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MTB news & racing round-up for April 11, 2008

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

Epic winners learn lesson, adopt insurance policy

Cannondale Vredestein take no more chances

By Nic Lamond in Cape Town, South Africa

Roel Paulissen & Jakob Fuglsang of Canondale Vredenstein
Photo ©: Ron Gaunt / SPORTZPICS
(Click for larger image)

The 2008 Absa Cape Epic is done. The winning teams have taken their tired bodies and battered bikes home. But not before they had a chance to unwind in spectacular fashion at Spier Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, Cape Town last Saturday night. It was a fitting end to the epic struggle that had taken place over nine days and 966km. Thousands of riders and their families and friends swarmed between the buffet marquees and underneath the grand old oak trees to the beat of African drums. A magnificent African sky stretched out above. But the racing was still fresh in the minds of those who had fought hard to realise a dream and cross the line first.

In the centre of the main dining tent overall and men's winner Roel Paulissen (Cannondale Vredestein) was explaining to Christoph Sauser (Songo.info) how he and team-mate Jakob Fuglsang had found themselves 18km from the end of stage five with a rapidly-diminishing 18-minute lead, no CO2 quick-fill cartridges left, no pump and an unfixable flat tyre. Sauser had been riding in Stellenbosch since day three of the Absa Cape Epic after his Songo.info team-ate Burry Stander was forced to withdraw due to injury.

"But why didn't you have a normal pump?" an incredulous Sauser asked.

"I thought with eight quick-fills between me and Jakob we would be fine," the Belgian responded. He had unpacked his pump the night before. It was to be a crucial error…

Who knew that their eight cartridges wouldn't be enough. That their quick-fill adapter would be faulty and that they would end up bumping and grinding the rear rim of Paulissen's bike over nearly 20km of gravel and then tarmac with no tyre to preserve a slender nine-minute lead at the end of the day.

In endurance mountain bike races such as the Absa Cape Epic, riders are forced to gamble with what spare parts - and how many - to take. It becomes important to carry enough nutrition and hydration to keep the body functioning at its optimum, but that takes space. When the long and unpredictably harsh terrain stretches out before them there's a trade-off between space- and weight-saving and factoring in the inevitable mechanical trouble.

Roel Paulissen rides on his tireless rim
Photo ©: Gary Perkin / SPORTZPICS
(Click for larger image)

That day Paulissen and Fuglsang made a mistake. Luckily it didn't cost them the entire race, but it could easily have done so. And so on Saturday, with just 62km to negotiate to the finish line in Lourensford, Stellenbosch, and nine-minutes between them and the second-placed Bulls team, the two were packing an absurd amount - by cross country racing standards - of spare parts.

"[On Saturday] we were riding really hard from the beginning already," said Fuglsang. "If we had a bad day, if we had problems with the tyres or something from the beginning on, then we could still have lost the race… with the way they were going at the front. We went fast from the first kilometre. Luckily the bike held up and was still in one piece."

So how did the two cater for the potential mechanical trouble and the prospect of losing the 2008 Absa Cape Epic on the final, shortest day? "Usually we carry all the spares strapped to the bike," Fuglsang explained. "The only thing I have is a multi-tool on me. But [on Saturday] we also took spare pedals, and Roel took a rear derailleur… even if we broke a rear derailleur we could still finish the race. Even if we lost five minutes trying to fix it we would still be good!"

The insurance policy wasn't necessary. The Dane and Belgian duo protected their nine-minute lead and crossed the line in third, six-seconds behind the Bulls team (Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm) and just a second after German riders, Hannes Genze and Jochen Kaess (Alb-Gold Mountainbike) in second.

Cape Epic winners offer words of advice

By Nic Lamond in Cape Town, South Africa

Womens' winners Alison Sydor and Pia Sundstedt
Photo ©: Gary Perkin / SPORTZPICS
(Click for larger image)

Almost one out of every five riders in the 2008 Absa Cape Epic didn't cross the finish line in Lourensford on Saturday. Many of those who did, did so alone, having said good-bye to their riding partners somewhere along the treacherous route. Of the 598 two-person teams that signed up in Knysna at the race start, just 436 were still intact by race end. It seems the race's reputation as a tough test of skill and will survives for at least another year.

Women's winner Pia Sundstedt (Rocky Mountain) endorsed the Absa Cape Epic's credentials, remarking, "I have done many stage races in the world - the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia - but I felt like I did at the end of those races on the first day of the Epic."

Sundstedt and Canadian team-mate Alison Sydor had a slow start to this year's race with some mechanical trouble and Pia's niggling knee injury but rode stronger every day, surprising all by placing 27th in GC and beating the first-placed mixed team of Ivonne Kraft and Nico Pfitzenmaier (Joybike-Maloja Express). "The top mixed teams raced hard," Sydor admitted, "We saw it first hand! But it is great to race in a women's team - it is a different dynamic. It is great to know you share the responsibilities. It is important to have a partner you trust coming in, who will give their all. I have never felt the team spirit like that of mountain bike stage racing."

Sydor agreed with Sundstedt's impression of the Absa Cape Epic: "It's the toughest sporting event I've done in my life - it's a long ride, but a great ride."

Leading mixed team Ivonne Kraft & Nico Pfitzenmaier
Photo ©: Gary Perkin / SPORTZPICS
(Click for larger image)

Pfitzenmaier was ecstatic about their victory in the mixed category after nine long days battling it out with the second-placed South African pair of Yolandè de Villiers and Johan Labuschagne (Cyclelab Toyota). He revealed the secret to the German pair's winning partnership after the race. "You need to be calm, patient and optimistic and you need to look around and enjoy what you're doing. High five the kids when you ride past them - such moments give you such power. You go through all the stages in life: the joy and the tears. It makes the race so intense." An emotional Ivonne Kraft agreed, "There's fun, pain, exhaustion… and happiness at the end."

The masters category was won by the South African and Swiss pairing of Doug Brown and Barti Bucher. The unlikely duo had met as competitors last year at the TransAlp Challenge. Brown knew in an instant that Bucher had the mettle to survive Africa's toughest race when he saw him riding hard with a broken pedal. The fact that neither of them speak the other's language was not an issue according to Brown, "There's not much talking anyway. Mountain biking is not a verbal sport, but there's plenty of swearing and body language. You know how your partner is doing!"

For Barti Bucher the Absa Cape Epic came as a surprise, "Before I got to South Africa I thought [the Epic] would be 'nice' riding. I would see some parks and some game. But on the first day I didn't see a thing!" The Swiss believes the Absa Cape Epic rewards a very specific type of rider. "You have to be a complete rider. You have to know how to ride in sand, sun and mud."

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Cape Epic.

Gould and Kabush continue NMBS domination

By Dave McElwaine

Georgia Gould (Luna Women's MTB) looking fit and fast
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

At the second round of the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) in Fountain Hills, Arizona, Georgia Gould continued her streak of NMBS cross country victories that extends back to the beginning of the 2007 season. The Luna Women's MTB Team racer rode off the front of the entire race and completed the two laps at McDowell Mountain Park in 1:20:13 to take the win. Her team-mate Katerina Nash was second with a time of 1:22:01. Following her were Australian national champion Dellys Starr (Dale's Pale Ale) and Kelli Emmett (Giant) and a much improved Kathy Sherwin (Sobe/Cannondale).

In the men's cross country race, Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis) let it rip down the gradual South Ridge descent and through the final rollers to the finish to sweep the Nova Stage Race. Kabush rode most of the race with Adam Craig but was too strong for the Giant team rider who eventually finished second 18 seconds behind. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru/Gary Fisher) was 50 seconds back in third with Barry Wicks (Kona) a further 40 seconds back in fourth. Liam Killeen (Specialized) rounded out the top five after having an impressive weekend of racing that included a victory in the grueling 75 mile marathon with a time of 4:00 hours.

"I made an effort to get by Adam (Craig) then I kept the pace high on the ridge," Kabush said after the finish. "The ridge I went 100%...the elastic took a long time to break. I could hear Adam maybe 30 meters behind by the bottom of the back ridge. We were both going 100 percent...then gradually I just got a second here and there on the little rises but I couldn't let up until the finish. That is for sure."

Defending NMBS series cross country champion Geoff Kabush
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

The 9.3 mile course in Fountain Hills did not have as much climbing as most NMBS races, but featured other challenges that included sandy washes, short steep climbs, and a very rocky 1.5 mile descent down South Ridge. Flat tires were a problem in both the men's and the women's races. Contendors Ryan Trebon (Kona) and Sam Schultz (Subaru/Gary Fisher) - who at one time was riding in the top five - ended their rides with flat tires.

Other flat victims included Willow Koerber (Subaru/Gary Fisher), Wendy Simms (Kona), Catherine Pendrel (Luna Women's MTB), Mical Dyck (Trek/Terra), and Emily Batty (Trek Bicycle Stores). When riding many of the more technical sections of the course there was only one line. If riders happened to get off that line they found themselves on razor sharp rocks.

"It was very hard to pass...Georgia got to the front, then the two Gary Fisher girls held up the whole field, and she (Georgia) got a huge gap...then we finally got past," said Starr after the race.

Gould also won the super D, but Nash took the short track while Kabush managed to win every non-marathon men's event of the weekend. Sarah Kaufmann (Roaring) won the women's marathon event.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of round two of the NMBS in Fountain Hills, Arizona.

Pan American titles awarded in Venezuela

Some of America's top racers were missing from the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) #2 in Fountain Hills, Arizona. While some were busy at the Cape Epic, others were racing the Pan American Continental Championships in Venezuela.

The US team captured two cross country titles thanks to Mary McConneloug in the elite women's contest and Sam Jurekovic in the men's U23 contest. Cristobal Silva (Chile) won the elite men's cross country and Daniela Campuzano (Mexico) the U23 women's cross country.

The competition opened with a team relay, won by Brazil's Henrique Avancini, Jaqueline Mourão, Filipe Leopoldo, and Rubens Valeriano) over Mexico and Columbia.

Markolf Berchtold (Brazil) and Diana Marggraff (Ecuador) won the elite men's and women's downhill races. In fact, Ecuador took both 4X titles. Marggraff won the women's 4X while Jose Escudero won the men's 4X.

See Cyclingnews' coverage of the Pan American Championships.

NMBS Finals to relocate

Snowmass: site of the 2007 NMBS finals
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Don't book your plane tickets yet for the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) finals, originally scheduled for Tamarack Resort in Tamarack, Idaho, on August 30-31. Organizers announced that the finals will be moved, but they have not yet revealed a location.

"As I understand it, there are funding issues that are preventing the some development [at the resort] which would be necessary for them to hold the finals. They will continue operation of the resort, but can't pay for the finals. Some expected funding has not come through. I'm not sure exactly what pieces aren't in place," said Paul Skilbeck, NMBS Media Representative, to Cyclingnews.

"We are aiming to host the finals on the same weekend although because we are in contingency and things are fluid, the date may change. The venue will definitely change," said Skilbeck. "I know it's frustrating because people want to have solid information."

"We are awaiting confirmation from a past NMBS venue that everything is in place for the series finals to be held there, and then we can make the announcement," said series director Jeff Frost of Bluewolf Events.

In its fourth year of operation, Tamarack Resort is in the midst of ongoing development although some riding is already open. "To ensure that we can host the best Finals possible, we are deferring being the event site until another year," said Ken Rider, Tamarack Resort Director of Marketing & Sales.

"We are still excited about going to Tamarack and we will remain in communication with the resort," said Frost.

Last year's finals were held in Snowmass, Colorado, in early August.

Dahle Flejså returns to podium

Gunn-Rita Dahle Flejså is back. The Norwegian made her first podium appearance after returning to racing following an extended period of illness last season that kept her out of competition for much of the year.

At the Internazionali d'Italia Sunshine in Nalles, Italy, she finished in second place in the women's open race, 1'12" behind Nathalie Schneitter (Colnago Arreghini Filago), who is a former junior world champion from Switzerland.

The Multivan Merida Biking Team racer was reported by her team to be very happy after her race in Italy.

See full results from the Internazionali d'Italia Sunshine.

Juarez leads Team MonaVieCannondale.com around the world

Tinker Juarez (Monavie) on his way to third at the NMBS #2 marathon on Fountain Hills, Arizona
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Team MonaVieCannondale.com racing team is one of a growing list of teams focusing on endurance races that provide a total immersion experience - epic conditions, exotic travel, intense competition, and a team environment. The team will be racing events that take riders to new locations and bring new adventures. On schedule for 2008 are the British Columbia seven-day BC Bike Race, Trans Baja, La Ruta de los Conquistadors, the 24hrs of Moab, and select national calendar endurance and cross country races.

After a successful inaugural 2007 season, the team brings onboard two-time US Olympian and current 24 hours of Adrenalin Solo World Champion Tinker Juarez; 2004 World and 2007 National XTERRA Champion Jamie Whitmore; four crosser and downhiller Leana Gerrard; U23 Cyclo-cross and cross country world championship team candidate Mitchell Peterson; and the US Master's 35+ women's cyclo-cross champion Sue Butler. Returning to the team are Bart Gilliespie, Jason Sager, Blake Harlan, Bryan Alders, Matt Ohran, and Thomas Spannring.

Since the team's inception last July, the squad earned multiple top ten results in US mountain bike races, the US national cyclo-cross championships, the La Ruta de los Conquistadors, and the 24 Hours of Moab.

The team plans to hold an official presentation at Sea Otter in Monterey, California, with riders like Tinker Juarez just back from the NMBS stop #2 marathon in Fountain Hills, Arizona, and Singapore's Bike Asia marathon race and Jason Sager freshly returned from UCI victories in Puerto Rico.

The team will race custom-built Scalpels.

MonaVieCannondale.com for 2008
Tinker Juarez, 47, Downyville, California
Jamie Whitmore, 30, Sacramento, California
Bart Gilliespie, 34, Salt Lake City, Utah
Jason Sager, 33, Portland, Oregon
Leana Gerrard, 22, Spokane, Washington
Thomas Spanrring, 31, Park City, Utah
Sue Butler, 35, Portland, Oregon
Blake Harlan, 21, Boulder, Colorado
Mitchell Peterson, 21, Salt Lake City, Utah
Bryan Alders, 22, Boulder, Colorado
Matt Ohran, 37, Salt Lake City, Utah (Team Manager/Rider)

iXS European Downhill Cup selects Italian venue

iXS Sports Division has found a venue for its downhill race in Italy. The second race of the iXS European Downhill Cup will be held in Canazei. The new venue adds to those already in France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The race series aims to close the gap between the national series and the World Cup while growing the European downhill scene.

July 5-6: Round #1, Scuol, Switzerland
July 26-27: Round #2, Canazei, Italy
August 9-10: Round #3, Châtel, France
August 23-24: Round #4: Ilmenau, Germany
September 20-21: Round #5: Leogang, Austria

For more information, visit www.ixsdownhillcup.com.

Sauser and Frischknecht to lead charge at third Swisspower Cup round

Christoph Sauser riding at the Cape Epic stage race
Photo ©: Gary Perkin / SPORTZPICS
(Click for larger image)

The Swisspower Cup's third round will head to Muttenz, Switzerland, on April 12-13. As the last major race before the UCI's cross country World Cup series kicks off April 19-20 in Houffalize, Belgium, some of the world's fastest riders are expected to be on hand.

With the exception of Ralf Näf and Nino Schurter, the entire Swiss elite team is expected at the start including Christoph Sauser and Thomas Frischknecht, who both missed the first two rounds in Buchs and Winterthur. Among the favorite foreigners will be Frenchman Jean Christophe Peraud and New Zealander Kashi Leuchs. Marathon World Champion Petra Henzi and former World Champion Alison Sydor of Canada are two of the top women expected.

The second round in Winterthur last weekend was won by Florian Vogel (Swisspower Mountainbike-Team) and Maroussia Rusca (Scott Allianz Suisse). Vogel also won the first round, but Irina Kalentieva (Topeak-Ergon) took the women's race in Buchs.

For more information, visit www.swisspowercup.ch.

See full results from the Winterthur round of the Swisspower Cup held April 5-6.

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