MTB news & racing round-up for April 19, 2008
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Edited by Sue George
Houffalize opens 2008 World Cup cross country season
By Luke Webber in Houffalize, Belgium
The course is a favourite of the
Photo ©: Luke Webber
Houffalize, the home of cross country racing, will open the UCI Mountain
Bike Cross Country World Cup presented by Nissan this Sunday with thousands
of fans lining the course hoping their rider clinches a most memorable
Standing between the 273 male and 130 female competitors is a currently
dry and dusty circuit - the racers' favourite. Similar to the lap that
so suited Jose Hermida last year, it is a real mountain bike course with
short power climbs, fast roads through the Houffalize town centre and
steep descents. The Spaniard is already in high spirits before the race
along with the circus that follows the World Cup circuit across Europe,
Canada and Australia. All are eager to start after a long winter break.
For most this race will be a first test in an especially important Olympic
year - so far in 2008 most of the front runners have only competed in
national events with the exception of those who were in South Africa for
the toughest endurance test - the Cape Epic.
Amongst those Epic riders was promising under-23 Burry Stander and despite
a leg injury sustained early on in that race, he will start on Sunday.
Also back is Liam Killeen, but following a year out through illness, he
will have a hard race starting a long way back on the grid in 140th.
Irina Kalentieva is reigning World
Photo ©: Luke Webber
All of the usual favourites will start the race with great ambitions
- current World and Olympic champion Julien Absalon, marathon World Champion
Christoph Sauser and local favourite Filip Meirhaeghe. Nino Schurter will
once again look to dominate the under-23 category following World Champion
Jakob Fuglsang's move into the senior ranks.
Adam Craig is the top American, while strong performances in the NMBS
leave Canadian Geoff Kabush another contender, especially if it stays
dry. He finished especially well last year in similar conditions and in
2008 has a great chance thanks to a much improved grid position.
The women's race sees the return of Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja to the field
- another rider who was ill in 2007. While her outward ambitions are reserved
everyone will be watching her, including newly crowned World Champion
A typical Houffalize trail
Photo ©: Luke Webber
"I'm excited about the start of the new season, especially the added
competition it will be more interesting and definitely harder," said
Kalentieva to Cyclingnews on Thursday. I did not prepare in the
same way this year because I have aspirations for the Olympics and World
Championships. If I win, that will be great, but if not it will have at
least been good training!"
Last year though it was the Chinese who dominated the women's early season
races and nobody will be more motivated to show what is in store for the
Olympic race than Ren Chengyuan, Jingjing Wang and Ying Liu.
A race within the women's race will be the Australian team of Kate Potter,
Dellys Starr, Tory Thomas and Rowenna Fry - all of whom are travelling
the first three European World Cups together in a bid to become the Australian
representative for the Beijing Games.
Alongside the elite racing there is also a packed schedule of support
events on Saturday including a UCI category one 4X race. Houffalize is
full of mountain bikers with an expectant atmosphere so stay tuned to
Cyclingnews to find out what happens on race day.
Niner Bikes pairs with IMBA for limited edition charity bikes
By James Huang in Monterey, California
The IMBA-edition frameset features
Reynolds 853 tubing…
Photo ©: James Huang
Niner Bikes founders Chris Sugai and Steve Domahidy have teamed up with
IMBA to create a limited edition bicycle in order to raise money for the
premier mountain bike advocacy organization. "We're now to the point
where we are financially ready to give back to the industry," said
Sugai. "IMBA was our first choice."
The IMBA-edition Niner M.C.R. 9 frameset will use the same custom Reynolds
853 tubeset as the standard version but will covered in a trail map-inspired
powdercoated finish by Spectrum Powderworks. The first frameset was awarded
to Vermont resident Chris Weber, who won the preceding design contest,
but remaining copies will command a retail cost of US$1149. All proceeds
from the sales will be donated to IMBA.
Standard M.C.R. 9 frames normally fetch US$749 and the matching rigid
fork another US$179. As such, the IMBA-edition version represents a surprisingly
modest premium for such as small production batch so we anticipate that
they will likely go quickly.
Ultimately, Sugai and Domahidy hope to make this sort of fundraising
activity an annual event with a different beneficiary each year.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
James Huang / Cyclingnews.com
Mike & Mary diary: Early season races
Rincon, Puerto Rico is a good place
Photo ©: Meg Wells
The transition into the race season is always a bit difficult. In our
case, returning to the states from Chile to my family's home in Massachusetts
was the first step of transitioning into race mode, a mandatory stop in
and, judging by the piles of backed up paper mail and loose ends that
awaited us on our return, a bit overdue. After a busy and cold 10 days
at home of training, building race bikes and shuffling papers, Mary and
I flew south to officially kick off our race season. The first stop was
the Ultimate Dirt Challenge
in Rincon, Puerto Rico, on March 31 then on to Venezuela on April 6 to
attend the Pan American
This year's edition of the Ulitmate Dirt Challenge more than lived up
to our expectations for tropical weather, huge crowds and once again a
fantastically organized and fun event. Mary and I have attended this race
for the past three years, and it has become one of our favorites as well
as our traditional season opener. The promoter, Doel Gonzales (www.ciclomundo.com),
once again treated us better than necessary to get us back to be a part
of this in this one of a kind event. This year, the race included a spectator
friendly traffic snarling downhill (actually crossing the main road into
town), a crowd pleasing dirt jumping exhibition, as well as a UCI category
one ranked cross country event. Thousands of enthusiastic Puerto Rican
spectators attended from all over the island to enjoy this unique and
fun one day bike festival.
Mary on the podium at the Ultimate
Photo ©: Meg Wells
A tropical island is a great place to host an early spring mountain bike
festival and the location in Rincon, Puerto Rico, (a premier surf spot)
makes this one all the more alluring for us. Although the potential for
a cross country course is limited by available land, it makes up for this
with its uniqueness. The cross country track is a seven kilometer twisting
ribbon jammed into a dense jungle-y patch of trees that surrounds a long
retired nuclear power plant. Primarily singletrack, short stabby climbs
and drops and the feeling of constantly being on a fast railing turn pretty
much sum up the course. Glimpses of the blue Caribbean and the rustling
of the shady palms helps to make this course one of our favorites. This
year, the daily afternoon downpours splitting up the hot/humid sunny days
had the track primed, fast and tacky as we have ever seen it.
Of course, the racing still hurt!!! All those long off season hours of
specific training rides that are supposed to have you up to speed and
ready to compete never really seem to match up to the intensity of the
first race. Having learned this lesson before, we always try to get in
a few training races as this one before some of the more important ones
on the schedule.
The small women's field did not stop Mary from pushing her limits although
she was able to ride away easily and take the win - averaging around 19
mph throughout the race and putting close to 30 minutes on the second
place woman. She clearly made the most of her hard training effort as
she continued her preparation for top race fitness in the soon upcoming
Read the complete diary
entry detailing Mike & Mary's adventures in both Puerto Rico and
Hessler to race Baja Epic
Canadian Andreas Hessler became the latest big name to enter the 300-mile,
four day Baja Epic slated for November 5-8 in Mexico.
Hessler's achievements include two Canadian National titles, three Canadian
National Series titles and two Trans Rockies wins. He also organizes the
BC Bike Race, a multi-day stage race through British Columbia.
"We are thrilled to have Andreas in and part of the field,"
said Baja Epic promoters. "He's a great racer who's really shined
in these stage races. This should be a very good field for the inaugural
Plattkill signs Ulmer
Plattekill Mountain Bike Park, in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New
York, signed one of their longtime local downhill racers, Geoff Ulmer.
The 17 year-old Ulmer, who started riding at Plattekill when he was just
10 years-old, has advanced to the pro class for 2008, where he'll also
fly the Playbiker - Iron Horse UCI trade team colors.
"I've been training at the Bike Park for years and it has paid off,"
He will attend North American and European UCI World Cup Events and hopes
to represent the US at the World Championships in Val di Sole, Italy.
Ulmer has won numerous titles in the US including the last three JrX Championships
at Plattekill and a US National Championship last year.
"I'm more than happy to support Geoff this season. I've had my eye
on him for the past seven years and have seen him win championships every
year here from the beginner class to the JrX class when he was just 14,"
said Laszlo Vajtay, General Manager of Plattekill Mountain.
Plattekill will host the New York State Championship series, featuring
downhill, dual slalom and cross country races and well as a new endurance
race, a six-hour event on June 7. This year the Bike Park will host a
stop and the finals of the Gravity East Series for the second year in
a row and a race on May 3-4 will serve as the JrX automatic qualifier
for the US team at the World Championships.
American juniors to vie for automatic nominations to worlds team at
One of the largest races in the Eastern US, the Greenbrier Classic will
be especially important for expert juniors for this year's edition on
April 27. The race, held on Maryland's Catoctin Mountain will serve as
just one of two automatic qualifier events for berths on the US Junior
World Championship Team.
The second qualifying event will be the Santa Ynez Valley race on May
18 in California. Since no juniors finished in the top three at last year's
World Championships, any American juniors with international licenses
who win the expert junior male and female categories will automatically
be added to the Junior World Championship team.
Furthermore, the Greenbrier race is also part of the Allison Dunlap Junior
Olympic MTB Series for the first time ever. In addition to featuring juniors,
this year's race will feature 49 categories and US$8,000 in prizes. It
is part of both the American Mountain Bike Calendar (AMBC) and USA Cycling
National Calendar and is a qualifying event for the US National Championships
for all categories.
For more information see www.potomacvelo.com.
Watch Valley Bike cup starts this weekend
The sixth edition of the Watch Valley Bike Cup, with 10 events, starts
this weekend, April with the National Bike Race Perrefitte and runs through
September 28. Events will take place in the Swiss cantons of Neuchatel
(NE), Jura (JU), Bern (BE) and Vaud (VD).
Watch Valley Cup 2008
April 20 - Round 1: National Bike Race Perrefitte BE
April 27 - Round 2: VTT Planeyse Colombier NE
May 11 - Round 3: Arnon Bike Bonvillars VD
May 18 - Round 4: Roc du Littoral Hauterive NE
June 21 - Round 5: P'tit Raid Moutier BE
July 13 - Round 6: Watch Valley Bike Marathon La Chx-de-Fds - Les Genevez
NE / BE / JU (56, 87 or 120km)
July 26 - Round 7: Les Tchérattes Epauvillers JU
August 10 - Round 8: Biel-Bienne Bike Race Biel-Bienne BE
September 13 - Round 9: Eole'Bike Tramelan BE
September 28 - Round 10: Mega Bike La Chx-de-Fds NE
The classification will be based on the results from each rider's six
best races. For more information, visit www.wvbikecup.ch or www.watchvalley-bikemarathon.ch.
Chase the Sun MTB series for 2008
The second-year Chase the Sun Mountain Bike Series will feature four
events at Lysterfield Park in Victoria, Australia. Each event will vary
from five to eight hours according to the amount of daylight hours available.
The challenge of this endurance test is to ride as many laps of the course
as possible, before the sun sets.
"I am really looking forward to building on the success of last
years events and welcoming even more newcomers to the sport again this
year," said Kristjan Snorrason of Full Gas Promotions.
As in 2007, the course for each of the four events will differ, providing
riders with a fresh challenge for each event. The actual course for each
event is finalized close to race day, after consideration of prevailing
trail conditions, forecasted weather and participant numbers, ensuring
sensitivity to the environment and trail maintenance.
May 11: Round 1
June 1: Round 2
July 27: Round 3
August 17: Round 4
For more information or to register teams of one, two or three, visit
Scottish Borders to host festival
The Scottish Borders will host a multi-sport adventure festival on July
5-6 in the UK. In addition to an ACE Race adventure race and a 12km Dirty
Dozen trail run, mountain bikers will have the chance to tackle the Polaris
The two-day Polaris Challenge is a joint challenge of navigation and
endurance. Mountain bikers much reach as many checkpoints as possible
within the allotted times. Riders will be given a list of checkpoints
and sent out from the base camp at Traquair where they ride for between
five and seven hours before returning to base to receive further instructions.
As a two day event, riders will camp over night before taking on the second
half of the challenge and will finish mid-afternoon allowing plenty of
time to enjoy the festival atmosphere at the main event village.
The weekend's activities are part of regional efforts to establish the
South of Scotland as a UK destination for mountain biking and adventure
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