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MTB news & racing round-up for December 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

Fontana announces 2009 plans with Cannondale

By Kirsten Robbins

Marco Fontana (Ita)
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

Reigning Italian national cyclo-cross champion Marco Aurelio Fontana recently signed a hefty contract with the Cannondale Mountain Bike squad. The US-based bike manufacture presented him with the offer after he placed fifth at the Beijing Olympic Games this past summer. After returning from a meet and greet with his new teammates, he told Cyclingnews he was impressed with the professionalism of the Cannondale crew.

"We just had a training camp and it was amazing," Fontana said regarding the week-long meeting in the city of Brunico, nestled in the Italian Dolomites. "There was a very good feeling between us guys. We were skiing together in the mountains."

"Joining Cannondale was a big step for me. The main change is how official the team is. I'm very happy and very concentrated on the future."

His future looks bright since he will be riding with full team support and two professional teammates, Swiss talent Martin Gujan and Belgian World Cup veteran Roel Paulissen. For 2009, the Cannondale Factory Racing team is merging with the former SoBe-Cannondale team. In the US, Gunnar Shogren and Matthew Lee, along with several dozen more riders, will round out the roster, racing in regional events.

Fontana, 23, spent his short but stellar mountain bike career racing for Hard Rock, a team that groomed him into a young Olympian and World Cup contender. "My heart will be forever Hard Rock," Fontana said. "They were good guys, and they supported me for so many years. They reached a point that they had to change their careers and it was difficult for them to do everything for me. I have to say thank you to Hard Rock because they did a good job with me and my cycling career."

Fontana's season with Cannondale will begin with the first set of Internazionali d'Italia events in March followed by the first World Cup in South Africa in April. "The World Cup series is my big goal because these are very important for Cannondale," Fontana said. "The first goal is to try to do the same as last year and be top ten in the World Cup events. The next main goal is to do well in the World Championships."

Other races for Fontana will include the Maremma Cup, GP Inverno Es-Al, European Championships and a few rounds of the Bundesliga series, French Cup and Swiss series.

New Sunshine Cup course at Amathous - Agios Tychonas set

They're off for round one of the 2008 Cyprus Cup
Photo ©: Armin M. Küstenbrück
(Click for larger image)

Organizers have nearly completed construction of the course for the Sunshine Cup's new venue at Amathous-Agios Tychonas in Cyprus. Round three of the four-race series, which annually attracts international racers looking for a sunny and warm start to their seasons, is set for March 8.

Some changes at Yermasogia forced organizer Michalis Hadjioannou to search for a new location. Not too far away, the Amathous area offered possibilities for a cross country course.

"It's technical and one lap is 5.1km," said Hadjioannou. "Three climbs add about 200m of climbing." They also offer scenic views of the historic coastline and sea.

Until the 12th century, Amathous was the most important harbour on the island. The area is famous for ancient buildings along the coast, the sainthood of Aphrodite, four cathedrals and an ancient harbour beneath the sea.

For more information, visit www.mtbcyprus.com.

2009 Cyprus Sunshine Cup 2009
February 22: Tochni-Kalavasos (1) XCO
February 27 - March 1: Afxentia/Macheras Mountains (1) SR
March 8: Amathous-Agios-Tychonas (1) XCO
March 15: Voroklini (1) XCO

World Cup downhill champion takes on enduro challenge

Greg Minnaar
Photo ©: Christo Meyer
(Click for larger image)

After winning the 2008 World Cup Downhill overall, Greg Minnaar needed another challenge to keep his adrenalin flowing, so he opted to enter the arduous Roof of Africa Rally, Africa's toughest off road motorcycle race.

Classified as a "hard enduro" and mentioned in the same breath as the Ertzberg Rodeo in Austria, Romaniacs in Romania, Last Man Standing in the US, and Hell's Gate in the UK, the Roof of Africa has been hosted by the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, a land-locked independent Kingdom positioned in the central east of South Africa, for the last 41 years.

Originally started as a car rally, it did not take long for motorcycles to be included in the annual dash across the Maluti Mountains, which occurs over 3,500 meters elevation in some places. The 500km race offers fantastic vistas, unpredictable weather patterns, rocks, goat tracks and extreme mountain passes. The race is now a motorcycle-only rally, run over three days, with riders spending up to 13 hours in the saddle a day.

Minnaar raced motocross with some success prior to his mountain biking career, but he had never previously done an off road motorcycle endurance challenge. After day one, he said, "That was far more extreme than I expected and I'm feeling exhausted after a mere 98km!"

Two of the days had riders going over previously unridden passes like The Keyhole, Donkey Pass, Pressure Cooker, Lucky's and Horseshit Pass.

New Zealander Chris Birch won the overall in 15 hours and 500km. Of the 287 riders that started, only 89 finished, and Minnaar was among them in 19th place after 21 hours and 34 minutes.

"I am absolutely exhausted but ecstatic at being able to finish," said Minnaar. "This is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. I never thought that a motorbike could even go up some of the things that the organisers made us ride, let alone race up there."

Milatz renews with Multivan Merida

Germany's Moritz Milatz will stay with the Multivan Merida team for 2009 after a successful season. Aiming to become the top German mountain biker, he signed a two-year contract with the team. Moritz finished ninth at the UCI World Championships in Italy and sixth at the final round of the UCI World Cup in Schladming. He also took the overall victory in the German Bundesliga series.

"Moritz started racing with talent. We have been working with him since 2004, and it was important for us that he develop slowly but sustainably," said team manager Andreas Rotter.

"Since he was changing from a running sport to cycling, it took us more than a year to bring him up. His impressive results show us that our strategy was the right one. I'm certain that Moritz will make the podium of the world championships."

GT Bicycles unveils the Fastest Trophy

GT is looking for the fastest amateur at its new, seven-race cross country series called the GT Golden Bike Series in 2009. At each round, the winner will be crowned and awarded a Golden Bike, but there's a catch; the winner must defend his title by racing it at the next event in the series - or he forfeits the prize package worth more than US$10,000 to the second-place finisher.

"The only way to get the Golden Bike is to crush the competition," said Jenni Cathcart, Director of Marketing for GT Bicycles. "There's no silver or bronze in this competition...it's all about the gold."

Each Golden Bike winner will receive an all-expense-paid trip for two to the next race in the series, a commemorative GT Golden Bike, a $250 Sugoi gift certificate and a swag bag of cycling gear. At the race, the Golden Bike Winner will be supported by a professional bike mechanic and a personal cheerleading squad known as The Gold Diggers.

To defend his title, the winner will select one of two Golden race machines: the Zaskar hardtail or the full suspension Marathon. Both models will of course be gold-colored and feature top-of-the-line components.

If the winner secures another victory, then he is flown to the next race in the series to defend the title again. If he loses, then the official Golden bike, the Golden Jersey, the Gold Diggers cheerleading squad, and the professional mechanic are awarded to the newly crowned winner.

The series is explicitly not for pros. "Any rider who gets paid to race, got their bike from a sponsor or holds a professional cycling license is not eligible for the Golden Bike," said a statement from GT. Participants must also be 18 or older.

The series will kick off April 19 at the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California, and end in Hingham, Massachusetts, in September. A complete schedule follows.

2009 GT Golden Bike Series
April 19: Sea Otter Classic, Monterey, California
May 2: GHORBA Big Ring Challenge, Coldspring, Texas
May 17: Spring Thaw Mountain Bike Festival, Ashland, Oregon
June 7: Massanutten Hoo-Ha!, Harrisonburg, Virginia
July 4: Firecracker 50, Breckenridge, Colorado
August 8: Ore to Shore, Marquette, Michigan
September 13: Landmine Classic, Hingham, Massachusetts

Mountain bike museum opens in North Carolina

By Gary Boulanger, BikeRadar

The sport of mountain biking is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2009, and leading the celebration is the Museum of Mountain Bike Art & Technology (MOMBAT), a new museum created to preserve and chronicle the evolution of the sport, its personalities and products, located in Statesville, North Carolina.

The museum's collection contains over 400 bicycles, including more than 250 mountain bikes. Displayed alongside the bicycles at MOMBAT are hundreds of vintage parts and accessories and thousands of pieces of literature, including period catalogs and magazines that follow the evolution of the sport.

"With our location near the intersection of two major interstates, the museum is convenient for anyone traveling in the area, and we’ve had visitors from all around the US and overseas as well," said Jeff Archer, the museum's curator.

Archer told BikeRadar the museum is split between two floors of 5,000 square feet each, with 14-foot ceilings.

"The online shop history tells quite a bit about how we got to where we are now," he added.

In the mid 1970s, the mountain bike sprang to life as a grassroots effort by a small group of riders in Marin County, California, who converted balloon-tired cruisers into trail bikes by removing superfluous equipment and installing knobby tires. The first purpose-built off road bikes were made in the late 1970s when the term "Mountain Bike" was first used to describe them, and the sport grew rapidly worldwide in the following years.

The original mass produced mountain bike, the Specialized Stumpjumper, arrived in stores in 1982. An example of this model now resides in the Smithsonian Institution, and a similar model is displayed at MOMBAT.

Technological innovation is evident in the bicycles featured at MOMBAT, with the evolution of front and rear suspension designs, hydraulic disc brakes and the progression from five to 27 gears over the life of the sport. Frame materials also evolved, from basic steel tubes to wildly shaped and extremely lightweight composites and metals. Artistic design and construction is also found on bikes and components as some of the best examples of bicycle fabrication are on display at the museum, including details ranging from experimental to innovative and artful.

The museum also sponsors the Cackalacky Cup, an increasingly popular vintage-themed mountain bike festival that takes place each summer.

MOMBAT is located within First Flight Bicycles in historic downtown Statesville, NC. Admission is free and the museum is open to the public Monday-Friday, 10-6 and Saturday, 10-5. Visitors are welcomed and encouraged to take their time to view the exhibits.

Those unable to visit the museum in person can view much of the collection at www.mombat.org.

Luna racers to BC Bike Race

The Luna women's mountain bike team will participate in next year's BC Bike Race scheduled for June 28-July 4. Catherine Pendrel and Katerina Nash, both former Olympians, are slated to tackle the race together with the goal of having fun while using the event as an important part of their 2009 season.

"Having these two amazing women and the Luna Pro Team here at the BC Bike Race will hopefully inspire more women to undertake this exhilarating challenge," said President Dean Payne. "It's hard, but fun, and there isn't a better way out there to see this amazing countryside."

The team's motto of getting more women into sports and playing outside dovetails into the overall vision of the BC Bike Race, a seven-day mountain bike stage race with the goal of getting people outside for better health, stress relief and self-actualization.

New Zealand gets stage race

New Zealand will get its first fully supported, multi-stage mountain bike race with the Skins Alpine Epic on February 25-28 according to www.scoop.co.nz. Racers will compete in four days over five stages and 259km with 5,250m of climbing. The race will run in the Canterbury foothills of Mt Somers through the Southern Alps to Lake Tekapo in Mount Cook/Mackenzie country, primarily on private land.

Nick Ross, Angus Jennings, Katherine Jennings and Peter Savage are putting together the event. Ross said the idea originated when they were competing in the TransRockies in 2008.

"New Zealand has always been at the cutting edge of endurance sports events but strangely there's no stage mountain bike racing like overseas, and nothing fully supported," said Ross to The Scoop.

For more information, visit www.alpineepic.co.nz. Registration closes January 20.

Scottish events announced for 2009

Fort William's No Fuss Events announced its 2009 programme of Scottish events including several cross country, downhill and endurance events.

The Benromach Three Tens Series consists of three races are run on an endurance format with teams and individuals competing to see who can complete the most laps in the 10 hours. Participants can compete as a solo or in relay teams of two, three or four. This year's events include the 10 Under the Ben in Fort William on May 30, the 10 at Kirroughtree in Newton Stewart on July 11 and the 10 More in Moray in Fochabers on August 22.

No Fuss will also run an endurance downhill event called the Hope Endurance Downhill in Fort William on August 1. Staged on the track at Nevis Range near Fort William, home to the 2007 UCI World Championships, downhillers will attempt to complete the 2.82km track as many times as possible in six hours.

Finally, on October 10-12, the Relentless 24 will offer cross country racers the chance to go for 24 hours on the Witch's Trail and recently constructed UCI Mountain Bike World Championships courses in Forestry Commission Scotland's Leanachan Forest with the event being based at Nevis Range, Fort William.

No Fuss Events for 2009
May 30: 10 Under the Ben, Fort William
July 11: 10 at Kirroughtree, Newton Stewart
August 1: The Fort William Downhill Endurance
August 22: 10 More in Moray, Fochabers
October 10-11: Relentless 24

For more information, visit www.nofussevents.co.uk

Gimondibike set for 2009

The eighth annual GimondiBike has been scheduled for Sunday, September 27, 2009 in the town of Iseo, near Brescia, Italy. The theme for the 2009 edition will be "Take your time". Registration will open officially on March 1.

For information, visit www.gimondibike.it.

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