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MTB news & racing round-up for January 25, 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

Schnell joins Trek VW 2007 team

Ross Schnell
Photo ©: Steve Medcroft
(Click for larger image)

Trek Bicycles and Volkswagen of America announced a continued partnership in support of the 2007 Trek-VW mountain bike racing team. The team represents more than a decade of racing partnership. For 2007, all riders from last year return; however, they will be joined by "Rad" Ross Schnell, who makes the leap to factory team from the ranks of the regional teams program. Returning members include Jeremiah Bishop, Susan Haywood, Lea Davison, and endurance specialist Chris Eatough.

Schnell made headlines in 2006 by showing his face at the front of many NMBS events over the course of the season. His most notable performances included a top five placing at the Deer Valley event, several Super-D wins, and racing in character as "Rad Ross" at the Snowmass short track where he sported a mullet hairdo, mustache, and vintage helmet, and sunglasses—and he cleared double jumps on the course with enough panache to gather a cheering crowd. Schnell expects to challenge for the podium at all US events and looks forward to tackling the World Cup circuit as well.

Bishop won the NMBS final at Snowmass and placed 8th (top American) at the world championships in New Zealand, capping the most consistent season of his career. He plans to attack the World Cup circuit as a top American contender with the hopes of securing a spot on the American Olympic team.

Sue Haywood
Photo ©: Steve Medcroft
(Click for larger image)

Haywood won national championships in both the short track and super D, and then won the 24-Hours of Adrenalin solo world championship in October. She, too, is gunning for UCI cross-country races, in a bid to land a spot on the US Olympic team.

Eatough took the 24-Hour solo national championship. The six-time 24 hour solo world champion will focus on 100 mile endurance events and regaining the 24-Hours of Adrenalin solo world title he lost in 2006.

Davison, sidelined for much of last year due to injury and illness, plans to prove herself in the NMBS national series and crack the top five at cross country and short track races.

These racers will be joined by more than 35 grassroots riders who are members of the regional teams program.

Jeremiah Bishop
Susan Haywood
Chris Eatough
Ross Schnell
Lea Davison
Dean Gore – Team Director
Zack Vestal – Manager
Chris Furer – Soigneur
Steve Borkoski – Mechanic
Dusty LaBarr – Mechanic

Pua takes top overall at 12 hours of Temecula

Monique Pua Sawicki
Photo ©: Team Mata
(Click for larger image)
At the 12 hours of Temecula last weekend, Monique "Pua" Sawicki (Team Mata) took the overall win - besting not only all the other women, but all the men, too.

The event drew more people than ever (over 200 racers) to its 17.7 kilometer (11 mile) course, featuring 457 meters (1,500 feet) of climbing per lap. The course was in excellent condition throughout the race.

Pua took the solo lead on the first lap, coming through the gate with the top four team male racers and 5.5 minutes ahead of the nearest male solo competitor. On the second lap, she broke her chain a little over half-way through. After about eight minutes of fumbling with the chain and getting some help from another racer, the chase pack caught her. She fixed it and took off after them, eventually passing all but one pro male on the next lap. Within two more laps, she recaptured the lead and opened a five minute gap over the entire field. A few laps later, the gap grew to ten minutes.

Later, she caught a glimpse of a bike off the side of the trail. She stopped and called down to see if the rider needed help. She heard a young voice squeak out, "yes." It was a young male racer who had fallen down into the bushes with his bike landing on top of him. She pulled him up and got him going again.

Going into the night, her lead grew to 15 minutes. She bounced up quickly after a small spill, but on the following technical descent, her primary light's connection to its battery failed due to crash damage. Fortunately, her backup helmet light was still working, and in fact, she led another racer back with exhausted lights to the finish.

The light incident shrunk her lead to only four minutes, but by the end she was back up to ten minutes when she took the overall win.

She set not only the female course record, but also the male course record: 11 laps in 10 hours and 55 minutes.

Australia holds mountain bike nationals this weekend

Tory Thomas
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

Many of Australia's top mountain bike athletes will converge upon Canberra for the 2007 MTBA Australian Mountain Bike Championships from January 26-28. The five-day festival includes cross country, downhill, mountain cross events, observed trials, and a crit.

The races are being held at a purpose-built mountain bike park, Mt. Stromlo Forest Park, designed by Glen Jacobs. Entry for spectators will be free; however a parking fee, which will go toward charity, will be charged.

World Champion Sam Hill will race downhill for the first time in Australia since winning the gold medal in New Zealand last August. He will take on defending national champion and bronze medalist from the world championships, Nathan Rennie.

Recovered from a serious injury in 2005, after which she was told she would never race again, Tory Thomas will race a tough field in the cross country race, including Kate Potter and defending national champion Dellys Starr. Sid Taberlay, 1996 Olympian, will race against fellow Commonwealth Games rider Chris Jongewaard, an in form Aiden Lefmann, current national series leader, and locals Dylan Cooper and Shaun Lewis.

In the mountain cross, Luke Madill and overall national series winner Terrance Scarrare the favorites. On the women's side, look out for national series winner Caroline Buchanan (Canberra), who hopes to defend her national title.

On Friday, racers and fans alike will receive news of the UCI's choice for the 2009 world mountain bike championships venue. Canberra is one candidate still in the running.

New Zealand nationals to Nelson

Marcus Roy (Aunt Betty's)
Photo ©: Karyn McQueen
(Click for larger image)
Over 300 riders from all over New Zealand are expected to take part in the national championships races this weekend in Nelson.

Clinton Avery will be making the switch from the road to the mountain bike this weekend as he rides in the cross country national championships on Sunday. Avery was riding with the New Zealand national team at the Tour Down Under in South Australia last week and immediately prior to that rode in the U23 road and time trial national championships in Upper Hutt, in which he finished third.

Avery will be challenged by Marcus Roy, who has won two National Series rounds this year and beat Avery into third at the 2006 championships on the same course.

Throughout the national series this season, the downhill fields have been setting attendance records, and this weekend is expected to prove no exception. In the elite men’s race, 2006 junior world champion Cameron Cole and runner-up Sam Blenkinsop are expected to give reigning champion Nathan Rankin a tough battle for the champion's jersey. Scarlett Hagen has been dominating the elite women’s down hill racing so far this year, and is the favorite on the women's side.

The Schedule:
Friday, January 26 - Hill Climb
Saturday, January 27 - Downhill, Four Cross
Sunday January 28 – Cross Country

Ross and Juarez to Dirt Sweat & Gears

Nat Ross (Subaru/Gary Fisher) and Tinker Juarez (Siemens mobile/Cannondale), long time friends and professional racing rivals, plan to duke it out at the inaugural Dirt Sweat & Gears 12 hour races in Fayetteville, Tennessee on April 28. At 43-years-old, Juarez is known for ability to go long in difficult terrain year after year while Ross is a seven year veteran of ultra-endurance racing.

The race, part of the USA Cycling Ultra Endurance calendar, is drawing attention by offering not only a large payout of US$10,000, but one that is equal for men and women.

Race Director Clay Higgins describes the event as "part endurance race, part concert and part picnic, wrapped up in a festival that's held on a spring weekend at the Cotton Mill Preserve."

NMBS corrects NMBC calendar

The NMBS #1 event in Phoenix will not feature DH, 4X, or Dual-Slalom races. Organizers spread the word that the inclusion of those races was a mistake on USA Cycling's recently released National Mountain Bike Calendar (NMBC). However, racers will still contest the cross country, time trial, downtown Fat Tire Criterium, and Super D events in Phoenix.

Scott USA signs Hill

Sam Hill
Photo ©: Scott USA
(Click for larger image)

Current downhill world champion Sam Hill signed with Scott USA for eyewear sponsorship for the upcoming season. Hill has been testing Scott's 89xi goggles for several months.

"Scott has been very supportive throughout the change and I look forward to a great season with them," said the Australian.

Phil Vega, Eyewear Team Manager, said Scott has been working with Hill to adapt goggles originally designed by the Motorsports division for Supercross racing to downhill mountain bike racing.

National champion breaks neck downhill skiing

John Fisher, a three time expert national downhill champion, broke his neck in a downhill skiing accident last weekend.

The 42-year-old experienced skier, from Oakhurst, California, was involved in a slow-speed crash at the bottom of a run while on his way to join family members for lunch. Fisher was airlifed to University Medical Center in Fresno and placed in intensive care after the accident.

"It's just a freak thing," Mark Fisher told the Fresno Bee. "He even told the Ski Patrol: 'I can't believe I got so hurt going so slow.' But he didn't know who he was either. Over 24 hours later, I'm still blown away this happened."

Immediately after the accident, Fisher lost feeling and movement in his body, but limited movement was beginning to return to his arms one day later.

Fisher placed second in his age group at the world masters downhill championships last September at Sun Peaks resort in British Columbia after friends and family raised funds to help defray his expenses.

Regarding John's initial outlook, brother Mark said, "It could get better or it could get worse."

Athertons join Commencal team

Commencal announced that Rachel, Dan, and Gee Atherton have joined the Animal-Commencal team for 2007. They will ride alongside world cup competitor Cedric Gracia. All are looking forward to the World Championships at Fort William from the September 3-9, 2007. In the meantime, look for the team at all the world cup events, Sea Otter, the Crankworx Festival, and numerous Red Bull events.

24-year-old Dan is the oldest family member. He's a former national champion and one to watch in downhill, 4X, and slopestyle competitions. Younger brother Gee has an outstanding 2006 with five trips to the world cup podium and a win in the European championships. Former junior world champion and younger sister, Rachel, completed her first year in the senior women's ranks during which she won her first world cup and took a bronze at the world championships.

De Brink Direct Mail sponsors Ten Tusscher Team

Dutch mountain bike team Jan ten Tusscher found a new title sponsor for the next two years with De Brink Direct Mail. De Brink takes over from Heijdens as the main sponsor, and the new squad will be called the De Brink Ten Tusscher Team.

The team, a feeder for the Cannondale Vredestein Mountain Bike Racing Team, will focus on races in Benelux and Germany and national championships. Riders to come through the team's ranks include Maarten Tjallinghii, Daphny van den Brand, Maarten Nijland, and Jakob Fuglsang.

New to the squad for 2007 is Belgian grassroots rider Joris Massaer. In 2006, he took fourth at the Belgian marathon championships marathon and fifth in the Belgian cross country championships. Also joining the squad are Dutch riders Axel Bult, Tim Lemmens, junior champion Jelmer Jubbega, and the German U23 rider René Tann, who was second in the U23 German national championships.

24 Hours in Old Pueblo

The eighth annual 24 Hours of Old Pueblo, one of the largest 24 hour races in North America, will happen February 17-18 north of Tucson, Arizona. Promoters attribute the race's popularity to its emphasis on celebrating mountain biking. Its late winter time slot also draws racers from colder climates looking for warmer weather.

"We like to think of the event as a huge party that happens to have a mountain bike race going on nearby," said Todd Sadow, president of Epic Rides, the promoting company. "The event has grown to attract more than 3,000 people, including participants and spectators, each year and that is a testament of its ability to appeal to a wide range of cyclists - not just the serious racers."

The 24 Hours in Old Pueblo will be the only American race in the 2007 Kona Global 24 hour series (G24) thanks to a recent three-year sponsorship agreement signed by Epic Rides and Kona.

"The 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo has a solid reputation and the vibe that Kona has been looking for in an around-the-clock event," said Kona's Mark Peterson. "A portion of the proceeds is donated to a non-profit that promotes economic development for old mining communities (Copper Corridor Economic Development Coalition). This fits right in with our belief that bikes can help make the world a better place."

As the title sponsor, Kona earns special privileges. Peterson said that Sadow "pretty much sealed the deal" when he noted in his sponsorship proposal that Kona would "receive intimate one-on-one time from within the port-o-lets throughout 24-Hour Town."

Registration is closed, but for more information or to volunteer, visit http://epicrides.com/twofour/24.htm.

Ray’s MTB to host second 3 Ride Pro Invitational

Ray's MTB, the 82,000 square foot Cleveland-based indoor mountain bike park, announced the running of the second annual 3 Ride Pro Invitational from February 9 to February 11.

New for this year is an open qualifier session. Riders who want a shot at some cash and a chance to compete against the best can come out February 9th and try to make the cut for the finals. Trials consist of one timed lap around their cross country course combined with a jumping contest. Other events for the weekend include a pump track dual slalom, a sport course time trial, a street park jam, and a jumping competition.

For more information, see www.raysmtb.com.

Michaux Series for 2007

Series winner
Photo ©: Bill McCarrick
(Click for larger image)

Gettysburg Bicycle and Fitness is once again putting on its endurance race series for 2007 in Pennsylvania. The highlight of the three-race monster series will be a different point-to-point 50 mile for each. 15 and 25 mile loops will still be available. Each 50 mile loop will have fully stocked aid stations to give riders opportunities to refuel, rest and regroup, and to promote the "epic ride" aspect of the day.

Gettysburg Bicycle has a reputation for hosting some of the most technically challenging races on the east coast. Over the past ten years, racers have come to expect demanding courses, free camping, the participation of nationally-ranked racers, well-stocked aid stations, and free beer at the finish.

In 2006, top national endurance racers battled for the Monster Series Championships, with the lead changing hands like a hot potato. NUE Series Champion, Harlan Price (Independent Fabrication), 24hr National Champion Chris Eatough (Trek/VW), and rising east coast star Brandon Dragaulis (Cannondale/ Bare Naked) exchanged the top three places although Price eventually emerged victorious at the final race, The Terror of Teaberry.

In a scene where single lap cross country races are becoming rarer, organizers have stuck to their philosophy that mountain biking is about adventure and exploration by offering three different endurance courses in the Michaux State Forest with none of them overlapping. Shop owner, Jes Stith, saw the tide of cross country racing shifting several years ago when he started including a Monster category in addition to the normal beginner, sport and expert classes.

Series races will be held May 6, July 15, and September 16.

Virginia series returns

The Virginia Mountain bike series, which featured classic races in the southern and western portion of the state, is returning, albeit with fewer races than in the past. The series will kick off on April 1, 2007 with Dragon's Back (near Roanoke). It continues with the Middle Mountain Momma (Douthat State Park) on May 6, 2007, and wraps up with the Massanutten Hoo Ha! (near Harrisonburg) on June 3, 2007.

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