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MTB news & racing round-up for September 7, 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

Worlds happening in Fort William

By Rob Jones

Liu Ying (China) dominated
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

The best mountain bikers in the world have converged on Fort William, Scotland, for the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships which started Tuesday and will continue through Sunday.

The elite men and women will get their chance to race the cross country course, set with the mighty Ben Nevis Mountain as a backdrop, on Saturday. It's a 7.9 kilometre circuit (7.6 kilometres for the opening lap) described by American pro Adam Craig as "a climber's race for sure."

The newly crowned world singlespeed champion had more to say about the course, "I'm not really a big fan; you go up a lot and then down, it's been over-prepped to the point that it's a decent bike path, really. I prefer the old one; it was more raw."

The under 23 and junior women and the junior men have already had a chance to race the course. The talented young Chinese women made their mark in the U23 race with Liu Ying and Chengyuan Ren taking first and second place ahead of Elisabeth Osl (Austria). Ren was the U23 women's champion in 2006.

Alla Boyko (Ukraine) won the junior women's event Wednesday while Thomas Litscher (Switzerland) took the junior men's event Thursday. That was Switzerland's second gold of the championships. Switzerland also won the team relay opening event Tuesday ahead of Poland and the US.

Team USA
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

The American squad was thrilled with its bronze in the team relay. Led by Craig and Georgia Gould, with Sam Schultz as the U23 rider and Ethan Gilmour the junior man, the team logged the highest-ever American finish in the event. A strategic decision to send Gould off first and sacrifice an early lead paid off for the US Team as the only squad to opt for a slow start and a fast finish.

"I figured we'd be better off if we let Georgia ride by herself because that's what she's been doing all year anyway," Craig explained of the team's tactics. "She could time trial it and then the younger boys were fine with just picking off a person or two a lap. I figured if I was on the last lap with a bunch of people to catch, I'd be fired up. It's good for morale to be passing people."

The sun finally came out after the junior men's cross country race Thursday, just in time for downhill qualifying. Riders are reporting that the course is drying out quickly. The top times in qualifying were posted by British riders in the junior men's (Richard Cunningham) and elite women's (Rachel Atherton) categories, while Floriane Pugin (France) was fastest for junior women and Greg Minnaar (South Africa) for elite men, just ahead of another Brit, Gee Atherton.

4X racers are also racing qualifying rounds Friday. The 4X will wrap up Saturday with the Downhill finals on Sunday. The 4X is considerably longer than the previous version, with the first corner crucial to winning.

Weiss unfit for racing

By Rob Jones

Early Thursday morning, the UCI performed blood tests on five teams: Austria, Belgium, South Africa, Denmark and Sweden. Michael Weiss of the Austrian squad was found "unfit for racing" and will not be allowed to start in Saturday's elite men's cross country race. No other racers were reported as "unfit". Weiss is now unable to race for 15 days.

In a statement, Bikin' Cyprus Team Manager Michalis Hadjioannou said a high haematocrit level does not automatically mean that one has used banned substances. He mentioned that there are some other reasons that the level can pass 50 percent.

"I know, Michi usually has a high haematocrit level, and in the first instance we trust him," Hadjioannou said.

"Before making further comments on the case, we will await the results of the samples the inspectors took. We stand for a clean sport and in the riders' contracts are clear on anti-doping," he said.

Weiss declared himself "very disappointed. I have done nothing wrong. The urine control will show that. But I still have to manage it mentally," said the 26 year-old rider.

Leuchs leading New Zealand Worlds team

Kashi Leuchs (Cannondale-Vredestein)
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)
Oceania champion Kashi Leuchs hopes he has recovered from a bout of asthma as he plans to chase a top finish for New Zealand in this weekend's UCI Mountain Bike World Championship in Scotland. He's in Scotland leading a Kiwi team of more than two dozen racers.

Leuchs, 29, currently ranked 14th in the world, bounced back from fatigue and an asthma attack to finish second in a road race in Europe recently. That finished bolstered his confidence.

"I can say my legs are feeling super and my confidence is growing by the day," Leuchs said on his website. "My only big concern now is my asthma, which is continuing to cause issues still," he said last week.

The double Olympian, has five finishes in the top 11 or better including two fifth placings in the UCI World Cup series this year. He was 16th in the world championships last year in Rotorua but would love to break into the top 10.

On the women's side, New Zealand's cross country hopes are with Rosara Joseph, now studying at Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship. She was second in the Commonwealth Games last year in cross country and has two top-25 World Cup finishes earlier in the season.

2004 women's world downhill champion, 29 year-old Vanessa Quin is recovering from a broken neck suffered at the national championships. She is currently ranked 25th in the world after top-10 finishes in three recent world cup contests in North America and Europe. Queenstown's Scarlett Hagen, the 2004 junior world champion, who is ranked 10th in the world cup, is looking to make her mark after graduating to the elite division. She's already earned two top-10 finishes in Spain and Switzerland.

"My goal is to have a solid run and finish in the top eight women in the world" the 20 year-old Hagen said from Scotland. "I am feeling strong after two months of hard riding in Whistler, Canada, but it is a difficult sport to predict. I will be giving it my best shot and we'll just have to see if that's good enough."

"This is the one race I work everyday of the year towards." said the 2007 New Zealand elite women's series and national champion. "I get one timed run. It takes total focus, strength and speed to finish the race with a good time," she said, "but it's also wicked fun. I really love racing downhill."

She'll be joined by Jenna Makgill, seventh in the UCI rankings, with one top-10 finish this year in Spain and 14th in Canada, and Sam Blenkinsop, second in the junior downhill world championships in Rotorua last year, who has also moved up to the men's elite division this season.

New Zealand Cross Country Worlds team
Men : Marcus Roy, Michael Northcroft, Stu Holthan, Kashi Leuchs, Eric Drower
Junior: James Williamson, Connor MacFarlane, Alex MacGregor, Ashley Hough
Women: Rosara Joseph, Anga MacDonald, Jennifer O'Connor, Kaytee Boyd
Junior: Samara Shepherd

New Zealand Gravity - 4X/ Downhill team
Men: Nathan Rankin, Sam Blenkinsop, Kieran Bennett, Glenn Haden, Mike Skinner, Reon Boe
Junior: Mat Scoles, Michael Langford, David Scandrett, Peter Cooper
Women: Vanessa Quin, Jenna Makgill, Scarlett Hagen, Amy Laird, Olivia Johnson

New Zealand finished 14th of 15 teams in the team race Tuesday. The elite men's and women's cross country races are scheduled for Saturday. 4X finals happen Friday and Downhill finals are scheduled for Sunday.

Recovered Barrel racing again

Fabien Barrel announced earlier this week that he would race worlds after all. "It was exactly four weeks ago that I came back with a broken foot from Canada," he said. "After a strong and permanent investment in my recovery, I finally received the ok from the doctors to leave for the Worlds in Fort Williams."

"Rigid shoes should help me to go to the end of this adventure," he hoped. Barrel considered his participation in the race so soon after injury a victory in itself, and he thanked supporters and promised to give it his all.

Seriously injured Llanes begins recovery

By Sue George with assistance from James Herrera

Tara Llanes crashed, but without serious injury at the 2006 Worlds
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

During a semi final heat with eventual Jeep KOM race winner Jill Kintner on September 1 in Beaver Creek, Colorado, Tara Llanes entered the second to last straight on the course and went over the bars on obstacle that sent her over the bars, coming down hard on her head then back. She was rushed to Vail Valley Medical Center, then Denver Health Hospital, where a specialty spinal cord team worked on her for seven hours over Saturday night. Llanes' crash caused a fracture to the C7 and L1 vertebra and damage to the spinal cord, resulting in a below the waist paralysis, a condition her surgeons say is most likely permanent, but there is always a possibility that things will change for the better.

According to her My Space page, Llanes made it through "another surgery and is now breathing on her own and able to communicate with friends and family." She initially reported no feeling below her waist.

Giant's Travis Chipres spoke with Cyclingnews Thursday after returning from Denver Health Medical Center, where he'd spent several days with Tara and her family. "Her spirits are up," he said. "Her family is thankful for all the support and attention."

Llanes has been an athlete and champion of many sorts. She began with basketball in the third grade, going on to win a high school national championship. While in junior high, she discovered BMX. "My mom and I used to always pass this track, Orange BMX, on the side of the freeway. I think my nagging finally got to her and one night we stopped and watched the racing," said Llanes. "By the next week, my mom bought me a pink CW with matching pink and grey AXO gear and we went back to the track. I ended up getting second place. Who would have known that night would have changed my future?"

For the next few years, Tara and her biggest fan and supporter, Mom, flew around the country competing at national level events. Along the way, she acquired Haro as a sponsor. "After a few years on the team I started to here about mountain biking. I was 16 years old and talked to my team manager about getting me a mountain bike to try out. He finally agreed and I went to a race in Big Bear and won in the junior class... Since then I've been able to travel the world and meet a lot of new friends." Llanes is currently sponsored by Giant Bicycles.

James Herrera, Llanes' coach for the past two years and friend, said, "I can't even begin to express just how incredible this girl is. As an athlete, she is a coach's dream: a fierce competitor, dedicated, motivated, and upbeat in every way. Having to pull back the reins on how long or hard she'd train was my biggest chore. I can quite honestly say, I've met very few people in my life that are even remotely this driven."

"But her athleticism and competitive spirit are only a small part of what makes Tara the person she is. She is compassionate, grateful, and helpful to every person she comes across, always placing the wellbeing of others before her own. On more than one occasion, her actions, the way she lives her life, became my example to follow."

In lieu of further gifts, such as flowers, the family is asking well-wishers to consider sending a contribution to a "Road to Recovery" fund being set up to support Llanes during her rehabilitation. More information will be posted at www.tarallanesroadtorecovery.com or contributions can be made to Tara Llanes, Road to Recovery Fund, 4068 Green Ave Los Alamitos, CA 90720, USA.

Jeep KOM series wraps up & awards overall winners

Riders caught some serious air
Photo ©: Jeep KOM
(Click for larger image)

At the grand finale of the Jeep King of the Mountain series, where Tara Llanes sustained her injury, at Beaver Creek Resort in Colorado, Czech Republic's Michal Prokop and Anneke Beerten of the Netherlands's brought home the coveted overall crowns.

Entering the final race, the men's and women's standings had never been so tight in the five-year history of the series. Five pairs of athletes were tied and seven had a legitimate chance of earning the top prize and driving off the mountain in a new 2008 Jeep Liberty.

Prokop, the two-time defending series champion, had won the first race of the season in Park City, Utah, before heading to China to compete in the UCI World Cup BMX Championships during the second race. Arriving in Beaver Creek, the Czech BMX and mountain bike national champion knew there was much ground to be covered and wasted no time trying to reestablish his dominance. Prokop beat Australia's Jared Graves in the final matchup based on the time differential from the two heats.

"I honestly didn't think I would be able to win this competition today, but I tried my best and it turned out well for me," said Prokop. "I just tried to be as fast as possible out there, and was careful to watch my turns and cover my inside. Maybe I got lucky with Lopes going down early, but I'm thrilled to win again."

A close battle
Photo ©: Jeep KOM
(Click for larger image)

Beerten, who had captured the title at the previous round in California, was forced to start the day with a tough match-up against co-leader Melissa Buhl based on the seeding runs. The world's second-ranked racer with two World Cup wins in 2007 was able to get past her rival and advance to the semi-finals, where she swept Fionn Griffiths to reach the finals.

Meanwhile, Jill Kintner, the world's number-one ranked mountain bike racer and two-time defending series champion was taking care of business on the other side of the bracket. Kintner and Beerten met up in the final, with Kintner coming out on the top for the day and Beerten taking the overall.

"I really liked this course a lot, but it was hot out there and became slippery in some spots," said Beerten. "It was nearly impossible to have a perfect run, but I knew I had to be smooth and also aggressive if I wanted to win that Jeep. Thankfully it all came together for me."

For complete coverage, click here.

Team Giant wins Singlespeed Worlds

By DrJ0n

American Adam Craig
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Kelli Emmett and Adam Craig took home top honours at the Singlespeed World Championships held in Aviemore, Scottland. Emmett took home a Sycip custom singlespeed frame while Craig collected a Black Sheep custom Titanium frame respectively.

Participants from Germany, America, Canada, Switzerland, Australia and many other countries blasted around the course which was specially tweaked by locals trail builders Andy, David and Nash. They also drank beer from Cairngorm Brewery, shook their tail feathers, and were blessed with an array of prizes from assorted sponsors. They raced up to five laps each after a LeMans style start.

As reported by Matt Ferrari on www.road2paris.wordpress.com, "The highlight of the race was Adam's spectacular crash in just after crossing the finishing area for his last lap. Craig, who'd played the part for most of the race, riding in full costume [included denim outfit. -ed.] and twice stopping for beers on course, was just putting away the beer he'd been handed for the last lap when he hit an exposed rock with his hands off the bar. He flew over the bike and hit the road with his forearms and knees. He shook it off quickly and rode a stellar last lap to finish with a handy lead, afterwards joking that he was thankful for the crash as it took his mind off the newly inked tattoo." Winners of the Singlespeed Worlds traditionally receive a tattoo.

Second placed Carl Decker reported to the seven mile mass roll-out ride to the course in a kilt and tartan helmet cover, while Emmett raced in a red unitard with thigh-high stockings.

Next year's worlds are set for Napa, California.

New champions at 24 hours of Adrenaline Solo Worlds

By Sue George, with assistance from Stuart Dorland

American Rebecca Rusch
Photo ©: 24 Hours of Adrenalin / Roman Roth
(Click for larger image)

Two new champions, Tinker Juarez and Rebecca Rusch, won the 24 Hours of Adrenaline World Solo Championship in Monterey, California, this weekend. Juarez rode with Kelly Magelky for 21 hours and then attacked him for the win. Nat Ross, Ernesto Marenchin, and Mark Hendershot took third through fifth spots. Last year's second place Rusch, on the other hand, won by a larger margin of two laps in the women's race. Lynda Wallenfels and Sally Marchand Collins finished second and third.

Twice a bridesmaid, Tinker Juarez scorched the field to take home his first title. Kelly Magelky (BMC / Sports Garage) of Colorado led the entire race until lap 18 when Tinker blazed a 1:02 lap.

Temperatures at the start hovered around 100 degrees, well above seasonal temperatures for the Monterey Bay area. While many riders found the 13.74-mile course and 2,500 feet of climbing per lap challenging (especially in the exposed heat) both Magelky and Juarez appeared to be less affected. They rode away from the field after lap one. Overall third place finisher Nat Ross (Gary Fisher) lost 14 minutes within the first three laps alone.

Santa Cruz Syndicate's Hendershot commented on the challenging conditions. "It was a brutal race, over 100 degrees. Four of the top ten guys were pulled off the course by medics."

On the women's side, Specialized rider Rebecca Rush moved up one place from 2006 and finished well ahead of second place Lynda Wallenfels of Colorado. Rush is an accomplish world class adventure racer who placed second to Pau Sawicki at this year's USA Cycling 24 Hour Mountain Bike Nationals, and she was determined to finish atop the standings this year.

Sawiciki (Ergon) lost 25 minutes during lap two and three. According to her husband, the disappointed rider was pulled after only five laps; her doctors had diagnosed her with a viral infection. Although she was initially in the lead, she soon found her vision blurring (which caused a crash) and she broke out in a cold sweat despite the 100 degree temperatures.

In a bizarre finish to the event, a brush fire burned up the Sea Otter downhill course just as the race was ending.

For complete coverage of the 24 hours of Adrenaline, click here.

The Athertons: A family affair

By Steve Thomas

The Athertons: Dan, Rachel, and Gee
Photo ©: Steve Thomas / Cyclingnews
(Click for larger image)

The Atherton family home is located on the side of a spectacular mountain valley and is shared by Dan, Gee, Rachel and their mother - and of course a constant stream of transient mountain bikers. Life for the family team of Commencal Animal began a lot further south, near Exeter in Devon, as Dan explained, "We lived in a small village, and I started riding BMX, then Gee and then Rachel began to come along and got into things. We began building tracks; there wasn't much else to do."

Indeed building tracks is still a passion for the trio - especially Dan who said, "We've got the dirt track, complete with start gates at home, as well as numerous downhill tracks here in the mountains; one's even ten minutes long. I'm really into that side of things, I love figuring it out and building stuff."

The family home would be the envy of any mountain bike team, with a huge workshop, a gym and store-rooms as well as the back "yard" dirt track, and this is where much of their race preparation takes place. "What we do on a daily basis depends some on the weather," said Gee. "In the morning it's usually straight into the gym for training. Then we recover some and do the admin type work, and then go riding."

Riding is a surprisingly mixed bag for the Athertons, and Dan is keyed into the training element. "Sometimes we spend a lot of time here at home on the track, practicing starts and dirt skills, largely for four cross; other times we take the pickup and go downhilling. If there is time between races, we go cross-country riding, and sometimes even on the road. We often take the moto-cross bikes out."

Training and preparation have always been something that they have been rumoured to take more seriously than others. "I think most riders train hard really," said Dan. "We do put a lot of time in. But we also work on three things - downhilling, four cross and freeriding - others often just focus on one or two. I think if we chose to focus on just one thing, then we would do a lot better."

To read the complete feature, click here. Stay tuned for Part II.

Inaugural Nelson festival set for weekend

A weekend of fat tyre fun kicks off with the inaugural Nelson's Creek three-day mountain bike festival beginning Friday, September 7 in South Africa. Organized by Dirtopia, the festival will be hosted by Nelson's Creek Wine Estate and will draw upon the regional knowledge of the Paarl MTB Club.

"The MTB Festival will give participants the opportunity to sample some of the best mountain biking trails in the Boland area," said Dirtopia's Meurant Botha. Daily rides of three distances will be available: a short 15 – 25 km route, a medium 45 – 55 km route and a long and challenging 80 – 100 km route. Riders can decide whether they want to participate in the series of competitions or simply enjoy a weekend of social riding.

The main competition will take the form of a three-day, stage format race for individual riders tackling the long distance routes. The secondary competition is open to riders of the medium and short distances. A two-day competition is open to those who are unable to participate on the Friday, and combines the Saturday and Sunday route options.

For more information, visit www.3daymtb.wordpress.com or www.dirtopia.co.za.

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