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MTB news & racing round-up for October 11, 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

Spitz's best is yet to come

By Bjorn Haake

Sabine Spitz (Germany) on her way to second at the World Championships in Fort William, Scotland
Photo ©: Didier Weemaels
(Click for larger image)

Sabine Spitz is Germany's top female mountain biker. Winning the German championships from 2001 to 2006 without interruption showed her domination of the German race scene and in fact, 2007 was the first year she had to settle for silver, behind current time trial road time trial and former cyclo-cross world champion Hanka Kupfernagel. However, overall her 2007 season was very successful. She called 2007 "one of the best years of racing."

It is hard to argue with two European Championships titles, one in cross country, obtained in Turkey in July, and one in the marathon, at the end of the season on home soil in St. Wendel, Germany. Throw in a silver medal at the World Championships in Fort William, Scotland, and it is easy to see why the 35 year-old does not give any thought to retirement. But how did she get where she is today?

Spitz's career got jump-started in the early 1990s. Her boyfriend (and now husband and manager) Ralf Schäuble was a runner, but had to switch to mountain biking due to an injury. It didn't kill his competitive spirit and so he entered some local races. Spitz didn't want to stay behind and decided to also give mountain bike racing a shot. The rest, as they say, is history.

Spitz's experienced some success right away, but most of the races were, of course, smaller, with few spectators. Then 1995 rolled around and the World Championships were almost in her backyard, in Kirchzarten, Germany. At the time, individuals were able to participate. The German federation still required certain placings, but Spitz was able to satisfy those with some top ten places in national races.

Sabine Spitz (Germany)
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

"I got eighth in two races in the Grundig Top Ten races, the predecessor to the Bundesliga races we have now in Germany." Her starting position on the big day wasn't so great, "There were 160 starters and I was in the last row," Spitz laughed. But she managed to pass many competitors to end up in 35th. That day changed her whole outlook on the sport.

"The masses of spectators were incredible – 30,000 people. It was so different than what I was used to from the other races." It made her go out and look for a ... coach. Until then she hadn't trained with any structure. Steadily, she moved up to the top ranks and also started to race more internationally.

"The first time I went to the US, I did the Cactus Cup in Arizona, then Sea Otter [Monterey, California] and the World Cup in Napa. We stayed with a friend in San Francisco for three weeks. A nice city – I can imagine why people want to live there," she recalled her experiences across the pond. Unfortunately, she discovered things weren't always as they seemed. "The weather in California wasn't quite as we had expected. We had a different image in our head. The races were in the spring, and it still can get pretty cold there. One year it was raining like crazy."

But she did enjoy the courses. "The Americans have a different attitude when they put the courses together. The loops are much longer [Sea Otter is around 30km]," Spitz was happy for the change. "It makes it much more interesting for the racers, but is of course less spectator-friendly and it is also not great for the team helpers."

To read the complete feature, click here.

Kenda USA takes over Pedro's Festival

New England's most well-known mountain bike festival saw a changing of the guard in recent weeks with the departure of long-time sponsor Pedro's and the signing of new sponsors Kenda USA and Dirt Rag.

The annual festival is held in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, although the first edition of the event was held in the fall of 1995 in Randolph, Vermont. It draws racers primarily from all over New England.

Pedro's cited flat growth in attendance as one reason for the move. Jason Elhardt of Pedro's said to Cyclingnews, "I don't think the lack of growth reflects the state of mountain biking." He also indicated it was time for a change in the direction Pedro's pointed its marketing efforts. "I've only been with Pedro's a few years, but many of us here have fond memories of the festival. Pedro's is now supporting three travelling vans, two in the US and one in Europe. They'll be travelling around and maybe will find our next big event to sponsor."

"It was the right time to move to a new sponsor," said Renee Hicks, Director of Sponsorship & Expo for the festival to Cyclingnews. "We're excited about the new energy that brings."

"The festival is a festival only, with no racing. It is family friendly. Going into its 14th year, many attendees are back with their children," added Hicks, who also said there will be more trails for its second year at the current venue coming up next summer.

The Kenda Bike Festival will next be held at the Apple Tree Hill Organic Farm in Hancock, Massachusetts July 25-27, 2008 - one week following the US National Mountain Bike Championship in Mount Snow, Vermont. In addition to mountain biking, the festival hosts a full slate of road rides.

Nys wins Hondsrug Classic on a 'cross bike

Cyclo-cross rider Sven Nys won the Netherlands' Hondsrug Classic last weekend. Nys often participates and excels at mountain bike racing; however, his win this time was noteworthy because he accomplished it on a 'cross bike. He finished ahead of Peter Riis Andersen (who was riding on a normal mountain bike). In third and fourth came two more racers on cyclo-cross bikes: Gerben de Knegt and Thijs Al.

The discussion of what bikes for what races is a recurring one in the "lower" countries like The Netherlands. In the UCI's regulations, only three lines are devoted to what is a mountain bike. Often the discussion is about wheel-size (limited to no larger than 29 inches) and since it's not otherwise prohibited, racers are allowed to compete in mountain bike races on 'cross bikes.

"You can't blame the cyclo-cross riders; they are entitled to use their bikes and since it is allowed by the UCI there is simply nothing we can do then just sit, wait and watch!" said managers from Team Dolphin. "The only thing that could be done is the organizer specifying which bikes a rider may use, but that's not up to us."

Roc d'Azur opened mid-week

You know the season is near its end when the Roc d'Azur rolls around. The French race in Fréjus, on the Mediterranean Coast, is open to professionals, amateurs and beginners among others. The action kicked off Wednesday morning, but a complete schedule is below. Nearly 14,000 participants will take part in 18 races during the course of the several-day event.

Wednesday, October 10
Generation Roc: free event organized in collaboration with the UNSS for students in the academy of Nice

Thursday, October 11
Roc Enduro

Friday, October 12
Roc Marathon 83
Masters Roc, Subaru Roc Pro (for journalists and exhibitors)
UCI BMX Supercross World Cup Qualifications
Mid Roc
Roc Ruelles de Fréjus / 70 teams of 2

Saturday, October 13
Roc Tandems
Roc d'Azur Elite Women and Young Ladies
Rando Roc Noire
UCI BMX Supercross World Cup Finals Women and Men
Kid Roc 8km for boys and girls born in 1993 and 1994
Kid Roc 4.2km for boys and girls born in 1996 and 1998
Kid Roc 6.5 km for boys and girls born in 1994 and 1995
Rando Roc Rouge
Kid Roc 2.3 km for boys and girls born in 2000 and 2001

Sunday, October 14
Roc d'Azur Boys U-16
Roc d'Azur Girls under 16 and 18
Race 17 - Roc d'Azur Boys U-18
Race 18 - Roc d'Azur (first start)

Cannondale seeking a few good men and women

Cannondale is looking for a few more good men and women to fill its roster for the 2008 Bear Naked Cannondale Mountain Bike Team. The American bike manufacturer has long supported grassroots and regional mountain bike racing, but experience and winning aren't the only qualities sought in the new team members; Cannondale looks for racers who are involved in their local racing and riding scene and have an outgoing personality.

Over the years, Cannondale's teams have served as the career launching pad for top racers like Shonny Vanlandingham, Amber Neben, Tom Danielson, Aaron Chase, Kerry Barnholt, and Paul Rowney, just to name a few.

Applications are being accepted for another few weeks. For more information on the application process, visit www.cannondale.com/racing/sponsorship.html.

Bikin' Cyprus and others participate in charity ride

Bikin' Cyprus riders Christof Bischof, Michi Weiss and Marios Athanasiades participated in a 100km charity race sponsored by Vereinigte Volksbank in Weil der Stadt in Germany on October 3. Money raised from the event will be donated to children with disabilities.

Some German national road team riders also joined the mix including Stefan Schumacher, who recently finished third at the UCI Road World Championships in Stuttgart, Jens Voigt, two time winner of the Tour of Deutschland and Andreas Klöden who finished (after the disqualification of Floyd Landis) second in the 2006 Tour de France.

"It's great that through our sport we can offer some help to the children that need it," Bischof said after the race. "I hope I will have the chance to help more in the future." The team will participate in another charity event scheduled for Cyprus in the coming weeks.

Crater Cruise draws talented field for weekend race

The annual Colorpress Crater Cruise will take place in Parys, South Africa, on Saturday, October 13. The race traditionally shapes up as a battle between road and mountain bikers.

Last year's race was won by mountain biker Ben-Melt Swanepoel (MTN/Microsoft) but less than four minutes separated the first four places, and Jock Green (second), the late Ryan Cox (third) and Nic White (fourth) were roadies who were not far behind.

This year some of the favorites are Jacques Janse van Rensburg, Jaco Venter (both Neotel), White (MTN/Microsoft), Green, Christoff van Heerden, Chris Froome (all Konica-Minolta) and David George. Venter finished third this year in the Mazda Series race in Harrismith while Froome is a young Kenyan who has consistently been winning races in Africa, Europe and Japan. Froome, who has signed with Barloworld for next year, won the fifth stage of the Giro Della Regioni (which is part of the Nations Cup series) in Italy, a stage in the Tour of Japan and the best young rider classification at the Giro del Capo.

Mannie Heymans (MTN/Microsoft) predicted a fast pace that will eliminate riders. "Because the Crater Cruise-route is so flat I think the pace is going to be high from the start. I also think team tactics will play a significant role in the outcome. Fortunately for us we've got four riders in the MTN/Microsoft team who can counter and attack," Heymans said.

Heymans won the first Crater Cruise event and maybe he would have won the second edition if a farmer hadn't locked his gate during the second event. Heymans was away with the final selection of the day, the locked gate meant there was no official winner that year.

"This hasn't been one of my best years. I have been battling. Don't ask me why, because I really don't have the answers," the 36 year-old said. "In hindsight I perhaps should have taken things a bit easier after the Cape Epic and allowed my body to recover. But I didn't and ever since I have been paying the price. That's why I see my role as that of 'super' domestique. I will be the guy who counters the early attacks or makes the pace hard in the beginning of the race to try and eliminate some contenders early on.

Friday, October 12
85km Colorpress Road Master Blaster (a road cycling event for 50 plussers only)

Saturday, October 13
100km Colorpress Crater Cruise
25km Dirt Flirt number 1

Sunday, October 14
56km Colorpress Crater Cruise and
25km Dirt Flirt number 2

Mike & Mary diary: Autumn Greetings from Chilmark!

Glen Nevis
Photo ©: Some Bloke
(Click for larger image)

Mike and I recently returned from a solid travelling and racing trip to Europe, although we were technically in Europe for a full three weeks, it was segmented into two separate continental excursions: Great Britain and mainland Europe. This added an extra element of travel and planning to what could easily be considered the two biggest races of the year – the World Championships and the World Cup finals.

Fresh off the red eye flight, we downed big Americanos to help recall the finer points of left-hand driving and bolster an attempt at the traffic circles that ensnare the Glasgow airport. We ended up making an unscheduled stop for a Scottish supper and soon after the upright night caught up to us, and we were compelled for safety reasons to stop at the first pricey B & B that we could find right in the town of Arrochar. It was seeming like a good thing to have planned to arrive a week before our competitions.

This early fall in Scotland seemed incredibly wet – fluctuating from a continual mist to drizzle with brief moments when the sun forced its way through the drizzle. Though there was still evidence of summer with the amazing variety of greens – hills covered by dark pine, grasses, and blooming pink heather amongst the ever present confused bare patches of forest service tree harvest.

Stunning scenery
Photo ©: Some Bloke
(Click for larger image)

Mike and I have always enjoyed visiting Scotland and in our six years attending this venue have found Fort William and its low elevation ski area style race course to be one of our favorites. The course itself has morphed year to year but seemingly always in the direction of a more rideable, faster and less technical. this year at worlds it was no exception. This year we had to climb once up once and then go down six kilometer plus loop of pavement of hard-bermed blue stone excavated into the hills at the foot of the highest point in Great Britain. To our dismay, almost every nasty technical section from years past had been reshaped, smoothed out or taken away all together.

Ok it might have not been a true rugged to mountain bike style cross country course, but it is worth mentioning the effort of the Ben Nevis resort to develop a network of trails that can be ridden 12 months a year and would be a boggy mess for 11 and a half months of the year if not for big development and maintenance. Places like Ben Nevis play a key role in the future of the sport by expanding riding terrain. What we were riding was clearly 100% contrived and the starkest contrast to what the natural environment would have dished up for riding here in the wet.

To read the complete diary entry, click here.

Gold Coast races set for weekend

Gold Coast mountain bike club will host MTNX, cross country, and downhill races on October 13 - 14 in Illinbah, Australia. The MTNX track was built for an Australia National Series Round that will be hosted there in November. In the event of wet weather, the track may be closed. Call the club mobile 0407 753 327 for more information or visit www.gcmtb.org.

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