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MTB news & racing round-up for July 11, 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

North America's top racers head to Windham Mountain

By Dave McElwaine in Windham, New York

Windham Mountain
Photo ©: Windham Mountain Resort
(Click for larger image)

Round five of America's National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) will take place this coming weekend, July 11-13, at Windham Mountain in the Catskills just 140 miles north of New York City. With the US National Championships at Mt. Snow, Vermont only a week away, it is expected that all the top ranked racers will use Windham to test their fitness. Many Canadians will be on hand also to prepare for their national championships in Mont-Saint-Anne, Quebec the following week.

Windham Mountain is new to the mountain biking scene, but they have been preparing new trails for over a year in anticipation of this NMBS race. They have built a 4.8 mile cross country course, complete with man-made bridges, roots, rocks, and short steep climbs. It reportedly has about 1,100 feet of climbing per lap.

Windham Communications Director, Joan Oldknow, said to Cyclingnews, "Everyone who comes down the new cross country course seems to have a smile on their face at the bottom."

Georgia Gould (Luna Women's MTB)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Racing will take place on Windham's 730 acres and make good use of the mountain's 1,500 vertical feet of drop. With the summit only at 3,100 feet, it will level the playing field for many of the endurance cross country racers who do not live at altitude. It is expected that the terrain at Windham Mountain will be very similar to Mount Snow. At the time of this writing, the trails are reported to be relatively dry.

Three newly named US Olympians will compete at Windham, including Georgia Gould (Luna Women's MTB), Todd Wells (GT/Pacific Bikes), and Adam Craig (Giant). Canadian Olympians Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) and Catherine Pendrel (Luna Women's MTB) will also be in attendance. Newly crowned 4X World Champion Melissa Buhl is expected to compete as long as her thumb injury is healing properly.

The current US National short track and cross country champion Mary McConneloug (Kenda/Seven) will not attend Windham to focus on her training. It is widely expected that McConneloug will be named to the final discretionary spot on the US Olympic Mountain Bike Team.

Read the complete preview for more information on the cross country, short track, downhill, super D and dual slalom events. Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage from Windham Mountain all weekend.

Sauser & Paulissen crash in controversial marathon worlds sprint finish

Dahle-Flesjå reclaims marathon World champion title

Roel Paulissen (Belgium).
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Belgian Roel Paulissen (Cannondale-Vredestein) and Norwegian Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjå (Multivan Merida) were crowned World Marathon Champions in Villabassa, Italy, last weekend. While Dahle-Flesjå's win came after a straightforward, dominant solo performance in the elite women's race, Paulissen's win in the elite men's race was more controversial.

Christoph Sauser (Specialized) and Paulissen were clearly the two fastest men for the day. The high pace continuously forced riders to drop off until just Hector Leonardo Paez Leon (Columbia) remained with the duo. Eventually, in between feed zones four (at 80km) and five (at 110km), Paez dropped, too.

"Roel and I were so evenly matched today," said Sauser on his website www.sauserwind.com. Sauser also said he took risks on the final descent to make up some ground on Paulissen, but the Belgian was back on his wheel with 800m to go.

The sprint started, and with about 70m to go, the pair came together, made contact with their handlebars and arms near the barrier and both crashed. The ensuing debate was about whether Sauser had strayed from a straight line in the sprint as Paulissen tried to come around him.

Christoph Sauser (Switzerland)
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Paulissen was the first man up after both hit the tarmac hard, but he was delayed by bike problems and had to carry his broken bike toward the finish. Sauser remounted and went on to cross the finish line first.

Sauser was later relegated by the UCI officials for riding "dangerously" in the sprint and Paulissen was declared winner with a time of 4'46"56.

"I am very happy with this success," said Paulissen after his win. "Unfortunately this great race in the area where I live ended this way, but I think the jury was right." Paulissen's win came after previous bronze and silver medals at the marathon worlds. "It is a little bit strange to win in this way, of course I have mixed feelings," said Paulissen on www.cannondale-vredestein.com, "but it is fair, I was the strongest rider and I felt I was passing Christophe in the sprint, I knew I would win."

A statement from Specialized on Sauser's website after the race read, "Upon detailed reflection and analysis of specific video evidence, it was very obvious to us that Christoph sprinted fairly... . As a result, we submitted a written appeal to the UCI after the race, based on their decision. We are awaiting news of this appeal and therefore do not want to comment further."

At the time of this writing, the verdict of Sauser's appeal was still pending.

Read full reports of the men's and women's Marathon World Championships.

Gunn-Rita Diary: Winning Worlds

The women's peloton rolls out
Photo ©: Kenneth and Gunn-Rita Dahle FlesjŚ
(Click for larger image)

It was absolutely indescribable to put on the rainbow jersey once again. This World Championship title will forever stand as one of the very greatest victories for Kenneth and me, and it is guaranteed to give us renewed strength and energy for many more years on my bike.

Two days have passed since I became World Champion in marathon cycling, and it still seems unreal to me. Tears of sheer joy flowed freely a long time before I reached the finish line and I was a little dizzy as I got off my bike surrounded by a deafening racket around me. At the same time last year, I was at home and could only barely manage to take a short stroll to the grocery store. Uncountable hours of intense hard work lie behind what we performed on Saturday, and that's the very reason the World Champion title tasted so utterly fantastic.

The first days after the cross country World Championship, two weeks before the marathon World Championship, my body and legs were pretty worn out, so we had to take a few really slow days to recover fully. We left straight from Commezzadura (site of the cross country World Championship) for Villabassa, the town where the marathon World Championship was to start and finish. This was in order to have enough time to cycle around the track without wearing ourselves out beforehand. This enabled us to divide the track up into sections, do the flatter sections on slower paced days, and the tougher climbs on more intense days.

The women did a large lap of 89 kilometres, with a total of about 3,000 metres of climbing, while the men had to cycle 119 kilometres. As expected, the cyclists were still in a group towards the first climb after 10 kilometres on undemanding undulating terrain, consisting of asphalt, gravel and singletrack. Sabine Spitz immediately took the lead and controlled the tempo right to the top, and by that time, only Finnish Pia [Sundstedt] and I were still hanging on. An ascent with a gradient of a whopping 14 percent usually separates the best from the second best.

Read the complete diary entry.

Killeen finishes Marathon Worlds despite hospital visit

Liam Killeen (Great Britain)
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Despite a mid-race visit to the hospital to receive stitches, Liam Killeen (Specialized) finished the World Marathon Championships last weekend in Villabassa, Italy.

"Between feeds one and two (i.e. between the 20km and 50km mark) Liam Killeen crashed pretty bad on one of the descents," said Manager Bobby Behan. "He was in the lead group and was feeling good. I was located at feed two, while Liam's mum Kay was at feed three (67km mark). A medic loaned Liam his phone and Liam phoned Kay to say that he was OK, but needed some stitches, but he would continue. I remained and waited."

"Finally, a motorcycle arrived and I asked, 'Where's 98 – Killeen?' He had no English and I no German, but we agreed on 'fini' and 'hospital'. I was not concerned because I suppose after the phone call, I was relieved to know Liam was OK, and I figured he would be back at the truck with a few stitches to keep him together! I soldiered on to feed four (80km point) to support Susi [Christoph Sauser - ed.] who was at the front in a battle with Leonardo Paez and Roel Paulissen."

Liam's mum showed up at the hospital to look for Liam after watching Sauser finish. "Is number 98 here?" she called and the reply was "He is racing," which made no sense to her.

It turned out that Killeen got a ride to the hospital where he received seven stitches and some bandages to his shoulder. Although there was a long line of damaged mountain bikers awaiting treatment, Killeen skipped the queue by saying he was still racing.

"All bandaged and stitched up, Liam got a lift from the same volunteer who brought him to the hospital back to the exact point where he crashed," said Behan. "At this point he was a least an hour down, but Liam jumped back on his bike and finished."

When asked what was going through Killeen's head when he crashed, he replied, "Susi would continue, so I am going to continue". Killeen finished 85th of 101 finishers despite his side trip to the hospital mid-race.

US Marathon National Champions crowned

Jeremiah Bishop (Trek/VW) at the recent Deer Valley NMBS
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

While the world's best marathoners were contesting for rainbow jerseys, America's top marathoners were competing in their national marathon championship in Breckenridge, Colorado. More than 800 racers started the day, which would include two laps of 25 miles each, parading down Main Street on the Fourth of July, America's Independence Day holiday. In total, 12 national champions were crowned.

Following a neutral start, Even Plews and Jeremiah Bishop took spots in the lead on the course's first climb of 2000 feet, at about mile 15. "I had a strong race going with a 90-second lead," said Bishop, "when my chain got caught in the spokes." As he stopped and made his repairs, other competitors passed him by - he lost track of exactly whom.

Hoping to rally for at least a top five finish, Bishop continued racing and caught Trek/VW team-mate Travis Brown. The two worked together until the start of the big climb on lap two. "I just buried my head and went flat out the second time up the 2000ft ascent. I was fired up after losing the lead," said Bishop.

Just as things were looking up, his chain snapped again. Back on the bike after a second repair, he caught veteran racer Dave Wiens, someone Bishop had looked up to as he was beginning his own racing career. "[Wiens] encouraged me to chase hard. There were two riders who were just 30 seconds ahead."

With seven miles to go and one major climb, Bishop pushed on to catch both riders including favorite Evan Plews, who suffered an untimely flat on the final steep descent. "At that point, I just tired to stay smooth and not crash." When he crossed the line, he didn't know he had won, but after being mobbed by jubilant members of his team and doused with beer, he soon figured it out.

"I had no idea why people were spraying me in the face with beer and jumping on me," said Bishop, "but after a second or two it started to make sense."

Plews was also passed by Mike McCalla, who would finish second before Plews, who earned bronze.

In the women's race, Sari Anderson captured her first national title ahead of top racers like Pua Sawicki, who started off in the lead with Jenny Smith, Gretchen Reeves and Anderson.

Anderson, an adventure racer got away on a steep climb and held her lead until the end of the race. Two-time national champion Reeves finished second while Jennifer Gersbach had a strong finish to earn third.

"There was great competition out there, and to be able to beat them is really special," said Anderson according to www.usacycling.org. "I just had a baby and this race was really just to get some miles. I don't think it's sunk in yet. I never thought I would be the national champion."

For full results of all national championship categories, see Cyclingnews' coverage of the USA Cycling Marathon National Championships.

Kona and Taint Slo lock up BC Bike l wins

Women's leaders Taint Slo
Photo ©: Jason Berry
(Click for larger image)

With six long days of racing behind them, BC Bike Race competitors were given no break on the final stage seven. They had to dig deep right out of the start gate on this day as almost 300m of vertical - translating into at least 15 minutes of climbing - welcomed them to the course for one last day of competition, after which the race's final GC winners would be decided.

As the saying goes, riders had to "earn their turns", and the investment in the uphill grind paid off in the reward of Whistler's best singletrack offerings. By the time racers hit the undulating 3km of trail running alongside the Cheakamus River, grins had spread from ear to ear. The day would be hard-fought for many riders in the pack, but the reward of crossing the finish line at Spruce Grove Park would make it all worthwhile for the hundreds of racers.

Seamus McGrath and Chris Shepard (Team Old School) proved to be the top finishers for the final day, although they were not competing for the overall, and there weren't many surprises in the remaining categories. The fastest women were Sara Bresnick-Zocchi and Kelli Emmett (Team Taint Slo); the top mixed were Wendy Simms and Normon Thibault (Team Kona - Riding in Memory of Denis Fontaine) in 3:37:23.

When all was said and done, Kona's Kris Sneddon and Barry Wicks took the men's GC and Taint Slo's Sara Bresnick-Zocchi and Kelli Emmett won the women's GC.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the BC Bike Race or read daily diaries from Jason Berry, Jon Posner, Chris Eatough and Jeff Schalk.

Swisspower Cup preview

Round six of the Swisspower Cup will head to Rennen Savognin this weekend, July 12-13, without last year's two winners as Julien Absalon will be sitting out with knee problems and Sabine Spitz is taking time off from racing to recover after winning a silver medal last weekend at the World Marathon Championships.

For many Swiss racers, it is good preparation for the Swiss Championships to take place one week later in Seon. For Olympic participants, the race will serve as another step of preparation. Swiss Olympians for Beijing, U23 World Champion Nino Schurter and Florian Vogel are among the favorites in the men's race along with Frenchman Jean Christophe Peraud and the Italian Marco Aurelio Fontana. However, Jürg Graf, Thomas Frischknecht, Alexandre Moos, Martin Gujan, Lukas Flückiger, Mathias Flückiger und Gion Manetsch are all capable of surprising the favorites.

The women's race will include top racers such as Irina Kalentieva, Petra Henzi, Nathalie Schneitter and Eva Lechner. Swiss cup leader Katrin Leumann and European Marathon Champion Esther Süss will also challenge them.

The action will kick off Saturday afternoon in Chur with a sprint and continue that night with a Lake Jump contest. Cross country action will happen Sunday.

Downieville Classic Race and Festival

The 13th annual Downieville Classic will run from July 11 to 13 in California and will include activities such as bike racing, river jumping and robot dancing. On the bike racing side of things will be a 29 mile cross country race, a Downieville Downhill dropping 5,000 feet in 17 miles and a Pixie 'Cross race (costumes required). Santa Cruz/WTB racers Mark Weir and Jason Moeschler are among the favorites to battle for the title of All-Mountain World Champion. A bicycle expo, live music, fire dancing, film festival, trail shuttles and group rides will also be included as part of the weekend's action.

For more information, visit www.downievilleclassic.com.

Three Tens Series readies for second round

Round two of the Benromach Three Tens Series will head to Kirroughtree in Dumfries and Galloway on July 12. Galloway Forest Park, near Newton Stewart, tucked away in the South West of Scotland, is famous for its stunning sections of fast flowing, technical singletrack, low gear uphills, water crossings, technical ascents and descents and fire roads.

"We initially chose Kirroughtree in 2007 because it has superb event facilities with lots of space but most importantly it has fantastic trails, giving us huge choices of where to take the competitors," said No Fuss Events organizer Martin MacDonald. 'This year we have even more singletrack and more fantastic natural sections."

The Benromach Three Tens Series is run on an endurance format with participants riding solo or in relay teams of two, three or four to see who can complete the most laps of a 10 mile course in a gruelling 10 hours.

The final round will be held on August 23 as the 10 More in Moray, Fochabers. For more information, visit www.nofussevents.co.uk.

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