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MTB news & racing round-up for August 31, 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

Absalon takes aim at #4

By Wendy Booher

A familiar view of Julian Absalon: winning
Photo ©: Frank Bodenmuller
(Click for larger image)

An athlete who has achieved as much as Julien Absalon has, such as three world championship titles and almost too many national titles to count - not to mention the Olympic gold medal - commands a degree of respect that's difficult to bestow upon someone so upbeat and downright approachable.

Absalon has just one week to go until the World Mountain Bike Championships, when he will take aim at a fourth, consecutive world title. With nods to his competition, he revealed a bit of how he will defend the Olympic gold medal in Beijing.

The audacity to think that it is possible to turn a 45-minute interview into an exposé of an entire career must seem laughable - if not highly irritating - to a pro racer like Julien Absalon. Often forced to speak a language that is not his own and answer the usual battery of questions relating to his multiple championship titles (for which most answers can be found online), the 27 year-old Absalon searches for words with which he feels comfortable and tends to grow uneasy as questioning plods onward.

No doubt like many other athletes, Absalon may regard interviews as perhaps one of the burdens to being a pro. However, bring up the Olympic gold medal that Absalon brought home from Athens three years ago, and he responds with a brilliance beyond compare. Only two other men own gold medals for the Olympic cross-country event and the rarity of that distinguish Absalon even more. To really capture an impression of Absalon though, watch him race; for only then does his persona become quintessentially clear.

Where others gingerly roll down a steep, scree-carpeted descent, Absalon locks his brakes and "skis" down using his rear wheel as a rudder for balance and stability. With only two chainrings, he's built up enough power by training in the rugged, mountainous region in the northeast of France to outsprint and outkick the competition nearly every time. His skill at appraising a course in order to pick out the best line yields a riding style iconic in its smoothness and feigned effortlessness. What you won't see is his mental prowess that - combined with his physical strength and technical acumen - most often delivers Absalon over the finish line in first place.

"I think that at a high level of competition, mental training is important," explained Absalon. "I think it makes a difference because all the riders are similar physically, but it's the mind that makes the difference. When you want to win, you are able to push more and when you are able to push the limits, you will go faster than the others."

He will need his troika of talents to operate at 100 percent both this weekend, when the final round of the Swisspower Cup takes place near Basel, Switzerland, and next weekend at the World Mountain Bike Championships at Fort William, Scotland. The most celebrated names in mountain bike racing are expected to race in Switzerland, which will be sort of a warm-up before the championship race the following week. Absalon's main goal for the 2007 season is to defend his world champion title for a fourth time and if all goes well in Switzerland, then he will be more ready than ever to face the competition in Scotland.

To read the complete interview, click here.

Shenandoah Mountain 100 sets stage for Eatough & Landis battle

By Sue George in Harrisonburg, Virginia, with assistance from Harlan Price

Winner Chris Eatough
Photo ©: Guru Graphix
(Click for larger image)

The National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series wraps up Sunday near Harrisonburg, Virginia, at the Shenandoah Mountain 100.

Chris Eatough (Trek / VW) has the men's series locked up after his win last weekend at the Endurance 100, but the stage is set for an exciting battle among a strong field of contenders. Perhaps the most anticipated battle is the one between two proven endurance giants: six-time 24 hours of Adrenaline World Solo champion and mountain biker Eatough vs. 2006 Tour de France winner and roadie Floyd Landis, who announced last week his intention to attend the race as he continues to await a verdict for his anti-doping arbitration hearing for a positive doping test result from Stage 17 of last year's Tour de France. Landis' hearing was held in May.

Landis got his racing start in mountain biking and has recently returned to form in the discipline with a second place at the Leadville 100.

When asked about his guaranteed series win, Eatough said, "It takes a little bit of the pressure off. I don't need to be as conservative." After hearing the news that Landis would be joining the stellar men's field, he observed, "It's a pretty unique opportunity. It doesn't come along very often." After all, how many pro mountain bikers ever get to race Tour de France contenders?

Eatough has switched his focus this year from the 24 hour worlds, which he previously announced he will not contest in 2007, to the NUE series. "My training hasn't changed that much," said Eatough. "It used to be that the 100s were training for the 24. I tried to do extra climbing, for the bigger days." He called the Shenandoah Mountain 100 is one of his favorite courses.

The lure of the 100 milers was strong for Eatough who commented on the growing popularity of the race format. "It's a huge challenge, for the fitness of rider and durability of equipment, and the races are much more tactical. You have to be smart and race with head, legs and lungs. You have to be conservative and not go from the gun. The appeal is similar to an Ironman triathalon. It's an epic day with mishaps, adventures, and just getting to the finish line is a challenge."

Floyd Landis at the Leadville100
Photo ©: Wesley & Garrett Geer
(Click for larger image)

Eatough will be joined by current fourth place in the series Harlan Price (Independent Fabrication) and current fifth place Gerry Pflug (Freddie FU/Kona/Speedgoat Bikes). Other top five contenders Josh Tostado (Giant, Smith, Dakine, Michelin, Niterider) and Shawn Adams (October Lake Effect) were not pre-registered. Favorites for the day also include Jeff Schalk (Trek / VW), Michael Simonson, Sam Koerber (Pro Bikes), Jens Nielsen (Big Wheel Racing), and Todd Helmick (Trek / VW).

Absent from the men's race will be local pro and past winner Jeremiah Bishop (Trek / VW), who is headed instead to Fort William, Scotland for the World Championships.

On the women's side, series leader Danielle Musto (Slingshot) is ready to do her own battle with close contender Carey Lowrey (Outdoor Store) for the NUE title. Look out for local pro rider Sue Haywood (Trek / VW), fresh off a TransRockies win, to go for the day's win. She'll also be challenged by Trish Stevenson (Pro Bikes), third place series racer Erika Tieszen (Giant, Smith,Dakine, Niterider), Kristin Eddy (Team Green), and Michelle Schneider (VisitPA.com).

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for complete Shenandoah Mountain 100 coverage.

NUE Series Standings, after six events, with one remaining

Elite Men
1 Chris Eatough (Trek/VW)                                             4 pts (with 4 races)
2 Josh Tostado (Giant, Smith, Dakine, Michelin, Niterider.)          19
3 Shawn Adams (October Lake Effect)                                  20
4 Harlan Price (Independent Fabrication)                             20
5 Gerry Pflug (Freddie FU/Kona/Speedgoat Bikes)                      28
6 Mike Kuhn (Visitpa.com (Mountain Bike Team))                       47
7 Andy Klumb (Bicilibre)                                            167
8 Cadet Bryant (Bike Pro of San Angelo Texas)                       339
9 Tinker Juarez (Cannondale)                                          8 (with 3 races)
10 Shey Lindner (Bear naked/Cannondale)                              22
Elite Women 
1 Danielle Musto (Slingshot)                                         11 pts (with 4 races)
2 Carey Lowery (Outdoor Store)                                        6 (with 3 races)
3 Erika Tieszen (Giant, Smith,Dakine, Niterider)                     10
4 Suz Falvey (Dirty Harrys)                                          19
5 Laureen Coffelt (Renn Multi-Sport)                                 22
6 Reenie Greene (www.os2ogear.com)                                   23                 
7 Michelle Schneider                                                  8 (with 2 races)
8 Paula Figura (Founders Ales/ Alger Racing)                         18
9 Shirlee Finch (Cannondale Midwest Racing)                          19                
10 Monique Merrill                                                    1 (with 1 race)

Mens Masters 50+ 
1 John Majors (Giffin Interior & Fixture Inc.)                        7 pts (with 4 races)
2 Steve Kinley (Hammer Nutrition, Cannondale)                         9
3 Terry Gardner (Methusaleh Racing)                                  24                 
4 Jim Jordan (CFX Prod)                                               2 (with 2 races)
5 David Coar (Team Chiropower)                                        4                  
Single Speed Overall
1 Dejay Birtch (Niner Bikes/Stans No Tubes)                          17 pts (with 4 races)
2 Tim Dougherty (Bear Naked/Cannondale)                              10 (with 3 races)
3 Douglas Jenne (Vicious Cycles / BareKnuckleBrigade)                33
4 Joshua Cohen (Nimmo Chiropractic)                                  37
5 Thomas Greene (Blesso Consulting)                                  38

For complete NUE series standings, click here.

Jeep KOM series to wrap up at Beaver Creek

Michal Prokop
Photo ©: Jeep KOM
(Click for larger image)

Heading into the grand finale of the 2007 Jeep King of the Mountain summer series on September 1 at Beaver Creek Resort in Beaver Creek, Colo., the only certainty in a season packed with unpredictable outcomes is the fact that never in the event's history have the standings been so tight with so many athletes in contention for the overall crown.

Five pairs of athletes are tied, and no fewer than six competitors have a chance to catch fire in the Rocky Mountains and capture the championship, while also enjoying the spoils in the form of part of a US$100,000 cash purse and the keys to a new 2008 Jeep Liberty.

Only 10 points separate the top four men's racers, all Americans, and no story is more compelling than that of Brian Lopes. The Laguna Beach legend, a three-time world champion, nine-time national champion and now six-time World Cup Champion, has brought home every trophy imaginable except that of Jeep KOM series champion. He now stands tied for first place in the season standings following a win at the second race of season in San Luis Obispo.

Lopes knows a win is anything but guaranteed with ultra-talented fellow Californians breathing down his neck. Leading the charge is Temecula's Rich Houseman, a 2006 NMBS champion, trailed by Eric Carter, also of Temecula, the 2007 national series champion and 2006 US national champion, and Cody Warren of Alpine, a former US national champion and multiple NMBS titlist. Also in the mix are Australia's Wade Bootes, fellow Aussie Jared Graves and Open Qualifier Chris Del Bosco.

Anneke Beerten of the Netherlands, the world's second ranked racer with two world cup wins in 2007, shares the lead in the women's series with Melissa Buhl, recently crowned US national champion and former NMBS Champion. There is no shortage of depth behind the top two, including Tara Llanes, Fionn Griffiths, Leana Gerrard and Joanna Petterson. Others to keep an eye on include Open Qualifiers Neven Steinmetz and Lisa Myklak.

No analysis regarding the battle for mountain biking racing dominance is complete without mention of the Czech Republic's Michal Prokop and American Jill Kintner, each the two-time defending series champions. The pair, after grabbing victories at the first race of the season in Park City, Utah, now rest in sixth and fifth place in their respective standings, and will no doubt be eager to try and earn titles in Beaver Creek while taking down those ranked above them in the process. The seeding runs will be more important than ever before, as no racer will be eager to meet Prokop, the 2006 World Champion and reigning Czech Republic BMX and Mountain Bike National Champion, or Kintner, the world's number-one ranked racer with two World Cup victories in 2007, in the early stages.

The champions will be crowned based on a system of cumulative points earned throughout the three series events.

MTB Hall of fame names 2007 inductees

Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Four individuals will be inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in a ceremony on Wednesday, September 26, 2007, at Interbike, in Las Vegas: Hill Abell, a leading Texas advocate, Sal Ruibal, mountain biking's biggest supporter in the mainstream media, Alison Sydor, a world champion racer and industry innovator Frank Wadleton.

According to the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame website, www.mtnbikehalloffame.com, Hill Abell earned his nomination in the advocate category. He's been mountain biking since 1984. That same year Hill and his wife Laura bought the Bicycle Sport Shop in Austin, Texas. Their store became the only shop in Austin to specialize in mountain bikes. Besides sharing his passion daily through the shop, Abell has worked tirelessly as an access advocate in Texas, which although it is the second largest US State, it only has 3.8% of it is public land. Abell has played an important advocacy role with his local Austin Ridge Riders, the Texas Mountain Bike Racing Association and the Texas Bicycle Coalition. He has also been on the IMBA board of directors for nine years. His most recent project is with the Austin chapter of Sprockids.

Sal Ruibal, the cycling reporter at USA Today, was the first prominent journalist to chronicle the sport in the mainstream media. Since he began covering the sport in 1995, he's introduced mountain biking to a mass audience around the world. His articles in the largest American newspaper reach more than 10 million readers every day many non-cyclists. He's written about people, tactics, equipment, and "the culture and the societal impact of mountain biking" as stated on the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame website. The list of athletes he has covered reads like a who's who of mountain biking. He once wrote about his ride with well known mountain biker, US President George W. Bush. In his free time, Ruibal mountain bikes, even racing at 24 hour events.

Alison Sydor is a household name in mountain biking. Her resume boasts three world championship titles, the 1996 Olympic silver medal, three UCI World Cup titles and 17 World Cup wins. The Canadian began her cycling career on the road, winning four national road titles and representing Canada at international competitions. She began her mountain bike racing career in 1991 and most recently has been winning multi-day mountain bike stage races.

Last but not least, Frank Wadleton won a nomination in the industry category. Wadleton "built his first frame in the summer before seventh grade (1972) from parts of 10-speed frames and shopping carts." Wadleton worked with John Parker of Yeti as well as with industry partners Shimano, Campagnolo, Onza, Barracuda and many others. Wadleton now works for Spooky. He lists some of his biggest accomplishments as being involved in the development of Easton frame tubes, fabricating the first set of two-fingered Shimano brake levers, welding the first set of two sided clipless pedals for Don Mirah, designing bar ends for Onza, co-designing all Yeti frames, pioneering the "soft tail" design, being, and building frames for the likes of John Tomac, Juli Furtado, Tinker Juarez, Brian Lopes, Miles Rockwell, Missy Giove, Sarah Ballentine, Don Mirah, Davis Phinny, and Greg Orovits just to name a few.

The general public and Interbike attendees are welcome to attend the induction ceremony.

Singlespeed Worlds to Scotland

Just one week before cycling's mainstream mountain bike media descends on Fort William for the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, many riders are making the trip north sooner. The Single Speed World Championship (SSWC) are slated for this weekend, September 1-2 in Aviemore, Scotland.

Competitive festivities start Saturday, when an event will be held to determine the hosts of the 2008 SSWC. The main action kicks of Sunday morning with the title event. For more information, visit www.sswc2007.com.

Last year's worlds were in Stockholm, Sweden, in mid-August. Sveinung Bjørkøy (Norway) and Tiffany Allmandinger (USA) won the men's and women's divisions.

24 Hours of Adrenalin World Championships set for weekend

The ninth annual 24 Hours of Adrenaline World Championships head to Laguna Seca Raceway near Monterey, California September 1-2. Last year's race was made famous by the movie 24 Solo, which documented an epic battled between Craig Gordon (Cannondale) and Chris Eatough (Trek / VW). Gordon ultimately won, but it cost him a trip to the hospital after his body started to shut down from the epic effort.

This year, neither Eatough nor last year's women's winner Sue Haywood (Trek / VW). Both will be contesting the NUE series finale in Virginia. However, racers like endurance pro Pua Sawicki will be there vying for the title.

New for this year, teams will also compete for a world title. Teams can be comprised of any three riders.

Fumic Brothers & Polc rule Maribor rehearsal

Brothers in arms, and glory: The Fumic brothers,
Photo ©: Andrej Dekleva
(Click for larger image)

Last weekend, the courses for the Nissan UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Finals coming up September 15-16 in Maribor, Slovenia, got a test run in competition.

Slovenia Cup finals hosted a UCI Class 1 race which was won ruled by brothers Lado and Manuel Fumic of Fumic Brothers International. Racer competed on a 4.5 kilometre lap with 150 metres of elevation change per lap. 31 year-old Lado led from the start of the eight-lap race to be later joined by his six-years-younger brother Manuel, the former Under 23 World Champion.

"I stayed in front from the start, I was trying to test my shape," said Lado. "It was working okay, then I waited for my brother and we continued together. It worked perfectly on this course, here riding in a small pack is faster than riding in a larger group."

In the end Lado was faster than Mani, finishing a few meters in front of him. Ukrainian National Team member Sergiy Rysenko finished in third just under two minutes behind. Czech Merida team rider Jiri Friedl followed in fourth and Austrian champion Christoph Soukup. Soukup rode in third close to FBI riders for more than half of the race before being slowed down by a flat tire.

"I think the race course is pretty good," added Lado. "It is a fast course and there is no place to recover. It will be a really hard race at the World Cup finals. Today the weather was perfect, it was dry, but still humid and slippery in the forest. So I hope it doesn't rain for the World Cup."

Austrian champion Elisabeth Osl seemed as good as invincible and won the women's race ahead of Slovenian Nina Homovec and Slovak Janka Stevkova.

Filip Polc (Gravity Group) couldn't be matched
Photo ©: Andrej Dekleva
(Click for larger image)

Filip Polc won the downhill final ahead of a strong international field. "A good race in nice conditions," said Polc afterward before commenting on the track. "The course is not too long so a clear run is even more important here. While it was grippy and very fast in the dry it will be hard in wet because of all the roots."

The track, with 450 metres in elevation drop, is very similar to the local classic one near the top but is completely new towards the bottom. Austrian Petra Bernhard won the women's downhill.

"I don't remember the old course all that well and I was riding a different bike so I can't compare them," noted Polc, who placed 14th in the downhill at the 2006 World Championships. "I remember the old one was ahead of its time and this one is similar to what we ride in the World Cup these days."

Check out complete coverage of the cross country and the downhill from the Slovenian Cup.

Barbara Howe diary: On Sugar Mountain

The crew
Photo ©: Rush Howe
(Click for larger image)

This month's special recovery tip is to spend many, many hours in a car; it makes your legs feel great. Well, not really but I thought I'd try it anyway. I joined Shannon G., her brother Chris, our bikes and cases in Chris's Audi sedan for a haul from Vermont to the city where corruption and destruction spring forth, Washington DC.

Chris was a hero and drove the whole way through sun, rain and traffic, and stopping to fulfil our eating requirements. We stayed at his place in the Adams Morgan neighbourhood, enjoying scrumptious dining and urban cycling. One evening I took a metro train ride to the furthest reaches of the orange line to visit my Auntie in Annapolis. On the way home some of the District's finest inhabitants sat behind me and engaged in a rather loud inebriated and nearly violent argument. Of course they stayed on until my stop.

Chris played hooky from work for a day trip to Gambrill State Park near Frederick, Maryland. The trails there are super fun with lots of rocks, some roots and a few riders (mid-week). I must have forgotten how to ride a bike because in the first ten minutes I hit the ground twice and drew blood.

Thursday afternoon we flew to Charlotte, North Carolina, and met my father at the airport. Two hours later we were in Boone, North Carolina, enjoying a meal with the rest of the team. We then drove in the fog and dark up an ever narrowing gravel road to our home for the weekend, the Hilltop Hideaway Cabin. The name says it all, the cabin was at the end of the road at the very top of a mountain and in the morning the view was breathtaking.

To read the complete diary entry, click here.

Swisspower Cup preview

The Swisspower Cup will wrap up this weekend September 1-2 in Muttenz. Held just one week before the World Championships, many top stars are expected to be at the start line including Julien Absalon, Christoph Sauser, Jose Antonio Hermida, Frederik Kessiakoff , Roel Paulissen, Jean Christophe Peraud, and Lado and Manuel Fumic. On the women's side, look out for Sabine Spitz and Katrin Leumann as favorites.

The Spanish racer Jose Antonio Hermida (Multivan Merida), one of the few riders to seriously challenge Absalon this year, said he hopes the Swisspower cup will help him arrive in the best possible condition to Fort William. Before heading to Swizterland, Hermida said, " I go to the Swiss Cup, with a lot of illusion, to take the final feel of form with a view to the Fort William. On Saturday I will take part in the short race, and on Sunday I will dispute the cross-country race. I am satisfied with my condition, but never you can never know for sure."

Orbea's Team Manager Ixio Barandiarán was optimistic about the participation of his riders, Absalon and Peraud. "The riders go in with an impressive morale, after the last race (the French Cup) left them in good shape." Barandiarán indicated that the Swisspower Cup route was good preparation for the World Championship. "It will be the typical Swiss circuit - a route with short, but hard unevennesses and also very technicial, the perfect training for the Worlds course.".

Saturday's program features a short, 20 minute elite race and kids races, and the juniors, amateurs, and elite men and women will race a cross country event Sunday.

NPS Round 4 to Caersws

This weekend sees round four of the Chain Reaction Cycles British Downhill Series come to Caersws in Powys near Newtown to the west of Welshpool and Shrewsbury. Pro riders will be using the race as a warm up for worlds the following week; Team G-Cross Honda and Animal Commencal will be in full attendance ripping down the tight, twisty and technical track of Caersws. Seeding is scheduled for Saturday, September 1 with the finals on Sunday, September 2.

The Sombrio Film Festival on Saturday evening is free and open to all and will be showing the United Kingdom Premier of the latest Anti-Gravity series movie Unhinged. Bring your own chair and a beer.

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