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MTB news & racing round-up for May 3, 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

British racers ready for Worlds on home turf

By Gerry McManus

Steve Peat
Photo ©: Gerry McManus
(Click for larger image)

Last week, downhillers Steve Peat and Tracey Moseley were among a group of top racers who visited London to promote the UCI Mountain Bike and Trials world championships scheduled for Fort William, Scotland, from September 3-9. Peat and Moseley were joined by Oli Beckingsale, Rachel, Dan and Gee Atherton, Ben Savage, Duncan Shaw, and Helen Gaskill on the steps of the National Gallery in London's Trafalgar Square. The launch was also attended by organizers and the Right Honourable Charles Kennedy MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber on behalf of his constituency in Scotland.

Only four months remain until the world championships come to Fort William, which has previously hosted rounds of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup. The popular venue is expected to draw crowds of up to 40,000 people in September.

"We have got a couple of test races on the cross country and downhill courses," said organiser Mike Jardine. "But the course is accessible anyway as most of it is part of the Forestry Commission network of trails, and we expect teams will go out there."

Tracey Moseley
Photo ©: Gerry McManus
(Click for larger image)

British racers are looking for good performances on their home turf. Lesley Beck, from Fort William World Championships Ltd, who is organizing the race, said, "The British riders are not household names yet but they are heroes to mountain biking enthusiasts not just in Britain but all over the world. The cross country race is going to be two hours of intense endurance racing on a tough course over six laps of 7.6km. Over the course of the race the riders will climb and descend the equivalent of the height of Ben Nevis."

It was in Fort William where Moseley won her first downhill World Cup. The current world champion is excited about racing on home soil. "The atmosphere makes so much difference," said Moseley. "Being on home soil in such a big event is really exciting. Especially when you know the crowd are willing you on to win. I am really looking forward to it."

The MTB stars line up
Photo ©: Gerry McManus
(Click for larger image)

Downhiller Peat has won seven British National titles and three World Cup overall titles, but the world championship jersey has eluded him thus far. "Hopefully it will be my year this time," said Peat. "I put plenty of effort in every year and this year being in Fort William, I will be putting in some extra effort and hopefully be able to bring it home in front of a home crowd. To wear the rainbow jersey for a year means a lot to everyone. It's huge."

Three members of the Atherton family compete and often travel together. Brother Dan explained what it is like having a brother and sister at the same event, "The main thing is that we travel all over the world and we get to race and see the world and have someone to share it with." Dan competes against his brother Gee on the circuit, but they think it is a good thing. "We ride with each other every week. Sometimes it is good to have someone who has ridden the course to talk it through with, but there is still a lot of competition between us."

Family professionals
Photo ©: Gerry McManus
(Click for larger image)

30-year-old cross country racer Oli Beckingsale had a slow start to the season due to illness, but recovered to ride his first World Cup event in Belgium last week where he finished 25th. "I have got a bit of work to do," said Beckingsale. "The event last week has a lot of similarities with the Fort William cross country course. The best thing about both of them is the atmosphere adds a lot to the race and the spectacle. The Fort William course is for proper mountain biking. You get some of these flat courses like the one in the centre of Madrid and they are not what I am in mountain biking for."

"I missed a block of training in January due to illness and then I broke a couple of ribs in a crash six weeks ago so I went into last week's World Cup under-raced really," said Beckingsale. "But the last thing I want to do is get to September and be tired. I want to be fresh mentally and physically. For me it is the biggest thing of the year. The idea is to roll through the races and ramp it up for the championships. The slow start to the season may have done me a favour." Beckingsale also spends some time racing the road to keep his fitness level high.

For more information, see www.fortwilliamworldchamps.co.uk.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Gerry McManus/www.gerrymcmanus.co.uk

Gould and Kabush tops in NMBS racing

Georgia Gould (Luna),
Photo ©: FJ Hughes
(Click for larger image)

Georgia Gould (Luna) and Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis) retain their spot at the top of the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) standings. Both racers won NMBS Round #2 at the Firestone Santa Ynez Valley Mountain Bike Classic in California April 28-29 last weekend as well as the opening NMBS Round #1 at the NOVA race in Arizona in March 31-April 1.

In last weekend's race, the Canadian Kabush outsprinted Americans Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary Fisher) and Barry Wicks (Kona) in an exciting finish. Meanwhile, Gould continued her dominance over the women's field by finishing over 1.5 minutes ahead of Luna teammates Shonny Vanlandingham and Katerina Nash.

Round #3 of the NMBS series will continue this weekend May 4-6 in Fontana, California.

NMBS Overall Standings after two events

Elite men

1 Geoff Kabush (Can) Team Maxxis                  364 pts
2 Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (USA) Subaru-Gary Fisher 327 
3 Barry Wicks (USA) Kona                          295 
4 Ryan Trebon (USA) Kona                          295 
5 Mathieu Toulouse (Can) Team Maxxis              265      

Elite women  

1 Georgia Gould (USA) Luna                        364 
2 Shonny Vanlandingham (USA) Luna                 327 
3 Heather Irmiger (USA) Subaru-Gary Fisher        287 
4 Zephanie Blasi (USA) Kenda/X-Fusion/Titus       274 
5 Chloe Forsman (USA) Luna                        259

Wells and Compton collect Greenbrier wins

Katie Compton (Spike)
Photo ©: FJ Hughes
(Click for larger image)

Meanwhile, on the other side of the US, more than 550 pro and amateur racers competed at Maryland's Greenbrier State Park Sunday although only the elite categories were racing for coveted UCI points. Trek / VW racers dominated the top 10 in both the men's and women's races, but despite their strong presence, the team could not claim victory in either event. Canada was also represented by a large contingent of racers; many had headed south to collect the required 20 UCI points needed to start the two summer World Cups coming up on their home turf.

World cyclo-cross silver medalist and track standout Katie Compton (Spike Shooter) is making her presence known on the mountain bike circuit this season. After winning the short track at Sea Otter, Compton came out blazing at Greenbrier. Her only true challenger was Sue Haywood (Trek/VW), but Compton could boast a one minute advantage by the end of the first lap. Perhaps those fast track and 'cross starts were paying off? Though Compton faded at Sea Otter's cross country race, she held on strong at Greenbrier for the win, with more than two minutes's advantage over Haywood.

On the men's side Todd Wells (GT) battled Jeremiah Bishop (Trek / VW) in what became a two-man race. Wells established an early commanding lead, but Bishop applied the afterburners and closed to within 46 seconds with one lap to go. However, fate put the stops on Bishop's plan when he flatted part-way around the course. Although Wells would flat, too, he was close enough to the finish to hold onto victory. Meanwhile Bishop dropped to fourth place as he rode in on his shredded tire.

For complete race coverage, click here.

First year endurance event draws top American pros

Nat Ross (Subaru/Gary Fisher) held off Giant's Josh Tostado
Photo ©: Clay Higgins
(Click for larger image)

The inaugural Dirt Sweat & Gears event in Tennessee drew top American endurance racers. About 1,000 spectators were treated to a battle in the pro race, as racers piled on lap after lap. Racers were drawn by the US$10,000 in cash awarded to the pros and the US$15,000 worth of prizes awarded to amateurs. In the spirit of many NORBA cross country races of the 1990s, a schwag toss rounded out the awards ceremony.

Favorite Tinker Juarez (Cannondale) suffered double flats early in the race and was passed by Nat Ross (Subaru / Gary Fisher) and Josh Tostado, who eventually took first and second after over 11 hours of racing, but Juarez battled back to hold on for third.

Endurance guru Monique Sawicki (Ergon / Ellsworth) controlled the women's race from start to finish. Main challenger Rebecca Rusch (Red Bull / Specialized) suffered a flat that cost her a considerable amount of time.

John "Fuzzy" Mylne took the singlespeed win.

For full coverage, click here.

Sauser to lead star field at Bike the Rock

Christoph Sauser (Specialized).
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Swiss world championship runner-up Christoph Sauser (Specialized) will ride his first Bundesliga race at the seventh annual edition of Bike the Rock in Heubach, Germany, May 5-6. Heubach is located at the eastern edge of the Schwäbische Alb.

Ever since his first World Cup win in 1999, Sauser has been one of the most dominating cross country riders. He has eleven World Cup wins under his belt, and snatched the World Cup overall win in 2004 and 2005. He just missed out to Frenchman Julien Absalon at the last two World Championships. But despite his years of experience, this will be Sauser's first Budesliga race.

Sauser will be joined by a star studded field including Sweden's Fredrik Kessiakoff, Switzerland's Florian Vogel, Spain's Josè Antonio Hermida, Dutchman's Bart Brentjens, Belgium's Roel Paulissen, and Switzerland's Ralph Näf and Nino Schurter. Hermida won the opening cross country World Cup two weekends ago in Belgium.

The women's field is just as impressive. Norway's Gunn-Rita Dahle is among the favorites along with Russia's Irina Kalentieva, China's Ren Chengyuan, America's Mary McConneloug, Germany's Nina Göhl, Swizterland's Petra Henzi, and Norway's Lene Byberg. Chengyuan is among three Chinese riders, including also Ying Liu and Jingjing Wang, who will make their first appearance in Germany. Chengyuan is the U23 world champion and the winner of the Houffalize World Cup.

Bikes Belong grants to benefit mountain bikers

Bikes Belong awarded six grants to cycling projects on Wednesday, including two mountain bike trail systems in Oregon and South Dakota.

The City of Vernonia, Oregon, will receive US$5,000 to help build a bicycle skills park. The grant will go toward construction of the skills development trail, the first element of the park. When complete, the skills park will include also a BMX track, pump track, cyclo-cross course, and singletrack trails. Most of the project will be funded through volunteer time and in-kind donations. Riders will help design and build their track and trails, and a 20-hour trailbuilding class held by the Community Learning Center, adjacent to the park, will also harness local elbow grease.

The Black Hills Mountain Bike Association (BHMBA) in South Dakota will receive US$5,000 expand the singletrack in the Cowboy Hill trail system. The funding helps match a federal Recreational Trails Program grant for the project. BHMBA has hired IMBA Trail Solutions to assist with sustainable trail design and initial construction, and the rest of the job will be handled by dedicated volunteers. In addition to regional recreational use, the new trails will be used by a local Trips for Kids chapter and the YMCA, and will also host thousands of riders at the annual Black Hills Fat Tire Festival.

Mike & Mary diary: Heating it up

Mary & Mike enjoyed some great views
Photo ©: Mike Broderick & Mary McConneloug
(Click for larger image)

After our South American adventures, we boarded a sensibly cheap yet stupidly long flight to Puerto Rico. We could almost see our destination through the plane's window as we flew first to Dallas then Tampa and finally to San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was a considerable 30 hours before we arrived at our accommodations but the sound of the crashing waves and the balmy tropical climate helped to blunt the pain. Adding to our dismay, we were locked out of our prearranged accommodation, and the owner of the bungalows was nowhere to be found.

Now totally exhausted, and unable to come up with a better plan, we crashed out on the front deck, utilizing the insides of our bike travel cases for a mattress, towels for blankets, and a healthy lathering of bug spray . It was not ideal, but a flat space to lie down after all that travel was all we needed! The red marks on my hips the next morning were proof enough that I slept, at least for some time.

We had come to Puerto Rico for The Ultimate Dirt Challenge, a unique Category 1 UCI race / dirt jump expo that is that is held in Rincon each year. It was our second year competing here, so we knew what we were getting into, and it was nice to return to a familiar venue; especially one with such fantastic promoters. We were looking forward to our time in Rincon not only because of its warm tropical climate but also because it has status as a world class surf destination. Mike showed incredible resolve and held back from the surf until AFTER he fulfilled his goal of getting on the podium here.

Race day came before we even had the chance to hit the beach. Instead, we had put our attentions towards some serious training time on the steep, winding roads found in the interior of the island. Unfortunately each afternoon was accompanied by incredible lightening-filled downpours that severely limited our beach time.

To read the complete diary, click here.

Barbara Howe diary: Epicenter of Belladom

After racing at the season opening NMBS #1 event in Phoenix, Howe went on to Sea Otter, where the Velo Bella presence was strong. Blue and pink jerseys were spotted everywhere, with road and mountain bikes always nearby.

Sea Otter is a special race because it's located at the epicenter of the Bella kingdom, or queendom if you like. The team was started in and around Monterey and many of the very first Bellas still live in the area. It's the race where the Bella vibe can clearly be seen and heard by all. For all of the years that I've raced Sea Otter, Velo Bella has had a large team booth decorated with pretty sparkly things and blasting disco music. The booth expands a bit each year, this year it was a continuous extension from the Kona trailer through the Bella booth to Vanderkitten and Zeal Optics. This year, the Bella Queen, Sabine, envisioned roller disco and her subjects obliged. There were crazy outfits and many sets of roller skates.

People huddle under tents
Photo ©: Barbara Howe
(Click for larger image)

My weekend started by driving to the home of long time Bella Laura, her husband Steve, and two dogs after work on Thursday. I've stayed with Steve and Laura for most of my Sea Otters, and it was really good to see them again. Friday morning, I woke up to sunny skies and fast trails. Natasha and I pre-rode the course enjoying clear ocean views and wildflowers. Saturday was short track but I hadn't registered in time for it so I became a spectator. I went to the venue with the Bellas who were racing short track so I could ride afterwards. A light sprinkle of rain started when we left Salinas. Upon reaching the Bella booth the light sprinkle turned into a deluge of biblical proportions. Buckets of rain threatened the integrity of a thousand EZ Ups, rivers of mud canceled the women's NRC race, and plunging temperatures goose bumped countless arms and legs.

Back at Bella HQ, Queen Sabine stood strong in the face of pending disaster by digging a drainage ditch with a plastic wine glass to prevent the creation of new wetlands. Loyal Bellas and Fellas re-lashed tarps and did their best to keep the tent canopies from amassing too much water. Through all of this several ladies did their best at staying warm and loose for the short track as it was delayed for a while. When the rain turned to a fine mist, it was time for a muddy short track.

To read the complete diary, click here.

Lumberjack 100 early registration ends soon

Organizers of the Lumberjack 100 announced that early registration will end May 5. To save US$25, mail your registration with a postmark of May 5 or sooner.

The Lumberjack 100, held in Michigan, is the third event of the seven-race National Ultra-Endurance (NUE) series. It will be contested June 16. The next and second event in the series, the Mohican 100, will happen June 2 in Ohio. Chris Eatough and Daniele Musto are leading the series after one event, the Cohutta 100, held two weekends ago.

For more information, visit www.lumberjack100.com.

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