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MTB & 'Cross news & racing round-up for October 4, 2007

Welcome to our regular roundup of what's happening in mountain biking and 'cross. Feel free to send feedback, news, & releases to mtb@cyclingnews.com and results, reports & photos to cyclingnews@cyclingnews.com.

Edited by Sue George, Laura Weislo and Paul Verkeulen

European mountain bike marathon champions crowned

Moritz Milatz (Germany) after the race.
Photo ©: Armin Küstenbrück
(Click for larger image)

In one of the final major races of the 2007 mountain bike season, Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) and Sabine Spitz (Germany) added European marathon championship titles to their already successful 2007 seasons. Both the men and the women tackled wet and muddy conditions over a 118km course.

Reigning marathon world champion Sauser finished a sloppy race in a time of 4:57:15 ahead of second place Christoph Soukup (Austria) by 13 seconds and ahead of Moritz Milatz (Germany) by 50 seconds.

Milatz and Sauser drove the action at the front together for much of the race while Soukoup chased. Sauser's late-race attack on a hill was too much for Milatz, who commented on the muddy course. "Conditions were everything but pleasant," said Moritz on his website. With the starting gun came rain which, after several recent days or rain, only made the already muddy conditions more so." It was the same rain that threatened the UCI Road World Championships all last week.

In the women's race, Spitz, who recently finished second in the World Mountain Bike Championship cross country race in Fort William, showed she can carry her short race fitness through over longer distances. She finished nearly seven minutes ahead of second placed Dutchwoman Arielle van Meurs. Esther Süss of Switzerland came in third.

"It is great to win the second European Championship title this year," said Spitz, who also won the European cross country championship this summer. "That is a nice end to the season and this evening I can have a drink."

Fidea ready to take on 'cross world

Fidea Team manager Hans van Kasteren
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

On Tuesday, October 2 at 'the Ark' in Antwerp, Fidea presented its 2007/2008 cyclo-cross team. This year the team features ten riders, six of whom are pros with the remaining four riding in the U23 ranks. The team features no fewer than three championship jerseys in it ranks: current world champion Erwin Vervecken leads the squad which also includes Belgian champion Bart Wellens and Czech champion Petr Dlask.

"It is the fourth year that we are presenting the team to the media. Every year we want to present ourselves as more professional," commented Fidea team manager, Hans van Kasteren to HLN. "We no longer have any 'elite without contract' riders in our squad, which is new this year, because I want to make sure that the U23 riders can make the transition directly to the pros. Our goal for this season is to win 25 races with our elite riders. It makes no difference if they are won in the Superprestige or the GVA trophy. But there has to be at least one championship jersey among them, either the Worlds or the Belgian tri-colour. In the U23 we are aiming for 10 wins," said Van Kasteren of the team's season goals.

One may be excused for thinking that the team goals are set somewhat high, but with riders of the calibre of Wellens and Vervecken they are certainly achievable. "Sven Nys may have won 30 races last year but he didn't get the cherry on top because Erwin Vervecken took the world champions jersey, and Bart Wellens is riding in the black yellow and red jersey [of Belgian champion] - they are two jerseys that stick out. I can see my team achieving the goals that we have set."

The team's presentation included a video that took a look back at the 2007 Worlds. That race which featured the crash that caused Wellens to break his wrist, an injury that is still causing some problems. "I had been warned that that this injury could act up as the weather becomes cold and damp" Wellens said. "They were right. I hope that this injury, tendonitis in my right wrist, gets better quickly, as I may ride for a whole season in the National champion's jersey again. It is a nice piece of clothing," he said proudly.

Bart Wellens
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Wellens has yet to stand atop the podium this season, but that is not something that is worrying him. "That has been calculated into my program. From Ruddervoorde later in the month, I want to slowly get better and better. Besides, the season is still long," he explained. "I was severely held up in my preparations for the season by an insect bite and spent a week in the hospital which caused me to miss the Tour of China," he added.

"I compensated for that by riding a number of post-Tour criteriums. I still have pain, but I can suppress that like the burden of a mild cold," he said referring to his right wrist. "I wouldn't be the only one that is affected by that after the nice weather that we have had the past few weeks."

After winning his three World Championships, first in Tabor, then in Zeddam and finally last year in Hooglede-Gits, Erwin Vervecken is not setting his hopes too high for claiming a fourth world title in Treviso. "Treviso, where the title will be decided in 2008, doesn't suit me so well," explained Vervecken.

"The race will be a lottery. Hofstade suits me better, and that is where the Belgian championships will be decided. Naturally, I want to ride around in this jersey [the world champion's jersey] for another year, but taking over the jersey that now belongs to Bart Wellens wouldn't be a tragedy either."

Vervecken is scheduled to race in America this coming weekend - an experience that he is looking forward too. "I will maybe take my first and second win of the season. I am looking forward to riding there," he explained.

Vervecken and the rest of the Fidea team have enjoyed a gradual build up to the 'cross season, one which included riding the Tour of China at altitude under the guidance of Sports Director Danny de Bie, himself an ex-world champion. Vervecken believes that this approach suits him the best and will see him come into form at the business end of the season.

"I always take it a little easier in the beginning of the season. I want to be 100% when the real races come around. My motto is: build up slow and steady," Vervecken concluded.

Fidea cycling team for 2007 / 2008: Elite: Erwin Vervecken, Bart Wellens, Kevin Pauwels, Klaas Vantornout, Zdenek Stybar (Cze) en Petr Dlask (Cze). U23: Vincent Baestaens, Quentin Bertholet, Tom Meeusen and Jempy Drucker (Lux).

Vervecken ready for America

World Champion Erwin Vervecken
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

World Cyclo-cross Champion Erwin Vervecken will get his first taste of America's rapidly improving cyclo-cross domestic scene at the Whitmore races in Southampton, New York on October 6-7. The event will be his first American race since 2001, when he raced in Las Vegas and Gloucester. Back then the American scene was considerably smaller, but now, Vervecken acknowledges, things are different. "You used to hear not so much about cyclo-cross in America," he said. "Now we read about it all the time."

Vervecken made it clear what motivated him to endure jet-lag in order to race in the US. "America has the money," he said with a smile, but added that the growing American 'cross scene is another motivator. "Of every place in the world, cyclo-cross is growing fastest in America. It used to be that Europeans laughed at American bike racers, then came Greg Lemond and Lance Armstrong. Now road bike racing is so big in America that European riders want to go to America to work."

The 'cross scene, Vervecken theorised, could catch up with the road scene because it's more practical. "There are not so many places in American where you can shut down road traffic for a bike race; the economy has to keep going. Even in Europe this is becoming a problem for cycling. But there are lots of places to do cyclo-cross." With spectator-friendly venues, the racing is easier to follow and more exciting - something that presents increased business opportunities. "In America they don't even charge people to watch, crazy! For me, this is the future. There are big companies in America. When cyclo-cross gets big in America like road cycling, then it means more money for everyone -- even in Belgium."

More money is just what the women who head to New York will be getting - the race will have the unprecedented status of having a higher prize purse for the elite women than for the men.

Location: Southampton Youth Services Park, 1370a Majors Path, Southampton NY, 11968

Daily Schedule -- Saturday:

11:00 Amateur Race, Novices and Juniors age 10-14
12:00 Semi-Pro Race, Masters age 35+ and Juniors age 15-18
13:15 Domestic Race, Men
14:30 International Race, Elite Professional Women (World's Richest Women's Cyclo-cross)
15:45 International Race, Elite Professional Men, Category C1

Daily Schedule -- Sunday:

9:00 Amateur Race, Novices and Juniors age 10-14
10:00 Semi-Pro Race, Masters age 35+ and Juniors age 15-18
11:15 Domestic Race, Men
12:30 International Race, Elite Professional Women, Category C2
13:30 Kids Challenge, Free Children's Race
13:45 International Race, Elite Professional Men, Category C2

Upcoming UCI Cyclo-cross races

  • October 6: Whitmore's Landscaping Super Cross Cup 1, Southampton (USA) C1
  • October 7: Jim Horner Cyclo-cross Grand Prix, Edmonton (Can) C2
  • October 7: National Trophy Series 1, Abergavenny (GBr) C2
  • October 7: Whitmore's Landscaping Super Cross Cup 2, Southampton (USA) C2
  • October 13: Gran Prix of Gloucester 1, Gloucester, MA (USA) C2
  • October 13: Grand Prix de la Région Wallonne, Dottignies (Bel) C2
  • October13: Java Johnny's - LionHearts' Cross, Middletown, Ohio (USA) C2
  • October13: TOI TOI Cup, Hlinsko (Cze) C2

Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day set for weekend

The third annual Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day is set for on Saturday, October 6. IMBA encourage mountain bikers to share their passion for off-road riding with the next generation.

Interested participants - kids or adults - may join any of more than 70 scheduled events around the globe as listed on IMBA's website, or instead, they may opt for their own ride. Not all club TAKMBD rides are registered, so check also with your local club for other rides and events.

Ten youth-sized mountain bikes from Schwinn which will be awarded by raffle to both individual kids and to participating clubs who registered their event. For a list of the 80 officially registered events, visit www.imba.com/resources/kids/events.html.

NorCal high school league summit goes national

The NorCal High School Mountain Bike League announced its first national Leaders' Summit, which will be open to others interested in starting high school mountain bike programs.

The NorCal League is partnering with USA Cycling to bring high school mountain biking to other states in the US. Taking place October 26 through 28 in Fairfax, California, the Leaders' Summit will bring together high school mountain bike coaches, assistant coaches, ride leaders, and parent volunteers—and those interested in starting youth cycling programs—and to further develop skills and knowledge, share strategies, and offer support. The focus of this year's Leaders' Summit, Integral Coaching for Positive Youth Development, will promote comprehensive coaching that creates an environment in which young people can grow and thrive.

The conference has been held annually since 2001. It combines on-the-bike clinics with professional development seminars. The "Learn the Skills to Teach the Skills" clinic offers a "behind the scenes" look at the NorCal League’s mountain bike skills clinics. Participants will learn the progressive steps needed to teach anyone both basic and advanced mountain biking skills. They will also learn about experiential teaching techniques, how to accommodate different learning styles, and how to create a positive learning environment for young riders.

Professional development seminars are designed to help coaches and leaders successfully manage, lead, and work with high school mountain bike teams. These seminars will cover numerous aspects of coaching and leadership, from managing risk, to developing appropriate training programs, to effectively working with teenagers, and much more.

For more information, visit www.norcalmtb.org.

Haro bikes stolen

Haro reported about 30 mountain bikes, nearly its entire demo fleet, stolen over the weekend of September 29-30. Thieves broke into the company's trailer and rental Penske van while parked at its Vista, California headquarters. The bikes were just back from the On Dirt Demo at Interbike last week.

Models stolen include Werx Sonix (crema), Sonix LT (Grey), Sonix S (copper), Werx Xeons (Pearl White, two with 650b wheels), Xeon S (Grey), Mary SS 29er (in ginger, light blue and green), Mary XC 29er (in tangerine and green), Thread One (green/black fade), Flightline Expert (cream), alloy 29er hardtail prototype (black with green graphics, green RST M29 fork, and one non-Haro bike, a Masi CXR 'cross bike.

The bikes may have identifying marks on them. If any has information, contact Jill Hamilton at 800-289-4276.

Barbara Howe diary; Cross-training with an Xterra

With my medal and arm numbers
Photo ©: Barbara Howe
(Click for larger image)

Saturday my brother, Rush, his dog Helmutt, his friend, Sam, and myself loaded into the VW van and headed up to the Xterra venue for a pre-ride. This was all Wendy Simms fault, she suggested I do an Xterra as I have run, swam and cycled competitively and Xterra have prize lists the likes of which are not even dreamed about in mountain biking.

After arriving at Yellow Creek state park and securing a campsite at a shady (not just from trees) campground we headed out for a preview of the mountain bike course. For the most part things went really well. Along fire roads, up some single track, down some more fire roads across a creek ... then it all went wrong. Not with my bike but with Sam's bike. He ripped his derailleur right off the bike. My brother was off the front somewhere so I told Sam to start walking while I caught my bro and got a chain tool.

Several miles later I caught up to Rush and we headed back to find Sam. Another racer had stopped to help with the singulation of Sam's bike. This took a long time and it didn't work out so well because the hanger had broken off high up and the quick release did grab enough so the wheel kept going crooked. Rush and I realized that the course went right past the campground so we sent Sam to the campsite then headed off to the van. At this point the sun had set and the evening was just getting started.

I had told my brother that I was taking care of the food, assuming that he would bring kitchen stuff for cooking. He did, kind of. As Sam worked on his bike and Helmutt wandered off, I made the discovery that we had no pot for cooking our pasta. Crap. It was wonder doggie to the rescue, Helmutt had packed a stainless steel bowl for drinking which us humans quickly conscripted as a pasta cooking bowl. With dinner out of the way it was time for bed, three of us and the doggie squeezed into the tent in hopes of a few hours of shuteye.

Morning came much too soon with not enough sleep. At registration I asked how we started, being a complete newbie I wasn't sure if we split up between men and women or age groups or beginner and expert. Mass start was the answer, we can walk into the water then it's a free for all. That's something I can deal with, it couldn't be nearly as hectic as the start of a World Cup cross race or bunch sprint in a crit.

To read the complete diary entry, click here.

God's Country Marathon wraps up MASS

The Mid Atlantic Super Series for mountain biking comes to an end Saturday, October 6 with a double points race for the endurance sub-series. Coudersport, Pennsylvania, will host the 50 mile marathon race, just in time for peak autumn colors in the mountains of the north central portion of the state.

Beginning and ending at the Ski Denton resort, the 50-mile course will consist of a mix of singletrack, trail, and forestry roads. Elevation at the ski lodge is 1,825 feet (556 meters ) and the summit of the resort's mountain is at about 2,500 feet (760 meters) so riders should expect plenty of climbing and descending.

For more information, visit www.skidenton.com

Show Low Bluff Tour continues in Arizona

Arizona's longest standing endurance mountain bike event, the Show Low Bluff Tour of the White Mountains, will run again in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest on Saturday, October 6.

At 7,000 feet, riders will discover the challenges of rugged terrain amongst a Ponderosa pine forest backdrop plus witness the beauty of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. The onset of fall should bring racers and spectators more comfortable temperatures and changing leaves. The race will benefit the Summit Healthcare Regional Medical Center.

Pick 'n Pay challenge registration opens

Organizers announced registration is now open for the sixth annual Cape Argus Pick 'n Pay Mountain Bike Challenge scheduled for Sunday, March 2, 2008. The 2007 edition of the race broke attendance records, with a 50% jump, and similar demand for entries is expected for next year.

The event comes with both a 55km race and shorter tours through the scenic Boschendal Wine Estate and surrounding area. New for next year is a series of seeding events so that late entrants can still have the opportunity to land a better starting spot. Seeding events include the Argus Rotary Knysna MTB Challenge and the Stellenbosch MTB Challenge, as well as the Lourensford Classic, the latter is scheduled for October 6. For more information, visit www.mtbchallenge.co.za.

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