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MTB news & racing round-up for July 27, 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

East coast riding experience pays off at Mount Snow

By Jackson Weber, in West Dover, Vermont

Adam Craig (Giant),
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

The Northeast welcomed its riders home for the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships. Already renowned for trails dominated by roots and rocks that break rhythm, bikes, and even riders, this weekend, the Mount Snow venue added mud. Thick, greasy, wheel-sucking mud - the kind that turns easy sections into danger zones and transforms what was in past years rideable climbs into long, painful hikes and runs. In short, it made the already-difficult Mount Snow course into a rider-slaying monster.

Local boy Adam Craig (Giant) looked to be at home in the sticky Vermont terrain as he romped his way to his first ever men's cross country national title. Well behind him, Jeremiah Bishop (Trek/VW) showed surprising power to take second only weeks after struggling with illness that kept him from racing the Canadian World Cups. Another local Mike Broderick (Kenda/Seven), rounded out the top three, putting his New England-bred technical skills to good use to hold off the chasing Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary Fisher) and Todd Wells (GT Bikes).

The mud seemed to slow down everyone but Craig, the Maine native for whom Mount Snow might as well be an extension of his own backyard. "I rode a couple laps Wednesday evening in the pouring rain and was like, 'This is awesome.'" While other riders looked concerned with the prospect of an already technical course being turned into a mud bath, Craig was beaming like a kid in a candy store.

Jeremiah Bishop (Trek/VW)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Of the pre-race favorites, the only one who ever came close was Bishop, who even by his own admission, was surprised to be there after having missed both Canadian World Cup races that preceded the Nationals. "I had a lower respiratory tract infection," said a glazed-looking Bishop after the race. "I was so sick I didn't want to walk outside of my room." Bishop rode an unconventionally outfitted bike, with a single 32 tooth front chainring.

Third place finisher Broderick, said, "I've raced here probably 10-15 times in the past, and I just look forward to when the conditions get tougher. It was pretty boggy and I could just hang in there on the climbs and make time on the descents."

It was Broderick's partner Mary McConneloug (Kenda/Seven), who would use a combination of speed and finesse to leave the rest of the women's field far behind on her way to her third national title. McConneloug defeated 2006 national champion Georgia Gould (Luna).

Women's cross country podium (left to right):
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

"This course was really hard to get in any kind of rhythm - there's no real sustained climbs...so that was more the problem for me," said Gould after the finish.

After the first, smaller loop of the course, it became clear that it was going to be a three-woman race. McConneloug, fresh of her silver at the Pan Am Games last weekend, was the first into view, followed by Willow Koerber (Subaru-Gary Fisher) and then a hard-charging Georgia Gould. McConneloug's lead appeared only a temporary one as both Koerber and Gould seemed to be reeling her in as they moved back out of sight and into the back single track of the course. It turned out that was the closest they would get to the on-form McConneloug.

Instead of letting Gould and Koerber back into the race, McConneloug shut the door, thriving in the muddy singletrack that she would bubble about after the race - terrain which her fellow riders had very few positive things to say about.

McConneloug crossed the line in near tears with a smile breaking through her mud-blackened face. "This is my focus race of the year," explained the new national champion. "To come here and get the national championship title back, it was my season goal." Gould and Koerber took second and third.

For complete coverage of all disciplines of US Nationals, click here.

France awards national titles

By Wendy Booher in Montegenevre

Elite Women's Podium
Photo ©: Wendy Booher
(Click for larger image)

Defending national champions Laurence Leboucher (Sarthe-Gasseau) and Julien Absalon (Orbea) won gold again at the French National Mountain Bike Championships.

Leboucher won by than a minute and half ahead of Sabrina Enaux (Lapierre International) and almost three minutes in front of Christel Ferrier Bruneau (Scott Valloire Galibier). She sustained a cautious lead going into the first lap until she forged a comfortable pace that negotiated speed and elevation.

Leboucher collected her sixth red, white, and blue jersey to go with the other five she already has and, while French mountain bikers get to wear the stripes of a national champion for life, more distinguishing on Leboucher are the rainbow colors for winning the World Mountain Bike Championships in 1998. She has represented France at every summer Olympics since 1992, first on the road then on the mountain bike, and she hopes to claim the only spot available to France in the women's cross-country event next year in Beijing. Despite her impressive palmares that include two world champion cyclo-cross titles and four national cyclo-cross titles, Leboucher - like Absalon - will take aim at an Olympic medal before she retires at the end of 2008.

In the men's race, it was Julien Absalon's (Orbea) title to lose. The Frenchman held onto it firmly. Olympic gold medalist Absalon's all-around talents in climbing, technique, and power yielded an error-free race to deliver him his seventh consecutive national title.

"Next year is an Olympic season so it's more important than the other seasons and I'll be focusing on defending the gold medal," said Absalon. "It's a dream for me; I won it one time and I would like to do it another time - it's not a race like any other."

Julien Absalon
Photo ©: Wendy Booher
(Click for larger image)

The six-kilometer course humiliated racers who lacked the fitness and technique to climb steep, gravel-littered singletrack and that humiliation stung even more on a saddle-to-chest descent that forced racers lacking confidence to dismount. Absalon's flawless execution of technical sections plus a power output that consistently outpunched second place, Cedric Ravanel (Lapierre International), and third place, Jean-Christophe Peraud (Orbea), left no question as to how Absalon won again.

For complete coverage of all disciplines of French mountain bike nationals, click here.

Brentjens collects 10th national title

Enduring top pro Bart Brentjens (Dolphin) won his 10th national title in the Dutch village of Noorbeek this weekend. His success was made sweeter only by the second place finish of his young teammate Rudi van Houts who finished second.

Overall, it was a good weekend for Team Dolphin. Under 23 rider Frank Beemer also won the U23 title. At the same time in Belgium, rider Bjorn Brems won the U23 title while also taking third in the elite category.

Prémont and Kabush garner more titles

Geoff Kabush at recent St. Felicien World Cup
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Marie-Hélène Prémont and Geoff Kabush overcame poor weather conditions to successfully defend their elite cross country titles on Saturday at the Canadian Mountain Bike Nationals at Mt. Washington, British Columbia.

"It was a difficult race with the mud, wind, rain and the fact it was only five degrees," said Prémont (Rocky Mountain / Haywood), who earned her fifth straight national title. "There was a lot of running on the course, still I'm pleased with my race. I didn't have any mechanical problems and it went well for me on the difficult parts of the course. I managed my race well and I felt in control."

Last week's Pan American Games champion Catharine Pendrel (Norco Factory Team) of Kamloops finished second 4'45" behind Prémont. Kiara Bisaro (Opus), also from British Columbia, was third.

In the men's race, Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) finished ahead of Max Plaxton (Rocky Mountain / Haywood) by just under 30 seconds. Kabush logged his third national title. Derek Zandstra (Rox Racing/Scott) won bronze.

"The weather caused a lot of trouble because it rained here all week," said Kabush. "It's hard on the body and the bike. It was an exciting race and I focused on staying in control. "This is my hometown and I adored racing here. It was really important for me."

For more coverage of Canadian nationals, click here.

Tostado breaks record, makes it three total wins at Breckenridge 100

By Thane Wright

The ever-recognizable Tinker Juarez (Cannondale)
Photo ©: Warren Howell / Vast Action
(Click for larger image)

Josh Tostado (Tostado) not only won the Breckenridge 100 for the third time, but also set a course record of 9:05:08. Mike Janelle and Tinker Juarez followed him in at 10:06:10, and 10:08:24 respectively. Paul Clark and Mark Thompson were fourth and fifth. The Breckenridge 100 was serving as stop number four of the National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series.

After five days of thundershowers and inclement weather, race day for the third annual Breckenridge 100 and its little brother the B-63 greeted athletes with cloudless blue skies and only a hint of a breeze. Starting at 6:00 am at the Riverwalk Center in downtown Breckenridge, the racers began their quest to race three distinct cloverleaf style loops among the high alpine terrain of Summit County. Loop one took riders over Wheeler Pass at 12,374 feet and onto the Colorado Trail to traverse the Ten Mile range at 12,500 feet. Total elevation gain for the three loops is 13,010 feet.

Course conditions were ideal, and Tostado, two-time defending champion, along with newcomers Tinker Juarez (Cannondale), Mike Janelle (Tokyo Joe's / X-fusion), and Travis Brown (Trek / FRS) separated themselves from the rest of the field early and finished loop one tightly grouped together at about 2'55". Tostado later distanced himself from the rest on loop two, looking like a man on a mission on his way to the win.

Hometown favorite Monique Merrill (Amazing Grace) won the women's race with a winning time of 10:49:47. She was followed by Kelley Mattingly and Julie Minahan (Jans) in 11:25:59 and 11:41:26 respectively. Erika Tieszen (Giant) and Erin Johnson (BPN) rounded out the top five.

Round 5 of the National Ultra Endurance (NUE) is the Wilderness 101, set for August 4 in State College, Pennsylvania.

For complete coverage of the Breckenridge 100, click here.

Palma Push grows in popularity

Six years ago, Palma Push founders Peter Mclean and Haydn Tilley had an idea for an event. The first year saw 68 riders participate, but by this year, totals were up to 409 riders. The North Queensland, Australia, event happened Sunday, July 22.

The Paluma Push is really two events in one. It's both a race and a recreational ride. Every rider was responsible for raising a minimum of AUS$10 for the Rural Firies of Hidden Valley and Paluma. This year, the total raised will exceed f $7,000.

Tim Odwyer won the open men's division in a time of 1:59:10 with Cameron Single from Mackay only one minute behind while Jennifer Macrow took the open female category in creditable time of 2:26:29. 50+ winner Peter Stuart put all his years of good training to use to finish in 2:20:50. Other winners included Jason Vaughan (in the largest field, veteran male), Aaron Ross(juniors), William Draffen (young guns), and Scott Mclennan (40-49 male).

The event has become so popular, organizers will limit participation next year to prevent venue overcrowding.

Georgia gets 100 miler

55nine Performance announced The Fool's Gold 50 and 100 mile races and accompanying mountain bike festival near Dahlonega, Georgia, for August 17-19, 2007. Georgia's first and only 100 miler will be run by the organizers of the well-known Burn 24 hour challenge. Racers will tackle one or two loops of a 50 mile lap through the Chattahoochee National Forest. For more information, visit 55nineperformance.com.

50 Rattling Miles marathon

The 50 Rattling Miles marathon is coming to Pennsylvania's Weiser State Forest on Saturday, July 28. The race is being billed as an ideal first time marathoner's course that is sprinkled with trails that will challenge the most experienced and fastest racers. The course is reportedly more balanced than the other, more extreme, races on the Mid Atlantic Super Series (MASS) calendar, with entertaining obstacles, outstanding views, and the actual distance is a little shorter than the named 50 miles.

Promoter Mike Kuhn points to the race's venue as an example to all mountain bikers. "While we mountain bikers constantly find ourselves facing new restrictions on trail usage," said Kuhn, "the crew at Rattling Creek Single Trackers (RCST) has engaged in a cooperative relationship with Pennsylvania's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) that has led to more and more miles of trails being built and opened every year since RCST's inception.

In the event of inclement weather, the race will still be held, but course detours will be made to protect the trails. A portion of the proceeds from the race will benefit the Blue Butterfly Fund (bluebutterflyfund.org) which assists the families of victims of childhood cancer.

Galena Grinder

The fifth annual Galena Grinder comes to Galena Lodge in Sun Valley, Idaho, on Saturday, July 28 at 9:00 am. The races is part of both the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National cross country and ultra endurance calendars and also serves as the state championship race for the marathon and the cross country.

Marathon racers will do two laps of a 22.5 mile one-lap course, 50% of which is singletrack and 3,200 feet of climbing per lap. Experts will do one lap. US$2,000 of prizes is being offered to pros.

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