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MTB news & racing round-up for August 28, 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

Jonnier to defend world title in rival territory

By Wendy Booher

France's Sabrina Jonnier (Iron Horse / Monster Energy)
Photo ©: Frank Bodenmuller/PhotoSport International
(Click for larger image)

Location, location, location - it is the number one rule for realtors and should be a rule for race reporters, like this one, who always got the impression of Sabrina Jonnier as aloof, based on circumstances surrounding a certain mid-April sporting event. To evoke an intriguing interview with Sabrina Jonnier at the Sea Otter Classic seemed nearly impossible, which is why location really matters to a racer with regard to weather, course condition, and competition. That is why it was like meeting Sabrina Jonnier for the first time this past July shortly after she took the French national title in the women's downhill competition. Articulate, provocative, and stunningly gracious, Jonnier exhibited an aptitude and decorum that defined the very essence of a world champion.

When the Mountain Bike World Championships come to Fort William, Scotland, September 3-9, Jonnier will need to defend her world championship downhill title on a course she's never won on against two of her strongest competitors. Far from her sunny, temperate training ground near her home in Hyères, France, Fort William is a meteorological crapshoot. What's more, her two rivals are also locals who have placed better than her on the Fort William course in previous years.

"The last two years, it has been (Tracy) Moseley and Rachel (Atherton) in first and second," said Jonnier. "I've never won over there. I've always finished third or second, so defending the rainbow stripes will be interesting."

Jonnier may be primed to attain the (so-far) unattainable since earlier this season she achieved a rare, elusive success in her native France. When the French National Mountain Bike Championships took place this past July, Jonnier took her place along with twelve of her countrywomen. The French Alps' setting and cool alpine weather slightly mimicked Sea Otter weather conditions, however the slippery, rugged downhill course at Montgenevre demanded full-suspension and skill, experience, and ambition - all of which Jonnier has amassed in abundance thanks to one, pesky rival.

Learning from the best

Absent from competition was the practically indomitable Anne-Caroline Chausson, who has frustrated Jonnier at the national championships for more than a decade by taking the national title (and often the world title) in either downhill and 4X, or sometimes both in the same year. Despite multiple runner-up finishes to Chausson's successive victories, Jonnier learned that mental training was as much of Chausson's strategy as physical training was.

"I will say that what I learned from Anne-Caroline Chausson was the mentality to keep winning," said Jonnier. "It's hard to be 100 percent at every race, and that's what I found really wonderful about her - her mental strength that made her go to every race and win every single one."

Jonnier found similarities between the national championship course and her former training ground in Australia, where she lived for three years with her boyfriend, Sam Hill. When Hill also won the world champion's title for downhill last year, it seemed like a gravity dynasty in the making: the two top downhill racers in the world riding for the same team (Monster Energy/Iron Horse) from two of the mightiest nations in gravity racing both earning world titles in the same year. But then the kingdom fell apart, and Hill and Jonnier have since gone their separate ways.

To read the complete feature, click here.

Ireland selects worlds team

Cycling Ireland named the Irish team for the mountain bike world championships in Fort William, Scotland, September 3-9.

The cross country team will be managed by Irish International Manager Geoff Seymour, with Robert Lamont as assistant team manager. Having just returned from the Masters World Downhill Championships in France, Irish International Manager Joe Ward, assisted by Nicola Ward, will take care of the downhill squad.

Cross Country
Elite men: Robin Seymour
Elite women: Tarja Owens, Beth McCluskey
Espoir men: Niall Davis, Conor McConvey
Juniors: Liam McGreevy, Graham Boyd, Paul O'Reilly

Elite men: Ben Reid, Gerard Wolfe, Dan Wolfe, Greg O Keeffe, Stephen Beattie, Darren Quille.
Reserve Riders ( Both Elite) Gareth Mc Kee, Tom Power
Juniors: Seanan O Riordan, Ewan Doherty, Jason Murphy, Karl O Sullivan

Leov down with broken collarbone

Just weeks before the World Championships, and with his form right where he wanted it to be after winning the NMBS Finals two weeks ago, 22 year-old Justin Leov has been dealt a heart-wrenching blow.

Last Friday on his first training run for round two of the G3 series in Colorado, Leov's handlebar snapped, sending him to the ground and breaking his right collarbone in two places. The Yeti/Fox Factory team was quick to act, booking an operation, knowing that every day counted and there was still a possibility to participate at the World Championships.

"The team flew me to San Jose, California to have an operation with Dr Ting, who is a bit of a legend and has worked on many motocross riders. He's an orthopaedic surgeon as well as a team physician for a national hockey team and a football team. His staff pick you up at the airport and get you comfortable at a hotel until the operation," said Leov who is now back in Denver in recovery mode.

Leov had a plate put into his shoulder as well as 10 screws to hold it all back together. The prognosis for recovery is three to six weeks, but Dr. Ting has seen people riding after 10 days, so the rider is staying positive and maintaining his fitness.

"Everything is now stabilized so it's just a matter of waiting and seeing. I'm going to take another X-ray right before travelling to the Worlds and that should tell us how much it's healed. I think no matter what, there is going to be some pain when I ride."

Vink out for the worlds

Downhill rider Nico Vink (Dolphin) will not be riding at the world championships in Fort William, Scotland. The Belgian rider is not 100% recovered from a fracture of a bone in his back. Although it will be possible for Vink to ride again next week, his preparation for worlds is far from ideal. Therefore Vink, his doctor and the Dolphin's team management have decided to avoid unnecessary risk and focus instead on the World Cup finals in Maribor, Slovenia, on the September 17.

Dahle Flesjå sets fall schedule

Multiple mountain bike world and Olympic champion Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjå was forced to stop racing early in the 2007 after catching a viral infection in springtime. She declared her season over and has decided not to defend her title at the world championships in Fort William, Scotland in a few weeks, but she will appear at a few races this fall.

She was scheduled to participate in Norway's popular Birkebeiner Rittet marathon race, and she'll be journeying to Beijing for the Olympic Test event and scope out the race course. Whether she actually competes in the test event is still to be determined depending on her health.

"This journey is crucial for my preparations for next year's Olympic season," said Dahle Flesjå of her Beijing trip. The 2008 Olympic Games are her absolute priority, and she had said she does not want to take any risks in terms of health.

Dahle Flesjå will also appear at Friedrichshafen's Eurobike trade show along with her team-mates José Hermida and Ralph Näf next weekend. She'll sign autographs and answer questions Sunday, September 2.

Photograph exhibition comes with Worlds to Fort William

SNAP, an exhibition featuring work from the some of the world's best mountain bike photographers, will also be coming to Fort William along with the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships. Photographs to be exhibited will include previously published works and unseen images. The exhibition takes place at the Lime Tree Gallery, Achintore Road, Fort William, PH33 6RQ (01397 701 806), from Sept 3-9, 10:00-22:00.

Geoff Kabush diary: The final 07 "Amurican" Report

NMBS series leader Geoff Kabush (Maxxis)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

The final race on the "Amurican" mountain bike circuit is over, the NMBS Finals in Aspen, and the summer seems to be flying by. However, right now I am trying to train in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for three weeks, and I wouldn't mind seeing some fall temperatures. My only escape from the heat, usually around 95°F, is to ride up to around eight, nine, ten thousand plus feet (~2700m) where it cools off a bit. Right now, I am way too lazy to get up and ride at 6:00 like most desert dwellers.

Way back in July, I got to spend a nice chunk of time in the homeland and attended a couple of Canadian Championships. First was a trip back to Quebec for some road racing with my buddies on the Symmetrics, now presented by FarmPure team. It was sure nice to be on Symmetrics because racing for anyone else at Road Nationals would have sucked; we had a whole lot of heavy hitters in our arsenal. The team didn't sit back and race negatively, however; it was full court press right from the gun. I had fun attacking about ten times in the first ten minutes. I didn't end up making the big move at about eleven minutes but we stacked the move and the boys took care of business. Cam took the jersey, Randers took the silver, and Svein rolled in for fourth; I and the rest of the boys got a good workout trying to race the thunderstorms and lighting bolts of the beautiful Beauce region.

After that it was back to BC (British Columbia) and up the island to my hometown of Courtenay for Mountain Bike Nationals. My sister was back home too so it was good to see her as she is getting big, round, and ready to have a baby in September. She will be back on the Xterra circuit next year and is still managing to fit in some riding despite the extra luggage. It seems like I am getting to the age where all my friends are either have a kid or have a bun in the oven. I think Keri and I are going to try to avoid growing up for a while longer.

To read the complete diary entry, click here.

Keith Bontrager diary: Twentyfour12 '07

Photo ©: Megan Bontrager
(Click for larger image)

Bontrager (the company) has sponsored a 24 hour race in England for the last two years. Bontrager (me) helps out with it. I've done 60 of these things now so I have a decent feel for what a good race is like. We've worked hard and done our best to get it right and it has worked out in most ways. The rest has been good instruction. Some of what goes into a good event is out of our hands, though.

English weather has a bad reputation, though it was never clear to me that it was deserved, based on my experiences there. I've raced quite a few times in the UK over the last 12 years and have only been really muddy a few times. The UK weather extremes I'd faced were typically somewhere in between warm and pleasant to clear and crisp. I know, that sounds wrong, impossible really, but it's true. After the last two years I'll admit that my run of luck, if that's what it is, seems to have come to an end.

We had a good course for the inaugural Twentyfour12 event, but English weather intervened and it all went wrong when it was wet. We had no idea what it would be like when it rained because we didn't test it when it was wet. There wasn't that much rain on race day overall, but it dumped down pretty hard for a half hour or so at one point. That combined with some clay soil on the first part of the course and the resulting grease effectively stopped the race for a few hours. The clay became too slippery to ride and some of the short climbs were too slick to even hike. My friend Julie called the worst of it "Bambi-ing". You run out of traction and have to stop, so you get off your bike. Then you are barely able to stand because it is so slick. Your feet slip out from under you when you try to take a step and you crumple to the ground helplessly, just like Bambi when she was learning to walk. Then it happens again. There was no way around it - you couldn't make any progress on that part of the course without crawling. It's not bike racing, and it sucked.

It isn't the first time I have seen races affected severely by weather. I still have clear recollections of a rider actually crying along the side of a course in West Virginia during a particularly muddy 24 hour session there.

Luckily, the weather turned better that afternoon and the clay dried up enough to be race worthy soon after that. Equally luckily was the fact that English racers end up with a fairly good sense of humor about the weather, so the race went on and ended on a positive note. I don't recall any reports of tears, either. Hardy Brits… It was a valuable lesson though, and came as close to a disaster as I'd ever want to be again. The mistakes we made the first year were honest ones, though possibly naïve. But no shortcuts were taken. We were using the venue for the first time, and we didn't get to ride it in the rain beforehand.

To read the complete diary entry, click here.

QBP gives unprecedented support to Twin Cities Trips for Kids Chapter

The Trips for Kids (TFK) Chapter in Twin Cities, Minnesota, announced unprecedented support from Bloomington, Minnesota, based Quality Bicycle Products (QBP).

That chapter's Founding Director, Rick McFerrin, recently moved to Calgary, Canada, to start another Trips for Kids Chapter there, so QBP stepped in to manage the day-to-day operations Twin Cities chapter. Its goal is to develop a team of local volunteers that will eventually run the organization with QBP's ongoing support.

"QBP believes strongly in the Trips for Kids mission to mentor kids and increase their overall fitness," says Jason Grantz of QBP Advocacy. "And of course, our whole industry benefits when more young people discover the fun and excitement of riding bikes."

In fact, the Twin Cities chapter was launched earlier this year with a US$10,000 grant from QBP and support from local volunteers and bike shops.

QBP said it will continue to support TFK Twin Cities, but it is working to help the chapter become completely independent and self-sustaining. "We planted the seeds here. Now we're inviting others to step forward and help it thrive and grow. This is an investment in the future of our communities and our industry," Grantz said.

"This is a huge boost for us," said national TFK director Marilyn Price. "QBP's support ... sets a great example for other businesses to follow.

WAMBA receives AUS$110,000 in funding

The Western Australian Mountain Bike Association (WAMBA) announced it has received AUS$110,000 from the 2007 round of Department of Sport and Recreation/Lotterywest. The money will be distributed over three projects.

The next stage of the Goatfarm Mountain Bike Park has received $75,000. This will be used for signage and the installation of concrete flyovers as well as the design of further trails, rock gardens and a children’s track near the creek.

The long running Kalamunda Circuit upgrade and realignment project has received $15,000. Plans have recently been submitted to the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) and building for the project will start before the end of the year. The trail will be built for all levels of mountain biker and is designed as a recreational trail with a future possibility for a race circuit.

The third project is the construction and signage of some trail in the Dwellingup area close to the Murray River. More details of this will be supplied once all approval from for trail construction have been finalised. This project has received $20,000 and will provide a recreational trail with trailhead signage and toilet facilities.

4. XCO Dubovac set for next round of Croatia Cup

On September 2, mountain bike club BBK T – REX of Karlovac, Croatia, will host the 4. XCO Dubovac 2007 race, a round of the Croatian Cup for all categories. Elite men, women, and U23 riders will also earn UCI points for the category 2 event. Many top riders are expected to attend for a final tune-up going into the next weekend's World Championships in Fort William, Scotland. Even those not competing in worlds can collect a few more UCI points toward Olympic qualifications.

The track will be open for training on Saturday, September 1, and the race will be held Sunday. For more information, visit www.bbk-t-rex.hr/xco_dubovac.html

Gold Coast postponed due to rain

The Gold Coast mountain cross race in Illinbah, Australia, originally scheduled for Sunday, August 26, was postponed until Saturday, September 2 due to rain. For more information, contact mobile number 0407 753 327. Registration opens at 11:00 with racing starting at 13:00.

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