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MTB news & racing round-up for September 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 Greg Johnson

Fort William wants long-term World Cup future

A large crowd headed to Fort William for the worlds
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Discussions have begun over the future of Fort William as a World Cup venue, following an announcement by EventScotland it had gathered the funds required to secure the event's future through to 2012. The organisation begun talks with the British Cycling Federation and the UCI at the weekend and hopes those talks will lead to a long term deal to host a round of the Mountain Bike World Cup.

"Cycling is now one of our major sports with the growth in mountain biking, the success of people like Chris Hoy, the new velodrome which is due to be built in Glasgow and the Tour of Britain in Scotland this week," EventScotland chief operating officer Paul Bush said. "We have put together a funding package to see the event through until 2012."

The pitch for a long-term deal is hot on the heals of Fort William's hosting of the 2007 Mountain Bike World Championships on September 4-9. The World Championship event was hugely successful, with organisers reporting some 40,000 people attended the week-long event.

Event organiser Mike Jardine, of management company Rare Management, is confident of securing a four year deal with the international governing body and believes it will serve as the perfect lead into the 2012 Manchester Olympic Games. "The UCI are quite keen to get some classic events on the calendar," said Jardine. "It would be good to get a bit of consistency in the build-up to 2012 London Olympics and hopefully 2014 Commonwealth Games, of which Glasgow is a bid city."

Fort William, which is already confirmed as a World Cup host in 2008, has held rounds of the series on five occasions.

World Cup winners confirmed

Julien Absalon (Orbea)
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

The last of the 2007 Mountain Bike World Cup winners have been settled following the cross country, 4X and downhill series finales in Slovenia at the weekend. Heading into the weekend's event at the re-developed Maribor venue most of the titles were a mere formality, with the men's cross country and downhill standings already locked away.

Julien Absalon's (Orbea) successful World Cup defense in the Elite Men's cross country at the previous round in St Félicien, Canada left Spain's José Hermida (Multivan Merida) fighting Switzerland's Christoph Sauser (Specialized) for second place. "Julien wasn't much in the race because he had achieved his goal already, and he only was there to come to his team-mates' aid," admitted Orbea team manager Ixio Barandiaran.

"I wanted to win here, which unfortunately did not work out," said Hermida, who successfully defended his second place in the overall standings, despite being beaten by Sauser on the day. "But I managed to defend my second place in the World Cup's overall ranking and I'm very satisfied with that."

Australia's Sam Hill (Iron Horse/Monster Energy)
Photo ©: MTB.si
(Click for larger image)

In the Elite Women's cross country standings Russia's Irina Kalentieva (Topeak) needed little more than a finish to wrap up the World Cup victory from Canada's Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain Haywood). The points deficit between the pair meant Premont's second place made little impression on Kalentieva's series lead, a situation not helped by the Russian's third placing in Slovenia.

It was a similar situation in the Elite Men and Elite Women's downhill standings, with the two world champions locking away their World Cup wins to add the icing to the cake. Australia's Samuel Hill (Iron Horse/Monster Energy) continued the blistering pace that earned him an unassailable series lead, taking another World Cup win to settle the gap between he and Finland's Matti Lehikoinen (Team G Cross Honda) at a massive 384 points.

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

Hill's fellow world champion and Iron Horse/Monster Energy team-mate Sabrina Jonnier ensured the squad took home two World Cups. The French woman finished down in sixth for the event, but still claimed the Elite Women's series by 130 points over Great Britain's Tracy Moseley (Kona Les Gets).

In the Elite Men's 4X an uncharacteristic mistake that prevented Brian Lopes from making the big final did little to damage a massive lead in the World Cup standings over the Czech Republic's Michal Prokop. The American took out the series with 1010 points to Prokop's 650.

The Netherlands' Anneke Beerten claimed the round victory in the Elite Women's 4X and capitalized on a poor performance by American Jill Kintner to claim the World Cup win. Beerten turned a 40 point deficit into a 150 point advantage to take out the title.

The mentioned World Cup winners join France's Thomas Dietsch (Gewiss Bianchi) and Finland's Pia Sundstedt (Gewiss Bianchi) who claimed the Elite Men and Women Marathon World cups respectively at the last round in Verviers, Belgium last month.

Barel knocked out in Maribor

Former downhill World Champion Fabien Barel was one of many to fall victim of the revised Maribor track in Slovenia at the weekend's season ending World Cup round. The Frenchman was hospitalised after crashing hard on the course and suffering a deep concussion.

The tough as nails rider didn't let his spill on the track, which features a new, highly technical, high-speed forest section at the bottom half, stop him from returning to the track to watch his rivals contest Sunday's finals.

The fall was another blow for Barel's 2007 season, with the two time world champion only returning to action at the previous weekend's World Championships in Fort William after breaking his foot in Canada earlier this season.

Riders head to Beijing for Olympic preview

With the World Championships and World Cup finale run and won, the cream of international cross country riders are now turning their attention to Beijing, China where they will get a taste of the 2008 Olympic course. Riders from around the globe will gather in Beijing on September 29 for the Olympic Mountain Bike Test Event to be held in the Laoshan/Pékin districts.

Recently re-crowned World Champion and World Cup winner Julien Absalon will lead the men's field at the event. The Frenchman will take a preview of the 2008 Games' course before heading to the Roc d'Azur in his homeland where he will take part in a tandem race with his wife, as well as his usual category.

Leading the women's contingent is female mountain biking legend Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå, who has spent most of 2007 on the sidelines due to illness. "Next week we're off to Beijing to test the Olympic track and do a bit more preparation at the pre-camp in Jixian," she said in a recent diary entry. "We're guaranteed some exciting and instructive days there. The first weekend in Beijing we've been invited out to a delicious dinner together with the Merida boss in China, Simon, and some of his colleagues, so that'll be a great evening and a happy reunion for us."

Australian cross country champion Chris Jongewaard is also looking forward to the experience of viewing the Olympic venue. "I'm looking forward to heading to Beijing should be a great experience just to visit and having the chance to ride the Olympic coarse prior to the 2008 is awesome," said Jongerwaard.

Killeen plots gradual return

Liam Killeen (Specialized) makes a good comeback
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Great Britain's Liam Killeen returned to Elite level competition at September's Mountain Bike World Championships in Fort William, Scotland and will gradually work his way back into form over the coming months. Killeen was struck down for the majority of the 2007 season with a mysterious virus that had glandular fever like symptoms, despite blood work showing he was negative for the illness.

"I'm not going to jump back into a crazy race schedule now, with week in week out racing now," Killeen told Britishcycling.org.uk. "Obviously I have a bit of a plan between now to the middle of October. My focus now is on Beijing, that goal never went out of my mind when I was off, but if I want to get Beijing, I needed a bit of a rest the season before and that's happened now more by accident."

The 25 year-old's career had been making excellent progress up until this season. Killeen, from Malvern in England, has claimed the Under 23 World Cup on two occasions, won numerous rounds of the British national series and is the current Commonwealth Games champion, having taken victory in Melbourne last year.

"I'm looking forward to getting back into it all next year; I'm still enjoying it," he said. It's too hard a sport if you have no enjoyment in it. I've been lucky in my career that I've not had any illnesses or injuries up until now, I've had a good career so far, I'm still fairly young and I'm not planning on retiring just yet, I have a mortgage to pay!"

Killeen continued his comeback at the weekend's World Cup finale in Slovenia, where he finished some 10 minutes behind the event's winner in 35th place.

Trek ends British NPS sponsorship

Bicycle manufacturer Trek has announced that it will not renew its sponsorship of British Cycling's National Points XC events. "After supporting the series for so long, it was time to pass the baton to another sponsor who could bring new focus and energy to the events," said Trek UK's Andrew Griffin. "It is gratifying to see the XC scene brought to such rude health in so short a time, and whoever should take up the challenge will find a packed start line eager to race."

The company will continue to support British Cycling's road squad and Go Ride activities, however it will see an end to its participation in the British Marathon Series.

"Cross country is still a large part of Trek's heritage and it is likely that we'll have a presence at the races through a committed athlete sponsorship program," added Griffin.

Cunningham delighted with worlds success

Great Britain's Ruaridh Cunningham is over the moon after securing the Junior Men's Downhill World Championship at Fort William 10 days ago. The 18 year-old, who has become Scotland's first Mountain Bike World Champion, told Scotsman.com he can't believe it after screaming down the track two seconds quicker than America's second place John Swanguen in front of a home crowd.

"I think I'm dreaming," he stated. "It feels amazing to be the first British man to win a world title - and to be Scottish and do it in Scotland is pretty cool."

Exclusive race bits for the world's elite racers

By Luke Webber in Fort William, Scotland

This was the closest we got
Photo ©: Luke Webber
(Click for larger image)
Gaaaareeee composes himself for another round
Photo ©: Luke Webber
(Click for larger image)

With most major new product announcements made at Eurobike the previous week one would think that there was little in the way of exclusive tech action around the pits this year in Fort William. However, there were still a number of interesting setups to see, provided you looked closely enough.

Lightweight hoops in aluminum and carbon

For the cross-country racers, this year's MTB World Championships were dominated by featherweight wheels using either carbon fiber rims or aluminum ones from Stan's NoTubes. The NoTubes ZTR-series rims have long been popular among elite riders thanks to their ultralight weight and easy tubeless compatibility. The readily available consumer versions are already shocklingly light at roughly 350g a piece, but rumors circulating around the pits suggested that certain riders competed on special 240g versions.

In contrast, some riders opted for tubular Reynolds Topo rims made from unidirectional carbon fiber. These were laced to Hope Pro III hubs with custom Dugast tyres for what was not only easily one of the trickest setups in the field, but one almost completely impervious to pinch flats as well.

DT Swiss launched a new carbon fiber road wheelset at this year's Eurobike show but stealthily debuted a mountain bike version at Fort William that was compatible with standard clincher treads. In a possible attempt to go unnoticed, the new rim looked remarkably ordinary and was almost entirely unmarked save for the 330g sticker and giveaway carbon weave. These were paired these with DT Swiss' new 190 ceramic hubs to yield another featherweight wheelset that at least appeared to be reasonably durable as well.

To read the full tech coverage from the Mountain Bike World Championships, click here.

Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå diary: Wonderful days gone fishing

We caught a big load of fish this weekend, and Kenneth was the clear winner in terms of quantity. This evening, however, it's time for revenge here on the ocean outside Stavanger. Fishing with rods from the rowing boat has provided us with valuable time off, in between all the training.

We had a slow-paced and relaxing weekend at the family cabin in Jøsenfjorden (Suldal) where we had plenty of time to fish. After our first training stint on Saturday morning, Kenneth disappeared down to the sea and stayed there for the rest of the day. I wasn't able to join him until after a ride later in the afternoon, and by then Kenneth had managed to catch more than 15 fish. Most of them were large, fat pollacks, but he had also managed to catch a few mackerels and a horrific-looking wrasse.

On Sunday morning we awoke to cloudy weather, but with glimpses of blue sky, 13 degrees and an incredible quietness. The fjord lay like a mirror, not a breath of wind, so the only thing to do was to jump into our clothes and get out into the boat. It's only a little rowing boat with two oars, nothing fancy, but then and there it really felt luxurious. No racket from cars, completely calm water, no two-legged individuals for many miles, fresh sea air, a couple of seagulls gliding around, and wild mountains on either side of the boat.

We caught a lot of fish. Kenneth used his fishing rod and I used another fishing tool called a "harp". We mostly caught large and beautiful pollacks, but also some mackerel, plus a strange little bright red fish which seemed to be completely worn out when we got it into the boat. We showed mercy this time and let it go again. One fish ended up as dinner for our two flying friends in the air. A wonderful day on the sea, balsam for body and soul.

To read the full diary by Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå, click here.

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