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MTB news & racing round-up for October 12, 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 heading full steam to Beijing

By Bjorn Haake

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

After a stellar 2007 season German mountain biker Sabine Spitz has one goal in mind, the Olympic Games in Beijing. To obtain the gold next August, she has been getting ready on all fronts, including a three-day whirlwind trip to China's capital to ride in the Olympic test race.

Spitz is heading into her annual rest period, a well-deserved break after a long and successful season. Then she will begin preparing for the 2008 season in which the main focus will be the Olympic Games. Having obtained a ninth place in Sydney in 2000 and the bronze medal in Athens in 2004, the logical next step would be the top podium sport in China.

Spitz feels ready to take on the challenge and she dismisses suggestions that at age 35 one has to think about the end of a career. "I have had a great season, probably one of my best years so far. I am not over the top yet, and I still love the sport, so I haven't given any thought to quitting."

She recalled talk from last year, when things didn't go her way. "Last year, some people said that the changing of the guard already had arrived, especially when I finished second to Nina Göhl in the German marathon championships. So this year's results were all the sweeter," Spitz emphasized her continued desire to race at the highest level.

And she doesn't think that her successes only came about because of Gunn-Rita Dahle FlesjŚ's sickness, which had forced the Norwegian, who is recovering from a viral infection, to take a break from racing since June. "Even starting with last year's World Cup, you could see that our races had changed. Before, it was Gunn Rita-Dahle ahead of everyone else, then five or six of us racing for second."

"This season was much more interesting, with six or seven competing for first place," said Spitz. "In fact, I think throughout the year the women's competition was more interesting than the men's. There, you had [Julien] Absalon going ahead and winning all the time."

With women's races getting more suspenseful, it is hard for Spitz to pick a potential podium for the 2008 Olympics. Instead, she listed half a dozen names, including two Chinese women who can enter the race, based on the Olympic selection criteria. Spitz is definitely impressed with the Chinese women who "will be very motivated on home soil. They also live in a boarding school-like environment, next to the mountain bike course. They have access to the venue year round and will know every centimetre."

Sabine Spitz (Ghost International Racing)
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Spitz should know, having returned from Beijing's Olympic test race recently. After her bronze medal in Athens in 2004, she is hoping to step up two more spots. The weather should be fine for her. "I am sensitive to the cold. I prefer 30 or 35 degrees centigrade. In the cold my legs freeze up and don't do what my brain tells them to do anymore. When we got to Beijing it was very humid and warm." Spitz also recalled that the first World Cup in 2006 in Netherlands Antilles had similar conditions and she had no problems. So the weather will be ok, but what about the pollution?

She arrived in China on a Thursday, with the air being pretty clear. "We thought, 'What are they all talking about with the pollution?'" Spitz said of her incident-free arrival. "But by Friday it was foggy from the pollution and Saturday [race day] it was like yellow soup in the air." One cause was spotted on the return to the airport Saturday evening. "There were only trucks on the streets, but you could hardly see them, with all the smoke coming out of their exhaust pipes!"

The rest of the setup, however, worked well. "More than for the racers, this was a test for the organizers, to see if they are ready. And everything went very smoothly. They drove us from the hotel to the stadium and the police blocked off intersections and we got waved through all the red lights." Security was also tight. "We had to through X-ray machines, just like at airports, in order to get into the stadium." The procedure planned for the Games passed its test, too. "We did everything according to protocol. The ceremony, the doping control and the press conference went very smoothly." The race itself went well for Spitz, but she'll hope to improve on her second place by the time the real Games roll around.

She liked the course, and comparing it to the courses at this year's Worlds in Fort William, Scotland, and in Athens three years ago, she said, "It's more technical than I was told beforehand. And I am sure they will still add a few more obstacles, like piles of rock, steps and things like that." The many short ups and downs should suit her style. "It's good for a power rider like me." She added, "With the means they had, I think they got a good course together. [Peter] Van Den Abeele, the technical director of the UCI, has been down here and is in constant contact and has an eye on things."

To read the full feature, click here.

24 hours of Moab draws top field of endurance racers

Nat Ross
Photo ©: Xavier Fane
Click for larger image

Over 50 elite men are set to race at the 24 Hours of Moab this weekend in Utah. The largest-ever men's field in the history of the event boasts Nat Ross, defending champion, and Chris Eatough, six-time 24 hours of Adrenaline World Solo Champion and current national champion. Both racers excel at endurance racing, but Ross may have a slight advantage in that he's very familiar with the lengthy course. The two will go head to head at one of the best-known and most popular 24 hours races in the US.

Joining them will be Josh Tostado, who is vying for the overall 24 hour points title and regular podium visitor David Harris along with Chris Gagnon, Rob Lichtenwalner, and Ernesto Marenchin.

The women's race is drawing an international field this year. Lorenza Menapace, winner of the 24 hours of Rome, will make the trip across the Atlantic from Italy. Menapace is well known for her long distance achievements. In 2007, she won the Alla Banalbike, the Tre Tre Bike di Madonna di Campiglio, the Cronoscalata del Monte Peller, the dual slalom Val Rendena, the 12 hours di Bolzano and the 12 hours of Val di Sole. Nine women are signed up for the solo pro division, but neither last year's winner Lynda Wallenfels nor the other podium finishers are on the list.

Maybe that's because last year's race was particularly memorable and some racers would rather forget. Following record rainfalls in the days preceding the event, torrential rains during the race brought sudden high levels of water to the course and resulted in an early stopping of the race. Confusion followed about whether the race would re-start and ultimately, Ross was declared the winner. Racers lodged plenty of protests amid the confusion and two sets of final results were issued. Fortunately, the forecast for the weekend is for sun and 70 degree (Fahrenheit) during the daytime.

24 hour Australian Championships head to Canberra

Andrew Bell
Photo ©: Gregory Nelson
(Click for larger image)

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, 2,400 riders will converge on Mt Stromlo Forest Park in Canberra this weekend for the 24 hour Australian Mountain Bike Championships. The largest 24 hour mountain bike race in the southern hemisphere will start at noon on Saturday, October 13 and wrap up on Sunday, October 14.

The two-day outdoor extravaganza, which revolves around a specially-designed "hourglass" course and is largely a participation event, is expected to attract more than 6,000 spectators who will cheer on the Olympic standard riders including Australia's leading male and female solo riders. The race starts with a Le-Mans style 300 metre run.

131 individual riders will be contesting the national title including champions Andrew Bell and James Williamson.

Bell will draw inspiration from his disappointing 24 hours of Adrenaline Solo World Championship just three weeks ago in California. The 32 year-old from Melbourne had to receive medical attention after 17 hours of racing in temperatures that reached 40 degrees Celsius during the race.

"I went there to podium," he said. "Even with a 19th overall it was really a disappointment for me." Recovery has been slow for Bell with short six hour rides causing aches and pains.

Bell will use this weekend's event to fine tune his fluid and food intake. "It's an ongoing experiment," he explained. "I plan to knock 10 to 20 percent off the effort and concentrate more on hydrating and on my food intake." However winning is not far from Bell's mind. "I can't help myself. I am there to compete," said Bell.

After placing second in last year's event to Canberra's Williamson, Bell put this event on his "must win" list. "If I miss this I don't get another solo race until December," he said. "For exposure it's a huge event."

Last year's solo winner Williamson has paired up with fellow Canberra rider Dylan Cooper and could use the advantage of knowing the course to secure the fastest lap of the race.

Craig Gordon
Photo ©: Gregory Nelson
(Click for larger image)
Also on hand will be a "dream team" of four including Athens Olympian Sid Taberlay, Brent Millar, 2006 24 Hour World Champion and current National Marathon Champion Craig Gordon and top-ranked Olympic cross country racer Perren Delacour. Chris Jongewaard (Adelaide) was expected to race but has decided to ride in the Sun Herald Tour. Taberlay and Jongewaard recently returned to Australia after racing World Cups, the World Championships and the Olympic test event in Beijing.

The battle for fastest team could also come from the Pro Team with four Canberra riders Scott Chancellor, Angus Harding and Ben Mather along with junior Australian representative, Nathan Haas.

German rider, Alexandra Kiendl is expected to dominate the women's solo race while riders like Coffs Harbour's Justine Leahy are aiming to podium. The fastest women's lap could see a tough tussle between Canberra's team riders Niki Fisher and youngster Rebecca Henderson. National Marathon champion, Rowena Fry could also challenge.

A total prize pool of AUS$125,000 is up for grabs, making it the richest race in Australia. The top elite team will take home $5,000 while each man and woman who logs the fastest lap will take home $4,000 each.

The Mt Stromlo venue will also host a round of the 2008 World Cup and the 2009 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships.

Kalentieva celebrates best season ever

Irina Kalentieva (Topeak)
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Irina Kalentieva (Ergon - Topeak) capped off her best season yet by claiming her first world championship and World Cup titles, and winning her seventh Russian National Championship. Now, the 29 year-old is relaxing with family in her hometown in Russia, while mentally preparing for the 2008 Olympic Ganes in Beijing.

Kalentieva won the World Championship race in Fort William, Scotland, by 39 seconds over European Champion Sabine Spitz. "Everyone was looking at each other, waiting for someone to do something. It got slower and slower. In the end I decided to go for it," said Kalentieva after her win. The German Spitz stayed with her, but going into the final lap a small gap appeared. "To win the Worlds is a dream come true."

One week after worlds, Kalentieva won the World Cup overall title in Maribor, Slovenia. A technical course delivered everything that the new World Champion loves to ride, with lots of roots to catch the riders off guard. All the same, she was suffering a cold following the damp of Scotland and for the first few laps didn't feel great.

Things changed on the third lap. "I felt a lot better, and I overtook [Canadian Marie Helen] Premont to take second place. But by the fifth lap I wasn't feeling great, and with my head cold biting back I let up, not wanting to make myself worse." At this point Premont showed that she had been preserving her energy, and moved up to take second, behind Lui Ying of China.

Kalentieva ended up third, "I wasn't looking for a race win here, and for me today was about the series" Irina said. "I am pleased with my third place as it was a great race. Premont was very strong too. I am delighted with winning the series. It has been the best season ever."

No renewals for Taberlay and Beemer in 2008

Two cross country riders will not be rejoining Team Dolphin for 2008. Sid Taberlay and Frank Beemer have ridden for the team for two years.

Australian Taberlay is reported to be turning his focus to a US-oriented team. Taberlay spent 2007 wearing the 2006 Australian National Championship jersey for Team Dolphin. He also finished 28th in the Offenburg World Cup and made the podium several times at the Tour de France VTT.

20 year-old Frank Beemer of the Netherlands, is the current under 23 Dutch champion. Dolphin management said there was too much "difference in the view between rider and team to get a new agreement."

Santa Cruz Syndicate signs Bryceland

Josh Bryceland
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Santa Cruz Syndicate signed Josh Bryceland to its powerhouse gravity squad. Bryceland, an up and coming 17 year-old from Manchester, Great Britain, is the reigning UCI World Cup Junior Downhill Champion and British National Junior Downhill Champion. Steve Peat has been grooming Bryceland for a few years.

"I'm so happy to join the Syndicate. Steve and Nathan are two riders I have looked up to for a long time and to now be on the Syndicate with them, it's a dream come true! My goals for '08 are to consistently place top 15 at World Cups, keep hold of the yellow jersey, and to podium at World Champs," said an excited Bryceland.

Peat is pleased to have his protégé onboard and said, "I have been helping Josh out for a long time now and I like what I see. He has the drive to be the best and I think he fits the Syndicate mentality well. He is already an amazing rider at a young age and think he will flourish riding along side Rennie and myself."

Bryceland had a remarkable season on the UCI World Cup scene as well as at the NPS British National races. Highlights of his year include qualifying fifth and placing ninth at the UCI World Cup Downhill in Maribor, Slovenia At the NPS race in Ae Forest, Scotland, he took the junior win and placed fourth overall, just ahead of Greg Minnaar and behind Matti Leihikonen. A flat tire marred his world championship race run, so he is hungry for the Junior World Championship title in 2008.

2008 AMBC applications sought

USA Cycling is inviting applications from US mountain bike race promoters for inclusion in the 2008 American Mountain Bike Challenge (AMBC) calendar. The AMBC series is structured to encourage the growth of mountain biking, especially at a grass roots level. Applications are being accepted through October 15. Visit www.usacycling.org/ambc/ for more information.

Barb Howe diary: Interbike

Where do I even begin? Perhaps that I'm still recovering, and I didn't even go out and party. It started Tuesday before dawn with a trip to the Oakland Airport, there's very little traffic at 5:00 am. Sheila Moon, my employer, had driven down with all of our stuff on Sunday and was just waiting for me to complete the group. Joining us to man the Sheila Moon Athletic Apparel booth was Gillian and her husband Greg. This was my first time at a trade show as a vendor, and it's really hard work.

I've got a love hate relationship with Las Vegas. So much of the city sickens me, the obscene overuse of precious water in the desert, vulgar humanity throwing money away, the smoke filled disorienting casinos and crappy service on overpriced goods. Sure, the glittering lights and massive themed casinos are impressive in a wasteful overdone way, but my preference is that of a lesser, more subtle existence. The parts I love are actually not in the city. Red Rocks National Conservation Area has stunning sandstone climbing (remember I was a rock climber in my former life) and the mountain biking near Blue Diamond is great. During the right times of the year you can find waterfalls cascading down tucked away canyons and chorus's of frogs beckoning you to refresh your feet in the cool water.

After a quick shuttle ride to the hotel, Sheila, Gillian and I trekked to the convention hall to put the finishing touches on our booth. This was followed by a fabulous lunch at Paymon's located off the Strip. Their baba ganoush had a subtle smokiness, the humus was light and creamy and the dolmas burst with lemony goodness. Just across the street the three of us indulged in manicures and pedicures – you have to look good!

To read the complete diary, click here.

Cal Poly Wheelmen to host 18th Parkfield Classic

The Cal Poly Wheelmen are presenting the 18th annual Parkfield Classic Mountain Bike Race for October 13 - 14. Races begin Saturday, October 13 at 8:00 am local time and continue through Sunday afternoon on the V6 Cattle Ranch, located three miles north of Parkfield or two and half hours from Santa Barbara, San Jose, Fresno, and Bakersfield. Camping options are available.

Saturday, October 13
Cross country
Dual slalom
Post race barbeque

Sunday, October 14
Short track

In addition to the usual ability level categories, all races will have collegiate categories, too. For more information, visit http://www.parkfieldclassic.com.

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