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MTB news & racing round-up for October 18, 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

Llanes on the road to recovery

By Sue George

A 'giant' get well card for Tara Llanes at Interbike
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
(Click for larger image)
After a crash at the Jeep King of the Mountain finals in Beaver Creek, Colorado, Tara Llanes realized she couldn't move her feet or legs. She was transported initially to Vail Valley hospital and later airlifted to Denver for further medical treatment including surgeries to stabilize her spine. Llanes is spending a few months at the Craig Hospital in Denver where she is undergoing rehabilitation.

Faced with an indefinite recovery period and an uncertain future, 30 year-old Llanes (Giant) approaches each day with a relentlessly optimistic attitude. "All you can do is be positive," said Llanes. "If you're negative, well that's not going to happen. I'm going to walk out of this place. That's my plan."

Upon arriving at Denver Health Hospital after her crash on September 1, Llanes faced seven hours of back surgery. Afterward, she still reported no feeling from her waist down. "I did fracture my C7 and had to wear a neck brace, but I got that off a few days ago. I was very lucky I didn't hurt more of my neck. The majority of my injuries are mid to low back – my T12, T11, L1, and L2. They fused all those together and put rods in my back."

At the rehabilitation hospital, Llanes follows a daily schedule that would leave most healthy people exhausted. "On a typical day, from 8 to 9 am, I have an OT class, which is occupational therapy. Then from 9 to 10 am, I have chair class. They show you how to manoeuvre, how to do wheelies, how to get the wheelchair up curbs – things I never would have thought of."

"From 10 to 11 am, I have my FES bike class which is on a machine. You roll your chair up and they put electrodes on your legs and one on each butt cheek. They put your legs in, turn it on and you ride a bike. Your legs just start moving. It's the coolest thing. The first time I had a huge smile on my face and thought, 'Yes, I'm riding!'"

"When you ride the bike, there is a screen with a little blue wheel. When it's blue, the machine is doing the work. When it turns grey, your muscles are making the pedals turn. I've only been able to make the pedals turn a little on my own, but I've only been in the class four times so far." Llanes has had many breakthroughs in her recovery so far and looks forward to many more, but one that stands out is that she has been able to contract her left quadriceps muscle.

After her morning activities, Llanes gets a break for three hours. "It's my time to relax and take a nap or do whatever I need to do." But then it's back to work.

"From 2 to 3 pm, I have physical therapy. From 3 to 4 pm, I have fit class. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays that means I lift weights, like weight training. The two other days of the week I'm not lifting, I go to the basketball gym and play games.

"It's like the movie Murderball. It came out a few years ago and it has to do with a rugby team - lots of them are quadriplegic. These guys are animals and they ram into each others' chairs and they fall out. Then they climb back in and get going again." Her competitive spirit was evident in her voice as she added, "It's fun!"

Her classes end at 4 pm. "If I'm sore or having a rough day, I'll come back to my room and relax. Or I can go outside or whatever I want to do."

Despite the rigorous rehabilitation, Llanes still makes it a priority to communicate with her many supporters at home in California and around the globe. "I've got 80 new emails each day and I want to make sure I get back to people." She has plenty of visitors, too. "I don't ever want to kick any body out of here, but there are times I just need to recover. My nurses and doctors kick people out to give me recovery time."

Llanes, who finished third in the 2006 UCI 4X World Cup standings and has bronze medals from the 4X world championships in 2005 and 2006, was racing in the semi-finals against Jill Kintner at the Jeep King of the Mountain finals when she crashed.

"I remember coming into this section where your timing needed to be spot on. You couldn't mess up. To make it easy to understand it was like six doubles in a row. After you hit the third double, you came down and it was like a roller that was only about a foot or so off the ground and you needed to pull up for it right when your front wheel was on the back side of it and you hit the lip of another double."

Her voice cracked as she recalled what went wrong, "I just…I don't know... . During my heat, I hit the rhythm section perfectly. It was amazing. But for some reason when I went into it the last time, I didn't think and I didn't pull up for the roller. I don't know why.

To read the complete feature, click here.

24 hour Australian National champions awarded at Mt. Stromlo

By Sharon Payne

Alex Kiendl takes the women's race
Photo ©: Evan Jeffery
(Click for larger image)

Endurance racers converged at Mt. Stromlo Forest Park last weekend for the 24 Hour Australian Mountain Bike Championships After finishing runner-up in last year's Scott 24 Hour Mountain Bike Championships Andrew Bell wasn't going to let another victory slip through his hands, so he pushed hard to ensure he claimed the 2007 title. Bell was coming off a disappointing performance at the 24 hours of Adrenaline World Solo Championships in California last month where he was haunted by extremely hot conditions.

The 34 year-old from Melbourne didn't take to the lead until six hours into the race and he finished with a total of 29 laps. Port Macquarie's Jason English, finished second with 28 laps. English lost valuable time when he suffered a mechanical problem on the third lap, however he regained ground over the following 20 hours to finish a creditable second.

In the women's division German mountain bike rider Alexandra Kiendl only wanted an Australian beer after she crossed the line with more laps than any other female rider. The 34 year-old suffered from the cold when temperatures plummeted to a single degree throughout the night. "I had everything on I owned," she said. Kiendl completed 23 laps finishing, 48 minutes in front of nearest rival Justine Leahy (Coffs Harbour).

Sid Taberlay and Rowena Fry logged the fastest men's and women's laps in 31'38" and 37'11" respectively. Taberlay was also a member of the fastest overall team, with the squad completing an impressive 38 laps. Second team overall was Flight Centre on 37 laps followed by the Orbea Pro Team with 35 laps.

The 2007 event is the first to be held at the Stromlo Forest Park venue since bush fires devastated the region in 2003. The 2003 fires were the third of their kind to tear through the pine forests of Stromlo, with the first taking place in the December of 1951 and again 50 years on in December 2001. The Stromlo Forest Park, the original birthplace of the Scott 24 Hour, had been replaced in recent years by a venue in Canberra's Kowen Forest. The venue will play host to the Mountain Bike World Cup in 2008 and the World Championships in 2009, following the government's decision to re-develop the venue into a world-class multi-use, recreational sporting facility.

For full coverage of the 24 hour Australian National Championships, click here.

Injury keeps Gordon out of Australian 24 hour nationals

2005 24 hours of Adrenaline World Solo Champion Craig Gordon was injured just hours before travelling to the Australian 24 hour Championships in Canberra to race last weekend. The 34 year-old Cannondale racer was hit by a car on a corner just metres from his work car park.

"I had the car packed and was just loosening up my legs," Gordon explained. "A Honda came around the corner a bit wide and I ended up rolling over it."

"I kept thinking I'm going to race," he said. However after receiving medical attention he was told he would not be able to race. "When I couldn't lift my arm because of my shoulder, I finally realized it was not going to happen."

James Meadley was picked to replace Gordon on his four person team. Meadley recently won the Tour of Hong Kong but has mountain biking experience; his team won the 24 hours of Adrenaline World Championship in California just last month.

Eatough & Kirkland dominate in Moab

The desert sunset in Moab,
Photo ©: Garrett Geer
(Click for larger image)
Chris Eatough (Trek/VW), and Jari Kirkland (Boulder Performance Network) won the men's and women's solo races at the 24 hours of Moab in Utah. Unlike in 2006, the weather co-operated "The weather was probably the best it has ever been for this race," said event director Laird Knight.

Long-time king of the endurance scene, Eatough of Ellicott City, Maryland, made his first-ever appearance in the solo class at Moab. Coming out of the LeMans-style start, Eatough sat in roughly 40th position. But after the first lap, he had worked himself into the top ten and he put himself in the lead on lap two. No one could follow, and Eatough was never challenged for the rest of his race, which consisted of 14 laps, 208 miles and 19,000 feet of climbing in 22 hours and 59 minutes.

During the early morning hours, two of Eatough's main challengers, perennial contender Ernesto Marenchin and the hard-charging Josh Tostado, abandoned the race. Although Eatough backed off a bit to combat fatigue during the 40 degree night-time temperatures, he still lapped the second placed rider by daybreak.

"It always feels good to win a 24-hour race, because it's such a long time to be on the bike, and it takes so much preparation," said Eatough after his win. He was drawn to the race by the size of the event, in particular the men's field, which attracted over 60 racers. Behind Eatough finished Travis Macy, a multi-sport athlete, and endurance mountain biker Rob Lichtenwalner, who also sealed his 24 Hour National Series leader overall win.

On the women's side, Jari Kirkland, who hails from Boulder, Colorado, found herself much better off this year. She was leading last year when the race was cancelled due to extreme weather and course conditions. Rebecca Rusch gave her a good challenge through the first eight hours before succumbing to the effects of a long season.

"I had to stop and nap for a couple of hours," said Rusch after finishing second.

Kirkland never gave up. "I didn't want to go that hard, but with all those girls chasing I felt I had to," she said after finishing 14 laps in 24 hours and two minutes, which notably was the same number of laps as Eatough and more than Macy. Lisse Daugard-Gordon took third.

Nat Ross and Mike Janelle (Gary Fisher / Tokyo Joes) finished 18 laps in 22:55 to win the duo pro class. "We could have ridden longer, but we figured our first place was secure, so we decided to stop there and have a beer," said Ross. Second place went to Chris Peters and Julian Gasiewski. Only ten minutes behind Team Ambiguous was the Bikers Edge/TFMB team of Jake Pantone and Jonny Hintze.

For full coverage of the 24 hours of Moab, click here.

Team G Cross Honda ends

Team G Cross Honda's Brendan Fairclough
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Team G Cross Honda, one of the top global gravity teams, with riders like Greg Minnaar and Matti Lehikoinen, will not continue into 2008.

Sponsor Honda Racing Corporation expressed its appreciation of team members and others related to their project and then commented on the reason for its exit from sponsorship in a statement, "As a motorcycle manufacturer, we had achieved the approach ... by applying our technology which has been cultivated by our motorcycle development, and getting some feedback to our motorcycle technology was one of the purposes of our entry into the downhill mountain bike racing activity. The original 'RN01' technology for example, frame and suspension, was designed utilizing off road motorcycle technology, including a very special centrally mounted gearbox that is able to change shift at any time; these were improved repeatedly, and were completed as we expected and hoped it would when we started this project back in 2000."

After thanking the team's many sponsors, Team Manager Martin Whiteley added, "I also want to pay a particular tribute to the talented riders and staff who have formed part of the World Team since 2004, namely riders Greg Minnaar, Matti Lehikoinen, Brendan Fairclough and Cyrille Kurtz, as well as mechanics Mike Van Zyl, Mark Maurissen and Adam Bonney, Road Manager Paul Schlitz and Photographer Gary Perkin. Their contributions have been invaluable."

Milatz ends season sick

By Bjorn Haake

Moritz Milatz (Germany)
Photo ©: Armin Küstenbrück
(Click for larger image)

Moritz Milatz (Merida - Multivan) ended his season last weekend in southern France, at the Roc d'Azur. Milatz had been going well lately and was highly motivated, but suffered from an untimely sickness that marred his last races. This wasn't his only problem, as he forgot to bring his bike shorts to France. Fortunately, a friend was able to help out. And his mechanic had his work cut out for him, too, when Milatz broke his fork just one day before the 88-kilometre race, on a warm-up ride.

Overnight, Milatz got sick, but decided to start the marathon event anyway. A 12th place was not what he had set out to do, but was hoping to improve his health for the cross-country race. The 25 degrees centigrade temperature and the sunshine were good conditions in the Mediterranean region to try to get healthy. The day off in between the events didn't hurt, either. Nonetheless, time was too short to fully recover and Milatz cut the event short, stopped by a sore throat.

While he was not satisfied by his season-end performance, overall Milatz was happy to be back near the top of the current crop of German mountain bikers and is now hoping for a start in the Olympics in Beijing, China. With his season ended, Milatz can relax some and pursue other activities.

He will host an autograph session in Freiburg, Germany, on October 20 as part of the festivities associated with the opening of the Radlabor, which now offers the same performance diagnostics to hobby cyclists that previously were only available for professionals through the University in Freiburg.

Gunn-Rita diary: Effective training at home

At present the doses of exercise aren't all that big, but it certainly is wonderful to be on the move again. Next to the exercise, there's been a moderate amount of responsibilities for my sponsors, and some time spent working on the new building project for our new house, which has just commenced.

Most of my competitors on bikes are looking forward to a short month of holiday after a long and action-packed season for most. I've had four months of holiday and that should be enough for a long way into the future. It's simply fantastic having a concrete training schedule for every day in the coming weeks.

I've taken a few new tests these past two weeks and all of them indicate that my poor body is in good order again. Even so, I've been warned in no uncertain terms to take it easy these first weeks and "hurry slowly", as it usually takes a long time to re-establish the balance in one's digestive system and normal digestion after the sort of ordeal I've been through.

I've had a very low energy level, both in my body and mind, through the past two months. Even so, lots of things have been happening during the past fortnight, and I actually feel like a new person! There's a world of difference between being tired, and having a low energy level. A simplified example of these two conditions would be that when one's tired one still feels like doing things, whereas when one's energy levels are low, one can't even bear the thought of doing anything strenuous.

Finding the enthusiasm and the will to do lots of activities and exercise is going to be a small challenge for both of us for a while. I have to listen carefully and be more attentive, more than ever before, listening to how my body reacts to exercise and other activities. Kenneth's role is to restrict me when necessary, and to ask the correct questions of me.

To read the complete diary entry, click here.

MTBA National 4X series to kick off with two rounds

Round one and two of the Mountain Bike Australian National 4X series kick off at the Sydney Olympic Park on Saturday and Sunday, October 20-21. Designed by Brett Barnes and Geoff Cartwright, the track is in its final stages of preparation. Practice will start at 9:00 am local time and run until mid-day with heats beginning at 1:00 pm until 3:30 pm. Finals are set for 4:00 pm. By popular demand, organizers are adding an Under 13 category for both rounds.

SMBC Festival celebrates riding in George Washington National Forest

Riding Lookout Mountain
Photo ©: Sue George
(Click for larger image)

In contrast to last year's nearly continuous rain, participants at this year's Shenandoah Mountain Bike Club (SMBC) festival near Harrisonburg, Virginia, experienced some of the driest conditions ever. For three days last weekend, mountain bikers from all over Virginia and beyond converged on the George Washington National Forest for some riding in the mountains among early-changing leaves. They rode on many trails and roads used in the Shenandoah Mountain 100.

In addition to three days of organized rides, other highlights included a women's clinic led by Sue Haywood (Trek / VW), rides for kids and a massive trail maintenance project on Narrowback Mountain that drew more than 80 volunteers to help during two days of work. SMBC officers are still tallying the amounts raised to support the club after a donation to the local rescue squad.

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