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MTB news & racing round-up for January 26, 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

Eatough to defend NUE series title

2007 Mohican 100 and NUE series winner Chris Eatough
Photo ©: Guru Graphix
(Click for larger image)

After Floyd Landis announced his intention to compete in the US National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series, Chris Eatough (Trek / VW) confirmed to Cyclingnews that he will defend his series title for 2008.

"I plan on racing. I won the series last year. They made a couple of good additions and kept all my favourites," said Eatough.

Eatough named the Shenandoah Mountain 100, the Lumberjack 100 and the Mohican 100 as his favorites, but he's also looking forward to checking out the Fool's Gold 100, a new addition to the series set in Georgia. "The Shenandoah Mountain 100 is the quintessential 100 mile race. It involves everything - climbing, road riding and technical singletrack. It's a good all around venue and a benchmark."

"I like the 100% singletrack course of the Lumberjack. It's all in the woods the whole time," said Eatough. "I really like the Ohio race [the Mohican 100], too. It was a good course - very varied terrain. It was more climbing and more technical singletrack than I had expected. In addition, you went up this challenging dam embankment that you had to hike up carrying your bike at mile 96."

Eatough's experience in endurance races will no doubt pay off in 2008, but another NUE series victory won't come easily. "Harlan Price [Independent Fabrication] will be back. He won the series the year before I did and was second place last year. He's been improving every year and he's focusing on these 100 miles."

"I'm sure Floyd Landis [Smith & Nephew] will be a factor. He has excellent fitness and takes these races fairly seriously," he said of his newly committed competition. The two raced at the Shenandoah Mountain 100 in 2007, but Eatough did not finish after suffering a severe mechanical within the first 20 miles. Landis finished third.

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Eatough pointed to an occasional training partner from the Balitmore, Maryland, area as some unexpected competition for the men's field. "Chris Beck is racing for Gary Fisher. I know he will do more of the races. We train together sometime and he's working really hard and is good on long climbs. He's been riding a long time and has a road background. He's always liked mountain biking, but I'm not sure all of the cross country racing worked for him."

Last but not least is fellow Trek / VW team-mate and co winner of the BC Bike race. "If Jeff Schalk races, he will be a factor. He was obviously good at the Shenandoah," said Eatough. Schalk won the series finale.

A busy season

Eatough leads Price at the Mohican 100. That's how the NUE series would finish up in 2007
Photo ©: Guru Graphix
(Click for larger image)

The six-time 24 Hours of Adrenaline solo world champion said he will do a majority of the NUE series races. "I'll do most of them. One or two I might have to miss due to conflicts with 24 hour racing." Eatough will race the national championships, but has not decided on his participation in the 24 Hours of Adrenaline Solo World Championships to be held in Canmore in Canada.

The Maryland resident seems to have an amazing capacity to excel in multiple endurance events each year. When asked about managing the recovery in between, he said "I think it's a matter of not doing too many and spacing them out just right. With three days of recovery, I'm pretty much recovered. 24 hour races take two to three weeks. That's mostly physical recovery."

"Mentally, I'm always motivated to do these races. As long as I can choose to the races, it helps. There are few events I'm required to do, and I think that helps keep motivation high."

Before the NUE series kicks off, Eatough will race with team-mate Jeremiah Bishop at the Cape Epic stage race in South Africa. Neither rider has done the race before although both have competed together in a multi-day stage race.

"The Cape Epic is our first race of the year. It will be exciting and a huge. It'll be a hard and fast race. It's be good motivation for winter training here." In July, Eatough will race the BC bike race. He did not name a partner.

Bishop and Eatough raced the TransAlp event as a team in 2002. "I think Jeremiah is faster now. The TransAlp is when he seemed to step up to the next level. He's certainly become a specialized cross country racer and is focused on that. I've become more endurance-oriented. I don't have the climbing speed that he has, but hopefully my experience and endurance will make up for it."

The pair worked their way up the pro ranks together while living and racing in the mid-Atlantic region of the US. Bishop will be using the Cape Epic as a tune-up before the World Cup races which will be used to select the US Olympic team while Eatough will be honing is endurance fitness for another busy season.

When asked how long he would continue to race endurance events, Eatough said, "At least a few more years. In fact, I think I'll probably do quite a few more years. I may just start being more selective with my races and doing less races total. I'm not feeling the effects yet and my body is holding up fine. As long as my family allows me to keep doing it, I'd like to keep doing it."

He pointed to another endurance guru, Tinker Juarez, as an example of someone who's stayed in the endurance game for a long time. "Tinker's keeps a pretty busy schedule for a guy in his 40s," said a complimentary Eatough.

UK gets first all-female UCI mountain bike trade team

Petra Wiltshire
Photo ©: Jon Beckett
(Click for larger image)

The United Kingdom's first all-female UCI trade team will race as the Trek - Extreme Medics Racing presented by thecyclejersey.com for 2008.

UCI Masters World Champion Petra Wiltshire, the only British downhiller to have twice won a World Championship (Bromont 2001, Pra-Loup 2007), will take on the role of team caption with her 12 years of racing experience. Instead of riding masters events in her rainbow jersey, she will race the 2008 World Cup competition.

New signing Jaymie Mart will join Wiltshire. Mart has broken into the top-30 riders in the world as the sole representative of the tiny island nation of Barbados.

On the cross country side, Gemma Collins will fly the team colours. After a bruising introduction to World Cup racing in 2007, where she competed at the Champery round with broken fingers, Collins has set her sights on becoming one of the UK's top riders, both domestically and internationally. Having achieved her first podium finish at the final round of the 2007 British National Series, she is aiming to develop her skills (and UCI ranking) aided by her coach, multiple British Champion and international racer Jenny Copnall.

Gemma Collins
Photo ©: Joolze Dymond
(Click for larger image)

In an unusual move, the team has also agreed to promote, not a sponsor, but a campaign. The logo of the Tara Llanes Heart Of A Champion Fund will appear on race clothing and the team's pit area. Llanes is a close friend of the team, which will use the ongoing story of her fight back to health after suffering a serious spinal injury as an inspiration. The team will seek to publicise and raise money for the fund throughout the season through a number of initiatives.

Look for the squad at European rounds of the UCI World Cup, the World Championships, MegaAvalanche Week, selected rounds of the British downhill and cross country series, the British National Championships and the Fat Face Downtown Race.

Belgians to head competition at revised Sunshine Cup

Roel Paulissen (Belgium)
Photo ©: Didier Weemaels
(Click for larger image)

Seven total riders from the Belgian national team, led by Roel Paulissen, will make their way to the Sunshine Cup held in Cyprus this spring. It won't be the the first time that three-time World Cup winner, who also won silver in the 2007 UCI World Marathon Championships, heads to Cyprus for some early season training, and he will likely be one of the favorites for the individual races and the overall.

Swedish team-mate Fredrik Kessiakoff, also from Cannondale-Vredestein, and Team Bikin' Cyprus' Chirstof Bishof will be among the world class competition that comes to race. Kessiakoff won round two of the 2007 Sunshine Cup.

Organizers recently announced some revisions to the original calendar. Due to a conflict with Carnival, the fourth and fifth venues have been switched. The fourth round will take place at Voroklini while the finals will happen in Limassol-Yermasogia.

Sunshine Cup 2008 (revised schedule)
February 23: Tochni Village (XCP)
February 29: Mantra-Kionia-Mantra (XCP)
March 2: Mantra tou kampiou (XCO)
March 9: Voroklini (XCP)
March 16: Limassol-Yermasogia (XCO)

TransAndes to bring stage racing to Chile

Racers in Chile will soon have a chance to try out the stage racing format in the rugged Andes Mountains of Pategonia in Chile and Argentina with the upcoming TransAndes Challenge regular and preview races. The preview race registration opens January 30 for a four day event to be held from May 8 to 11, 2008.

The main TransAndes race, with its six demanding yet scenic stages, is not until February 3 to 8, 2009. In that event, racers will cover between 60 and 100 kilometers per day. The race will start and end in Pucón, Chile.

The format of both races will be similar to that of the TransAlp and the TransRockies Challenges. Categories will include open men, open women, open mixed, 60+ men (combined age), 60+ mixed, 80+ men, 80+ mixed and 100+ mixed.

For more information, visit www.transandeschallenge.com.

Four riders join Team Garmin-DCM

Team Garmin-DCM boasts four new riders for 2008 including Marc Bassingthwaigthe, Arno Viljoen, Yolandi du Toit and Samantha Oosthuysen.

Bassingthwaigthe is one of the most talented Namibian mountain bikers in the country. At the age 24, he will fill the role of team leader. Former team-mate and compatriot Viljoen will join him.

"I am really looking forward to working with Team Garmin-DCM. We have the same goals and ideals and the team that has been put together has an excellent mix of complementary skills," said Bassingthwaigthe, "I'm also very pleased to have my former team mate Arno Viljoen join me as my wingman."

Du Toit is one of South Africa's best-known female cyclists, with 10 top three places in major events in 2007. The Olympic hopeful has ridden for teams in the UK and Europe, gaining a reputation as not only a promising and dedicated hard-working cyclist but also a team player with an engaging personality.

George leads MTN Energade team

New arrival David George
Photo ©: MTN Energade Team
(Click for larger image)

2006 Commonweath Games silver medallist David George made the leap from road to off-road racing in part in 2007, and recently signed with MTN Energade mountain bike team for 2008. George will partner with team-mate Kevin Evans, the South African marathon mountain bike champion for the upcoming 2008 Cape Epic race.

George has been helping Evans with his training the latter has dropped more than three kilograms and more than six percent body fat compared to the same time last year, mainly as a result of George's stage-race training strategy and a disciplined nutrition plan.

"We're aiming for a podium finish at the Epic and the way our preparation has gone so far, I'm pretty confident we can do it," said Evans, who is still the only South African to have finished on the Cape Epic podium (third with Austrian partner Silvio Weltschnig in 2005).

Kevin Evans
Photo ©: MTN Energade Team
(Click for larger image)

"We're combining my mountain bike racing and Cape Epic experience – this will be my fifth Epic – with David's knowledge of stage racing preparation and nutrition and are hoping that will help us achieve our goal," said Evans. "As part of our build-up, in February, David will race on the South African national team at the Tour de Langkawi and I will race on the MTN Energade road team at the Tour of Egypt. In March we'll both race the Giro del Capo. These road stage races will help get us accustomed to consecutive days of hard racing."

Last year, George raced with Christoph Sauser to finish off the Cape Epic after both of their partners withdrew from the race.

Returning to the MTN Energade team for 2008 are Melt Swanepoel and Mannie Heymans. Swanepoel had a successful 2007, with among other victories, the elite men's African cross-country title and finishing runner-up to Evans at the South African marathon championships. Heymans, a Namibian national who is a two-time Olympian and multiple African champion, continued to recover from a serious shoulder injury with some solid performances in both stage races and marathon events and won his seventh Subaru Sabie Classic title.

Carla Rowley, who started with the team as a marathon-racing novice in 2007, has been retained following a successful first year, which saw her finish regularly in the top 10, including a few podium positions.

2008 MTN Energade team: Kevin Evans, David George, Mannie Heymans, Melt Swanepoel, Carla Rowley.

Trek / VW finalizes 2008 team

Trek finalized its roster for 2008. The names will look familar compared to 2007. In addition to Jeremiah Bishop and Chris Eatough, Ross Schnell will wrap up the men's line-up. Trek is sticking to its proven women with the experienced Sue Haywood and her younger team-mate Lea Davison.

Haywood and Bishop were recently named to the US Olympic Long Team by USA Cycling which means both are eligible to compete for spots on the 2008 US Olympic team.

Trek / VW for 2008: Jeremiah Bishop, Susan Haywood , Chris Eatough, Ross Schnell, Lea Davison, Michael Browne (Team Director), Zack Vestal (Manager), Laura Downey (Soigneur), Dusty LaBarr (Mechanic), Steve Borkoski (Mechanic).

Tokyo Joe's picks up elite junior development team

Tokyo Joe's Team is going into its second year of supporting elite level junior mountain bike program. The team already provides grassroots and development support for those aged 13 to 22.

On the decision to sponsor a junior squad, Heather Szabo of Tokyo Joe's said, "Tokyo Joe's has a history of offering support to the top juniors in the Boulder area. This year we decided to take it up a notch in terms of our level of commitment to the kids."

The 2008 team currently includes twelve juniors who will begin training in Boulder this winter for the upcoming cycling season. The first team camp will be held in Phoenix, Arizona for a week in February with additional clinics and weekly rides to follow. Tokyo Joe's Junior Development Team will compete in a full schedule of Mountain States Cup races, as well as the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Calendar of Events.

Boulder native Chloe Forsman who is a past junior and current U23 and collegiate national champion is among those who have come through the Tokyo Joe's program.

Gravity riders to converge in Nevada over St. Patty's weekend

Gravity riders will gather on Saint Patrick's Day weekend in Boulder City, Nevada, at the Bootleg Canyon for downhill and super D competitions plus a street party.

Event promoter Dave Collins, of Crash Innovations, has put together a package of promotions, races and events to kick off the gravity season. "Many industry members will remember the impact that the old Cactus Cup races had on the beginning of the season back in the day," states Collins. "We are going to re-create that vibe for the gravity crowd, right here on the incredible trails at Bootleg Canyon."

Boulder City is widely known as the home of the Interbike Outdoor Demo held each autumn.

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