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MTB news & racing round-up for August 21, 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

Mary McConneloug: Keeping the balance

By Sue George

Mary McConneloug (Kenda/Seven) leads the racers
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Mary McConneloug (Kenda / Seven) is one of two women representing the United States in the cross country mountain bike race at the Olympic Games in Beijing on Friday, August 22. After finishing ninth at the Olympics in Athens, Greece, McConneloug has spent the past four years travelling the globe with her partner Michael Broderick.

"It's all about balance," said McConneloug of what has been a hectic year leading up to the Olympics.

She and Broderick have spent most of their time on the road, training and travelling to races, first to perform well enough internationally to make the cut for the US Olympic Long Team last winter, and then to all the spring European World Cups and the World Championships to make the final Olympic team.

The two, who rented an RV and travelled all over Europe, faced the daily challenge of staying healthy and fit on the road while also coordinating their logistics.

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"I was doing my yoga everyday. I was eating well, sleeping well and training well and those are the biggest priorities. It was intense," said McConneloug of the focus her nomadic, pre-Olympic life required. "I've learned to deal with stress over the past few years and keep my priorities straight.

"We've been really living in the moment. It's been so busy the last four months of my life.

"What I've learned is that to stay calm in stressful situations is going to help more than getting stressed out. All those World Cups in Europe, supporting ourselves and Mike and I not having someone tell us when to be and where…was hard.

"We had to feed ourselves and do all the travel in between. We had to look at it as a fun adventure. It's interesting … attitude is everything. You have to have a good attitude about everything you're doing and not get down about it - see it as an opportunity."

That attitude could be just what it takes to win a medal in Beijing.

The road to selection

US National Champion Mary McConneloug (Kenda/Seven) at the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

McConneloug attended the spring World Cups and placed consistently well enough to find herself racing on average as the second best American behind Georgia Gould. Based on their performances, Gould and McConneloug seemed to be the obvious choices to fill the two US Olympic team spots, but when the initial mountain bike team selections were announced, only Gould was named.

That brought back the nightmare of the 2004 US team Olympic selections when the battle for the single nomination between McConneloug and Sue Haywood ended up in arbitration. The selection process was confusing and differing interpretations of which races counted in the final points tally gave different outcomes as to which rider should go to Athens. In the end, McConneloug was named to the team.

"The selection process (for the mountain bike team) this time was very fair," said McConneloug. "It was laid out way in advance and we all knew where we needed to be racing and what we needed to do. USA Cycling did a fantastic job of outlining the procedures and we had very similar selection criteria as the other countries."

The problem this time was that a rider from another cycling discipline was contesting not being included on the Olympic team. Since the second women's mountain bike team slot was discretionary, McConneloug's spot could have gone to the protesting rider instead.

"There was an arbitration going on. It was a stressful time because they could have taken the discretionary spot for the mountain bike if they felt she was to be awarded," said McConneloug, who prevailed in the end. "It was a very stressful week. I was on the phone with lawyers. That was supposed to be my rest week."

McConneloug went into the US National Mountain Bike Championships relieved to have made the team, but fatigued from the mental toll taken to get there. But that didn't stop her from repeating her national cross country title win in Mount Snow, Vermont. She triumphed in a showdown with Gould.

"I came into the race not really knowing how I would do just because I'd been training for Beijing, putting in heavy hours the previous weeks before. I'd been thinking forward to having a peak in late August. So I'd planned to rest all week. We had a nice place to stay and rest. I got some bodywork. I was feeling good."

Read the complete interview.

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for complete coverage, including live coverage of the Olympic men's and women's cross country races.

Deho and Cattaneot win TransRockies

Marzio Deho and Johnny Cattaneo arm in arm for the overall win
Photo ©: Dan Hudson
(Click for larger image)

Marzio Deho and Johhny Cattaneo of Italy won the open division of the TransRockies, which wrapped up on Sunday, despite a mechanical mishap on the final stage seven. Deho suffered a broken seat around the 10-kilometre mark but managed to hold it together for 70+ kilometres by wrapping a tube around it. In the end, Deho and Cattaneo came in fifth for the last stage, but easily swept the overall title with a time of 22:39:40 - 25 minutes ahead of second place overall winners Kris Sneddon and Max Plaxton. Third place overall went to Marty Lazarski and Stefan Widmer.

Despite the last day's grind on a broken bike, Deho was all smiles at the finish line, nodding happily when asked if he felt good about the week. "Today I am happy," he said.

"This was a tough, tough, tough year," said Andreas Hestler, who won the final stage with his team-mate Chris Sheppard. "There's no two ways about it. It was a good course and a tough field (of competitors)."

Carey Lowery and Lisa Randall convincingly won the women's category with a time of 33:52:22. Over two and a half hours back were Amy Guidinger and Meghan Osborne in second. Angie Bryans and Inga Ivany finished third.

The husband and wife team of Wendy Simms and Normon Thibault won the mixed category in 27:06:03. Steven Wallace and Katerina Nash held on for second despite Wallace injuring his wrist while David Harris and Lynda Wallenfels ended in third.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the TransRockies.

Bishop and Stevenson set Georgia on fire

By Harlan Price

Blessed with overcast skies chasing away Georgia's August heat, 300 people lined up for the Fool's Gold 100 and 50 mile races last Saturday. Even though there were two races going for the weekend, it was the 100 miler that created the most anticipation with a head-to-head battle between National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series dominator Jeff Schalk (Trek/VW East Coast) and US National Marathon Champion Jeremiah Bishop (Trek/VW Factory).

The women's field had it's own battle royale potential with last year's winner Trish Stevenson (IFracing.org), series leader Cheryl Sornson (Trek/VW East Coast) and Mohican 100 winner Betsy Shogren (Sobe Cannondale). Though the racing was to be the highlight for some, everyone had an opportunity to enjoy the festival created by the partnership between the Southern Off Road Bicycling Association (SORBA) and the Fool's Gold race promoters.

Schalk's mechanical delays showdown while Bishop takes win and Turner comes second

Jeremiah Bishop
Photo ©: John Kelso
(Click for larger image)

"Bullets from the start!" was how Jeremiah Bishop described the pace off the start line heading for the first climb.

"Jeff (Schalk) was drilling it, and he was probably trying to wear me down," he said. "I pretty much sat on and matched his moves to put time on third and fourth place. I was being conservative and trying to stay out of trouble. It had been months since I had a five hour ride in me."

The two continued pushing each other through the end of lap one and the second time up the first climb. At the top, Schalk had to stop briefly at the aid station while Bishop was skipped it and rode through.

Bishop has spent most of his season making a run for the Olympic team, and hasn't had the pleasure of racing the new 100 miler pace. Even after two national champion jerseys for the marathon and the short track on his back, he still had to play a conservative race.

On the descent from the top from the aid station, Schalk was flying down the gravel descent to catch back on when he slashed his front tire. After blowing out his tube he had to wait around for someone to help him out with a new tube and boot. He ended up walking for awhile before getting the tire inflated, and by that time he was short on motivation for continuing.

"I was looking forward to duking it out with JB," said Schalk. "He'll have to wait till Tahoe-Sierra to get another chance, since Bishop will be in Utah for the NMBS finals on the weekend of the Shenandoah Mountain 100 [Rumor has it that Bishop may stay at home and challenge Schalk after all at the SM100 - ed.]

In the miles after Schalk's flat, Bishop kept his head down and a steady safe pace to get to the finish line where he took the US$1,000 first place prize.

The overall sees no changes since none of the other contenders made the podium. Second overall Even Plews (Scott/ Capitol Subaru) was finishing up the TransRockies, while third place Chris Eatough (Trek/VW) took the time to recover from a tough 24 hour US National Championships. Fourth place rider Harlan Price (IFracing.org) is recovering from a broken wrist, and fifth place Christian Tanguy (American Cycle and Fitness) was deterred by the travel distance.

Stevenson steps to top block

Women's 100 miler podium
Photo ©: John Kelso
(Click for larger image)

Less than two weeks after becoming the first female to complete the Colorado Trail Race (CTR), Trish Stevenson (IFracing.org) brought back a souvenir. Her new legs and lungs propelled her to the front of the women's field despite the presence of Mohican winner Betsy Shogren (Cannondale Sobe) and series leader Cheryl Soronson (Trek/VW East Coast).

After a season plagued by injury and fatigue, Stevenson was able to reclaim a top podium spot. "I wanted some redemption...I haven't been in shape all season. The CTR was my get fit quick scheme. It's great not suffering and enjoying the full 100 miles. Not to say that I wasn't feeling it, but my legs felt strong and my head was in it." Patience paid off for the North Carolina rider.

Shogren led the way up the first climb for the KOM while Stevenson and Soronson sat back keeping their eyes on the lanky climber from West Virginia. Trish caught Shogren soon after the KOM and they were riding together up the next climb when her rear tire blew off the rim. Shogren rode on while Stevenson blew through two CO2s before she put a tube in and found help from singlespeeder Rich "Dicky" Dillon.

Stevenson caught Shogren and Sornson to re-take the lead by mile 50. "I don't think I ever let up - having been passed late in the game by Betsy before so I kept up the effort. The course was in remarkable shape. Much improved from last year. 10 miles less, 10 degrees cooler and 100 times more enjoyable." Stevenson came across the line in 9:41 and had a comfortable gap on the second and third places. Her closest competitor was 43 minutes behind.

Stevenson's two chasers crossed the line almost together, with Shogren in second and Soronson in third, both at 10:24.

The NUE series overall for the women sees Sornson still in control of the top spot with only seven points, but now with three races under their belts, Shogren moves to the second position with eight points overall and Stevenson has 10.

The Shenandoah Mountain 100 on August 31 might be the deciding race for the second and third positions.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Fool's Gold 100.

Kamloops race to offer equal payouts for both sexes

The Intermontane Challenge announced equal prize money payout for both sexes for the 2009 race edition from July 27-31. The 450km event will feature a CAN$60,000 purse, with $10,000 going to the top man and woman. Cash will also go to the top five solo racers, the top three team categories plus "random acts of recognition for great riders who may get overlooked at the finish line," according to race organizers.

Race organizer Chuck Brennan said it's time women get their fair share. "All of us involved in planning this race know that women have consistently been overlooked when it comes to prize money," he said. "We hope offering equal payouts for both sexes will serve as motivation for other race organizers to follow our lead and we're proud to be paving the way."

The Kamloops race features a singletrack, clover leaf design. Racers tackle a different course each day and end up in Kamloops every night. Former pro racer Dustin Adams will be giving a tour of one of the course on September 6, when racers can sign up for one of the 300 places in the race.

"We hope offering the best accommodations, food, course design and prize purse will help to create a very competitive start line for the 2009 event," says Kelly Servinski, marketing director for the Intermontane Challenge.

For more information visit www.intermontanechallenge.com.

CTC & IMBA team for UK National Mountain Bike Conference

IMBA-UK is partnering with the CTC, the UK's national cyclists' organization, to host a conference on October 9 to support the British government's effort to get two million more people active by 2010. The organizations are teaming up to help develop a clear progression for riders of all backgrounds and abilities from the bike shop to the trail.

The conference programme has been specifically designed for trail builders, project managers, sports development officers, funders, landowners, AONB and National Park staff, and all those involved in managing or developing off-road cycling in the UK. It will address the increase in demand for off-road cycling and provide an opportunity to share lessons learned from those running successful facilities around the globe. The focus will also be on training, education, facility development and funding.

Speakers will include IMBA Executive Director Mike Van Abel, CTC Director Kevin Mayne, Forestry Commission Visitor Safety Officer John Ireland, Cascade Environmental Founder Mike Nelson, Natural England Policy Specialist Duncan Mackay, IMBA-UK Chairman Kalr Bartlett, Julie Cartner, Dafydd Davis MBE, Chris Ford, Ian Warby and Vince Bartlett.

"This is a great opportunity for mountain bikers to come together, share their enthusiasm and experience, and continue improving mountain biking opportunities and participation for the future," said Karl Bartlett, Chairman IMBA-UK.

The conference will be held at Cromwell Suite in Earls Court, during the trade day of Cycle 2008. For more information, visit www.ctc.org.uk/mtb.

Jeep 48STRAIGHT season kicks off

The opening round of the Jeep 48STRAIGHT season will kick off this weekend in Vernon, New Jersey, with many top contenders. Four time World Champion Brian Lopes, four-time Australian National Champion Jared Rando, Crankworx Champion JD Swanguen, Cody Warren, Rich Houseman and Geritt Beytagh are among those who will contest the men's race August 22-23. Three-time World Cup winner Fionn Griffiths and 4X World Champion Melissa Buhl will head up the women's competition.

Racers will be chasing the prize payout and exposure on national television. The weekend's activities will feature racing and music in a festival atmosphere. Other stops on the Tour include The Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah on September 19-20 and The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, California, on October 24-25.

For more information, visit www.48straight.com.

Brisbane gets eight-hour race

North Brisbane, Australia, will host a new eight-hour mountain bike race on October 5, 2008. The race will be held on a 10km course that is part of the Insomnia 24 hour race. It is geared toward first timers through experienced racers and will offer solo and team categories.

A track-building day to enhance the course will be held in mid-September. Volunteers for the day of trailbuilding will receive a free entry.

For more information, visit www.geocentricoutdoors.com.au.

Mountain Cross racing goes indoors

A new mountain cross race will bring 4X racing to an indoor arena in conjunction with InterBike 2008. The "Arena Mountain X" race will showcase 20 racers in a head-to-head competition within the South Point Equestrian & Event Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, on September 24.

The invitation only event will feature racers including Eric Carter, Brian Lopes, US national champion Rich Houseman, Chris Kovarik, Cody Warren, Jared Rando, Kirt Voreis and Nathan Rennie.

"It's an excellent opportunity to bring the exciting world of 4X racing to the masses," said Don Jackson, co-organizer. "By bringing the mountain to the people, we can give the public a chance to watch this breathtaking sport without the need to drive hours away from the city."

The race will be held in a "speedway format" on a man-made course surrounded by a stadium full of seats for easy viewing.

For more information, visit southpointeventscenter.com.

Ötztal Vertical Hunt tries new format

Sölden, Austria, will host the Ötztal Vertical Hunt from August 21 to 24. The race format is a result of a survey asking mountain bikers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland about their event preferences.

The majority of the respondents asked for multi-day events and short stage races that could be hosted on a weekend. Other topics on the wish list were a creative race format, a mix of several disciplines and scenically attractive routes.

The Vertical Hunt features four different disciplines: hill climb, short track, marathon and cross country and after the first two events, riders will be started in order, with time gaps based on their standings.

"We have been organising stage races for years," said event director Mike Hamel. "Out on the route it has always been difficult for both, leaders and chasers, to estimate how many places they have caught up in the overall ranking. With a pursuit as race format the respective position in the GC (general classification) becomes transparent. We expect a thrilling pursuit, both in the field and at the top."

Since Ötztal Vertical Hunt takes place on the same weekend as the cross country races of the Olympic Games in Beijing, organizers are bringing along a giant TV so that the public can follow the Olympics while at the race.

For more information, visit www.oetztal-verticalhunt.com.

Lacondeguy wins Kokanee Crankworx Slopestyle with double back flip

Kona Clump Team rider Andreu Lacondeguy was on a mission to win at the Kokanee Crankworx Slopestyle last Saturday in Whistler, British Columbia. The fearless Spanish rider did something no other rider has ever done during Slopestyle competition: successfully landing a double-back flip.

In the days leading up to the event, Lacondeguy spent hours practicing with friends and Kona team-mates John Cowan (who designed the course), Grant "Chopper" Fielder and younger brother Lluis. With a long list of who's who in the world of mountain biking competing in the event, Lacondeguy knew he had to bring his A-game to take home the top spot.

With the top eight riders qualifying for the finals out of 34 participants, his first run (in the two-run format) in the main event scored the lowest out of the finalists after failing to land a double-back flip. He registered a score of 30.8 points; while Brandon Semenuk of Whistler had the best first run score of 86.8.The course featured huge tables, dirt jumps, wooden spins, the Giro box and the always insane Kokanee drop as the final hit.

Since he produced the lowest score during the first run, he went first for the second and final runs. With nothing to hold back, he started out with a double-back flip off the first table, followed by a foot plant off the Monster Snake, a back flip X-up, flat spin 360, topside nac-nac, can-can step-down, Superman, and finished off with a back flip onto the final Kokanee feature and Superman off into Whistler village.

His run scored 94.3 points and set the bar for the rest of the riders final runs. Lance McDermott of the United Kingdom took second place with 91.5 points.

"I just kept trying the double-back flip," said Lacondeguy of his feat. "It was that trick that did the job, it was gnarly you know." He took home CAN$15,000 for his win.

Greg Minnaar won the high speed Giant Slalom ahead of Brian Lopes, Gee Atherton and Guido Tschugg.

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