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MTB news & racing round-up for November 7, 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

Jongewaard takes home turf win at Aussie National Series opener

Fry steps up to top women's spot

Chris Jongewaard waiting for the rest
Photo ©: Evan Jeffery
(Click for larger image)

Current Australian National Champion Chris Jongewaard (Avanti Bikes/JT cycles/Shimano) used his local knowledge to take a win on home turf at the opening round of the Australian National Cross Country and Downhill Series at Eagle Park in Adelaide this past weekend.

Jongewaard won the elite men's cross country after a fast start. "I thought I might have gone out too hard at the start," he said. "On the second lap I backed it off a bit. Then Sid (Taberlay) caught me." Jongewaard was challenged by Tasmania's Taberlay in the second and third laps, however he pushed ahead in the last half of the six lap race to win in two hours and five minutes.

Among the elite women, Tasmania's Rowena Fry (ORBEA, WileyX eyewear) won her first national series cross country race. Despite muddy conditions, the 24 year-old from Launceston set the pace in the first of four laps and won in a time of one hour and 42 minutes. Since joining the Australian Sports Commission program to develop female cyclists for the London Olympics, Fry has blossomed under the "Dirt Roads to London Program" by also winning the national marathon championship in July.

Tasmania's Rowena Fry deep in thought
Photo ©: Evan Jeffery
(Click for larger image)

"I'm riding technically a lot better and I'm a lot fitter so now I can concentrate on what I'm doing," said Fry, who also predicted the women's competition would be tough throughout the rest of the series.

National series newcomer, Jodie Willett (E'Discovery Tools; River City Cycles) placed second after passing a strong Zoe King (Maxxis) and national cross country champion Tory Thomas (TORQ) in the final lap.

In a surprising victory Sunday, local downhill rider 17 year-old Will Rischbieth (Giant) beat last year's national series winner Amiel Cavalier (Giant) by one second. By winning the first round of the National Series Rischbieth now leads the national rankings. Sarah Booth (C.R.I.M.E.) qualified fastest in the elite women's downhill, but the win was taken by Claire Whiteman (Kona Mt Buller Factory Team). Second was Emma McNaughton (Kona Mt Buller Factory Team) with last year's series winner Caroline Buchanan (KHS Bicycles) in third.

For full coverage of the opening round of the Australian National Series Cross Country and Downhill, click here.

Milatz: from running to riding

By Bjorn Haake

The German hopes
Photo ©: Robin Haake
(Click for larger image)
German mountain biker Moritz Milatz had a great 2006 season, highlighted by breaking the dominance of Lado Fumic at the German national championships. His 2007 campaign was marred by crashes and defects, but was saved through a bronze medal at the European marathon championships at the end of the season.

Milatz hails from Freiburg in southwestern Germany, an area where road cycling and mountain biking are very popular. But Milatz actually started out as a runner, doing both medium and long distances. A personal best of 14'49" over 5,000 metres and 31'31" over 10,000 metres as well as finishing second in the German junior national championships in cross-country running showed his abilities. But the constant pounding on his joints took its toll and after hip surgery he started to increase his participation in an alternative sport, which was the mountain biking that he had started in parallel to his running.

He eventually quit running for good, finding a mountain bike team for 2003 and never looked back. In his first World Cup race, he secured tenth place in the U23 category and received his first UCI point. In 2004 he joined Merida - Multivan for which he still rides today. Ironically, a broken finger in 2005 forced him back to running and he did his first ever mountain run, immediately becoming the regional champion of Baden. But it was a short intermezzo. "I couldn't ride, so I was looking for alternatives. It was nice, but it really didn't serve me much good," the German made clear that he didn't intend to go back to running. "I still run some, especially in the winter. It is good to relax as long as I take it easy. It only is a problem if I do full intensity. Then the pounding is too much for my hip and joints."

With the finger healed he was back on target for a professional career as a mountain biker, though he tried to not get too single-minded. "I started studying Information Technology and Systems Engineering in Freiburg, but it was too time consuming," he explained his first attempt to get an education. He took a break but realized that "just doing sports wasn't so good. It made me put a lot of pressure on my self – it was that need to succeed that got to me." So he decided to continue with remote studies in the field of electrical engineering.

In fact, this switch helped him with his results. "I had less pressure to succeed at the races as I knew I had something to fall back on. And with less pressure my results started to get better." This was clearly apparent in 2006, when he broke into the phalanx of the top riders, finishing sixth in Fort William, Scotland. He continued to build momentum and in June won the German national title with an impressive ride. He was beat Lado Fumic, who had won the championships a record six times between 2000 and 2005. He went on to win the marathons in Kirchzarten and Albstadt and ended the season in 14th of the World Cup ranking and 20th in the UCI ranking.

The reward at the end of the year was the possibility to extend his contract with Merida - Multivan. He may now have coaches from within the team, but it was Rolf Luxemburger who had discovered Milatz' athletic talent and had also coached him running. Luxemburger still gives advice today. "He knows me so well," Milatz confirmed his close relationship with the long time coach and friend.

2007 was a bit of a year to forget, without too many outstanding results. It wasn't necessarily his physical ability that was running short, but "I had a lot of technical problems. Flats and the like. Or I would crash," he recalled the season that didn't start out too well. Technical problems started right in the first race in South Africa. He also recalled the first World Cup in Belgium, where "I was in the top 10 for a long time, but then had a flat." Not only did this prevent him from getting a good result, but also "it is not good for your motivation, if there is always something [going wrong]."

To read the complete feature, click here.

Minnaar takes one last win before undergoing surgery

South Africa's Greg Minnaar (Team G-Cross Honda)
Photo ©: Frank Bodenmuller/PhotoSport International
(Click for larger image)

Following a season plagued by frequent shoulder dislocations and a broken scapula at the World Championships in Fort William, Scotland, Greg Minnaar underwent surgery on his left shoulder on November 2.

The operation was scheduled for one and a half hours to repair cartilage damage and re-attach tendons in the front of the shoulder, but the damage in Minnaar's shoulder was severe enough that the operation took over two and a half hours. The damage caused from his crash at worlds had rendered the rear cartilage of the shoulder so badly damaged that it too had to be repaired and a tendon was re-attached using four screws.

Following the operation, Dr. Mark Ferguson of the South Africa Sports Clinic was confident in the likely results. Minnaar, who faces an eight to 10 week recovery, said, "Although right now there is a lot of pain and discomfort, my main focus is to get home and start a full and speedy recovery."

Just one day prior to his surgery, Minnaar participated in a celebrity car race called the WesBank Celebrity Blacklist Car race series. He defeated 30 other celebrities in the race against the clock in Johannesburg, South Africa.

"Losing by six 100th's of a second in the car, is no different to losing in a downhill race where the times are just as close and the slightest error can cost you a win," said Minnaar, who took his win in 1'28.82" by a whopping three seconds ahead of Sasha Martinengo in second place (1'31.41")

"It was an awesome experience to drive a race car like that, and with a single lap to count. It made it just as nerve wracking as racing a downhill event," said Minnaar.

Iceman Cometh to Michigan

While many North Americans have put an end to their race seasons, several thousand mountain bikers will converge in Michigan for the annual Iceman Cometh Challenge, a 27 mile point-to-point race traditionally held the first Saturday of November. The 18th annual edition of the race will be held this year instead on the second Saturday, November 10, 2007, with US$23,200 in cash going to the winners.

The sold-out race will start in Kalkaska, Michigan and finish on the eastern edge of Traverse City, Michigan. The course consists primarily of dirt roads, doubletrack (the majority of the course), abandoned railroad beds, and the world famous Vasa Nordic ski trail. The race crosses just one paved road just beyond the half-way point as it winds through the Pere Marquette State Forest in northern lower Michigan. In 2006, 2,267 racers competed, with Mike Simonson and Kelli Emmett winning the men's and women's races respectively.

The weather is highly variable depending on the year, and the race is famous for some editions in snow, ice, and sub-freezing temperatures. Saturday's forecast is looking good – currently for lows that morning of 31 degrees Fahrenheit (-0.5 degrees Celsius) and highs of 46 (7.8 degrees Celsius). Although some snow flurries are predicted in the area this week, no snow is in the forecast for race day.

Highland Fling marathon set for weekend

The third annual VAUDE Highland Fling marathon on November 11 will draw 1,300 racers from all of Australia's states and territories as well as New Zealand, Hong Kong, South Africa and the United Kingdom to the village of Bundanoon in the Southern Highlands of North South West.

Entrants will choose between the Full Fling (110km) and the Half Fling (55km) with a few riders doing the 100 mile fling (161km). About one quarter of the course is on purpose built singletrack and less than two kilometers is on sealed roads.

Winning times for the Full Fling are expected to be around 4.5 hours while the slowest riders will likely take 10 hours. AUS$8,000 are up for grabs with $1,000 going to the men's and women's champions. 2006 men's winner Shaun Lewis and women's winner Katrin Van der Spiegel will be pushed hard to retain their titles. Dennis Van Mil will also be looking to defend his 100 mile honours.

"Recent rains have settled the dust, dampened down any sand and put good water into the creek crossings," said director Huw Kingston.

The 2007 event is the first Australian cycling event to go carbon neutral. Besides the main racing action, a fundraising dash and a kids' race will be held. For more information, visit www.wildhorizons.com.au/highlandfling.

Klunkerz goes abroad

The movie Klunkerz, a story of the birth of the modern mountain bike in the San Francisco area, as told by people who were there, goes abroad to Italy for November.

It will play during The Bicycle Film Festival in Rome November 7-9 and then in Milan November 15-18. The movie features stars like Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, Tom Ritchey, Mike Sinyard, Charlie Kelly, Steve Potts, Wende Cragg, Charlie Cunningham, Alan Bonds and Jacquie Phelan as well as the more obscure characters that influenced these pioneers. The movie gives a glimpse into the San Francisco cycling scene in the 1960s and 1970s.

The film has been travelling the festival circuit in the US for most of 2007. It was nominated for "Best Documentary" and "Emerging Filmmaker" awards at the 2007 X-Dance Action Sports Awards, and it won "Best Documentary" at the Durango Independent Film Festival. For more information on the screening, visit www.bicyclefilmfestival.com.

Off road stage racing craze spreads to Mexico

Mexico will get its own multi-day stage race in 2008. The Transmexicana mountain bike race will run from February 16-24 and travel across Mexico from Veracruz, Veracruz to Huatulco, Oaxaca. The 700km race will commence on the Gulf of Mexico, and heads up and over the mountains before reaching the Pacific Ocean.

For more information, visit www.original-extreme.com.

TransRockies sets registration record

As of the end of the first day of open registration on November 1, 200 of 300 available entries were sold for the 2008 TransRockies Challenge scheduled for August 10-18, 2008. More teams registered on the first day for the seventh edition of the event than competed in the first two editions combined. At the time of posting, the race was 70% sold-out.

"It was a hectic morning," said Event Director Aaron McConnell of the first day of registration. "Changing the opening time to 10:00 am worked out well as we were in the office and able to handle the numerous inquiries which came in from all over the World."

For more information on the event, visit www.transrockies.com.

Attakwas marathon for January

Organizers of the second annual Attakwas marathon in South Africa announced a date of Saturday, January 19, 2008, for the race's next running. The race will cover 126km and include 2,400m of climbing. It starts at the Chandelier Game and Ostrich show farm, from there it passes through the Attakwas reserve, Bonniedale guest farm before finishing at Pine Creek Resort in Groot Brak river. For more information, visit www.onlines.co.za/attakloof.

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