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MTB news & racing round-up for May 24, 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

Plaxton and Premont win Canada Cup round

Max Plaxton (Rocky Mountain) was
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

This weekend offered a full slate of UCI races, but no major international events like a World Cup. So the elite mountain bike field divided and conquered among a handful of nationally important races offering UCI points on at least two continents. Most riders were out to test their legs one last time before the World Cup coming up this weekend in Offenburg on May 26.

Team Rocky Mountain-Haywood's Max Plaxton and Marie-Helene Premont enjoyed a week off the international cross country circuit to race on Canadian home turf in a national-series event in Bromont, Quebec.

Both riders rode away from their respective fields to win. Premont now leads the Canada Cup standings for women with a perfect win record, while another Rocky Mountain-Haywood rider - Raphael Gagné - took over the pro men's lead for the series after two races.

The Bromont circuit has been around for awhile - it was the world championship circuit in 1992. The men did six laps and the women five, with both categories on the course at the same time.

Gagne bolted to the front on the first climb for the men, followed by Plaxton. Plaxton bided his time and took the lead by the top of the second climb as the race turned into singletrack. He gradually extended his lead to eventually win by 3:33 over Mat Toulouse (Maxxis).

"Last year, I started to push right away from the gun." explained Plaxton. "It's not exactly boring to be out there alone, but it is nice to back it off a bit and see how others are riding." Plaxton didn't pull out all the stops as he was clearly saving a little something for the World Cup race this weekend in Offenburg.

Marie-Helene Premont (Canada)
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

"I was taking it a little easy on the downhill because I crashed there yesterday (Friday) and it numbed my hand a bit ... there's some pretty important races coming up."

In the women's race, Prémont was already 30 seconds ahead by the end of the first climb, with the chase group led by Trek-Terrascape team mates Mical Dyck and Lea Davison. However, in the final lap and half, Prémont's strength began to show, as she pulled away to win by three and a half minutes. Premont won despite having to negotiate her way around the men she was catching - about half of the men's field, who started only two minutes ahead of the women. Premont holds the overall series lead.

On the downhill side, Micayala Gatto (Rocky Mountain-Haywood) and Steve Smith (Cove Factory) won the women's and men's title on a rain-soaked, muddy 2.5km course. Riders came through the finish line caked in thick brown mud after going down in one of the many corners.

For full coverage of the Canadian Cup, click here.

Nys and Brentjens battle at Benelux cup

Sven Nys
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

Meanwhile, across the pond, Belgian cyclo-cross champion Sven Nys came out on top after a heated battle with other top pros at the Benelux Cup in Apeldorn in The Netherlands this past weekend. It was the first direct confrontation between top racers Bart Brentjens and Nys.

Australian champion Chris Jongewaard set a blistering pace at the start to drag a small group with all the favorites off the front. Rudi van Houts soon attacked and gained a 30 second advantage over Dolphin teammate Brentjens and 'cross star Nys. With three laps to go, Nys closed the gap with Brentjens in tow, but van Houts was not dropped when caught; he maintained contact with the two favorites.

It seemed like Brentjens would take home victory until he was overtaken by Nys in the final corner. Nys then outsprinted Brentjens to the finish while Van Houts only trailed by a few meters.

Winner of the last round of the Benelux cup, Filip Meirhaeghe, finished fourth ahead of Hans Becking in fifth. Jongewaard ended up eighth.

For full results, click here.

Absalon and Kalentieva take Albstadt

Heather Irmiger
Photo ©: Steve Medcroft
(Click for larger image)

Those not racing in the Benelux Cup were otherwise testing their legs at the fourth round of the six-race German Bundesliga series or at the Fort William test race on the world championship course in Scotland. In front of enthusiastic crowds in Albstadt, Julien Absalon (Orbea) and Irina Kalentieva (Team Ergon-Topeak) took the win.

"It was a good preparation for the next World Cup (next weekend) in Offenburg," said Frenchman Absalon, who spent a good portion of the ten laps off the front before finishing 21 seconds ahead of Orbea teammate and compatriot Jean-Christophe Péraud and 24 seconds ahead of Roel Paulissen (Cannondale-Vredestein).

Russian Irina Kalentyeva (Team Ergon-Topeak) and German Sabine Spitz (Ghost International) led the race together until the last lap when Kalentieva rode a fast downhill section, got some seconds advantage and decided to push hard. Spitz was suffering from some cramps, and Kalentieva built her lead to 42 seconds over Spitz at the end

An impressive third-place finish was logged by American Heather Irmiger (Subaru - Gary Fisher), who's been working her way up the international ladder. She beat first World Cup winner Ren Chengyuan of China and her teammate Ying Liu.

Norwegian Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjå failed to start due to stomach problems.

For full coverage of the Albstadt round of the German series, click here.

Rasmussen aims for Olympic mountain bike race

Michael Rasmussen
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Michael Rasmussen of Team Rabobank hopes to enter the 2008 Olympic mountain bike races in Peking, he said this week, according to the ANP press agency. "I will make my comeback in August" in the Danish national championships, he said.

"Rabobank thinks it is a good idea and Colnago has already made a mountain bike for me," he noted of the team and equipment agreement. "I will not ride the championship just for fun. I will be there to win it. And, afterwards, I hope that the Danish association will give me a place on the team for Peking."

Rasmussen was mountain bike world champion in 1999, and has been a road rider since 2002.

Basagoitia wins Qashqai Urban Challenge round three in Madrid

Paul Basagoitia (Kona Clump) took top honors at round three of the Qashqai Urban Challenge in Madrid, Spain, a street competition last weekend, and retained his overall lead in the series.

In the final runs, the top 12 riders were attempting new lines. Basagoitia chose the left-side line, which contained two small jumps into staircase landings. He 360'ed the first jump and tailwhipped the second. He followed those two jumps with a no-foot can over the box, walltap, and wallride into a stretched out superman on the box jump. Next, he did a no-foot can transfer from concrete block at the top of the stairs down to another staircase landing before ending with a flip up the step-up, 360 on the step-down, and a backflip table on the last jump.

From the first to the second round, riders stepped up their level, so Basagoitia thew in a tailwhip on the stair section gap. The bike made it around, but Paul did not land perfectly into the staircase and crashed on the concrete.

Round 4 continues May 25-26 in Cologne, Germany with a park style competition.

Salzkammergut Trophy marathon celebrates 10th year with Fisher

The Salzkammergut Trophy, Austria's largest marathon event, will celebrate its tenth anniversary on July 14 along with Gary Fisher, who will tackle the 110km course option.

Although Gary broke his ankle in October, he is still a favorite for his age group. But if he doesn't end up on the podium by virtue of his race performance, he'll be up there presenting the trophies to the winners of the 110 km and 209 km courses. Fisher will be on hand signing autographs and demo'ing his fleet of bikes.

The full-length 209km course will feature 7,000m of climbing. The first half will run from Altaussee to Bad Ischl and back to Bad Goisern as in recent previous editions, but instead of a second lap, the course will continue through Obertraun, Hallstatt and Gosau as it did from 1998 to 2003. Some new sections include the newly built bikeway along the east bank of Hallstätter lake as well as the passage between the Hallstätter Salzberg and Rossalm towards Gosau, which will avoid a hike-a-bike.

The course will run through the UNESCO World heritage region Hallstatt-Salzkammergut. Highlights include the Dachstein Mountain ridge and the track through "the Ewige Wand," the Eternal Wall.

The B-distance option will only cover on the new portion of the course and will last 110km. Short course options include 24 or 53km, but their routes remain unchanged for 2007.

Barb Howe diary: Big birds and bruises

Barb Howe and the ostriches.
Photo ©: Wendy Simms
(Click for larger image)

The week between NMBS #2 and NMBS #3 turned out to be more eventful and busier than I had planned. This was due in part to trying to keep up with Wendy Simms and her boundless energy. Wendy sat out the cross country race due to a cold, but that didn't seem to slow her down at all during the week.

We started off Monday morning with a two hour easy spin around the Solvang area. On the way out, we stopped at Ostrich Land and checked out the ostrich wares. You can buy everything from feathers to eggs (full or empty) to ostrich oil in the gift shop. I seriously considered buying an egg (full) equal to two dozen chicken eggs. I figured the egg could feed several people for an entire day starting with a giant omlete for breakfast, a fritatta for lunch, a souffle for dinner, and angel food cake for dinner. After that, you'd have to start taking cholesterol medication.

Wendy, Jen and myself at the beach.
Photo ©: Unknown
(Click for larger image)

Since my jersey pockets are much smaller than an ostrich egg, I was spared the egg overload. On the way home from the ride we stopped again at Ostrich Land to feed the big birds. I think the birds liked Wendy's helmet as they spent much more time looking at her head than mine. I wouldn't want to be chased by ostriches, they're really big, kinda scary looking and ornery. We followed the feeding of the big birds by loading up the Honda with both of our stuff, loading up ourselves with burritos and heading south to Santa Barbara. In Santa Barbara, we met up with Bella Jen Tilley and her boyfriend Ryan for some shopping and more burritos. Wendy was on a mission to eat as much Mexican food as possible as it's not readily available all the way up in Nainamo (http://dessert.betterrecipes.com/nainamobar.html ). Ryan graciously offered Wendy and I couch space in his house, and since a comfy couch is hard to resist, we took him up on the offer.

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent logging road hours on the mountain bikes. I'm not a huge fan of the road riding on mountain bikes, it just feels so slow. Of course it helps to remember to add a bit of air to the tires, 24 psi is not ideal for riding on pavement. Jen led two great rides in the hills around Ventura, we covered over 90 miles in two days on fat knobby slow tires.

SRAM X.9 rear derailleur and trigger shifters - few reasons to pay more

The new X.9 rear derailleur held up well
Photo ©: James Huang
(Click for larger image)

Trickle-down technology is the boon for all performance-loving (but cash-strapped) cyclists out there, and few bits in recent memory have exemplified this trend more than the latest round of SRAM's X.9 MTB transmission.

The initial X.9 generation offered up competent capabilities, but it was hardly awe-inspiring. While it included most of the same features as the top-tier X.0 (including the outstanding 1:1 cable pull ratio and thumb-thumb trigger configuration), it just didn't feel as good in use and didn't quite offer up the same reassuring tactile feel as its big brother. X.0's characteristic 'Pop! Pop!' was translated into more of a muffled 'puff puff'… as if it were being suffocated with a pillow.

That gap narrowed to virtually nil for 2007 as SRAM gave X.9 a significant functional and visual overhaul. New rear derailleur features include a decidedly more X.0-like appearance that at least seems more rigid than before, a forged aluminum B-knuckle for improved durability (original cast aluminum ones were somewhat prone to failure), and a sealed bearing lower pulley.

To read the complete review, click here.

Hutchinson Piranha MRC Medium Tubeless tires - rails for your bike

Hutchinson's new Piranha tread
Photo ©: James Huang
(Click for larger image)

Much attention is paid to a plethora of bicycle components, but few can have as much of an impact on bicycle performance than tire selection. Hutchinson's latest round of off-road tires includes the intriguing Piranha, which pairs aggressively tall cornering knobs with a decidedly low-profile center tread. Hutchinson offers the Piranha in several different flavors ranging from skinny cross country widths to beefier all-mountain casings. Our 26x2.3" Piranha MRC Medium Tubeless test tires fell at the latter end of that scale with an actual weight of 966g each (91g more than advertised). To Hutchinson's credit, that weight incorporates a beefy 66tpi, true UST casing with reinforced sidewalls and a polyamide belt under the tread along with medium rebound rubber for enhanced grip over more XC-specific compounds.

When mounted up on a 5" travel trail bike, we found the Piranha MRC Medium Tubeless to largely deliver on Hutchinson's cornering grip promises in hardpack and loose-over-hardpack conditions (sorry, we weren't able to try them in soft or muddy terrains). Adhesion at the limits was excellent and also reasonably forgiving in spite of the tire's decidedly square-edged profile. The distinct lack of intermediate knobs, however, made for somewhat odd transitions but we quickly adjusted to the feel nonetheless.

To read the complete review, click here.

4Wheels4Sean relaunched jointly by Australian organizations

Cycling Australia (CA), The Bicycle Federation of Australia (BFA), Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA), and BMX Australia (BMXA) have combined to launch 4Wheels4Sean as a national charity dedicated to assisting severely injured cyclists.

The foundation's objective is "to raise funds from the public by way of donations, sponsorship, and the conduct of competitions for the sole purpose of providing financial assistance by way of the gift of money or chattels to permanent residents of Australia who the Trustees identify are in a position of financial need and are in necessitous circumstances as a result of a severe disability acquired whilst cycling."

4Wheels4Sean was launched in 2001 with a goal of providing AUS$50,000 for a specially adapted vehicle foe Sean Fitzgerald, an avid cyclist who became a quadriplegic in a mountain bike accident.

"Sean was presented with his vehicle in 2003 and the fund continued to provide for Australian cyclists in a small way for some years after," said Huw Kingston, Founder of 4Wheels4Sean and Chairman of the charity. "However in recent years the trustees of the 'old' 4Wheels4Sean just did not have the time to drive the charity forward and a decision was made to close it late in 2006. At the 11th hour Cycling Australia were in touch and suggested the charity continue."

Each involved organisation now nominates a board member to 4Wheels4Sean.

"This is a wonderful outcome for Australian cycling and what is most encouraging is that CA, MTBA, BMX, and BFA are enthusiastically working together to position 4Wheels4Sean as 'the' charity supporting cyclists injured cycling. 4Wheels4Sean complements the Amy Gillett Foundation, whose primary role is in injury prevention," said Kingston.

Involved parties were extra motivated to participate in light of the recent serious spinal injuries suffered by BMX World Silver Medalist, Renee Junga and Australian National Road Champion, Paul Crake, in late 2006.

For more information, contact info@4wheels4sean.com.au.

Hammer in the Hay race postponed

While most racers in the northern hemisphere have put away their snow shovels, those in Vail might want to keep theirs nearby.

The Hammer in the Hay, the first race in the 2007 Vail & Beaver Creek Mountain Bike Race Series was postponed due to snow. The race was slated to take place, Wednesday, but was postponed until May 30.

According to the Vail Daily, the race was delayed due to recent snowfall and downvalley rain causing "excessively muddy and deteriorating course conditions." The delay will let the course dry out and minimize bike impact while ensuring rider safety.

"We couldn't even drive a truck up there," said Joel Rabinowitz of the Vail Recreation District.. "So it was highly suggested we postpone the race." This Hammer in the Hay postponement will have no impact on the remaining series schedule.

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