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MTB news & racing round-up for September 8, 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 with assistance from Rob Jones

Injury list grows at Worlds

Geoff Kabush (Maxxis)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

With just the weekend portion of the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships left to go, the injury list is growing.

On the cross country side, Geoff Kabush (Canada) crashed in training a few days ago and has gashed up one of his arms, and Thomas Frischknecht (Switzerland) went down in a recent short track race and bruised his hip. Meanwhile Bart Brentjens (Netherlands) has reported that his riding abilities are still hampered by a healing broken right hand. In particular, his hand's condition is affecting his braking ability - a potential problem for the long descent on the course.

The downhillers are suffering from their own set of problems. British hope Steve Peat is racing with a dislocated foot although he still finished 13th in qualifying. Peat declined to race the 4X as he recovers. He was given the green light to ride last Friday, after dislocating his foot and being non-weight bearing for seven weeks.

"My foot is wank," said Peat. "I'm pretty disappointed at the progress of where my healing is at this point. I thought I would have been able to start intensive rehab before I arrived here, but I've only started it since I got here." British Cycling's osteopath/physical therapist Jim Webb has been doing therapy on Steve's ankle and foot and trying different taping configurations to dial it in.

Steve Peat (Santa Cruz Syndicate)
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

"My foot was too sore to attack all the way down," said Peat of his qualifying run. "I just coasted in sections and carried speed. I'm pleased with my time." Peaty is hopeful that a few more days of therapy and rest will get his foot closer to the championship that has eluded him for so long.

Top Canadian Junior Steve Smith is sporting a cast on his right hand after breaking a bone. Despite the handicap, he still finished third in the junior men qualifying. Smith said he has already crashed twice in training because he cannot grip the bars properly.

Finally, world champion Greg Minnaar (South Africa) is suffering from an ongoing shoulder injury, but it hasn't slowed him down too much. He qualified first Thursday, the first time he has ever qualified in the top spot.

"I'm really comfortable on this track, and I'm happy to have the fastest time," said Minnaar, who has won a medal in all five of the last six downhill World Championships, including a gold in 2003. "This was my goal for today and I learned a good deal from that run, and feel quietly confident about [the finals] Sunday. Starting last really energises me, so I can't wait for the big one!" Minnaar has decided to skip the 4X this year.

Second rider deemed "unfit" at Worlds

Marga Fullana
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Friday morning brought another round of anti-doping testing. This time the five teams of Great Britain, Argentina, Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland were the lucky ones to win the selection.

Margarita Fullana of the Spanish squad was found "unfit for racing" and will not be allowed to start in Saturday's elite women's cross country. The favorite rider's reading follows Thursday's news that Michael Weiss of the Austrian squad was declared "unfit." Fullana won bronze at the 2000 Olympics and has two World titles to her name, one from 1999 and one from 2000.

"Unfit" riders have a haematocrit level higher than 50 percent (men) and 47 percent (women) and are forbidden from competing for 15 days.

Competing for Worlds at Worlds

Mont Ste Anne (MSA) World Cup organizers aren't at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Fort William, Scotland, to race, but they are there to promote their bid to host the 2010 World Championships.

The Canadian organizers are competing against Norway, Brazil and the Czech Republic. North America has not hosted the Worlds since 2001, when they were in Vail, Colorado, and Canada last hosted in 1998 - at Mont Ste Anne. MSA organizer Chantal Lachance promised a 20th anniversary event that will help celebrate the early days of the sport.

Killeen back racing at Worlds

By Rob Jones

Liam Killeen (England)
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

British cross-country star Liam Killeen is at the Worlds and plans on racing the elite men's cross country on Saturday. Killeen, who races for Specialized, abruptly terminated his season in June after a poor start and illness. He said that tests narrowed it down to a persistent viral infection.

Killeen was able to start training again at the beginning of August, but is coming into the Worlds with no expectations. "I didn't want to miss this opportunity to race at home, but I'm just going to take it as it goes."

He hopes to resume racing in the fall, depending upon his results at Fort William. The World Cup final round is in Maribor, and it's a slight possibility, but Killeen said he is setting his sights on Roc d'Azur in October. He will start a distant 112th Saturday.

Australia's Hill ready to defend

Hannah steps up to race the elites

Sam Hill (Australia)
Photo ©: Mikkeli Godfree
(Click for larger image)

Australia's Sam Hill is among the favourites for the downhill world championships finishing up on Sunday. He hopes to defend his 2006 crown.

22 year-old Hill (Iron Horse - Monster Energy) goes into the event on the back of some good results including victory in the last two rounds of the World Cup Series which he currently leads. He has also performed well on the Fort William course in the past winning the World Cup round staged there in 2006.

"The talk here is who can stop Sam from winning," said Australian mountain bike coach, Scott Sharples. "But Sam is approaching this like any other race where he thinks about the track and the other riders and tries to practice fast and do what he has to be at his best when it counts."

Hill isn't the only Australian with medal potential. At last year's Championships the Australians secured four of the top ten places with Nathan Rennie claiming bronze, Chris Kovarik fifth and Michael Hannah sixth. Rennie (Santa Cruz Syndicate) is currently ranked fifth in the world, has good credentials on the Fort William course where he placed second earlier this year in a round of the Scottish Downhill Series.

Tracey Hannah, will be Australia's only starter in the women's race. She won the 2006 junior world title. "Tracey is riding fast and she's a chance for a medal," said Sharples of the Queensland teenager who in her first year in the senior competition has risen to number three on the world rankings and claimed victory in the Austrian round of the World Cup Series. "She's pretty tiny though and this course has a few flatter sections where the stronger riders will benefit."

"The steeper the better for Tracey but she's fit and she'll work hard so you never know what will happen on the day," said Sharples.

The racing game

By Steve Thomas

Rachel Atherton qualified first in the downhill at Worlds in 2007
Photo ©: Steve Thomas / Cyclingnews
(Click for larger image)

All three members of the Atherton family's racing team are in medal contention at the UCI World Championships after a day of 4X and downhill qualifying. Sister Rachel qualified as the fastest woman in the downhill, while brothers Gee and Dan qualified second and 22nd. In the four cross, Gee qualified eighth and Dan 16th.

2007 is the first time that Great Britain has played host to the UCI World Mountain Bike Championships, and the venue is the far northern Scottish outpost of Fort William, which has hosted numerous World Cup events in recent years. It is widely considered to be the best organised and supported race on the fat tyre calendar, despite the seasonal advance of the Highland midges.

There is no disputing the fact that the host nation is the world's number one ranked nation in the downhill [according to UCI rankings of August 21, Great Britain is ranked second in the downhill. - ed.], despite never actually having their own downhill World Champion; and the Atherton trio plays no small part in the nation's downhill and four cross prominence; with Rachel winning the junior world title two years ago along with a World Cup and third overall last year while Gee finished fifth in the downhill and seventh in the four cross standings and Dan earned 16th and 10th overall respectively.

Command of the downhilling roll of honour moves every few years. The Americans ruled the early roost, followed by the all conquering and still infallible French. Both nations boast ultra-high ski lift-serviced mountains and bags of sunshine and open trails, both factors which were long attributed as reasons for their early dominance.

Britain, on the other hand, is a small and wet island nation. It distinctly lacks mountains over 1,000 meters high, and you could tally the ski lifts on a spider's toes. Those factors make Britain's sudden rise to prominence all the more surprising; "Steve (Peat) was a real inspiration and spur to everyone; he really started things and gave everyone something to aim at and the confidence to go for it," Gee surmised.

Read part I or part II of this feature.

Locals break records at SM100

Jeff Schalk(Trek / Volkswagen)
Photo ©: Bill McCarrick
(Click for larger image)

Beautiful weather, perfect course conditions, and a talented field at the Shenandoah Mountain 100 in Virginia set the stage for course records to be broken in both the men's and the women's races last weekend. Jeff Schalk (Trek / VW) surprised many at the race with a solo win in 7:06:13, but Sue Haywood (Trek / VW) seemed to surprise no one but herself with a stellar ride that broke her old course record by a whopping 27 minutes. Haywood finished in 8:12:36.

"Where's Chris? Where's Floyd?" were the two most commonly asked questions as part-time Harrisonburg resident Schalk rolled through aid stations three, four, five and six solo, with no chasers in site. Schalk, won the BC Bike racer earlier this summer with his partner and Trek / VW team-mate Chris Eatough, but Schalk took this win on his own after Eatough suffered a catastrophic mechanical when his rear axle failed early in the race, on only the second climb. Eatough then withdrew from the race, but kept the series title he'd secured after the Endurance 100 last weekend.

In fact, Floyd Landis (Smith & Nephew) was never far behind the Schalk until the end, and at times, he rode with him and challenger Harlan Price (Independent Fabrication). Schalk gapped Landis and Price thanks to a speedy transition through aid station two, and he remained solo off the front for the remaining 70 miles of the race.

"I wanted to pull a Landis on Landis," smiled Schalk, referring to Landis' legendary solo, lengthy, and ultimately race-winning break-away in Stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France.

Last year's series champ Harlan Price (Independent Fabrication)
Photo ©: Bill McCarrick
(Click for larger image)

Landis and Price see-sawed the rest of the race, with Price leaving behind Landis on all the mostly-singletrack downhills and Landis catching and passing Price on lengthy flats or climbs. In the end, Price would leave Landis behind on the final singletrack descent and take second in the race and the series with a little over a minute's gap.

On the other hand, local favorite and full-time Harrisonburg resident Haywood assumed the lead in the women's race almost from the start, and she never looked back on her way to winning. Carolyn Popovic (Trek / VW) took second, but the real battle was behind them for the series title.

Carrie Lowrey (Outdoor Store) placed third, but by finishing two spots ahead of Daniele Musto (Slingshot), she assumed the final lead in the series, jumping ahead of Musto, who was technically tied. Lowrey's win in the Shenandoah was the tiebreaker.

For complete coverage of the event, click here.

Bikes Belong grants awarded throughout US

Bikes Belong awarded six summer grants investing in paths, trails, parks, and advocacy initiatives. Several mountain bike venues are the lucky beneficiaries of some of the total US$46,935 in grants. To date, Bikes Belong has supported 150 projects throughout the US.

The Cape Fear Cyclists received a US$9,435 grant to complete a mountain bike trail and begin building a BMX track at the Blue Clay Bike Park in Wilmington, North Carolina. This new facility includes the only legal trails for mountain bikers in the area, and is one of the few places where young people can ride in a car-free environment. When complete, the bike park will also include a skills area and pump track. This new facility includes the only legal trails for mountain bikers in the area, and is one of the few places where young people can ride in a car-free environment. When complete, the bike park will also include a skills area and pump track.

The Chicago Area Mountain Bikers in Illinois were awarded a US$10,000 grant to help its western chapter construct Plainfield Bike Park. The recent closure of a private bike park and BMX bans at several skateparks motivated CAMBr West to seek a legal place for BMX riders, mountain bikers, and freeriders to ride in the Chicago Metro area.

The Friends of the Wissahickon will apply their US$10,000 toward the ongoing Sustainable Trails Initiative. The 57-mile trail network in the Philadelphia's Fairmount Park is a haven for local riders. The project aims to create an ecologically, physically and socially sustainable trail system will reduce user conflict and erosion problems while preserving well-loved singletrack.

Other awards went to the Bay Area Bicycle Coalition in California for their RTP Advocacy Initiative, the Johnson County Trails Association for their Laurel Creek Trail project in northeastern Tennessee and the Aboite New Trails organization for their efforts to complete their Central Loop connecting all major bike paths in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Inaptly named Roctober race rocks on in September

The first Roctober Mountain Bike Challenge took place in October 1995 as a collegiate race. Within a few years, the event migrated to the September calendar. This year's 50 mile event is set for September 9 and is part of the Mid-Atlantic Super Series and will be raced on the Central Mountains Shared-Use Trail Systems in Bald Eagle State Forest near Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania.

The event will benefit the Blue Butterfly Fund, which assists families with the cost of travel, non-covered medical fees, and general living expenses that are often sacrificed by a family whose child has cancer. It also provides emotional and spiritual support through its prayer page and monthly "Butterfly Blessings."

Dirt Sweat & Gears adds singlespeed event

Dirt Sweat & Gears organizers announced the addition of Singlespeed USA (SSUSA), "a cross country and quite possibly a cross-dressing event for the singlespeed freaks of the world."

Both the singlespeed and 12 hour events are set for the first weekend of May in 2008. SSUSA will begin on May 2, 2008, a day before the 12 hour event, with a race on the grueling and technical Cotton Mill Preserve.

Singlespeed 24 hour world champion Dejay Birtch said, "It'll be like the Stanley Cup of the singlespeed world." Director Clay Higgins added that he would share the singlespeed love by passing the event around the US to other promoters.

Engin cycles to raffle "Pedal Pink" bike

Drew Guldalian, builder and designer of Philadelphia-based Engin Cycles, is building a one-of-a-kind "Pedal Pink" bicycle to be raffled off at Interbike in Las Vegas, September 26-28. The bicycle, a singlespeed mountain bike with 650B wheels, will be specially designed for a rider smaller than 5 feet, 4 inches tall. This wheel size was selected to allow the smaller cyclist to experience the ride benefits and roll-over capabilities of a larger [than 26 inch] wheel, while avoiding the compromises a 29 inch wheel can impose on smaller frame designs.

Thanks to the contributions of several companies in the cycling industry, the bike is a collaboration project with top-notch components. Guldalian hopes the raffle will bring a US$4,000 donation to the Philadelphia chapter of the Susan J. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

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