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MTB news & racing round-up for December 22, 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

Kiliman - tougher than the rest?

By Bjorn Haake in Africa

A view of Mount Kilimanjaro at sunset
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

With the proliferation of gruelling mountain bike marathons world-wide, it's hard to say which is the toughest, but one race worthy of consideration is the Kiliman Mountain Bike race.

It's a two-day, 246-kilometre affair with a route that leads around Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa at 5,895 metres. After an initial easy start on paved roads, the counter-clockwise route becomes more gruelling, with a lack of pavement and other signs of civilization. The big loop around the highest free-standing mountain in the World starts and ends in Tanzania, with parts of the route almost touching the Kenyan border.

On the first day, racers will cover 112 kilometres with an altitude gain of over 1,700 metres. The second day will go longer (136 kilometres), but will have less of an elevation gain (1,000 metres). The race is very tough, mostly on rough roads with good-sized potholes to make things more difficult. However, the ever-changing views of Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Meru (4,500 metres high) reward racers for their efforts.

If the mountain bike race isn't enough of a challenge, the full Kiliman will offer two more disciplines. The first event is simply to climb to the top of Kilimanjaro, to Uhuru Peak. This part of the "triathlon" is not timed, but anybody wishing to become a Kiliman must have reached the vanishing ice fields atop the mountain in the six days that the organizers have earmarked for the participants.

The Kiliman marathon is the final of three events although just doing the marathon alone may be sufficient challenge. Held in and around Moshi, it takes place at an altitude of 800 metres. And fresh off two previous events, runners will undoubtedly be extra tired.

The three events are held back to back, with the climb taking place from February 23 to 28, the mountain bike race February 29 and March 1 and the marathon on March 2. Christina Helbig of Chagga Tours is part of the organizing committee and told Cyclingnews that she is expecting "a great event again." She added that "there is support from the local police and we have support vehicles," so no one gets stranded in the desert.

The Kiliman, now in its third year, is restricted to 60 people, due to the limitations on the climb. However, both the mountain bike race and the marathon event can be done separately – or even combined for a "duathlon". The event is definitely a unique experience in a unique place and for the 2008 race, some spots remain. For more information visit http://kilimanjaro-man.com.

Buchanan wins two awards and a race in one weekend

By Sharon Payne

Caroline Buchanan on her way
Photo ©: Evan Jeffery
(Click for larger image)

Australia's Caroline Buchanan capped off a successful evening last weekend during which she won cycling awards in both mountain biking and BMX and another round of the National Series Four cross held in Thredbo, Australia. The Due to the scheduling conflict with the race, 17 year-old from Canberra was unable to attend the Cycling Australia Awards in Adelaide to accept her awards in person.

Buchanan won the elite women's four cross race beating World Championship silver downhill medallist Tracey Hannah from Cairns after a close contest in the preliminary heats. Buchanan now leads the national series with third place Sarsha Huntington retaining her second place overall.

Buchanan and Hannah were close in the heats but according to bystanders Buchanan raised the bar in the final. "I think I just got adrenaline in the final," explained Buchanan. "I tried a different line in the first corner and it worked. I had a good start as well."

"I knew if I got around the first corner I could hold it from there," she said. With only two rounds remaining in the national series Buchanan is favourite to take out the series title for a second year in a row.

Leigh Darrell, made it a Canberra double when he won the elite men's class securing a firm hold on the series lead. Darrell did not let his guard down and won every race throughout the night. He rode the first off camber sweeper to perfection and got the edge over his opponents. Second was Thomas Hubert and third went to Queenslander Adam Nicholson. Tim Dunn had the best gate starts all night and placed fourth in the final.

The water bars on the road
Photo ©: Evan Jeffery
(Click for larger image)

After heavy rains cancelled the downhill's final runs, world ranked Nathan Rennie won the elite men's event in 0:06:47.21, well clear of current series leader Amiel Cavalier. Rennie was pleased to back up his win after the previous national round on the Gold Coast last month, but claimed the wet conditions were close to the worst he had ridden within Australia.

"There were holes everywhere and they were just filled up with water," said Rennie. "My aim was to just keep ticking it over and keep up the speed. I ran full spikes instead of regular tyres so I think I made the right choice."

Hannah won the elite's women's downhill with a time of 0:07:47.89, also backing up her win in the previous national series. Newcastle's Emma McNaughton placed second with Buchanan in third.

"It was a fairly fast run but I had a bit of a slide out, lost my footing and then I crashed again," Hannah explained.

"Overseas they would have still run the race but I think it was a good decision though," said Hannah, who was awarded at Female Mountain Biker of the Year by Cycling Australia. "Everything was wet and the track was beaten up."

Read the full coverage of the four cross and the downhill events.

New Zealand opens first National Park to mountain biking

New Zealand mountain bikers will be celebrating a first when a new mountain bike trail opens in Arthur's Pass National Park. It will be the first for any of the nation's National Parks according to Newstalk ZB. With the opening will come a monitoring program to ensure good relations between trampers and riders.

The New Zealand Department of Conservation, in a partnership with Mountain Bike New Zealand, has permitted mountain biking on 27km of specified tracks within the Poulter Valley during a three-year trial period.

Poma Palmer, a Management Planner for the Canterbury Conservancy Office, said to the The Press, "Back in the '70s, a lot of agencies combined together to build a road up the Poulter to the hut." The hard surface and gentler gradients will make for some friendly mountain biking.

"It is quite easy riding. It's a great trip to do with a young family," said Guy Wynn-Williams, a land access committee chairman for MTB New Zealand to The Press, You could get a 10-year-old up there, in principle."

Kona and Nissan partner on multi-national grassroots sponsorship

Fabien Barel is a rider who graduated from Kona's ranks.
Photo ©: Wendy Booher
(Click for larger image)

Kona and Nissan have formed a partnership to sponsor European grassroots local and regional teams. The new program will provide access to the latest racing bikes, race day and casual team kits plus support at selected cross country, road, four cross, free ride and dirt jump events. Local Kona dealers will identify, recruit and manage team members.

"As a forward-thinking brand with a long history in racing, Kona is keen to identify future champions by supporting the up-and-coming riders from the grass roots of our sport," said Kona's marketing manager, Russell Carty. "We've all been at the start lines of our local races at 7:00 am battling our friends and we recognize the hard work and dedication that it takes to make it into the elite ranks of racing. We hope that with a little help we can help bring these local champions into the limelight."

Darren Cox, European Brand Promotion Manager for Nissan, which has long supported outdoor events like the Xterra triathlon series, said "Through this Grassroots program we are supporting we want to inspire adventure spirited people to get into bike racing throughout Europe."

The Kona/Nissan Grassroots program is currently available in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Austria, Poland, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Spain, Ireland and South Africa. Team information and updates will be posted at www.kona-nissangrassroots.com.

Pure Tasmania set for January

Two racers at the Wildside MTB in 2006
Photo ©: Rick Eaves
(Click for larger image)

The Pure Tasmania Wildside MTB stage race is returning to Tasmania January 19 through 22. With a record 450 riders from all Australian states and territories, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand, the race is seeing a 50% growth over any previous year for 2008.

The four day event, which welcomes a new naming rights sponsor, will start at Cradle Mountain Chateau and finish at Strahan Village. Pure Tasmania has signed a three-event sponsorship deal over six years; the race is held every two years and spans seven competition stages linked by six cruising stages, all over a course of 200km.

This edition could be the year of opportunity for emerging riders with some elite riders opting to rest before the national championships the following weekend. Four-time winner Sid Taberlay is yet to confirm his entry, thereby leaving Launceston's Ben Mather as the early favorite. Mather has been returning consistent top ten results in the national series and has expressed his winning intentions for the Wildside.

Rowena Fry, also of Launceston, is the clear favourite for the women's event. Fry, part of the Australian Sports Commission's Dirt Roads to London cycling program has stamped her mark on this season's national series with a string of podium finishes and a win in the recent short course cross country on the Gold Coast. Her most likely challenger will be Hobart veteran Eleanor Patterson who is known for her strength and consistency in events such as Wildside MTB.

For more information, visit www.wildsidemtb.com.

F1RST to premier at Sea Otter

The world premier of F1RST has been scheduled for Friday, April 18, 2007 at 8:00pm, in conjunction with the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California. Produced by Clay Porter and Distinction Productions, F1RST is a follow-up to the 2007 Between the Tape, and like it, is a documentary about the sport of downhill mountain bike racing and specifically the 2007 World Cup Series.

FIRST was shot in locations all over the world including South Africa, Australia, the USA, Eastern Europe and the United Kingdom. The feature length movie highlights the world's best downhill racers both on and off the course, praising their race abilities and nudging them into candid interviews about their lives and their first experiences with the sport.

Stars include Sam Hill, Steve Peat, Greg Minnaar and the accomplished Atherton family, but the film also taps into the lesser known world behind the scenes of mountain bike racing, and some equally remarkable athletes who are about to explode onto the scene.

Mountain biking festival celebrates 10 years in Jamaica

Held annually in February, the 10th Jamaica Fat Tyre Festival is set for five days of mountain biking in the lush mountains of St. Mary from February 5 to 10.

The festival will kick off with a welcome and registration party on February 5 at John Crow's Tavern in the heart of Ocho Rios – the vibes capital of Jamaica's beautiful North Coast. On the first full day, festival riders will shuttle up to Murphy Hill, perched high above Ocho Rios. After taking in the view it will be time to let brakes overheat on the blistering descent to world reknown Dunn's River Falls. Other communities to be visited will include Oracabessa, Hamilton Mtn, and Jacks River.

On February 7, participants will go deep into rural Jamaica near Robin's Bay, St. Mary, including over Carlton Pass. The next day, riders will trek to Pimento Hill for a more relaxed day of singletrack, downhills, and waterfalls ending at Black Sand Beach.

Festivities will culminated February 10 with the Jamaica Bicycle bash including a five mile race loop through Oracabessa, a "Gas Done" gas cylinder carrying race, a "Big Man, Small Bicycle" race and other contests.

Profits will go to our Bicycling Works! project dedicated to promoting local ownership of the emerging mountain biking sector in the parish of St. Mary. For more info, visit www.smorba.com.

Fourth annual Lumberjack to return to Michigan

Robert Herriman at the Lumberjack 100
Photo ©: Jack Kunnen
(Click for larger image)
The Founders Lumberjack 100, one stop on the National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series, will return to the Manistee National Forest along with the Michigan Ultra Singlespeed Championship on June14, 2008.

The 25-mile course, with 99% singletrack, snakes through the Big-M Ski Area and features classic climbs and Michigan-style singletrack. It is composed mostly of hard-pack trail, occasional sand and fast rolling terrain. Four laps will bring the racers 13,000 feet of total elevation gain.

Since its inaugural year, the Founders Lumberjack 100 has attracted top riders like Chris Eatough, Harlan Price, Michael Simonson, Danielle Musto, Karen Mason, Trish Stevenson and Singlespeed sensations like Michigan's own Dan Jansen. This year's edition should prove no exception as the popularity of endurance racing and the NUE continues to grow.

The 2007 edition of the race was won by Danielle Musto (Slingshot) and Chris Eatough (Trek / VW).

Race entries are limited to 250. For more info, visit www.lumberjack100.com.

Suzuki steps up to Granny Gear series sponsorship

In an era when some road events and teams are suffering sponsorship losses, Granny Gear has signed Suzuki Automotive as the title sponsor of the 2008 24 Hour National Points Series of six races in California, Georgia, West Virginia, Vermont, Missouri, and Utah. The annual points series is heading into its third year

"I think it is important for the whole sport of mountain biking that a title sponsor has come on board," said Laird Knight, Granny Gear President.

"Mountain bikers are people who live life to the fullest and don't just watch it go by," said Gene Brown, vice president of marketing and public relations, American Suzuki. "Suzuki Automotive's sponsorship of the 24 Hour Series was a natural match."

Knight predicted racers will see the biggest difference in this year's coverage of events. "We've been focusing on producing great events but we haven't had the resources to tell the myriad stories that unfold and make the events special. We're really going to focus on getting these stories told: on the web, in local newspapers and, of course, in MTB magazines."

Racers will enjoy some other, more direct benefits. "We also want to take care of people better and provide a little more social time by catering an awards banquet, free to racers, at the end of each event," said Knight. "Community is such an important part of this sport and there's nothing more enjoyable than sitting down and sharing a meal with a couple of hundred of your best friends after a long, hard ride. So, wherever logistics permit, we will host an awards banquet as part of the awards ceremony."

USAC announces national calendars in three disciplines

Nat Ross (Subaru-Gary Fisher) at the Mas o Menos
Photo ©: Mike Gladu
(Click for larger image)

USA Cycling released three national calendars featuring 42 races and US$150,000 in prizes for cross country, endurance, and gravity racing. The three separate national calendars to determine a national-level ranking were first introduced last year in 2007.

New for 2008 are eight new cross country events, four of which will be UCI sanctioned. The 24-event cross country calendar will begin in early spring with the 20th Annual Keyesville Classic in Lake Isabella, California on March 15-16 and will conclude seven months later with the Piney Hills Fall Classic in Ruston, Louisiana on October 25-26. Along with the Keyesville Classic, new events include the Rabbit Valley Rampage in Fruita, Colorado, the Massanutten Hoo-Ha in McGayhesville, Virginia, the East Coast National in Windham, New York, the Full Tilt in Telluride, Colorado, the Ladies Loppet in Callaway, Minnesota, the Tamarack National in Idaho, and the Fall Classic in Breckenridge, Colorado.

The Fontana National in California, the Deer Valley National in Utah, and the National Championships in Mount Snow, Vermont, will offer UCI Category 1 points while Category 2 events will be the NOVA National in Fountain Hills, Arizona and the Santa Ynez National in Southern California.

Ten races are featured on the gravity calendar – four of which are also on the UCI Calendar. The gravity events also open with the Keyesville Classic, but will conclude with the Whiteface Third Annual 5km Downhill in Wilmington, New York in August. In addition to the Keyesville Classic, the Sol Survivor and Sol Squared in Sol Vista, Colorado and the Third Annual Capital Cup at Wisp in McHenry, Maryland are the new events. The National Championship, Blast the Mass, the Chile Challenge and the Keystone Classic will offer UCI points.

The Ultra-Endurance calendar will grow to six events in 2008 with the addition of the two national championships - one for the marathon and one for the 24 hour sub-disciplines and the Shannon Ridge Showdown in Clear Lake Oaks, California. Ultra endurance racing will kick off again in Texas with the Mas o Menos in February.

"The 42 events on next season's National Calendars represent the best off-road races in the United States in terms of organization, prize lists and prestige," said Kelli Lusk, USA Cycling's newly-appointed Mountain Bike Events and Program Director.

Georgia Gould (Luna) and Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) came out on top of the National Cross Country Calendar in 2007. Top honors for gravity went to Melissa Buhl (KHS) and Australian Jared Graves. Nat Ross (Subaru-Gary Fisher) and Rebecca Rusch (Red Bull-Specialized) claimed overall victories in the National Ultra-Endurance Calendar.

USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Cross Country Calendar
March 15-16: 20th Annual Keyesville Classic, Lake Isabella, California (XC, ST)
March 30: Chickasaw Trace Classic, Columbia, Tennessee (XC, ST)
March 30: Fontana NMBS, Fontana, California (XC, ST) (C1)
April 6: NOVA NMBS, Fountain Hills, Arizona (XC, ST) (C2)
April 12-13: Mountain States Cup #1, Fruita, Colorado (XC, ST)
April 27: Greenbriar Challenge, Frederic, Maryland (XC)
May 3-4: Idyllwild Spring Challenge, Idyllwild, California (XC, TT)
May 18: Stump Jump 2008, Spartanburg, South Carolina (XC)
May 18: Santa Ynez Valley NMBS, Los Olivios, California (XC, ST) (C2)
May 23-26: Mountain States Cup #3/Chile Challenge, Angel Fire, New Mexico (XC)
June 1: 14th Annual Bump & Grind, Birmingham, Alabama (XC)
June 1: Massanutten Hoo Ha, McGaheysville, Virginia (XC)
June 14-15: Subaru Cup, Mt Morris, Wisconsin (XC, Stage)
June 22: Dawg Dayz MTB Classic, North Little Rock, Arkansas (XC, ST)
June 29: Deer Valley NMBS, Park City Utah (XC, ST) (C1)
July 11-13: Mountain States Cup #6 / Blast the Mass, Snowmass, Colorado (XC)
July 12: NMBS at Windham Mountain, Windham, New York (XC)
July 17-20: USAC MTB National Championships, West Dover, Vermont (XC, ST) (C1)
August 1-3: Mountain States Cup #8, Telluride, Colorado, (XC, HC)
August 30-31: NMBS Finals, Tamarack, Idaho (XC, ST)
September 6-7: The Fall Classic, Breckenridge, Colorado (XC, ST)
October 25-26: Piney Hills Classic, Ruston, Louisiana (XC)

USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Gravity Calendar
March 15: 20th Annual Keyesville Classic, Lake Isabella, California (DH)
May 30: Mountain States Cup / Angel Fire, Angel Fire, New Mexico (DH, MX, DS) (C2)
June 6-8: Mountain States Cup #4, Sol Vista, Colorado (DS, MX)
June 20-22: 3rd Annual Capital Cup at WISP, McHenry, Maryland (DH, DS)
July 12-13: Mountain States Cup Blast the Mass, Snowmass, Colorado (DH, MX, DS) (C1)
July 17-20: US National Championships, West Dover, Vermont (DS, DH) (C1)
August 1-3: Mountain States Cup / Full Tilt, Telluride, Colorado (DH, DS)
August 15-17: Mountain States Cup / Keystone, Keystone, Colorado (DH, DS) (C2)
August 29-31: Mountain States Cup Gravity Finals, Sol Vista, Colorado (DH, DS)
August 31: Whiteface 3rd Annual Downhill 5k, Wilmington, New York (DH)

USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Ultra-Endurance Calendar
February 14-15: Mas o Menos 100km, Terlingua, Texas (marathon)
May 2-3: Dirt Sweat & Gears, Fayetteville, Tennessee (12 hr)
June 21: Cowbell Challenge, Charlotte, North Carolina (12 hr)
July 4: US National Marathon Championships, Breckenridge, Colorado (marathon)
July 26: Galena Grinder, Ketchum, Idaho (marathon)
August 2-3: US 24 Hour National Championships, Wausau, Wisconsin (24 hr)
September 20-21: Payson Stampede, Payson, Arizona (24 hr)
October 18-19: Shannon Ridge Showdown, Clear Lake Oak, California (16 hr)

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