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MTB news & racing round-up for January 25, 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

Jackson and Fry collect Wildside wins

Wildside 2008 champion Adrian Jackson sits safely in the chasing pack
Photo ©: Rick Eaves
(Click for larger image)

24 year-old Victorian Adrian Jackson won the fifth Pure Tasmania Wildside Mountain Bike Ride which wrapped up Tuesday on Tasmania's west coast in Australia. Throughout the race, Jackson was challenged by fellow Victorian Daniel McConnell and Tasmanian Ben Mather. 27 year-old Sid Taberlay, who ended up ninth overall, won several competition stages, but remained out of contention for the win after a puncture early in the race on day one.

"Dan and Sid are good racers, I was hoping to get a podium finish, but I didn't expect to win, I'm so excited," said Jackson. "To win is unbelievable, fantastic, it's my biggest win so far in Australian mountain bike riding, I've never won anything this prestigious before."

25 year-old Rowena Fry convincingly won the women's overall title with an almost nine minute lead over Julie Blake and more than half an hour's advantage over third placed Stephanie Russell.

"I was really happy with my ride; it's a challenging event but a really enjoyable course," Fry said.

More than 450 riders competed in the four day, multi-stage event through some of Tasmania's remote wilderness, from Cradle Mountain to Strahan. Conditions were perfect for most of the ride, although the riders did battle drizzle on the Cradle Mountain stage.

See full coverage of the Wildside MTB race.

Spitz forms new team

By Susan Westemeyer

Sabine Spitz (Germany) at the 2007 World Championships
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

German racer Sabine Spitz will be going her own way this year. She has left Team Ghost International and hopes to start her own team, which will also be sponsored by bike manufacturer Ghost, and is currently holding discussions with an additional co-sponsor.

Her husband and manager, Ralf Schäuble, said on her website, hotzenwald.de/sabinepitz, that "We have seen over the past year that our priorities were too different from those of the team management. Our emphasis is very clearly on professional cycling with an optimal performance and environment. Team manager Jörg Scheiderbauer had other goals. We spoke about it and reached an agreement to part."

The 36 year-old is keeping her eye on Beijing, and is glad to keep on working with Ghost. "I am very happy that Ghost will continue to accompany me. The material is top and the right basis for a good Olympic year," she said.

UCI announces remaining MTB qualifying places for Olympics

Christoph Sauser (Specialized) won the men's Olympic Test event last fall
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

80 mountain bikers, including 50 men and 30 women, will represent 35 total nations in Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games in August after the UCI announced the final national spots per Criterion 2, based on the 2007 Continental Championships, of its selection procedure. Choices in accordance with Criterion 1, based upon UCI rankings from 2006 and 2007, were announced earlier this month.

32 nations will be represented in the men's race while 22 nations will appear in the elite women's race. Considering Criterion 1 alone, the number of qualified countries jumped from 22 to 24 for the men and from 14 to 18 for the women when comparing the 2004 Athens Olympic Games to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The increase is due to efforts to modify the qualifying system to encourage greater international participation.

The additions per Criterion 2 include Namibia, Zimbabwe, Argentina, Costa Rica, People's Republic of China, Hong Kong, Hungary and Turkey for the men and South Africa, Chile, Japan and Australia for the women.

By June 20, all national Olympic Committees are expected to have confirmed the filling of their places. A commission including representatives of the IOC, ANOC, and UCI would meet to award any unclaimed places.

On Friday, the UCI also released on its website a map and profile of the 4.190km course (with 224m of elevation change) as well as 30 photographs.

Men's nations for the Olympics: France, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, Germany (sending three riders each); United States, Netherlands, Sweden, Canada, Austria, Denmark, Italy, Great Britain (sending two riders each); Czech Republic, New Zealand, Australia, Poland, Russia, Colombia, Ukraine, Brazil, Chile, South Africa, Ireland, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Argentina, Costa Rica, China, Hong Kong, Hungary, Turkey (sending one rider each).

Women's nations for the Olympics: China, Germany, United States, Canada, Norway, Poland, Russia, Switzerland (sending two riders each); France, Czech Republic, Spain, Slovenia, Netherlands, Austria, New Zealand, Italy, Sweden, Brazil, South Africa, Chile, Japan, Australia (sending one rider each).

US Olympic long team named

Mary McConneloug (USA)
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

USA Cycling named 35 athletes as potential Olympians for all cycling disciplines. The federation selected eligible athletes, including six men and five women, per its nomination process for the men's and women's mountain bike team. The US had previously qualified to send two men and two women to Beijing for the Olympic Games in August 2008.

The five top-ranked male mountain bikers made the cut based on their UCI rankings including Adam Craig (16th), Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (28th), Todd Wells (32nd), Jeremiah Bishop (37th) and Michael Broderick (59th). Sam Schultz, ranked 75th in the world and the next best American, received the only discretionary nomination.

On the women's side, the four automatic nominations were Georgia Gould (ranked sixth) and Mary McConneloug (seventh), Willow Koerber (11th) and Heather Irmiger (26th) with Sue Haywood as the sole discretionary nomination. She finished the year ranked 47th in the world as the next-best American.

Australian Nationals returns to Canberra

Luke Madill
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

The Australian National Mountain Bike Championships head to Mt. Stromlo, Canberra, this weekend from January 25 to 28. It will be the second consecutive year the nationals are held at Stromlo Forest Park which will also be the site for the upcoming World Cup in August. Then, international riders will return to Australia for the first time since the World Championships in 1996 in Cairns.

Held Saturday evening, the four cross race is expected to be a battle between Caroline Buchanan and Sarsha Huntington for the women and Leigh Darrell and Luke Madill in the men's race. The riders have been going head to head in the Australian 4X national series all season.

The Olympic cross country race will showcase potential Australian Olympians mid-day on Sunday including Tory Thomas, Dellys Starr, Rowena Fry, Zoe King, and Kate Potter. Fry is fresh off her win at the Wildside MTB race last weekend in Tasmania. Both Fry and King are in the "Dirt Roads to London" national talent identification program.

Sid Taberlay and Chris Jongewaard will be the men to beat in the cross country race, but they will get a tough run from Dan McConnell, Dylan Cooper, Shaun Lewis, and Aiden Lefmann.

The cross country race will play an important role, especially for the women riders. If no Australian woman meets the selection criteria at the upcoming World Cups and World Championships, the pick for the Olympic Games will fall back to the winner of the National Championships.

The action will wrap up Monday afternoon with the downhill race. Top international talent Tracey Hannah and Tracey Mosely will race the likes of Claire Whiteman. Jared Rando, Nathan Rennie, and Amiel Cavalier are the favorites for the men's race.

Riders from the United Kingdom and New Zealand will race alongside riders from all states in Australia. Mosely, from the UK, is one of those riders.

Jongewaard to stand trial over crash

Australian mountain biker Chris Jongewaard pleaded not guilty before a District Court in South Australia on Monday, on charges of dangerous driving and failing to stop at the scene of an accident. In February last year, a car driven by Jongewaard knocked down his friend and training partner Matthew Rex, a promising cyclist with Stuart O'Grady's development squad, after the pair had been out celebrating Rex's 22nd birthday in Normanville, south of Adelaide.

Rex suffered serious head injuries and was put into an induced coma, but has since made a good recovery.

According to The Australian newspaper, Jongewaard was granted bail and will reappear before the District Court in March. The 28 year-old, an Australian national mountain bike champion, is hoping to gain selection for the Beijing Olympics this summer.

New Zealand classic race fills up, offers bonus

Clinton Avery winning in 2007
Photo ©: Michael Jacques
(Click for larger image)

New Zealand's Scott Karapoti Classic's one thousand entries have filled. Established in 1986, the rugged 50km epic around Upper Hutt's Akatarawa Forest is the longest running mountain bike race in the Southern Hemisphere. The race is set for Saturday, March 1. With more than a month until race day the traditional 1,000-rider limit is already sold out and event manager Michael Jacques expects close to 2,000 applications in total.

"We'd love to let all of them race," he said. "But Karapoti is a tough challenge in a remote environment and we simply can't cope with much more than 1,000 riders in the feature 50k event."

Jacques says the record level of interest is a continuing trend in the increasing popularity of mass participation endurance events right across New Zealand. "Karapoti has always had a big reputation," he said. "But mass participation sports like mountain biking, road cycling, multisport and triathlon have been enjoying substantial growth for the past four or five years.”

Jacques attributed the growth to a new generation of people discovering the satisfaction of challenging themselves to accomplish things they might not otherwise experience. New for 2008 is a NZ$5,000 bonus for any rider who can win both the Scott Karapoti Classic and its sister event in Australia, the Flight Centre Epic.

Jacques hopes the new bonus will attract a stronger field for Karapoti, whose past winners have included world champions, Olympians and Commonwealth Games medallists. Last year Rotorua's 19 year-old Clinton Avery illustrated why many consider him to be the rising star on the national mountain bike and road cycling circuit when he smashed the course record by more than five minutes. American-based Kiwi Jennifer Smith also broke the women's record and Jacques hopes to have both riders competing again, this time against Australia's strong Flight Centre squad.

South African National series gets more sponsorship support

South African mountain biking got a boost when current sponsor MTN increased its commitment with a three-year sponsorship of a 19-member team and events. The cellular network giant will also supply communications to the Cape Epic stage race. The agreement runs through 2010 and will benefit the national series for marathon, cross country and downhill.

"This support from MTN is going to help us take mountain bike racing in this country to a new level and bring our events and our riders closer and closer to the top international standards," said Theo Grobler, Director of the MTN Mazda Series to www.cyclingnews.co.za. The series may also see increased prize money.

MTN Mazda National Marathon and Half Marathon Series for 2008
January 26: Barberton Marathon, Barberton
May 3: Forest 2 Falls Marathon, Graskop
June 14: Induna Marathon, Hazyview
August 2: Paul Roos Marathon, Stellenbosch
September 6: N3TC Dirty Harry Marathon, Harrismith
September 27: Chandelier Marathon, Oudtshoorn
November 9: 50 Miler Marathon Midmar

MTN Mazda Cross Country / Downhill Series for 2008
January 19 - 20: Western Cape (XC, DH)
February 9 - 10: Gauteng (XC, DH)
March 15 - 16: SA Championships, Pietermaritzburg (XC, DH)
April 12 -13: Southern Cape (XC, DH)
May 17 - 18: Mpumalanga (XC, DH)

West Virginia advocates surprised by Wilderness Bill threatening access

West Virginia mountain bikers are facing the potential loss of over 50 miles of backcountry trails to bicycle access within the Monongahela National Forest. The West Virginia Wilderness Bill will be introduced to the US Congress next week, but according to the West Virginia Mountain Bike Association (WVMBA), it was written without their knowledge or cooperation.

Senate and the House versions of the bill have both been written with identical language to put them on the fast track to passage by Congress. Should the bill pass, special events like the Highland Sky 40 mile running race and the Odyssey Adrenaline Fix adventure race will also come to an end with a potential further impact on surrounding tourism-based economies like the counties of Tucker, Randolph and Pocahontas. Mountain biking, whether in or out of competition, is not permitted within officially designated Wilderness Areas.

"All of the offices of the West Virginia Congressional delegation, both Senators and the three House members, had assured WVMBA and IMBA representatives that we would be 'at the table' when the specifics of boundaries and designations were negotiated and this did not happen," said WVMBA vice-president Matt Marcus.

WVMBA and IMBA did not receive the Wilderness maps until January 11, 2008, while Wilderness advocates had knowledge of the designated areas as early as last fall. Many mountain bike advocates learned about the Wilderness Bill from a Charleston Gazette article on January 20, 2008.

"We have visited all of the West Virginian members of Congress every year for the last five years and have been willing to come to the table with Wilderness advocates to compromise but the West Virginia Wilderness Coalition formulated their position in February, 2004, and have not been willing to compromise one word since they introduced it," said Marcus.

As a positive example, Marcus pointed to a land preservation effort in the neighboring state of Virginia. "The Ridge and Valley Wilderness Act in Virginia was worked out in advance by mountain bike and Wilderness advocates and now enjoys a broad base of support by a variety of users. We have been using this as a model of what can happen when we have talked to the West Virginia delegation but they apparently haven't heard that message yet."

Marcus called on mountain bikers who enjoy riding and special events in the areas of Dolly Sods North, Roaring Plains West and the Cranberry Expansion to contact West Virginia members of Congress to request changes to the bill.

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