton, Czech hard-man Andrej
Fojtik, and the rider who had victory in his sights in 2006, Dane Michael
In a similar cruel twist of fate to Rucker, a navigational error cost
Borup (Team Ghost) dearly in last year's race, but the Dane fought back
to record numerous stage wins vowing all the while to return "gladiator
style" this year and seek his vengeance.
Austrian Stefan Rucker
Photo ©: John Flynn
The task this time around may not be so easy for Borup and his cohorts
who will have to race for 10 days, with 1,400 kilometres packed into the
schedule - and no rest day. The final five days are expected to be particularly
brutal, with an average of 150 kilometres per day on the soul-destroying
back roads across the savannah country and rainforest mountains at the
Southern end of Cape York.
"We know from experience with this race, if it is hot, and normally
that is the case, many of the riders will struggle to finish," Schoenbacher
said. "It is our purpose with the Crocodile Trophy to find a worthy
Sixty cyclists from 13 countries have already signed up, among them inspirational
Belgian Ironman Marc Herremans, who aims to become the first hand cyclist
to complete the race on a custom built bike. A full field of seventy cyclists
is expected at the start line in Mareeba. The full schedule is below:
October 23: Mareeba Irvinebank, 120km
October 24: Irvinebank Koombooloomba, 128km
October 25: Koombooloomba Wombinoo, 117km
October 26: Wombinoo Chillagoe, 169km
October 27: Chillagoe Chillagoe, 100km
October 28: Chillagoe Mount Mulgrave, 145km
October 29: Mt Mulgrave King Junction, 163km
October 30: King Junction Laura, 156km
October 31: Laura Cooktown, 142km
November 1: Cooktown Cape Tribulation, 148km
Gunn Rita Diary: Training in Italy
Another week of training camp here in Italy is complete. I'm still not
feeling totally well, but things are moving forwards. Ten weeks with hardly
any exercise has left me feeling out of shape, and I have to accept that
the racing season is over for me.
So I won't be participating in any more competitions this season. After
such a long absence from training, I need time to rebuild my strength.
It would be starting at the wrong end if I was to start racing again in
a couple of weeks. The highest priority is to allow my system a full recovery,
get in a few normal training weeks, and then take on the winter season
Even so, I'm optimistic about the situation, and I think we will emerge
strengthened from what we've been through. An unwelcome break like I've
had is without doubt good for my body, after so many seasons of high intensity
and incredible results. The season of 2008 is both exciting and important,
and it's good to meet it with a well rested and well prepared body and
It's been challenging to be forced to take it easy these weeks since
the end of May. I certainly don't enjoy the feeling of being out of shape.
My body has been crying out to me that rest is the best and only medicine
that will help me recover my energy after having competed and trained
with the virus and stomach bacteria in my system.
We're still here in the north of Italy, in the town of Rovereto, south
of Trento. This is an unbelievably gorgeous region for those who like
a bit of dramatic nature, with mountains and hills, castles and citadels
on both sides of the valley, and the river running through here. We're
staying in a fantastic area which offers interesting history, beautiful
nature, delicious Italian cuisine (it's impossible to get tired of Italian
pizza when you're here), fantastic wines and endless opportunities for
both hiking and biking.
To read the complete diary, click
Finding Fool's Gold in Georgia
North Georgia's mountains will host the Fool's Gold 100 & 50 races
and festival on August 17-19. The Fool's Gold 100 is Georgia's first and
only 100 mile mountain bike race.
Harvey Minton and local Peter Joski are among the favorites vying for
US$1,200 that will be paid out to top 100 miler finishers. The winner
will take $300.
Riders can come for the race only, the festival only, or both. For more
information, visit 55nineperformance.com/100.html.
Avalanche Cup to make enduro stop in Scotland
The Avalanche Enduro, scheduled for August 25-26 will let riders experience
some prime singletrack in Scotland. The course features a mixture of deep
wooded forests, mountain landscapes, and wildlife. The event will have
four timed special stages for novices and eight timed special stage for
experts. An optional prologue is scheduled for Saturday. Then racers will
start at 30 second intervals Sunday, with novices tackling one loop, and
experts doing two.
For more information, visit www.avalanchecup.com.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)