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MTB news & racing round-up for January 14, 2007

Welcome to our regular roundup of what's happening in mountain biking. Feel free to send feedback, news and releases to mtb@cyclingnews.com.

Edited by Sue George

Ultra-Endurance 100 miler series gears up for 2007

Organizers of the National Ultra-Endurance (NUE) mountain bike series announced their schedule for 2007 this week. In its second year, the American 100-miler series starts with a new event in April; the Cohutta 100 in Tennessee.

Garth Prosser (Bear Naked/Cannondale), one of the series coordinators and a contender in the 2006 series, told Cyclingnews that he expects the 2007 version of the series to grow over its successful inaugural year. "We're getting our act together and we know more about what to expect from racers and what they would like to see. We really want people to have a good time."

Chris Eatough
Photo ©: Bill McCarrick
(Click for larger image)

Chris Scott, promoter of two events in the series (The Shenandoah Mountain 100 and the Wilderness 100) agrees. "We expect more attendance from competitive NORBA racers, so we pushed the Wilderness 101 back so it would not overlap with the national championships weekend in Vermont. This opens the door for pro riders like Chris Eatough and Jeremiah Bishop (both Trek/VW racers), who may want to compete in more 100 milers." Bishop won the Shenandoah Mountain 100 over Eatough in an epic battle in 2006, and although Eatough would like do the series, he noted a schedule conflict with the 24 hours of Adrenalin World Solo championships. "Maybe I can get to enough other events to still do the series?" Eatough pondered his options while talking to Cyclingnews.

Competitors in the series must finish a minimum of four races to be eligible for the overall. Last year, organizers required racers to attend one western race, but due to the limited number of western races and expenses associated with so much travel, that requirement has been dropped, so any four races will count. Although there are other popular 100 milers in the western US, such as the Leadville 100 and the Cascade Creme Puff 100, these and other races were excluded from the series on the grounds that limited field sizes or lottery entries could potentially preclude series competitors from gaining entry.

2006 Men's series podium
Photo ©: Joe Gore
(Click for larger image)

In 2006, about 15 racers vied for the series overall, but more are expected this year as the popularity of 100 milers grows. "The series is more do-able, than say a 24 hours series. It's less draining and less expensive. It requires fewer logistics," said Prosser.

Eatough had a theory on the increasing popularity of endurance events. "100 milers offer a good balance for people who've had enough of cross country racing and are looking for more of a challenge. The cross country courses have gotten easier in general, and the bikes have gotten better. I think people are looking for more adventure now that we have bikes that let us be comfortable all day. 100 milers are a challenge, but do-able. They are like an Ironman. Also, as many are out there to compete against themselves, they forge friendships with those around them on the way to a personal best."

Last year's most epic race was probably in Michigan, where due to a heat wave, many people DNF'ed, although Breckenridge came in a close second, with many racers complaining of the difficulty of racing so long at high altitude.

The players

Hillary Harrison
Photo ©: Bill McCarrick
(Click for larger image)

Last year's men's winner Harlan Price (Independent Fabrication) is expected to return to defend his title, but he'll have some new competition. Dan Jansen (Niner), won the single speed series in 2006, after doing all but one of the races. James Selman (Hup United), a veteran 100 miler, will also tackle the series, with wife and young children in tow (Selman raced three of the original editions of the Wilderness 101, back in the mid-90's before the race was revived by promoter Chris Scott).

"The biggest difference for me this year is that I will race the series geared and on a 29'er," said Jansen of Grand Rapids, Michigan. "I'd like to do the series from the geared perspective and compare it to how I felt last year on my singlespeed. I expect to do a little bit better. Some days the singlespeed is a better choice, but I'm wondering if I really will be faster, especially in some of the races." When not racing, Jansen helps with the Lumberjack; in fact, he's working with the promoter on a new course for 2007. Unlike the other series races, it will still feature multiple laps, but perhaps without the crippling heat that last year caused so many DNF's.

Pennsylvanian John Majors (Giffin Interior and Fixture, Inc) will return to defend his title in the master's 50+ series. "I'm going to race as many races as I can. I don't know if I'll make it out west this year; that was tough last year." Majors pointed out that the competition was good last year. "I didn't win every race. This year, I think I need to turn up the mileage." When asked why he does the series, he said, "I got to meet a lot of new people and discovered new places to ride. I did it because I love to ride my bike. Each race was different."

Last year's women's winner, Hillary Harrison (Giant Bikes/Kenda), did not say if she would contend again this year, noting the extensive travel involved. "There are some amazing races out there. I hope all of the series races will be as good as the best of the series' races last year." Harrison's toughest competitor, Trish Stevenson (Cannondale), was forced to drop out of the series after breaking her neck late last summer.

The National Ultra-Endurance (NUE) mountain bike series schedule:

Race 1, April 21: Cohutta (Tennessee)
Race 2, June 2: Mohican (Ohio)
Race 3, June 16: Lumberjack (Michigan)
Race 4, July 21: Breckenridge (Colorado)
Race 5, August 4: Wilderness (Pennsylvania)
Race 6, August 25: Endurance 100 (Utah)
Race 7, September 2: Shenandoah Mountain 100 (Virginia)

Blenkinsop and Hagen score first NZ national series downhill wins

Samuel Blenkinsop thanks his sponsors
Photo ©: Bike NZ
(Click for larger image)

The 2007 NZCT National Mountain Bike National Series kicked off with Wanganui's Samuel Blenkinsop following up his second placing in the world championships U19 category with a convincing elite men's win in sunny conditions at round one of the Downhill held in Wanaka.

On the eve of announcing his new pro-team deal for the 2007 world cup season, which kicks off in May, Blenkinsop had an emphatic pair of results in both the seeding run and the finals. The young Kiwi claimed the victory ahead of some well know international pros such as Fabien Pedemanaud (Fra), Justin Havukainen (Aus) and 2006 junior world champion Cameron Cole.

"I love racing down here in the mountains because the courses are so much steeper and therefore so much faster, they really suit my riding style," explained Blenkinsop, after his first official event in the elite men's category. "An added bonus is the chairlifts which all the riders appreciate. I always go hard in my seeding run because you never know what will happen in your race run, and this helps me push a little harder in the finals."

Queenstown's Scarlette Hagen took the elite women's title with a 4:08.10 in the race run to finish first in one of the largest, and strongest fields the series has seen for a number of years. Tauranga's Vanessa Quin was in second place (4:09.99 min), and 2006 National Champion Jennifer Makgill (Auckland) in 4:10.33 min).

The record 195 riders for the Treble Cone round was boosted by a number of internationals and the 73 riders who registered on practice day having been taking advantage of the ski fields opening for the summer mountain bike season. This weekend, the series moves to Coronet Peak in Queenstown. Riders will tackle a 1.6km track. The series will culminate with a one-off race for the New Zealand Championship being held in Nelson from January 26-28.

For a full report, photos, and results, click here.

First UCI world cup marathon route preview

Riding in Gran Canaria,
Photo ©: Petra Wonisch
Click for larger image

The first UCI World Cup marathon event will take place on March 17, 2007, and organizers released preliminary info on the course.

The race starts in Sioux City, in El Cañón del Águila. Early on, the route features views of Las Dunas de Maspalomas. The first part of the route ends in a descent into El Cañón del Águila. The course features short steep slopes, skirting Mesa del Macho and La Presa de la Monta through Sioux City.

Later the route continues parallel to the motorway GC-1 to arrive at El Barranco de la Cebollera. A severe and technical slope to El Alto de la Ventocilla comes next. This section of the course will remind riders of a period when agriculture was the main sustenance for the inhabitants of this area. The technical descent may cause some riders to dismount and carry their bikes.

Next, riders skirt past El Caserío de la Florida on the way to Aldea Blanca. A long climb takes riders up to El Gallego and then on to Las Casas de los Sitios de Abaj and through the same hillsides of Macizo de Amurga.

The course descends from Los Sitios finishing near the retaining wall of La Presa de Tirajana then climbs through La Sorrueda to arrive to La Fortaleza de Ansite. The latter was the last refuge of the canary natives until the final conquest, and incorporation into its crown, by Castile´s Kingdom in 1483. After a descent from La Fortaleza, racers will traverse a rocky ground to Aldea Blanca.

Cyclists will finish back in Sioux City after a technical descent. The entire final kilometer will be visible to spectators in the open air stands near the finish.

USA Cycling announces National Mountain Bike Calendar

Eight UCI events and US$200,000 in prize money featured

Following up on October's announcement of a new season-long mountain bike initiative, USA Cycling published a list of 53 races that will comprise the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Calendars, which are modeled after the National Road Calendar (NRC). The calender is divided into three sub-calendars: cross country, gravity, and ultra endurance. Over US$200,000 in prize money is on the line.

The calendars are intended to provide more opportunities for top-level US events that were not part of the previous NORBA national series model. More high profile events should also give elite athletes more consistent, high-quality races. Over the course of the season, athletes will accrue ranking points at each race. Overall titles will be awarded in men’s and women’s individual and team categories – much like the NRC.

Consisting of 29 events across 17 states, the cross country calendar kicks off March 25th with the Chickasaw Trace Classic in Columbia, Tennessee, and stretches six months to the last weekend in October with the Piney Hills Classic XIV in Ruston, Louisiana. In between, the series visits notable events such as the Sea Otter Classic and the six National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) races. Eight total races--including all the NMBS series races, the Greenbriar Challenge, and the Maplelag MTB Spring Opener--will offer UCI points, which are the primary factor in determining how many start positions the US will receive at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. And if the past is any indication of the future, those points will play a role in the selection of individuals for the US Olympic team. The national championships at Mount Snow will also award UCI points.

Each of the 29 events on the cross country calendar will be further sub-categorized according to the amount of overall ranking points available. Five category-1 events will offer the most points toward the series– the Sea Otter Classic, the Snowshoe MTB Festival in West Virginia, and the NMBS stops in Phoenix, Park City, and Banner Elk. In addition, the series will feature three category-2 events, seven category-3 races, and 14 category-4 events.

The 18-event gravity calendar, which features downhill, 4-cross, super D, and dual slalom, will cover 11 states. Top category gravity events include the Sea Otter Classic, the Chile Challenge, the Blast the Mass, the Mountain States Cup races in Telluride and Keystone, and the Rock MTN G3 Series Race.

The ultra endurance calendar, which consists of 62-mile races, marathons and 12- and 24-hour races, will include six events.

"Riders will have the chance to compete at national-level events across the country where consistent competition, organization, and prize purses are offered. Promoters will have the opportunity to be a part of a national calendar and earn the recognition they've long deserved. There are so many quality events throughout the US, but most of these events didn't have a higher level to graduate to under the previous model after they obtained AMBC (American Mountain Bike Challenge) status. Now, these calendars give those races something to aspire towards," said USA Cycling mountain bike eastern regional manager Kelli Lusk.

To view the complete calendars, visit www.usacycling.org.

Spitz to Team GHOST International

Sabine Spitz (Specialized)
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

After riding for the American Specialized racing team for the last two years, the eight-time German champion Sabine Spitz returns to her homeland. The Olympic silver medal winner from Athens has signed two-year contract with the German team GHOST International.

"I see great potential to work together and really bring the sport of mountain biking further," commented Spitz.

Team Manager Jörg Scheiderbauer won over Spitz, in part because she lives Black Forest, only one hour from the team's homebase in Offenburg, but furthermore, Jörg Scheiderbauer is the organizer of the UCI World Cup in Offenburg.

"We really wanted to take on a top German rider who has a chance of winning the World Cup here in Offenburg," said Scheiderbauer. We are really excited about working with Sabine." For Spitz, the World Cup in Offenburg is a highlight for the season 2007, along with the World Championships in Scotland; however, her long term goal remains to win a medal at the Olympic Games in Peking in 2008.

Gary Fisher to speak at HMBA trail fund dinner

The Hoosier Mountain Bike Association will host the first annual trail fund dinner and silent auction with guest speaker Gary Fisher on Friday, February 9th at 6:30 p.m. at the Garrison located at 6002 N. Post Road, Indianapolis, Indiana. In the late 1970’s, Gary Fisher was one of mountain biking's founding pioneers, and he was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 1988.

The HMBA Trail Fund raised over $16,500 in 2006, in support of a $150,000 Recreation Trails Program grant to build 10 additional miles of single track at Brown County State Park.

Seating is available for those who wish to donate a minimum of $100 to the Trail Fund in January 2007. To ensure 100% of donations go to the trail fund, HMBA asks donors to cover the cost of dinner ($30). Donors of $250 or more may bring a guest, and HMBA will cover the cost of dinner for anyone who donates $500 or more.

Australian 24 hour solo national championships date changes

24 Solo racer Craig Gordon
Photo ©: Tracy Posner
(Click for larger image)

At its January committee meeting, the CORC Committee, in consultation with MTBA, decided to move the Australian Solo 24 Hour Championships to Easter weekend. This change takes effect for the 2007 championships, which will be held April 7-8, 2007, at the Innabaanya Guide adjacent to Majura Pines in the ACT.

The change will give solo riders a clearer track on which to ride, without interference (or possible assistance) from numerous team riders. It will also allow a shorter lap distance, so that a solo rider heading out again close inside the 24 hour mark will not be faced with another 90 minutes on the course. This will facilitate better management of the riders, media, and presentations.

Perhaps, most importantly, the change allows the race to be a feeder for the 24 Hours of Adrenalin World Solo 24 hour championships, which occur in September or October of each year. Under the current schedule, the two races are too close on the calendar to allow a realistic attempt at both races, or in the case of 2006, they were on the same weekend. Per the new schedule, riders who qualify at the Australian 24 Solo Champs will have a minimum of five months to prepare for the worlds. Riders like Craig Gordon, last year's winner of the 24 Hours of Adrenaline World Solo championships, will now have the option to race both nationals and worlds.

NZ national cross country series kicks off

The 2007 cross country mountain bike national series opens this Sunday with round one at Coronet Peak. 22-year-old Te Anau rider Marcus Roy is the favorite in the elite men's race. Roy had a successful 2006 finishing second behind Clinton Avery in the national series and second behind fellow New Zealander Kashi Leuchs at the national championships. He also took 23rd in the U23 worlds in Rotorua.

The series includes five races, with the best four results counted to determine the overall winner. Coronet Peak's course will be 5.5km long.

For more information, visit www.bikenz.org.nz.

Test of Metal sells out in under one hour

It took only 48 minutes for the 800 spots available for the North Shore Credit Union Test of Metal mountain bike race to sell out. The race will be held June 16, 2007, in Squamish, British Columbia. The 67km course features tough climbs and technical sections.

"This simply blew away our expectations," said race organizer Cliff Miller. "We thought that we'd beat last year's four hour record, but under an hour is mind-blowing."

Miller prepared for this year's registration by organizing a "Test of the dog that bit you" registration party at a local Squamish warehouse. "We set up a LCD projector and computer to watch the registrations come in. We cooked up some double-smoked ham, but it all happened so quickly that no one got a chance to eat before the registration was full," Miller said.

About 50 supporters were on hand for the registration party. Local rider Greg Van Hierden arrived at the party after successfully registering for the race. "I was much more nervous trying to register than I've ever been for the race," Van Hierden said. Many people reported trying to get on right at 6:00 pm, but the incredible volume slowed the system down leaving many struggling to log into the system.

Squamish local Garry Cotter was the first registrant this year."Last I missed by a few minutes," Cotter said, "but this year, I had pizza for dinner and started at the computer at 5:55 and kept hitting refresh until I got in. First place, eh. This is the only chance I have of coming in first in this race."

After one hour, 255 people were on the waiting list. Up to 500 will earn spots on that list.

"Klunkerz" screening in Park City

"Klunkerz" will be screened in Park City, Utah, on Sunday, January 21, at the X-Dance Film Festival, a four-day showcase for action sports films. Back in the 1970s, a group of Bay Area thrill-seekers, including Gary Fisher, started bombing down Mount Tamalpais on beater bikes salvaged from the dump thereby starting the sport of mountain biking. Fast forward to 2007 with Billy Savage’s documentary "Klunkerz" revealing more about those early days of mountain biking.

Klunkerz was a two-year project for Savage. The former skateboarder and lifetime mountain biker collected archival footage and still photography from those early days on Mt. Tamalpais and culled interviews with biking pioneers to help recreate the scene that sparked mountain biking as we know it. The feature-length documentary premiered in October 2006 and has been playing at select film festivals.

Gary Fisher will be on hand for the screening along with Savage. After the screening, they will field questions from the audience. Fisher will be awarded the X-Dance Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors pioneers in all action sports, not just mountain biking.

Heartland series for 2007

Heartland Sports Promotions announced its 2007 mountain bike championships series held in the midwest portion of the US. The series consists of conventional cross country races and endurance events.

Traditional cross-country races

February 25, 2007: HMBCS #1 Truman’s Big Love - Landahl Park, Independence, Missouri
April 14/15, 2007: HMBCS #2 Crowderfest stage race weekend - Crowder State Park, Trenton, Missouri
April 29, 2007: HMBCS #3 Crocodile Rock - Lake Perry State Park, Perry, Kansas
June 3, 2007: HMBCS #4 KC Cup - Landahl Park Reserve. Independence, Missouri

Endurance Events (Tour style)

March 17, 2007: Spoke Pony Showdown 3/6 – Landahl Park, Independence, Missouri
May 19, 2007: Dirty Kanza 200 (200 miler) - Flint Hills, Emporia, Kansas
August 18, 2007: 7th Annual Rapture in Misery 6/12 – Landahl Park, Independence, Missouri

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