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MTB news & racing round-up for July 18, 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

America's best head to Mount Snow, Vermont

By Dave McElwaine in West Dover, Vermont

Todd Wells (GT)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

One thousand mountain bikers are competing in various categories for a stars-and-stripes jersey this weekend from July 17 through July 20 at Mount Snow in West Dover, Vermont. Categories include cross country, short track, dual slalom, downhill, observed trials, and super D.

Always a favorite with the racers, Mount Snow offers some of the most challenging East Coast singletrack that the riders face all year. Typically, conditions include deep mud, but this year, trail maintenance crews are reporting that the trails are relatively dry. Roots, rocks, and steep climbs are the norm on the demanding five-mile cross country course. The weather forecast calls for temperatures in the 80s [degrees Fahrenheit] with possible scattered showers. As many racers know, overnight rains can dramatically change the course conditions.

This will be the last domestic competition for the newly named US Olympic Mountain Biking Team before the Olympic race in Beijing, China. Adam Craig (Giant), Todd Wells (GT/Pacific), Mary McConneloug (Kenda/Seven), and Georgia Gould (Luna Women's MTB) will all be on hand to compete this weekend.

The Olympians face a special challenge in that they must be at peak performance about a month from now, making it hard to be at top form this weekend also. Craig and McConneloug each will be defending two national championship titles at Mount Snow.

USA Cycling has planned a special ceremony to award the Olympic Team their jerseys at 5:30 pm on Saturday, July 19. It is hoped that there will be a large turn-out of race fans to celebrate the occasion.

Cross country

Mary McConneloug (Kenda/Seven)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Defending champion Mary McConneloug will have a rematch with the powerful Georgia Gould at Mount Snow. While both are among the top ten UCI ranked racers in the world, McConneloug has yet to beat Gould this year at any of the European races in which they went head-to head. McConneloug; however, has proven especially adept at handling the technical conditions at Mount Snow and has won there many times.

Also on hand to compete for the championship will be Lea Davison (Trek / VW), who bested McConneloug at the World Championships. Team-mates Heather Irmiger and Willow Koerber (Gary Fisher/Subaru) each have skills that make them a threat at Mount Snow. Koerber won the NORBA National race there in 2004.

Finally, a dark horse in the race is Katie Compton (Spike), the current US National Cyclo-cross Champion. Compton has just competed the seven-day BC Bike Race and is reported to have excellent form.

Adam Craig, also talented in muddy technical conditions, will face challenges from several riders this year. Jeremiah Bishop finished second last year and has been on form for several weeks. He recently won the US National Marathon Championship in Breckenridge, Colorado. Craig's Olympic team-mate Todd Wells has had the best World Cup and World Championship results of any American this season. Wells is also in good form, having won the short track in Windham, New York, last weekend.

Always a threat is former US National Cross Country champion Ryan Trebon (Kona) who won the NMBS cross country two weeks ago at Deer Valley, Utah. In addition, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Gary Fisher/Subaru), a great climber, is well suited to the Mount Snow course.

Read the complete preview of all events and stay tuned to Cyclingnews for results, race reports, and photos all weekend.

Joseph and Milatz win Bundesliga round

Moritz Milatz winning
Photo ©: Armin M. Küstenbrück
(Click for larger image)

New Zealand's Rosara Joseph and German Moritz Milatz won round three of the German MTB-Bundesliga series in Saalhausen last weekend. Joseph finished ahead of a surprising young Silke Schmidt. Milatz defeated Christoph Soukup and Wolfram Kurschat.

In women's race Joseph (Ghost International) and Enaux (Lapierre) took the lead after the second of six laps. Together they held a gap of less than one minute to U23 racer Silke Schmidt (Fujibikes), who was having a good day.

Joseph waited until the beginning of the last lap. Then she forced the pace on the climb and got a gap, which she maintained until the end. "I really enjoyed the race. It was great to be here," said Joseph. "When I realized that I got the gap, I tried hold it." It was her first Bundesliga win.

New Zealand's Rosara Joseph (GHOST International)
Photo ©: Armin M. Küstenbrück
(Click for larger image)

Enaux said she had "no good legs" after intense training the days prior. But despite that, she held her lead in the overall. While going better than expected, Ivonne Kraft was suffering backaches.

In the men's race a group of three emerged in the lead after two laps. Milatz (Multivan-Merida), Soukup (Fujibikes) and Kurschat (Topeak-Ergon) extended their lead lap by lap, but on the third lap, Kurschat encountered technical problems with his fork. He lost contact on the downhills and would close again on the uphills. But this strategy only worked only until lap five, which was the same lap when Soukup flatted his front wheel and fell behind Kurschat.

That left Milatz alone in front, and he extended his lead up to 1'50". Soukup was unable to catch Kurschat. Milatz crossed the line and celebrated his first Bundesliga victory ever.

"I felt really good," said Milatz. "[I'm] sorry for Christoph, I would have liked to compete with him.

Soukup said he felt Milatz was riding "very strong" but he himself was slowed by training after worlds, where he had finished sixth.

"I hope the next week at German Nationals I can show it during the whole race," said the hopeful third place finisher Kurschat.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the German MTB-Bundesliga series in Saalhausen.

Germans finalized for Olympic team

Moritz Milatz
Photo ©: Robin Haake
(Click for larger image)

Although he only considered his odds 50/50, Moritz Milatz (Multivan-Merida) was named Tuesday by the Bund Deutscher Radfahrer (German Cycling Federation) to the German Olympic team and will head to Beijing.

"I felt good in recent weeks about my chances for Olympic participation," said Milatz, who is fresh off a victory at the latest Bundesliga round in Saalhausen. "Only this morning [before the selection was announced], I was pretty nervous and I was no longer so sure.

"But now I am even more enthusiastic ever since I received the positive message from national coach Frank Brueckner. I will be overseas racing in North America to finalize my optimal Olympic preparation and then I'll head to Beijing to do my best!"

"I am delighted that it has worked out for me. I was relatively hopeful the whole time, but all the same, a doubt remained. I can hardly wait," said Olympic team-mate-to-be Wolfram Kurschat (Topeak Ergon) after learning the news of his selection.

"If I am able to continue to build my form like I plan to, I believe I can finish in the top ten in Beijing," said Kurschat, who was unsure of his selection after illness slowed him down earlier this season.

Milatz and Kurschat join Manuel Fumic on the men's squad while Sabine Spitz (Central Ghost) and Adelheid Morath have been picked for the women's squad.

The German stars will contest their national championship this weekend at St. Märgen in the Black Forest.

"This is the only important race for me before Beijing. I will work extremely hard to retain the title as I think the colours suit me," said Kurschat, grinning.

Toulouse surprises Craig in final lap at Windham

By Dave McElwaine in Windham, New York

Mathieu Toulouse (Maxxis) beats Adam Craig (Giant)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Mathieu Toulouse (Maxxis) pulled off the upset of the season by slicing through the field for three laps, then taking on US National Champion Adam Craig (Giant) in an epic half-lap battle. Craig, known for his descending prowess, could not make up enough time on the final descent to get by Toulouse.

The cross country race, National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) round #5 in Windham, New York, was decided in an exciting final sprint to the line where Toulouse won by a foot. Toulouse's team-mate and series leader Geoff Kabush did not race at Windham in order to prepare for the upcoming World Cup race in Canada.

Toulouse was not a factor early in the race as he not only had a poor starting grid, but also got caught up in a log jam where the racers first entered singletrack. "It's a fire road start and bottles up pretty quick," said Toulouse. "I had to get off my bike. I had to start slow also because it was pretty hot but it worked out pretty well for me.

"I kept it under control and just rode it like a time trial," he added. "This is the best kind of course for me, climbing and east coast singletrack."

Jeremiah Bishop (Trek / VW) was leading the race as it entered the final climb, but dropped down to third by the finish line. Sam Jurekovic (U-23 National Team) finished fourth, his second XC podium this season, while Sam Schultz (Gary Fisher/Subaru) had his best finish in fifth place.

Todd Wells (GT/Pacific) winning
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

"I cramped," explained Bishop of his tumble down the standings. "I got a bottle [at the feed zone], took a sip, and it slipped right out of my hand."

With temperatures in the high 80s with high humidity, most of the racers felt that the weather was a significant factor in the race. "Jeremiah [Bishop] had me with one lap to go then we came back together," said Craig. "I was trying not to ride as hard as I could since I'm pretty roasted from training a bunch. Then Matt came through on the last climb and it was time to get that 140 percent work, which I did."

When Bishop and Craig headed up the hill the last time, everyone assumed that the race would be determined by a blazing fast descent. Both are among the best descenders in the business. With Toulouse and Jurekovic 40 seconds behind the leaders, it seemed impossible that anyone but Craig or Bishop could win. When the final sprint took place, even the race announcer was fooled into thinking that Bishop was involved.

The new cross country course at Windham Mountain became an instant hit with the racers. "That is a hard, proper, mountain bike course," said Craig.

Other races

Other winners of the weekend included Georgia Gould (women's XC), Katerina Nash (women's STXC), Todd Wells (men's STXC), Joanna Petterson (women's DH), Kieran Bennett (men's DH), Adam Craig (men's Super D) and Wendy Simms (women's Super D),

See Cyclingnews' full coverage, including all pro and amateur events, of the NMBS #5 round in Windham, New York.

Subaru Team excels at European Championship

The Subaru Team stood on the top two steps of the podium at the European Downhill Championships last weekend in Caspoggio in Valmalenco, Italy. Florent Payet was crowned European downhill champion and his team-mate Damien Spagnolo took second place. Nick Beer finished third.

Two days of torrential rain prior to the race and the morning of the final made conditions difficult. The track length was reduced the morning of the final due to the risk of lightning on the top of the mountain.

Payet put in a strong run to put himself firmly in the hotseat. Spagnolo started his run with an aggressive start and unclipped both pedals losing some time, but he managed to recover well and put in a smooth fast run for second.

Frenchwoman Sabrina Jonnier won the women's race ahead of Petra Bernhard (Austria) and Floriane Pugin (France).

See full results from the European Downhill Championships.

Schurter & Lechner win Swisspower Cup round

U23 World champion Nino Schurter (Swisspower) won the elite race in Savognin, Switzerland, in difficult conditions ahead of Mathias Flückiger (Athleticum MTB Team) and Martin Gujan (Athleticum MTB Team). Pouring rain caused officials to shorten the race. Eva Lechner (Colnago) won the women's race ahead of Petra Henzi (Fischer-BMC) and Nathalie Schneitter (Colnago).

Schurter went away from the gun with his team-mate Florian Vogel. In the third lap, a fatigued Vogel abandoned. That left Swisspower Cup leader Gujan to hold second place for a long time, riding solo, but on the final section, Flückiger passed him for second. Schurter stayed in control at the front and celebrated his win in front of a lot of spectators who came out in spite of the rain.

"It was hard, particularly with these conditions," said winner Schurter.

In the women's race, Lechner won by thirty seconds over Henzi and three minutes over Schneitter, who finished second at the U23 women's world championships.

A knee injury kept Olympic Champion Julien Absalon from starting while former world champion Russian Irina Kalentieva cancelled her participation on short notice due to a problem with her retina which required an urgent operation.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Swisspower Cup in Savognin.

Jongewaard secures Olympic nomination

Australian mountain biker Chris Jongewaard looks set to ride the Beijing Olympics after Cycling Australia accepted the findings of an Appeals Tribunal and nominated him for its Olympic team. Jongewaard, Australia's highest ranked mountain biker, was not originally nominated for the Olympic Games due to involvement in a pending court case, but successfully appealed the decision last week.

The ruling was passed to the Cycling Australia High Performance Management Committee (HPMC), which met Monday via tele-conference and decided to nominate Jongewaard to the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) in place of previously selected Daniel McConnell.

In making its decision, the HPMC acknowledged an item from the Appeals Tribunal which stated: "HPMC did not have enough material to rely upon to exercise its decision as to whether it honestly believed Jongewaard had met all the requirements of the Selection Criteria and thereby, had failed to properly implement the criteria."

A further legal issue stated that Cycling Australia could only reach a decision on the conduct of an athlete after the AOC President has exercised his discretion. In response to this Cycling Australia noted that "a successful defence in any subsequent hearing could not be assured".

Jongewaard is due to answer charges later this year regarding a hit-and-run incident, in which he allegedly stuck training partner Matthew Rex, leaving Rex with head injuries and in a medically-induced coma for 12 days.

While the incident took place in February 2007, and Rex has since recovered, court proceedings over the charges have been delayed on numerous occasions. The trial is scheduled to take place in December of this year.

Harrington and Widmer win inaugural Cardiac Classic

Racers had no shortage of climbing
Photo ©: Volodya Gusak
(Click for larger image)

First-year event West Coast Racing's Cardiac Classic's cross country was held at Burnaby Mountain in British Columbia, Canada, where Stefan Widmer (Rocky Mtn- K Capital Source) and Joanna Harrington won the elite men's and women's races.

Many of BC's fastest women came out to play with Dawn Berg of Oak Bay Bikes / Everti handily scooping up the first lap hill climb cash prime for pros, before bringing home a second place overall finish on the day behind Aussie Harrington.

"It was very hard," said Berg. "They were tough climbs on a very hot day. The downhill was also fantastic. It was nice and technical, which made you stay focused and it left you with some adrenaline if you took things too fast!"

The Island Racing Club's Joele Guynup, who wound up her day two positions back from Berg after an epic battle with Melanie Vaughan of Steed Cycles. Vaughan eventually claimed the final spot on the elite women's podium with a scant one second lead.

Stefan Widmer of Rocky Mountain - K Capital Source p/b Different Bikes brought home the biggest haul of the day in the elite men's race, first nailing down hill climb cash prime and then executing an intelligently managed effort to hold off a stern challenge from Colin Kerr of Different Bikes and collect the lion's share of the cash prize purse, too.

Kerr held tough throughout what became a two-man battle with Widmer, who recently concluded a breakthrough campaign that saw him finish third in the 2008 Canada Cup national mountain bike series. Widmer's team-mate Kevin Calhoun rounded out the podium.

"The race was really tough," said Widmer. "A ton of climbing and some challenging descending." Course designers had laid out a challenge which put the pro men through 5,300 feet of cumulative elevation gain and loss over the relatively short distance of 31km.

"I went off the front at the start of the race to ensure that I would get the hill climb prime, but then Colin quickly got back on my wheel in the singletrack," said Widmer. "In fact, in the next two laps, Colin and I would climb together but he would continually ride the descents quicker then me putting a good 10-15 seconds into me each lap which I would have to make up at the start of the next climb. Knowing this, I pulled away on the last lap at the top of Cardiac Hill ensuring that I would get a gap on him and enter the singletrack first. After that, I kept it steady on the last climb and brought home my first ever BC Cup win."

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Cardiac Classic.

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