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MTB news & racing round-up for May 12, 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

Maplelag Spring Opener brings UCI racing to the Midwest

Jenna Zander
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Racers don't often think of the midwestern portion of the US when they think of mountain biking, but many top offroad racers have called the area home.

And that's just where the North American UCI points chase will head this weekend for a brand new elite race in Maplelag on May 12 in Minnesota. The event is part of the new USA Cycling Mountain Bike National calendar.

Promoter Jay Richards explained his goal to help serious racers from the Midwest. "There are really good riders in the Midwest and we want to give them a chance to earn UCI points and move up. We're doing it to help the local riders.

"There are no national series events in the Midwest and there hasn't been since Alpine Valley," said Richards of the recent lack of elite-level races in the area. He is hosting the UCI race to help top riders earn UCI points and give regional semi-pros and experts an opportunity to race against faster competition while working their way up to or within the pro ranks.

"If it was for us to be making money, we wouldn't be doing it," finished Richards, who pointed to top racers like Jenna Zander (Bear Naked Cannondale) and Jeff Hall (Salsa Cycles) to do well this weekend. Zander finished 12th at last year's Under 23 women's world championship.

The course will feature a cross country mountain bike race on ski trails and singletrack. In dry fast conditions, the 8.5 km lap takes top racers about 30 minutes to complete. Each lap will feature 700 feet of climbing. Men will do four laps while women race three.

Richards also promotes an annual Labor Day weekend regional mountain bike race called the Laddies Loppet at Maplelag.

Gould and Kabush take NMBS #3

Georgia Gould (Luna Chix)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Georgia Gould (Luna) and Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis) won the pro cross country women's and men's event at the third round of the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) in Fontana, California. Gould and Kabush have now won all three rounds of the cross country and therefore lead the overall series.

In Fontana, Gould finished ahead of teammate Katerina Nash and Subaru Gary Fisher rider Willow Koerber. Kabush defeated Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary Fisher) and Ryan Trebon (Kona).

Gould and Nash repeated their 1-2 performance in the women's short track, but Trebon won the men's version, in which Kabush finished fifth.

Round four will happen at the Chile Challenge in Angel Fire, New Mexico.

World Cup gravity racing opens in Spain

Sam Hill (Australia)
Photo ©: Mikkeli Godfree
(Click for larger image)

The World Cup downhill and four cross races happen this weekend in Vigo, Spain, on May 12-13.

Racers will tackle a totally new 500m four cross course. British designer Phil Saxena described the course, "It is a totally new circuit, of almost 500 meters in length and that does not have anything to do with the layout which we designed in two previous editions." This year's course includes eight turns and 10 straights and is nearly double that of last year. Saxena observed that four cross courses are constantly evolving, and over time have been coming to resemble BMX courses. Favorites for the weekend include American Jill Kintner, world champion, and Australian Sam Hill.

The downhill course is about 40% different than in previous editions. A preview race was held last weekend. The international field was there to check out the course before Worlds. David Vázquez won with a time of 2 minutes and 36 seconds.

Good crowds are also expected. Previous editions attracted 20,000 people.

La Ruta 2007 adds fourth stage

Crossing the first trestle
Photo ©: Rob Jones
Click for larger image

Organizers of the La Ruta de los Conquistadores announced the race's route for 2007, including a new stage and changes to the first stage. The race will run from November 14-17, and it celebrates its 15th anniversary with an extended 356 km course featuring 11,500 meters of climbing. It retraces the path of the Spanish Conquistador across Costa Rica's biodiversity, its many forests, and nine of its 12 different microclimates.

"We included a new stage for the second day, which will link the finish venue of day one with the start venue of day three. Now, we will certainly cross Costa Rica from coast to coast… in four days," said La Ruta's Race Director Luis Viquez, during a press conference offered in San José Monday morning.

Race founder Roman Urbina, designed the new stage, which will take between six and nine hours to complete.

Day one will remain similar to 2006. It will depart from the Best Western Jacó Beach Hotel, at the Pacific Coast, and will finish 96 km later at El Rodeo horse farm, 20 km west of Costa Rica's capital city, San José.

In response to growing fields of amateur racers, the last muddy climb of the first day's route, known as "La Pita," has been removed and replaced with a paved climb. "We realized that the first day had to change a little bit according to the new situation," Luis Viquez said after he and the rest of the crew presented the new course. "If for any reason this main-way cannot be used for the race, a "B" option has been established over an old almost-flat gravel trail which connects Check Point 3 (at San Pedro de Turrubares) and the finish venue. The appealing, traditionally demanding section of this stage, through the Carara National Park Jungle, remains intact.

Day 2 features the new stage, which will begin at El Rodeo and will trace a 72.2 km course with plenty of views over the mountains around the Central Valley before finishing at TerraMall Shopping Center 15 km east of San José.

The third and fourth stages are the same as previous years. The 66.7 km day three commences at the TerraMall and climbs 30km to the highest point of the event, the Irazú Volcano (3,010 meters above sea level) before also hitting the "El Tapojo" downhill to Turrialba Volcano first the coffee town of Aquiares. The final 120km stage runs from Aquiares to the Caribbean beach of "Playa Bonita". This is the famous portion of the course with the train tracks and bridges.

Last year's race was won by Columbian Leonardo Hector Paez and Canadian Marg Fedyna.

For more information, maps, course profiles and further details, visit www.adventurerace.com.

Olympic mountain biking at Kettle Moraine?

Former Olympian Tom Schuler gave his support to nearby Walworth County's bid to host Olympic cycling events if Chicago is awarded the 2016 Summer Games. Chicago is up against other candidates including Rio de Janeiro, London, Tokyo, Madrid, and Prague. A selection will not be made until late 2008 or early 2009.

"Between Champaign, Illinois, the Fox Cities and Madison, there is no finer cycling than right here in Walworth County," said Schuler to the county board Tuesday according to the Gazette Extra. "That goes for mountain biking in the Kettle Moraine and road biking in Walworth County."

Schuler, who represented the US in the Olympics in 1980 for road events, was one of about 15 people supporting the county's effort to host cycling and possibly also rowing and equestrian events. The county board gave the effort unanimous support.

Fred Burkardt, development alliance executive director, predicted Olympic mountain biking at the Kettle Moraine's John Muir trails or at Alpine Valley Resort could bring in 40,000 to 50,000 people with a US$116 million economic impact.

"What Chicago lacks is our gain. We have rolling terrain in the county, whether it's the Kettle Moraine (for mountain biking), or the county roads and highways that are perfect (for road biking)," Kevin Brunner, Whitewater city manager and development alliance vice president. "If you go south of here, I don't know if you noticed, but it's kind of flat."

Kettle Moraine has hosted many mountain bike events including the US Collegiate Nationals.

Australia finalizes 2007-8 season

Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA) finalized its national series for 2007-2008 which will see several venues, including two new ones, holding events from October 2007 to February 2008.

October 20: MTNX #1 and #2 at Sydney Olympic park
November 3-4: XCO #1, DH #2 Eagle Park in Adelaide (new venue)
November 24-25: XCO #2, DH #2, MTNX #3 Gold Coast (Illanbah) (new venue)
December 15-16: XCO #3, DH #3, MTNX #4 in Threadbo
January 12-13: MTNX #5 and #6 at Blackhill, near Newcastle
February 2-3: XCO #4 and DH #4 at Mount Beauty's Big Hill mountain bike park

Also new for this year is a short track series (XCC) being held at all venues which are holding a cross country event. The short track races will happen one day after each cross country event.

The 2008 Australian mountain bike championships happen January 23-27, the weekend before the final round of the series. They will likely draw more attention than usual because the Canberra venue will also be the site of the 2009 World mountain bike championships.

Race Face to sponsor TransGermany and TransAlp teams

Epic, multi-day mountain bike races are growing in popularity, and Race Face is again holding their Ultimate Cross Country (UXC) Challenge to help two lucky teams of racers, one each to tackle the TransGermany from June 9 to 16 and the TransAlp from June 14-21.

The TransAlp begins in Mittenwald, Germany and ends 600km later in Riva del Garda, Italy. The eight-day stage race routes through some of the mountain ranges in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy. Climbing totals 19,500 meters. The Trans Germany runs 800km and climbs 18,000m from Pfälzerwald to Erzgebirge.

Interested teams submitted video team profiles, and anyone can view the videos, read about the teams and vote for his favorites at www.raceface.com/uxc. Voting will be open for the TransGermany, with a winner announced Friday, May 18. Then voting commences for the TransAlp candidates, with a winner picked on June 1.

"We fly the winners there, give them all the components for their bikes, and support them," said Julian Coffey of Race Face. Winners also receive a paid entry fee. "Then we document their trials and tribulations throughout the race."

This year's candidates for the Trans Germany include Team Stick Together (Melina Ehrhardt and Karolina Albrecht, two best friends from Germany), Team Dirtbag (Brian Corff and Doug Schuler from Boulder, Colorado), and Team 283 (Bill Fehr and Rebecca Tomaszewski, two bike messengers from North Carolina who want to be the first co-ed, fully rigid, singlespeed freaks to race the Trans Germany).

The UXC is a spin-off of the company's popular Ultimate Free Ride (UFC) contest.

Swisspower cup #4 preview

Julien Absalon
Photo ©: Eduard Aguilera
(Click for larger image)

This weekend brings the fourth of eight rounds of the Swisspower Cup 2007 to Hasliberg on May 12 and 13. The first three rounds were held in Schaan, Winterthur and Perrefitte.

An offering of UCI points is expected to draw top racers, many of whom are competing for spots on their nations' Olympic squads. In fact, all the current world champions in the elite, Under 23, and junior categories will be there. The favorites are Frenchman Julien Absalon (Orbea) and Norwegian Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja (Multivan Merida).

An interesting battle is shaping up in the women's race between Gunn Rita Dahle Flesja and recent Houffalize World Cup winner and Under 23 World champion Ren Chengyuan of China. Her teammate Jingjing Wang, who finished second in the Under 23 world championship race last year, will also be on hand. The Chinese women are aiming for gold medals on home turf in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Elisabeth Osl (Toni's Pro Team Kirchberg), Ying Liu (China National team), and Eva Lechner (Eppan Colnago) are some of the other favorites.

On the men's side, Absalon will be challenged by Fredrik Kessiakoff (Cannondale-Vredestein), Roel Paulissen (Cannondale-Vredestein), Shaun Lewis (South Australia.com), Jakob Fuglsang (Cannondale-Vredestein), Kashi Leuchs (Cannondale-Vredestein), Jean Christophe Peraud (Orbea), and Nino Schurter (Swisspower).

Exclusive to the Hasliberg round is a team relay on Saturday evening. A racer from each category (elite, Under 23, and junior men) plus an elite or junior woman will form each team. Team members can race in any order.

Jamis pleased with weekend wins

Kathy Pruitt and Jordie Lunn each scored wins for Jamis last weekend.

Pruitt took hers at the National Mountain Bike Series round #3 in Fontana last weekend. She qualified fastest and maintained her form for the final. "I was able to pedal through the rocky sections and hit all of my lines," said Pruitt, who now sits in first place for the series.

Lunn was racing in Canada at an Island Cup Race. Although he has been concentrating on dirt jumps, freeriding, and filming the last few years, he was motivated to race downhill again.

Other Jamis racers put in solid performances that made their team manager proud. Alan Obye, rode to a 10th place in the pro cross country at the Fontana NMBS. He is aiming to peak for the national championships in Vermont in July. Meanwhile, Tommy Tokarczyk logged a 12th in the pro four cross, and Kenny Burt finished 8th in the pro Super-D race.

Dahle Flesjå and Paulissen win at Bike the Rock

Many mountain bikers race less often than roadies, but that didn't stopped Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja (Multivan Merida) from making three podium appearances in eight days.

At the Bike the Rock race in Heubach in southern Germany, Dahle Flesjå finished third behind Irina Kalentieva and Ren Chengyuan. Dahle was in the middle of a tough training period and competed in three races within eight days – winning two of them.

On the men's side, Belgium's Roel Paulissen won the UCI race by leading from start to finish. First World Cup winner José Hermida finished in fifth position 98 seconds back, while Ralph Näf seemed to have overcome respiratory problems to finish seventh.

For full coverage of Bike the Rock, click here.

Mike & Mary diary: Starting the hard way

Life on the road in the RV.
Photo ©: Mike Broderick & Mary McConneloug
(Click for larger image)

I can hardly believe three weeks have passed since we arrived here in Europe. We have been blessed with a beautiful blooming spring, with temperatures closer to mid-summer, which is definitely unusual for this time of year but has been great for training and living out of our little RV!

We have already driven a good bit of kilometers here in Europe, starting, as usual, in Munich with a visit to our friend and RV rental specialist Michael Braun. We packed our substantial lot of equipment aboard one of his sweet modern RVs and headed directly to our first race in Oldenzaal, Netherlands.

Though we only had a few days to make the 700 kilometre drive, build up and race prep the bikes, handle the logistics to get ready for race day, our previous familiarity with Europe and the ease of the RV way of traveling helped us arrive fresh and ready on race day.

We arrived to contest the first race of the Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg) cup series and were glad to have half a day to dial in the complex, loose, big ring only course.

Preparing the bikes for the racing,
Photo ©: Mike Broderick & Mary McConneloug
(Click for larger image)

Short version, I ended up winning and mike finished ninth in the hot, dusty, but still well attended conditions. Of course the majority of the Netherlands are super flat but all the races we have contested here are full of fun single track and ingenious courses that push the limits of all the riders.

After a few days of recovery with some good training rides near a national park north of Arnhem, we headed south to Houffalize, Belgium for the first World Cup round of the season. Mike and I were glad for the return of this classic MTB race. We have made our way through this area many times, not only to race, but also whenever we have the chance to get in some good training rides between races.

The quaint, stone-built town of Houffalize is nestled in a deep valley, between the jagged hills of the Ardennes, and has the perfect atmosphere for a bike race. No doubt one of the best places to hold a round of the World Cup series.

To read the complete diary entry, click here.

Barb Howe diary: Napa Valley Dirt classic

This past weekend I had the honour of racing at the Napa Valley Dirt classic. All the locals that I talk to have raced there at some time in the past so it seemed time that I checked it out. The race is held on the grounds of Pacific Union College, a Seventh Day Adventist college and is on a Sunday which means no pre-riding on Saturday which in this case was very timely.

Saturday poured rain all day, not on the scale of Sea Otter but a long steady rain. The weather forecast all week called for rain on Sunday as well. In preparation I set up some wheels with the Schwable Black shark Mud tire on the rear in a 1.5 (I've seen 'cross tires wider than this) and a 1.8 Nobby Nick on the front. It's a mud fest set of wheels with normal width and tread tires on another set of wheels.

After a brief but nerve wracking bit of misdirection I found myself at registration with plenty of time to spare. Everything was wet and chilly even though the sun was unobstructed in the sky. Having never raced here I had no idea if the soil was the draining type or the peanut butter mud type. Some friendly East Bay racers suggested using the wider tires as some of the rocky sections could be unpleasant with the super narrow mud tires. I went with the suggestion and was glad for it. For a warm up I checked out the start and finish of the course which had lots of sticky clay based mud and a steep run up/descent. I had a great crash on the steep little descent while warming up and got mud all over myself, so much for looking pro and starting the race nice and clean.

I had forgotten how laid back and fun local mountain bike races are. The pro, expert and masters women all staged together and there was no pushing, shoving, umbrellas, call ups or excessive nervous tension like at the big races. In fact everyone was relaxed and rather chatty at the start.

To read the complete diary entry, click here.

IMBA looking for a few good women

IMBA is teaming with Dirt Series by Rocky Mountain Bicycles to offer mountain biking skills instruction to women of all abilities. Two camps will help riders learn new skills, increase their confidence on the bike, get over beginner's intimidation, improve technical riding, and learn bike park skills. In addition to skills instruction, riding, and parties, campers will receive tips for organizing women's specific events and rides back home.

The camps will be held June 23-24 at Hood River, Oregon and July 7-8 in Park City, Utah. IMBA members receive special consideration. For more information, visit dirtseries.com.

Velerium Festival for Canada

Organizers announced the schedule for the Verlirium Mountain Bike Festival. It's the largest Canadian mountain bike festival and is in Mont-Sainte-Anne with more than 45,000 visitors and 2,500 athletes attending. This year's event includes the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup and many amateur races along with family activities. It spans three weekends from June 9 to 24.

This year's program is below:

Saturday, June 9: 4X Vélirium
Sunday, June 10: Québec Cup – Downhill
Saturday, June 16: Raid Vélo Mag (a race starting downtown Québec and finishing 71 km later at Mont-Sainte-Anne)
Sunday, June 17: Freeride Cup Vélirium and Veli-slope jam
Thursday, June 21: Delirium Urbain (sprint race, downtown)
Friday, June 22: Québec Cup – Cross country (a classic since 1983)
Saturday, June 23: World cup– Cross Country
Sunday, June 24 : World cup– Downhill and 4X

French Creek opens cross country super series

The DelmarvaJobs.Com Cross Country Super Series will get off to a "rocky" start on Mother's Day, May 13 with the "On the Rocks at French Creek" mountain bike race. The race is run through the 7,474 acre French Creek State Park in southeastern Pennsylvania, which features over 40 miles of trails. It also counts toward the Cannondale Cup team Super Series.

"This year's race will be a one lap format with distances of 6 miles for Beginners, 12 for Sport and 18 miles for Expert and Elite racers," said Race Director Scott Wipperman. "Because the distances are going to be shorter this year we've decided to throw every bit of French Creek nasty at you that we could find. The course will be very technical with more than 2,500 feet of climbing for the experts and elites."

Organizers report that racers will have time to race in the morning and make mom's house for dinner to celebrate the holiday. However, the race will only be held in dry weather. Park management said they cannot risk major trail damage at the beginning of the park's prime recreational season. Therefore, no pre-registrations are being accepted. For more information, see www.masuperseries.com.

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