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MTB news & racing round-up for March 15, 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

Kugler and Henzi close to overall Sunshine Cup victories

Petra Henzi (Fisher BMC) runs uphill
Photo ©: Armin M. Küstenbrück
(Click for larger image)

The fifth and final round of the Cyprus Sunshine Cup is set for March 16 at Yermasogia and there are two battles for the overall win in progress. Austrian Christoph Soukup and Swiss Andreas Kugler are the favorites in the men's race while Swiss Petra Henzi and Czech Tereza Hurikova will be duking it out in the women's race.

Fischer BMC rider Kugler has a chance to grab the overall title as he is just 55 points behind series leader Roel Paulissen; however, the Belgian has already returned home to finish preparations for the Cape Epic stage race. Kugler would need to finish only 17th to overtake Paulissen for the lead. Meanwhile, Sweden's Alexander Wetterhall is 72 points behind Kugler and would need to take 5th to win the series should Kugler not be able to finish for some reason.

Looking only at race day results, the main duel will be between Christoph Soukup and Kugler. They will race the 5.8km course with challengers like Milan Spesny, who finished second in Voroklini.

In the women's race, only bad luck will prevent Henzi from taking the overall in the women's competition. The experienced racer has done every Sunshine Cup race and leads the ranking by 45 points ahead of German Ivonne Kraft. So Henzi could make it a double win for her team Fischer BMC.

After the exciting race at Voroklini where she crashed, Hurikova, will make another attempt to celebrate her first victory. The Czech woman has finished second in the series races three times, and for sure will be looking toward the top step of the podium. Kraft and her country-mates Adelheid Morath and Katrin Schwing will be mixing it up with the leaders.

Stander and Speedy favorites for South African National Championships coming to Pietermaritzburg

Burry Stander will be out to defend his title
Photo ©: Theo Grobler
(Click for larger image)

Burry Stander and Yolande Speedy (IMC Racing) are the favorites heading into the South African National Championships, also round three of the South Africa Cup, on Saturday in Pietermaritzburg.

Barring any kind of mishap, Stander, who is currently ranked 25th by the UCI, is expected to dominate the elite men's race on Saturday in search of his third consecutive national Elite title. The 20 year-old Mr. Price GT rider proved he is in good form with an impressive sixth place finish in the hillclimb time trial stage at last week's Giro del Capo road stage race where Stander finished 15th overall.

Six laps of the 6.3km course, with some challenging sections, should suit Stander. "I haven't ridden this new course yet, but I have walked it and can say that it's going to make the racing very hard. There is a lot of steep climbing. There will be big time gaps between riders in all categories," said Stander.

Although he knows he is the favorite, Stander was modest about his plans for Saturday. "I always try to go as fast as I can, whether it's racing against others, against myself or against the clock," said Stander. "The South African championship title is very important to me. My international team, GT, also rates national titles highly so I'm going all out to try and win on Saturday."

Amy Jane Mundy will need to be at her best in order defend her title
Photo ©: Theo Grobler
(Click for larger image)

Stander's challengers will likely include Roan Exelby (Fullimput), Renay Goustra (Mongoose Red), Melt Swanepoel (MTN Energade) Johan van Zyl (Mr Price GT), Marc Bassingthwaighte (Trek Garmin), Mannie Heymans (MTN Energade) and Jacques Rossouw.

The 31 year-old Speedy is the favorite for the women's race. Last year, Amy Jane Mundy (Jeep), claimed the national title ahead of Speedy, but since that day, Speedy has seldom been beaten, collecting the 2007 South African marathon title, the 2007 African cross-country title, racing to respectable finishes at four World Cup events in Europe and North America. Thus far, in both 2008 South Africa Cup races, she has been unbeatable.

However, Mundy is in peak race condition and will be performing on home turf. The women will race four laps for 704 meters of total climbing. Both riders are chasing Olympic selection with Speedy (ranked 40th by the UCI) leading the candidates.

"I've been focusing on cross-country-specific training this year and have good race condition," said Speedy. "I'm hoping to try and win the title again [She was the 2006 SA cross-country champion - ed.], but it's a tough course and Amy Jane and Sara are tough competitors so it should be interesting."

ALB Gold readies for first marathon World Cup

The first UCI Mountain Bike World Cup event for 2008 will happen in Manavgat, Turkey, this weekend. Racers like Team ALB Gold's Hannes Genze and Jochen Kaess will be among those on the starting line of the 90km marathon. The pair is getting ready for some upcoming racing in South Africa.

"The race will probably be as compettive as last year on Gran Canaria. For Jochen and me, the focus, however, will be to get acquainted with each other and see how we do as a two-person team. It will only get really serious in April," said Genze of their goals, just before flying to Turkey.

The UCI's website reported that 120 total elite riders are entered including 2007 World Cup Winner Thomas Dietsch (Gewiss Bianchi), Alban Lakata (Dolphin-Trek Mountain Bike Racing Team), Marzio Deho Julio Carlo Da Silva (Gewiss Bianchi), and 2000 Olympic Champion and multiple World Champion Miguel Martinez.

Sweden's Pia Sunstedt is the favorite in the women's race. She will race other top challengers like Austrian Fabienne Heinzmann (Dolphin-Trek Mountain Bike Racing Team) and Swiss rider Esther Süss.

The men and the women will race round one Sunday, March 16. The only other marathon world cup is in Ornans, France, at the end of the season, on October 5, 2008.

UCI reports record team registrations

Reports of regular additions to the marathon and stage racing calendar may make it seem like mountain biking is growing, but the UCI offered proof of an increased interest in high-level competition Thursday when it published its list of 2008 teams, up 43% from 66 teams in 2007 to 95 teams in 2008. 311 riders are registered on the UCI teams for 2008

On its website, the UCI explained the growth by noting an increase to 14 teams in the US, 11 in Germany and 10 each in France and Italy. Looking at the composition, 40% of teams are gravity-racing oriented while 52% contest cross country and marathon disciplines exclusively. The rest of the teams compete in both gravity and endurance racing.

"For the first time this year, the UCI Mountain bike Teams will display a logo on their jerseys proving that they meet the UCI's strict quality criteria, particularly in the administrative, financial and ethical areas," read a statement on the UCI's website. Also new for this year, the winners of all four mountain bike World Cup disciplines will wear identical leader's jerseys.

24 hours of Dubai cancelled after rider's death

By Susan Westemeyer

The 24 Hours of Dubai mountain bike race was been cut short after a fatal accident. "We ended the race, after a rider died," said Stephan Salscheider, race organiser. "We are shocked and stunned by the death. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to his family and friends. In consultation with the other participants, we have decided to end the race immediately out of respect for him and his family."

The 45 year-old rider, whose name was not immediately available, was found laying unconscious on the ground not quite two hours after the race had started. Medical personnel were rushed to the scene but were unable to help. There were no witness as to what happened. The official cause of death is not yet known. Organizers said after the accident that the crash may not have caused the rider's death.

Further examinations are planned, and the bike will also be checked for possible defects. BikeRadar.com has since identified the rider as Thomas Graessler and reported that he fell while negotiating steps into the amphitheatre section, sustaining "severe neck injuries".

The 24-hour race was the first mountain bike race in the United Arab Emirates.

24 Hours of Adrenalin partners with IMBA Canada

Organizers of the 24 Hours of Adrenalin, Twenty4 Sports are partnering with IMBA Canada for 2008 to raise funds and recruit members in support of trail advocacy and education. Focussed on the 10th Anniversary of the 24 Hours of Adrenalin Championships World Solo Championships to be held in Canmore, Alberta, on July 26-27, IMBA Canada will not only be a vital event partner leading and advising on trail maintenance and best practices on the pre-event Canmore Trail Days, but will also staff one of the race check points and run an information and membership tent in the Expo area throughout the weekend.

Although the event sold out in just two and a half days, organizers saved five registration spots will which be auctioned in the next weeks with all funds to be directed to IMBA Canada, specifically for projects and activities in Alberta. Starting bids have been set for CAN$1,000, which means a minimum of $5,000 will be raise for advocacy, education and building.

"We're really pleased to announce this partnership," said Twenty4 Sports Director Stuart Dorland. "We've raised over $21,000 through our Canmore events for the Isabel Dube legacy fund, and we're looking forward to using these events as a platform to support IMBA Canada this year and in the future."

Excited about the partnership, Mark Schmidt of IMBA Canada said, "We're already brainstorming ways that we're going to raise funds for Alberta trails and make our aid station one of the highlights of the weekend."

Dorland said he will also be bringing the three 2007 event champions, Tinker Juarez (men), Rebecca Rusch (women) and Matt Chaney (singlespeed) to Alberta to provide rider input leading up to the event.

BC Bike sells out

BC Bike organizers announced their seven day, seven stage race, scheduled for June 28 - July 4 has sold out. Situated in British Columbia, the race will take advantage of the province's diverse natural features including spectacular views, ocean crossings, and of course, mountains.

Commenting on the ever-increasing popularity of mountain bike stage races, BC Bike race founder and president Dean Payne explained why events like his are so appealing. "It's the sense of completion at the end that really makes the difference, when you set yourself a major goal for the year, you enable your training to have a purpose and then through the event your achievement is really about yourself overcoming a challenge."

Last year's event was won by Chris Eatough & Jeff Schalk (Trek / VW). For more information or to find out how to join the wait list, visit www.bcbikerace.com.

BMC Australia riders racing overseas

Two BMC Australia Mountain Bike Racing Team riders are getting some overseas racing experience. Charlton Durie will represent Australia in the cross country at the upcoming World Mountain Bike Championships, and Brian Price is representing NSW at the Oceania cross country championships this weekend.

Durie will compete for Australia in the U19 Cross Country competition at the World Mountain Bike Championships, to be held in Val di Sole, Italy, June 16-22. He is the current Australian U19 National Champion, in addition to his successes as 2007 National Series U19 cross country and NSW State Series U19 XC champion.

Price is accumulating UCI points in Nelson, New Zealand, at the Oceania Championships where he is racing for both NSW and BMC as NSW's current elite cross country series champion. A successful race will see him tally sufficient UCI points to qualify for the UCI World Cup race to be held in Canberra this August.

The full roster for BMC Australia MTB Racing Team includes: Charlton Durie, Jason English, Troy Bailey, Trevor Hill, Brian Price, and David Rome.

Swisspower Cup

The Swisspower Cup for 2008 will feature eight rounds and starts March 29-30 in Buchs. It will wrap up eight rounds later on September 6-7 in Bern.

Swisspower Cup 2008
March 29-30: Buchs (C1)
April 5-6: Winterthur (C2)
April 12-13: Muttenz (C1)
May 24-25: Gränichen (C1)
June 28-29: Champéry (C1)
July 12-13: Savognin (C2)
July 19-20: Seon
September 6-7: Bern (HC)

For more information, visit www.swisspowercup.ch.

International Mountain Bike Cup 2008 series to feature point to point races

Organizers of the World Cup marathon in Naousa in 2006 and the European Downhill Championship in Elatohori in 2007 will be promoting the International Mountain Bike Cup 2008, a series of six international point to point mountain bike races in Greece. The series will visit six different mountainous destinations in Thessaly and Macedonia.

The first five races are designated as UCI C2 category races while the final race in Nimfaio will be a C1 event. The 16,000 euro prize list for the finale will be the highest amount ever given in a Greek mountain bike race. The best four of five races will count toward the overall series.

The first round will kick off March 30 at Paleoi Poroi in Pieria, with a 51.3km course on the hillsides of Olympus.

International Mountain Bike Cup 2008
March 29-30: Palaioi Poroi - Pieria (C2)
April 19-20: Abelakia - Larissa (C2)
May 24-25: Vasilitsa - Grevena (C2)
June 28-29: Portaria -Magnesia (C2)
July 26-27: Elati - Trikala (C2)
September 6-7: Nimfaio - Florina (C1)

For more information, visit www.outsports.gr.

Bike Asia 100

Held in Singapore in conjunction with the first Bicycle and Motorcycle Show in South East Asia, the Bike Asia 100 will give riders a chance to race solo or as part of a team relay against an international field of top endurance riders on April 12. Leading the pack will be Tinker Juarez, reigning US National 24 hour champion, two-time Olympian and Mountain Bike Hall of Famer.

The race will feature sections of the new Tampines Mountain Bike park. For more information, visit www.dirtraction.com.

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