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MTB news & racing round-up for November 14, 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

Riders gear up for La Ruta

Race favourite Thomas Dietsch (Bianchi)
Photo ©: La Ruta
(Click for larger image)

The La Ruta de los Conquistadores 15th Anniversary event begins today at the warm beach town of Jacó, a surf and nightlife paradise in Costa Rica's Pacific coast. During a press conference held yesterday afternoon, the organizers officially introduced the race to local and international media, while both local and foreign professional riders answered questions from the press about what they think of this year's special event.

"I think this is a hard race," said France's Thomas Dietsch (Bianchi). "I've spoke to several European riders that have came in the past and they all told me this is a great experience, but is also a great challenge.

"I've been training hard but this is really different of what I'm used to do in Europe," he added. "Let's see how I end tomorrow's stage and then I'll be able to tell you if I can win or not!"

Dietsch is probably the favourite to take out this year's edition, being the current XCM World's ranking leader and having also won the 2007 World Cup. Another racer that was present at the meeting was Canadian Andreas Hestler (Rockymountain), who is back in La Ruta after his seventh place last year.

"Hydration is the key, for sure," explained Hestler. "I will drink lots of Cristal water and Gatorade, and then Imperial (local beer) at night, with beer nuts to replace salt...

Some of this year's top men and women entrants
Photo ©: La Ruta
(Click for larger image)

"It is difficult in Canada to train hard this time of year [but] this is my second year, so the preparation is easier because you have more knowledge of what to expect," he added. "But 15,000 feet of climbing in the first day...it's the most I've ever done, and it is brutally hard."

Among the women contenders, there are two that stand out from the rest. Louise Kobin (Sho Air) and Susan Haywood (Trek Volkswagen) will be fighting each other to win this year's trophy. Haywood's bicycle didn't make it to the airport in San José last night so the Trek dealer in Costa Rica, Motos Pazos, took care of the situation and put her on an 'Elite' frame for the first day.

"That's the beauty of this family, you have friends everywhere ready to help out when you need," said Haywood. "I know the race conditions, the terrain and the rivals are the main challenges, I don't see how riding an 'unknown' bike can be the worst thing."

"My bike is still...to be decided at this point," she added. "I normally ride a pretty stock Trek, with no special equipment or setup, but I will miss my saddle. It's great to have Trek family all over the world, and they will be helping out as much as they can. But this (missing bike) is a small obstacle for this race, compared to the mental challenge. I've been hearing from everyone how hard it is, so I will just pace myself and do the best I can."

This year's La Ruta will have a total field of 517 riders, most of them foreigners coming from 28 different countries. The first day will start this morning at an early 5:10 AM, in front of the Best Western Jacó Beach Hotel.

For a start list and other preview information, click here.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by La Ruta

The long haul for the O'Deas

By Sue George

Namrita and Eddie O'Dea (Vassago Cycles) enjoy a busy schedule
Photo ©: Namrita and Eddie O'Dea
(Click for larger image)

Married for just over a year, Eddie and Namrita O'Dea are two American racers balancing the demands of professional racing and training for and even the promoting of endurance races. While many couples have their hands full with just one member racing professionally in the time-consuming endurance mountain bike discipline, Eddie and Namrita O'Dea have to juggle the racing and training needs for two. On top of that, Namrita is a full-time masters student of nutrition at Georgia State University.

"We're both concentrating on endurance racing - mostly 24 hour solos, but 100 milers and 12 hours, too," said Namrita, who turned 31 in October.

"We train together quite a bit," added 32 year-old Eddie, who finished fourth at the 2007 US 24 hour solo nationals and has also won the 12 hours of Dauset and the Cowbell Challenge. "During the week in heavy training sessions, we may go to same place, but we'll ride different stuff. We ride together more during our weekends."

"We get to spend a lot of time together," he continued. "One of us is not off training, so there is no stress on the relationship due to time apart. We also both understand what are goals are and why. There's no explaining why I want to go ride in circles for 24 hours."

However, two serious racers in one household does place stresses on family resources. "It's a lot of equipment, time and money," noted Eddie. "Sometimes, the laundry doesn't get done."

"When we travel, neither of us is working and we're spending twice as much money," added Namrita, before adding sincerely, "I'd much rather have it like this than only one of us racing."

The couple from Atlanta, Georgia will both ride for Vassago Cycles in 2008, with Eddie joining the team for which Namrita raced in 2007. With a relationship that centres so heavily around mountain biking, it's only natural that it was in the forests that the pair first met. "I was training for my first 24 hour and crashed two weeks before and couldn't race," said Namrita. "I volunteered to help a solo racer to learn more. That's how we met in 2004. I supported him."

The pair has a comfortable rapport on and off the bikes, but when it comes to the competitive aspect Namrita knows who's faster. "There's no contest," she noted. "Eddie's definitely faster. I'm just happy to keep up; my goal isn't to be faster."

When not racing or promoting races Eddie, who originally hails from Connecticut, works for the company they founded, 55nineperformance, which provides bike fitting and coaching. Namrita, originally from Troy, Michigan, will add nutritional counselling to the company's range of expertise when she completes her degree.

The Vassago team races on 29ers, but Namrita also rides and races exclusively on a singlespeed. In 2007, she won both the solo women's category and the solo singlespeed (men's and women's) category the 12 hours of Dauset. She also took the women's singlespeed and overall wins at the six hours of Conyers and eighth place at 24 hour solo nationals.

Eddie has no plans to follow his wife's lead into the singlespeed arena. "I don't race on a singlespeed," he said. "I don't because I feel I am at a disadvantage with the guys I'm competing against. The reason she started in the first place was because she had many mechanical issues during races. She dropped out of the Shenandoah Mountain 100 twice with broken derailleurs."

To read the complete feature on the O'Deas, click here.

British National Series gets new organizers

British Cycling selected Frank Jaworski and Paul Hore from Thetford MTB Racing to run the British National Cross Country and Marathon Mountain Bike Series. For 2008, the National Point Series will comprise five events, and a one-day stand-alone National Championship event will also be held. No significant format changes are expected; however the 25km Sunday enduro will be replaced with a 75km enduro. Cross country events will still happen Saturdays.

Referring to Thetford, British Cycling's Mountain Bike Coordinator Roger Wilbraham said, "Their pedigree, as organisers of the excellent Dusk Til Dawn events and the Marin winter series, speaks for itself and British Cycling is confident the new team will run the national series with enthusiasm and efficiency."

Jaworski and Hore said, "Our goal is to take advantage of this momentum and continue to improve where necessary to bring you the most professional events possible. We're fortunate to be assuming a series that's seen very good attendance in the last year. We will continue to try and reach out to new riders and draw the very best talent the UK has to offer."

A firm schedule was not yet released, but the series will open in April with round one at Thetford. "With the limited planning time we've had, it made sense for us to stick to a venue we know well for the first round this year," said organizers. "We easily accommodated over 800 riders this year at Dusk 'til Dawn from the Mayday Meadow area of the forest, and we will use this recently expanded area again for the opening round of the NPS.

"Other locations we're currently researching include Wales, Scotland, Yorkshire, Lake District, Forest of Dean, and Margam Park. Some of the criticism we've seen about the recent series was that it wasn't a truly 'National' series. We're trying to spread the events out to cover a larger area."

Four picked for Spanish Olympic mountain bike team

Iñaki Lejarreta
Photo ©: www.lejarreta-inaki.com
(Click for larger image)

Four mountain bikers were chosen Wednesday to represent Spain at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Based on the 2007 UCI rankings, selector Cristóbal Sanchez summoned three men and one woman: Jose Antonio Hermida, Iñaki Lejarreta, Carlos Coloma and Marga Fullana. Ruben Ruzafa and Rocío Gamonal were picked as alternates "in case some exceptional event takes place, like an injury or a disease."

Final nations' rankings from 2006 and 2007 will be used to determine how many athletes each country can send, and while those standings aren't finalized yet, as of October 18, 2007, Spain was sitting third in the rankings for the men, but did not make the top five for the women. To send the maximum team of three men or two women to Beijing, a nation must have a top-five ranking in the men's standings or a top-eight ranking for the women.

"If I give the selection with this much time in advance [of the Games], the athletes will be as prepared as possible for Beijing," said Sanchez, who was also pleased about the Spanish men earning three spots. "Our immediate goal was to obtain the third [men's] Olympic seat, something we never had and finally we have done so. The quest to do so was very positive for the riders, who have given it everything. I want to publicly thank the cyclists and their teams for their collaboration and support."

After hearing the news of his selection, team leader Jose Antonio Hermida said, "I am satisfied, I cannot deny it. Though I was waiting for it, I didn't stop from worrying that some last minute thing might influence the national team coach to select another rider. Now that I know, there is less pressure, so I can have more tranquility to prepare for the 2008 season which will be focused on the Olympic Games."

Lejarreta, who suffered illness in 2005 and 2006, but returned for strong 2007 season, was also happy and said, "For me today is a great day, because I know that I will be in the most important competition for a sportsman. Now I have almost a year to prepare for this appointment and to repay all the confidence that has been shown in me. I want to thank for my family, to my fiancée and all around me who supported me in the bad moments. Just a year ago, I was thinking about leaving the cycling, and now I am preparing for the Olympic Games. Without them, it would not have been possible."

The Olympic mountain bike races are set for August 22 and 23, 2008 in Beijing, China.

Barel leaves Kona

After five years, two World Championships and several World Cup victories, Frenchman Fabien Barel is leaving Team Kona.

"It has been a pleasure to be a part of the downhill racing team and to help that image grow. I wish everyone were as fortunate to work as closely together as we have," said Barel according to Kona's website www.konaworld.com. I have worked with Kona longer than any other brand and the Kona groove will keep spreading for me, whatever I do. I intensely thank Kona for the support and for accepting me as part of their family."

Kona's Jacob Heilbron had nothing but kind words for the departing rider. "When you see Fabien race in a World Cup event, you see a rider who's completely in tune with himself, his bike and the terrain. It is a standard of riding that very few cyclists achieve in their career."

In honor of Barel's career at Kona, the bike manufacturer is developing the Special Edition Fabien Barel signature Stab Supreme. 178 of the bikes, complete with world champion stripes and Fabien Barel's name on the top tube, will be made.

Barel has not yet announced his plans for the future.

USA Cycling releases 2008 MTB calendar

Todd Wells (GT) at the 2007 Greenbriar Challenge
Photo ©: FJ Hughes
(Click for larger image)

USA Cycling announced Thursday the 2008 American Mountain Bike Challenge (AMBC) calendar. The 26-race calendar features three new events and again provides off-road cyclists with the opportunity to qualify for the 2008 USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships in July at Mount Snow Resort in Vermont. With events in 17 states, the AMBC also provides entry-level racing opportunities for competitors interested in participating in the sport of competitive mountain biking in a local or regional setting.

Beginning March 8 with the Spa City Extreme Six-Hour Mountain Bike Race, a marathon event in Hot Springs, Ark., the 2008 AMBC stretches seven months before concluding with the Piney Hills Classic XV in Ruston, La. for the third consecutive year, October 25-26. The first cross country event on the AMBC Calendar will again be the Southeastern Regional Championship Series opener in Gainesville, Fla. on March 16, while the initial gravity contest will be the 20th-annual Keyesville Classic in Lake Isabella, Calif., March 15-16. Created in 1996, the AMBC primarily features Olympic-style cross-country racing, but also features gravity racing and other disciplines of competitive mountain biking.

2008 USA Cycling American Mountain Bike Challenge:

March 8: Spa City Extreme 6-Hour MTB Race – Hot Springs, Arkansas
March 16: SERC #1 – Gainesville, Florida
March 15-16: 20th Annual Keyesville Classic – Lake Isabella, California
March 30: Chickasaw Trace Classic – Columbia, Tennessee
April 6: SERC #2 – Bryson City, North Carolina
April 20: Tiger Rag 2008 – Clemson, South Carolina
April 27: Greenbrier Challenge – Frederick, Maryland
April 27: SERC #3 – Winder, Georgia
May 3-4: Idyllwild Spring Challenge – Idyllwild, California
May 4: SERC #4 – Ducktown, Tennessee
May 4: 6th Annual Coyote Classic at Avimor – Boise, Idaho
May 18: Stump Jump 2008 – Spartanburg, South Carolina
May 25: SERC #5 – Athens, Georgia
June 1: 14th Annual Bump & Grind – Pelham, Alabama
June 14-15: Subaru Cup – Mt. Morris, Wisconsin
June 15: SERC #6 – Clemson, South Carolina
June 22: Dawg Dayz MTB Classic – North Little Rock, Arkansas
June 29: Campmor H2H 13th Annual Bulldog Rump – Andover, New Jersey
June 29: SERC #7 – Chattanooga, Tennessee
July 6: DINO Challenge AMBC – North Vernon, Indiana
July 13: SERC #8 – Anniston, Alabama
July 25-26: SERC #9 – Fontana, North Carolina
August 29-31: Camp Eagle Classic MTB Festival – Rock Springs, Texas
August 30-31: Laddies Loppet – Callaway, Minnesota
October 4: Road Apple Rally – Farmington, New Mexico
October 25-26: Piney Hills Classic XV – Ruston, Louisiana

2008 Alpine Bikes winter downhill series set

The Alpine Bikes Winter Series dates have been confirmed for 2008 in Innerleithen, Scotland. Events are scheduled for January 26-27, February 23-24 and March 22-23. Practice times are Saturday all day and Sunday morning, and racers will get one run on Sunday afternoons.

iXS Dirt Masters Festival to celebrate second year

The second annual iXS Dirt Masters Festival has been scheduled for May 23-25, 2008, in Winterberg, Germany. The free-riding festival will include The Cut Slopestyle Contest, the iXS Germany Downhill Cup and the Scott 4X Challenge. Bands and a product expo zone will accompany the festival. Over 20,000 spectators and 1,000 competitors from 20 nations are expected. For more information, visit www.dirtmasters-festival.de.

24 hour racing spreads to Dubai

Organizers announced the first-ever 24 hour race in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates in mid-March 2008. The four kilometer course will run through Mamzar Parc with a backdrop of azure seas, a sandy beach and palms. Up to 200 racers can expect a flat and technically undemanding course; some challenges will include sandy passages and stairs into an ampitheatre in the park. Solo riders or teams of two or four are welcome. For more information, visit www.24h-of-dubai.com.

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