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MTB news & racing round-up for February 2, 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

The American road to the big show

By Jackson Weber

The start of the men's Olympic mountain bike race in 2004.
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Somewhere in Colorado Springs, someone at USA Cycling may be whispering sweet nothings to Madonna del Ghisallo that controversy doesn't rear its head again in 2008 with the US Olympic Team final mountain bike team selections. After a much-maligned selection process for the 2004 Olympic Games mountain bike team, USA Cycling updated the criteria for making the Olympic Team in 2008.

The problems of the 2004 selection were dramatic enough that they drew the attention of Gripped Films, producers of the documentary movie Off Road to Athens. Then, the selection process ended in arbitration for the women. In response, for the 2008 Olympic Games, USA Cycling came out with a new plan, a new system and a new support structure, all designed to prevent a repeat of four years ago.

2004 - Off-track to Athens

In 2004, USA Cycling selection procedures dictated that the primary way to select the Olympic team was to provide automatic nominations for any mountain biker who placed in the top three at the 2004 UCI World Mountain Bike Championships. If no athlete met this criterion, athletes would be selected according to their place in the UCI rankings.

The system had one apparently unforeseen consequence that proved devastating for some of the riders. Because so many events offered UCI points, athletes in the running for the Olympic team couldn't afford not to race every weekend for fear of some other athlete digging up a few extra UCI points and moving ahead in the rankings.

What ensued was a "Greatest Race" style escapade for American racers who roamed the globe questing for precious points. Ask just about anyone except perhaps Adam Craig, and for the elite men, things appeared to go relatively smoothly with Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (JHK) and Todd Wells making the team.

In contrast, on the women's side, all hell broke loose. Thanks to the UCI's approach to maintaining its rankings at the time, when the points chase came to a close, no one was sure if Sue Haywood or Mary McConneloug had the most points, which was important since the US had qualified only one woman for Athens.

"Well, in the end there was an official points tally and an unofficial points tally," explained Haywood. "The unofficial one was tallied by USA Cycling and myself as well. This 'unofficial' tally was all the races in which I actually competed and placed. It was 'unofficial' because USA Cycling had never submitted some of my points even though they repeatedly told me that they had. And they promised that those points would count."

Sue Haywood
Photo ©: FJ Hughes
(Click for larger image)

Except they didn't. Because of an error on the part of both the UCI and USA Cycling, Haywood's 15 points at the Sandpoint, Idaho, UCI-sanctioned E2 race were not included in the final official tally. The confusion was so great that both McConneloug and Haywood ended up in court to argue their case (at separate times). In the end, the 15 points that Haywood scored in Idaho were disallowed, and McConneloug went to the Olympics. She placed a creditable ninth, but the damage was done.

"The points race simply wore the athletes out before the actual Olympics," said Haywood, whose sentiments have been echoed by many. "To me, it seemed like the people who made those criteria up were out of touch with mountain biking." USA Cycling refused to comment.

2008 - A better way?

JHK practises on the Parnitha mountain bike course in Greece
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Since 2004, USA Cycling has worked hard to improve the system and avoid a repeat of 2004's selection drama. New selection criteria were set in writing well in advance, and the athlete support system was dramatically improved. Even Haywood acknowledged, "It looks a lot better."

Andy Lee, USA Cycling's Director of Communications, explained the changes in detail to Cyclingnews. "The 2008 Olympic selection procedures have changed in several different aspects," said Lee in an email. "First of all, we created a Long Team concept based on UCI Ranking and Coaches' selection which is determined at the end of the year preceding the Olympic Games."

The Long Team concept means that those athletes who have a chance at making the Olympic team know so well enough in advance that they can plan their seasons accordingly. Given the new selection criteria this planning will be quite important. USA Cycling announced the Long Team in late January after the UCI announced qualifying spots for most nations.

Read the complete feature.

Australian champions back up wins at Beauty

Chris Jongewaard getting air
Photo ©: Evan Jeffery
(Click for larger image)

Both Australian cross country national champions, Dellys Starr and Chris Jongewaard, backed up last weekend's national championship wins with further victories at the final round of the National Mountain Bike Series held in the Alpine district at Mt Beauty, Victoria.

Starr's win last week obtained her a position on the shadow Olympic team for Australia, while Jongewaard is already one of three males on the shadow team along with Dan McConnell and Sid Taberlay. McConnell raced and placed a creditable second in the weekend's race.

For the Australian fans it was the last time they would see their potential Olympians at a national event before August. In mid-January the UCI announced that Australia would have one position for a female and one for a male at the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

In the men's downhill race, world champion Sam Hill claimed victory. At just 22 years of age, Hill is currently ranked number one in the World following his prestigious World Cup series win last season. He rode a blistering 3'10" to win the Victorian event after qualifying fastest in the seeding run in heavy rain. Hill's appearance, his only in Australia since claiming his second World Championship in Scotland last August, was cheered by fans.

"It was awesome especially coming into the last chute," said Hill of the support. "You could hear them 20 seconds before I got there."

Though not Australian, British racer Tracy Moseley, bested Queensland sensation Tracey Hannah in the women's downhill. At number three in the world, Hannah qualified fastest but her final run of 3'51" included a crash in the final berm leaving her three seconds behind Moseley's time.

See full coverage of the cross country, downhill and short track events of the final round of the Australian National Series.

Colorado Epic postponed

The inaugural Colorado Epic stage race has been postponed for 2008, but organizers remain committed to rolling it out the new race in the Rocky Mountains for 2009.

"It's an incredibly difficult event to do well and we won't compromise on quality for an event like this," said Bigfoot Productions Managing Director Michael McCormack. "In assessing where we are in our timeline, it's become obvious that we'd need to put everything else on the backburner between now and July to make it happen."

Bigfoot Productions Organizers are not willing to sacrifice their other events, most of which are part of the Mountain States Cup (MSC), to pull off the Colorado Epic. This year's MSC includes three UCI category events and three new venues.

Mountain States Cup for 2008
April 12-13: MSC#1, Fruita, Colorado (XC, STXC)
May 2-4: MSC#2, Chalk Creek Stampede, Nathrop, Colorado (XC, STXC, 4X, DS)
May 23-26: MSC#3, Chile Challenge, Angel Fire, New Mexico (XC, DH, DS, 4X) (UCI Category 1)
June 6-8: MSC#4, SolVista, Colorado (XC, DS, 4X)
June 20-22: MSC #5, Wildflower Rush, Crested Butte, Colorado (XC, DH, DS)
July 11-13: MSC#6, Blast the Mass, Snowmass Village, Colorado (XC, DS, DH, 4X) (UCI event)
August 1-3: MSC #7, Full Tilt in Telluride, Colorado (XC, HC, DH, DS) (Colorado State Championships)
August 15-17: MSC#8, Keystone Climax, Keystone, Colorado (DH, DS, DH) (Gravity Stage Race, UCI Category 2)
August 23-24: MSC#9, Eldora escape, Nederland, Colorado (XC, STXC) (Colorado Singlespeed Championships)
August 29-31: MSC#10, SolVista2, SolVista, Colorado (DH, DS, DH)
September 6-7: MSC#11, The Fall Classic, Breckenridge, Colorado (XC, HC, STXC)

London Olympic organizers told to seek another mountain bike course

The UCI asked organizers of the 2012 Olympics in London to come up with more difficult course than the one originally proposed at Weald County Park in Essex according to the Associated Press. The original course is reportedly not tough enough for the ever changing sport of mountain biking.

"The UCI has asked us to find a course that meets new and challenging requirements that test the best mountain bikers in the world in 2012," Brock-Doyle said.

Federau chases Olympic Spot

Ricky Federau motorpacing
Photo ©: Bruce Wenting
(Click for larger image)

26 year-old former Canadian national champion Ricky Federau is among those riders chasing a spot on the Canadian team for the Olympic Games in Beijing. In order to qualify for the selection pool, he will need to earn a top 16 placing in a World Cup competition prior to the end of May 2008. Should he make the list, Federau will be up against the already qualified Geoff Kabush and Seamus McGrath.

"When I compare my results to the other guys, I know that I am as fast or faster then any of them on any given day," said the optimistic Federau. "Seamus had that awesome result (16th) at Mount St. Anne last summer and Geoff is one of the best in North America. When I look at lap times from St Felicien where I was 21st and less then two minutes out of the top 16, I know that I am capable of a good result."

Federau has a season of highs and lows in 2007. He did well in early competition at home and in Poland, then returned to Canada for both World Cups, where he raced strongly enough to earn a berth on the Canadian Pan Am Games team bound for Brazil.

Unfortunately, Federau's luck turned. "My year went way down hill after that! I double flatted in Brazil and picked up a bug that kept me out of the Canadian Nationals. The form never returned for the remaining World Cups and World Championships." He lost his Sport Canada funding used to pay for travel and entries and is now raising the travel money himself.

Federau's season will start on the road around Fraser Valley. His mountain bike season will kick off at the NMBS race in Fontana, California. April will see him lining up against the best in the world in Belgium, Germany and Spain.

"I really can't say what I'll be doing after the World Cups," said Federau "I'll either be in the pool for selection to Beijing or looking for motivation to finishing up the season domestically. There are a couple of big multi-day events I would like to do in British Columbia and Alberta, but I don't know if the spark will be there."

IF backs road and MTB teams

At the Independent Fabrication factory,
Photo ©: Jon Bruno
(Click for larger image)

The newly formed IF Racing officially opened its season this past weekend in Somerville, Massachusetts, at the Independent Fabrication factory. Team Director Jonathan Bruno called together the newly expanded U25 Development program and Pro Mountain Bike Team for a weekend of team building followed by a team presentation on Sunday to their sponsors, family, friends and the media at Lionette's the Garden of Eden Market.

The team spent Saturday on Thompson Island in the Boston Harbor performing many teambuilding exercises led by Outward Bound staff. The climax was when every rider, including those scared of heights, climbed a 30-foot pole and launching themselves off.

In addition to its efforts to promote environmental sustainability and healthy choices in conjunction with similarly minded sponsors, the team will participate in an after school cycling program for Boston Public Schools, where Bruno teaches high school and helped launch cycling the program, and support a scholarship for public school students.

On the mountain bike side, Trish Stevenson will join Harlan Price to bolster the team's endurance racing efforts off road. Asheville's Stevenson is returning to full time racing after suffering a broken back in late 2006. Both cross country riders, who will be riding Ti Deluxe 29ers, are dominant figures in the National Ultra Endurance series as well as 12 hour and multi-day stage races across the North and Central America. This season, Price will venture overseas to contest a World Cup Marathon in France in October.

Independent Fabrication MTB Team for 2008: Harlan Price and Trish Stevenson


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Jon Bruno / Independent Fabrication

Kss sees early season setback

Team ALB Gold's Jochen Kss got his season off to a rough start with a broken middle finger of his right hand. Kss crashed on a bridge while training last week and was scheduled to undergo an operation Monday.

His team called the bridge "harmless" and said the rider had already traversed it many times, but a morning rain made the wood slick. "I rode carefully, too, because timber bridges in the forest are always somewhat malicious," said Kss. "But everything happened rather fast. My front wheel slipped away and I hit my hand on the railing."

"I thought nothing had happened except bruising my shoulder, but in the hospital, I confirmed the break," said Kss, who hoped to resume training later this week. He suffered a similar setback during his preparation for the 2004 Olympic season when he broke his collarbone.

Brodie signs Brass

Thomas Brass
Photo ©: Alex Webb
(Click for larger image)

17 year-old Thomas Brass, from Victoria, British Columbia, joined the Brodie Bicycles team for 2008. Brass started building and hitting his own jumps and ramps at age seven. Brass will ride Cretin this season.

Wanted: Junior downhillers from British Columbia

Cycling British Columbia (BC) is looking for a few junior downhill riders who aspire to be part of the Provincial Team preparing for the Canadian National Championships.

"We're working hard on raising funding to help Provincial Team riders prepare for the National Championships," said Cycling BC's Provincial Head Coach and High Performance Director Richard Wooles "One of the first steps is to see who would interested in training towards this goal."

"We are going to invite a group to meet the Provincial Head Coach at a gym to go over some training fundamentals to build a base over the next few months," said Wooles of a plans for a gather in Squamish on February 17.

Replies to cyclingbcdownhill@gmail.com are due by Thursday, February 7. Applicants are asked to include their name, age, contact info, category for 2008, level of riding (example: Canada Cup/Nationals/Worlds), and top finishes in 2007.

Costa Rica race features volcanoes

Joining other endurance events on the Costa Rican mountain bike calendar is the El Reto de los Volcanes, the only mountain bike stage race that climbs three different volcanoes (Iraz, Barva and Poas) in three days from April 12 to 14.

The first stage starts in Cot, not far from the capital of San Jose and goes around Irazu Volcano. Stage two moves to Birri and climbs the Barva Volcano before finishing in San Pedro de Pos. The last stage heads toward the Poas Volcano, which has the widest crater in the world. The race ends back in San Pedro de Pos.

The first edition of the race, held in 2007, was won by Esteban Blanco and Nancy Amores.

Proceeds from the race will benefit the San Pedro de Pos. For more information, visit www.retodelosvolcanes.com.

El Reto de los Volcanes 2008
Stage 1: Cot de Cartago-Volcn Iraz-Cot de Cartago, 53km
Stage 2: Hotel Montecampana-Volcn Barva-San Pedro de Pos, 60km
Stage 3: San Pedro de Pos-Volcn Pos-San Pedro de Pos, 60km

AY-Up Dusk to Dawn postponed

The Ay-Up Dusk to Dawn, originally scheduled for February 9 in Kooralbyn, Queensland, has been postponed by organizers until the weekend of March 1 due to recent and expected torrential rains. All entries will be transferred over to the new date. For more information, visit www.twowheelpromotions.com.au.

Klunkerz travels with stars to Fort William

When Klunkerz heads to Fort William for a screening on February 20, two of the film's stars will come along including Gary Fisher and Charlie Kelly. The film is a documentary about the early days of mountain biking by key pioneers of the sport in Marin County in California.

"I'm very pleased that these legends will be making the trip. They are endlessly fascinating and have many great stories to tell," said writer, producer and director Billy Savage. The pair will join Save for a question and answer session after the screening. For more information, visit www.klunkerz.com.

Season wraps up at Coronet Peak

Mountain bikers celebrated the end of a third successful season at Coronet Peak Bike Park with one last downhill ride on Sunday, February 3. Starting on January 3, the season was shorter than previous years due to development work to prepare for the winter ski season.

Coronet Peak hosted several events including the Subaru South Island Downhill Cup and the NZCT South Island Cross Country Cup from January 4-6, the Vertigo Chain Free Downhill on January 19and the Nzone Brake Burner endurance race on February 2. The races saw notably high attendance. For example, 200 riders showed up for the Nzone Brake Burner six-hour Endurance Race. In between racing events, New Zealand champion Scarlett Hagen hosted training sessions.

"We're committed to developing recreation at Coronet Peak outside the winter ski season, and the Bike Park is a great use of the facilities during the summer months," said Mountain Biking Operations Manager Jeff Hodge. Current facilities include a 4.2km cross country track, a 1.6km downhill track and a freeride park with wooden features and a see saw.

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