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MTB news & racing round-up for March 5, 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

Alison Dunlap: Cycling in retirement

By Sue George

Alison Dunlap celebrates after winning the world cross country championships
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Just over two years after retirement from a career that included two trips to the Olympic Games and a World Championship mountain bike cross country title, American Alison Dunlap remains involved in cycling.

"There are parts of racing I miss," said Dunlap thinking of her career which spanned four years as a collegiate athlete and continued at an elite level from 1992 to the end of the 2005. "I miss the friendships and hanging out with the team talking about the course and commiserating afterward. But what I don't miss is the training and the stress of racing and learning how to ride some of these really hard World Cup courses, the travel, dealing with the rain and the mud.

"So 90% I don't miss at all. 10% I will always love and will probably always miss that little bit," said the 38 year-old.

Dunlap is still a regular on the National Mountain Bike Series, but now she plays a different role. "I'm there doing racing clinics," she said. "I love watching the racing. It's really fun because I know how hard it is and I don't have any desire to be out there. It's great to watch the chaos."

Still an official member of the Luna Women's Mountain Bike Team, Dunlap said, "I go to some of the Luna ambassador teams around the country and help them run clinics with the local women. I also do some media stuff - running race reports, press releases and doing media tracking."

A day in the life

"My day is so much busier than it ever was," said the long-time Colorado Springs resident. "I usually spend a few hours on the computer in the morning, emailing athletes, updating programs, talking to USA Cycling about selection. I'm on the selection committee so I get lots of emails about Olympic selection. I work with USADA, too."

Dunlap said she tries to squeeze in a daily ride. "But the ride time is much less. Most of the time I can justify about two hours and if I get more, I'm excited. Usually I can justify an hour or an hour and a half."

Laughing at herself, Dunlap chuckled, "I have the total master's syndrome now. As soon as I get on the bike, it's all about going hard. Now it's all about burning calories. If I have time to ride my bike, I don't want to waste it on a recovery day. So I'm always riding hard."

"I used to make fun of those riders when I trained, but now I'm one of them, so it's pretty ironic. But I'm not racing so it doesn't matter. I ride to stay fit. I still love to eat. If I didn't ride my bike, I'd be 180 pounds."

Read the complete feature.

Paulissen and Hurikova win Afxentia Stage Race

Jaroslav Kulhavy leads Roel Paulissen
Photo ©: Armin M. Küstenbrück
(Click for larger image)

Belgian Roel Paulissen and Czech Tereza Hurikova won the Afxentia Stage Race held in Cyprus over the weekend. Stages one and three also doubled as Rounds two and three of the Sunshine Cup. Sandwiched in between was an individual time trial which did not count toward the Sunshine Cup.

Belgian Roel Paulissen almost made it three wins in three stages, but Czech Jaroslav Kulhavy, who was the junior world champion in 2003, intervened on the final day. Paulissen won the opening cross country race and the individual time trial, but the young Czech took top honors in the final 43km cross country race.

In stage one, Paulissen took advantage of some confusion in the feed zone among his competition Fredrik Kessiakoff and Emil Lindgre to attack and ride away to an eventual victory. In stage two, Paulissen overcame a technical and demanding course, with steep downhills, to claim victory over Kessiakoff and Magnus Darvell.

After the final day of competition, Paulissen said, "I didn't want to take any risk in the downhills, and I was looking on the overall. It's good for Jaroslav to have this victory, but I'm also happy with my race. The last two days were very hard," Paulissen said.

In the women's race, not even a malfunctioning front brake could stop Sabine Spitz (Central-Ghost) from a final stage win, but it would be Tereza Hurikova (Czeska Sporitelna) who would collect the overall title.

In both the first and final stages, the women's race saw an exciting fight between Hurikova and Spitz. The 21 year-old Hurikova showed her strength on the singletrack, both going up and down, but veteran Spitz's greater strength and savvy netted her both wins.

Hurikova, who is used to - and good at - time trialing, especially on the road, showed her strength in the stage two time trial - going on to win after both Spitz and another favorite Petra Henzi declined to race. Hurikova finished 14th at the road world championships in 2007 in Germany and she won gold at the junior world championship time trial in 2004.

"I felt very good, not too exhausted from yesterday," said Hurikova after the final day's racing. "But when Sabine attacked my legs were hurting so much I couldn't follow her. I think my shape is much better than last year. I'm happy to get the overall victory."

In the final general classification, Paulissen ended up 5:11 ahead of Kulhavy. Third place went to Kulhavy's countryman Milan Spesny at 8:17 behind Paulissen. For the women, Hurikova grabbed the overall with 10:09 over Alexandra Engen and Elisabeth Osl.

The fourth round of the Cyprus Cup will happen next Sunday at Voroklini. In the overall ranking of the series, Paulissen is leading with 280 points ahead of Kugler (250) and Karl Platt (202). In women's classification Petra Henzi took the lead from Heather Irmiger (231) and Alexandra Engen (223).

See full coverage of the Afxentia Stage Race.

Houltham and McDermid ride away to wins at Karapoti

Stuart Houltham (Palmerston North) on his way to winning.
Photo ©: cycle-photos.com
(Click for larger image)

Palmerston North's Stuart Houltham and Fiona McDermid rode away to solo wins at the Karapoti Classic in New Zealand last weekend.

Just a week after winning the national title, Houltham made it look easy as he escaped from a collection of New Zealand, Australian and Swiss reps to claim his first win at the Southern Hemisphere's longest running mountain bike event.

The Palmerston North rider followed Aussie favourites Tim Bennett and Nick Both through the early kilometres and up the first climb of the race. The Australians, who ride for the Flight Centre team, have both been runners up at Karapoti in recent years and were trying to dominate from the front.

"I sort of ended up following them early on and waiting to see what would happen," said Houltham.

Fiona Macdermid (Palmerston North) took out the pro women's race.
Photo ©: cycle-photos.com
(Click for larger image)

What happened was that Houltham decided to test the Aussies on the second climb, a tortuous 5km accent up Deadwood Ridge. "I just went hard for a bit to see what would happen," said Houltham. "One stayed with me for a while but I managed to get away from him eventually and from there I was on my own." Houltham stormed away to the third fastest Karapoti clocking ever, in 2.18.59.

In the women's race, McDermid produced perhaps the best ride of her career to win by a massive 16 minutes. The Palmerston North based Brit shrugged off a fall at the start and a flat tyre on Deadwood Ridge, not to mention the previous weekend's New Zealand national title runner up Brenda Clapp. But she finished as frustrated as she was elated when she crossed the line just six seconds short of the race record.

"I couldn't have ridden any harder at any stage in the race," she shrugged after stopping the clock in 2.47.41. "But you can't help but wonder about the fall and the puncture."

On a day that was forecast for gale force winds and torrential rain, the weather gods held off until most of the Scott Karapoti Classic's 1300 participants had finished. This made for fast times among the amateur ranks too, with four new age group records.

See complete coverage of the Karapoti Classic.

Campos happy with season's start

23 year-old Francisca Campos is off to a good start to her season as she looks toward qualifying for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. The Pan American Champion from Chile finished fifth in the second round of the Gran Premi Massi-Copa Catalana BTT Internacional in Aviles, Spain. Margarita Fullana (Massi) won the elite women's race followed by Rocio Gamonal (Spol Caixanova) and Euth Moll (BH-Toscaf). Campos was 5'40" behind the Spanish winner and Massi team-mate.

After finishing four laps of the six kilometer circuit, Campos said, "I felt well. The experience has been very good, although it is not reflected absolutely in the final result. In the beginning it fought for a spot on the podium, but I noticed it is still the very early season, and I know I'm correct in my preparation."

Perennial favorite Julien Absalon (Orbea) won the men's race ahead of fellow Frenchman Jean Christoph Peraud (Orbea) and Spaniard Juan Pedro Trujillo (Cemelorca-Seguros10.Com).

Elite Australians set sights on Olympics

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

Australia's elite cross country racers have their sights set on the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. One male and one female racer will make the final selection to the Olympic team, but in the meantime, four riders have been named to the shadow team.

To date, the men's shadow team members include Dan McConnell, Sid Taberlay and Chris Jongewaard. All three will head to the Oceania Championships March 13-16 in Nelson, New Zealand, before going overseas to compete in the World Cups and World Championships.

Dellys Starr is the only female shadow team member so far, however the following women will also race the Oceania Championships and several of the World Cups: Rowena Fry, Katherine O'Shea, Tory Thomas, Kate Potter, Zoe King and Terri Rhodes.

Dual Stunt racing format to make Sea Otter debut

If nothing else, mountain bikers are good at inventing new ways to compete on their bikes. The latest, the "Dual Stunt" format, will be featured at this year's Sea Otter Classic. A dual stunt adapts a dual slalom race format to a flat course featuring wood and dirt obstacles. Two racers will compete side-by-side on identical 400-foot long courses scattered with notorious North Shore-style elements like wooden bridges and dirt jumps.

A maximum time differential of 1.5 seconds means slower racers either make up the time and advance or concede defeat - just like in dual slalom races. The semi-invitational event will happen Friday, April 18, beginning with qualifying rounds. Elimination rounds are scheduled for Saturday with finals on Sunday.

"This is a sport that originated in mountain biking and is specific to mountain biking," said Jeff Lenosky, who will build the dual stunt course along with fellow racer Kyle Ebbett and Ray Petro of Ray's Indoor MTB Park. "It really doesn't favor one discipline over another - you can have a podium filled with a trials rider, a dirt jumper, freeriders, or a world champion downhiller, it's really across the board. If you're a good bike handler, then you could really excel at this discipline."

Lenosky adds that racers can compete on pretty much any kind of bike although he points to a freeride hardtail as the ideal bike of choice. Interested potential racers should contact Jeff Frost, director of athlete and sponsor services, at frosty@seaotterclassic.com for invitation information.

Team Lost Coast Brewery grows for 2008

Founded in 2007, the newly expanded Team Lost Coast Brewery is picking up three professional riders for its ranks. Expert national champion and neopro Maureen Kunz joins the team along with Xterra racer Brian Astell and California state series regular Amon Pease. Returning members include Tsering Alleyne (semi-pro) and Emma Worldpeace (women's expert).

Racers will compete on Marin Bikes' Indian Fire Trail frame and the Quad XC full-suspension for super D and XC events. Look for the 2008 squad at select Northern California races, State Series Races, NMBS events, the Sea Otter Classic, Xterra races, and other local and national-level races.

Qashqai Challenge for 2008

The urban freeriding series known as the Qashqai Challenge will return for its second year in 2008. The Qashqai will visit five European cities in Italy, Spain, Germany, France and the United Kingdom over five consecutive weekends in late April and May.

A few format changes are on deck for the new year including splitting the series into 2 Open and 3 Challenge events. Last year's top 15 riders are invited back and will focus on the final three events, but during the first two rounds in Milan and Madrid, ten riders will get the chance to qualify for final rounds in Munich, Paris and London.

In 2007, the series was won by Darren Berrecloth. Other invited riders include: Darren Pokoj (Aus), Ben Boyko (Can), Brandon Semenuk (Can), Benny Korthaus (Ger), Amir Kabbani (Ger), Andreu Lacondeguy (Spa), Lance McDermott (GBr), Grant Fielder (GBr), Paul Basagoitia (USA), Cameron McCaul (USA), Greg Watts (USA), Kyle Strait (USA), Adam Hauck (USA), and Jamie Goldman (USA).

2008 Qashqai Challenge
April 25-26: Open - Milan, Italy
May 2-3: Open - Madrid, Spain
May 11: Challenge - Munich, Germany
May 17: Challenge - Paris, France
May 24: Challenge Grand Final - London, United Kingdom

Gravity East Series returns for second year

The 2008 Gravity East Series is set for eight events, all of which will also serve as qualifiers for the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships. The second-year downhill series will kick off on May 9 at Massanutten Resort in Virginia and will wrap up with the finals at Plattekill Mountain Resort, October 11-12.

Gravity East Series 2008
May 9-10: Massanutten Resort -McGaheysville, Virginia
May 31-June 1: Mount Snow Resort -West Dover, Vermont
June 21-22: Wisp Resort - McHenry, Maryland
July 5-6: Plattekill Mountain- Roxbury, New York
Aug 16-17: Bolton Valley - Bolton Valley, Vermont
Aug 30-31: Whiteface Resort - Wilmington, New York
Sept 6-7: Attitash Resort - Bartlett, New Hampshire
Oct 11-12: GES Finals – Plattekill Mountain - Roxbury, New York

For more information visit www.gravityeastseries.com

US Open of Mountain biking registration opens soon

The US Open of Mountain Biking announced registration will open Friday, March 7. Nearly 500 athletes are expected to compete in the lucrative gravity event at Diablo Freeride Park. Racers will compete in downhill and dual slalom for more than US$25,000 in cash on May 23-25 in Vernon, New Jersey.

For more information, visit www.diablofreeridepark.com/usopen.html.

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