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MTB news & racing round-up for March 28, 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

NMBS opening in Fontana

Georgia Gould (Luna MTB Team)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

The first round of the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) for 2008 heads to Fontana, California, this weekend. Pro racing starts Friday afternoon with the 4X qualifying, but most of the drama is set to happen the next two days. On Saturday, the pro men and women will race the cross country and finish off the 4X with finals. Sunday's action-packed day will feature elite downhill qualifying and finals, short track and super D races.

Many top American and Canadian riders are expected to start their season in California; however, a few riders will be busy elsewhere. For example, some NMBS regulars like Jeremiah Bishop and Sue Haywood will be racing for their Trek / VW team at the Cape Epic in South Africa and reports are in that some other top riders like Todd Wells (GT) will be racing instead at the Medalla Light Ultimate Dirt Challenge, a UCI race in Puerto Rico.

In 2007, Georgia Gould (Luna Women's MTB Team) placed ahead of her team-mates Katerina Nash and Shonny Vanlandingham in the cross country women's final NMBS standings. The trio mixed it up slightly in the short track with Nash finishing ahead of Gould and Vanlandingham. Gould will be back to defend her winning ways and mostly likely her Luna team-mates will be joining her, but look out also for Heather Irmiger (Subaru / Gary Fisher), Willow Koerber (Subaru / Gary Fisher), Wendy Simms (Kona) Mary McConneloug (Kenda / Seven) and Lea Davison (Trek / VW).

Geoff Kabush (Maxxis)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis) was the master of the pro men's cross country NMBS race scene last year, and he is expected to return to racing in Fontana. The Canadian won the cross country series ahead of Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary Fisher), and Jeremiah Bishop (Trek/VW). He also captured the short track overall with JHK in second and Todd Wells (GT Bikes) in third. The same players will be battling it out generally this year along with Kona's Barry Wicks and Ryan Trebon, Giant's Adam Craig and Subaru / Gary Fisher's Sam Schultz, just to name a few. How often we see them at the NMBS series remains to be seen as many of them will be focusing on the UCI's World Cup events during their quests to make the US Olympic Team.

Melissa Buhl (KHS Bicycles) should be back to defend her status as queen of the downhill. Lisa Myklak (Spyder/Fox/BLKMRKT) and Joanna Petterson are her likely competition. On the men's gravity side, Australia's Jared Rando Giant/Michelin) and Amiel Cavalier (Giant) were the fastest overall last year, but they will be challenged by riders like American Cole Bangert (Morewood/Utopia) and New Zealanders Justin Leov (Yeti/Fox) and Kieran Bennett (Ironhorse) among others.

NMBS racers won't have long to rest up after the weekend. Just a few days later, round two, with cross country and short track events, starts near Phoenix, Arizona. Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage of the NMBS racing in Fontana!

Time bonuses spice up Cape Epic

Competition at the Cape Epic stage race scheduled to begin on Friday will be made more interesting this year with the addition of time bonuses for the first time. Leading teams will race for time bonus advantages at various hotspots in the race. While time bonuses are common in road stage races, the Cape Epic is the first major mountain bike stage race to introduce the concept to mountain biking. The addition of the bonuses is expected to make the racing more strategic.

"In the first few years of the race, when typically one team dominated the race from start to finish, time bonuses would have made the race less exciting, since this dominant team would end up even further in the lead," said race founder Kevin Vermaak on www.cape-epic.com.

"However, as more and more world-class teams enter the race, time bonuses now make the racing even more exciting and will introduce more strategy and tactics amongst the teams racing for the GC podium. In last year's race, no fewer than five different teams won a stage, and the leader jerseys changed hands four times."

Racing kicks off Friday with a prologue that will decide seeding for stage one. In addition to riding out of Knysna in yellow, the winners will have the benefit of starting the day with a time bonus. Time bonuses will also be offered for a sprint during stage six and for winning the shorter stage seven as well as for a king of the mountains win during stage two. The top three for each earn 60, 30 and 15 seconds respectively.

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage of the Cape Epic. In the meantime, read the preview.

Trek / VW Team Cape Epic Diary: Counting down

The Trek / VW team trains in Moab
Photo ©: Andrew Shepherd
(Click for larger image)
After a successful training camp and photography session in Moab, Utah last weekend, the Trek-VW team is now headed across the globe to Cape Town, South Africa. The red sand of Moab will hopefully bring good luck to the two teams and two staff members we are sending to the Cape Epic stage race. It's going to be an abrupt start to a long season, especially for our new staffers, but we're hoping the effort is rewarded with some good results, great fitness, and amazing stories.

Cape Epic is the flagship event of a new generation of epic, multi-day mountain bike races. It traverses the South African countryside from Knysna to Cape Town, over the course of eight days. Stages cover 100km or so per day, and the terrain is about as rugged and beautiful as any on earth.

Why have we decided to send our athletes thousands of miles away to race in distant lands? No, it's not because we simply want to banish them from the team trailer for a few weeks. Rather, we decided that the opportunity was ripe for our team to make a big splash in this category of racing. We have riders that do exceptionally well in many other categories of off-road racing: Chris Eatough dominates the 100 mile and 24-hour endurance scene; Brian and Jenny Smith are regulars on the podium in Xterra Off-Road Triathlon; Jeremiah Bishop is contending for the US Olympic selection in World Cup cross-country; Susan Haywood has taken wins in stage races including El Reto Guatemala, TransRockies, and La Ruta de los Conquistadores.

Read the complete diary entry.

English and Van Der Spiegel crowned Australian 24 hour solo national champions

By Dan McKay in Canberra

The winner Jason English (BMC)
Photo ©: Canberra Off-Road Cyclists
(Click for larger image)

For the second consecutive year, the Australian Solo National 24 hour Championships were held in Canberra's Mt Majura Pine forest. The twisting, dusty trails provided a perfect venue for what was to be an intensely fought battle last weekend for the coveted green and gold jerseys - not to mention also a trip to the 24 hours of Adrenalin World Championships in Canada coming in July.

The women's field included experienced 24-hour racer and current 24 hour National Champion Katrin Van Der Spiegel (Clarence Street Cyclery) along with the winner of the recent Scott 24 hour Alexandra Kiendl (Kona) and local hopeful Claire Graydon.

The men's field was missing current 24 hour National Champion Andrew Bell, who was busy celebrating a new arrival to his family, but was stacked with strong contenders. John Claxton (Giant) was back to better his second place in last year's nationals along with third placed Daniel Mackay (Giant) Also showing strong form was BMC rider Jason English, 24 hours of Adrenalin Champion (in 20-25 years-old category) Joel Donney, and fourth place finisher at the 2006 Scott 24 hour solo, Mark Fenner.

Katrin Van Der Spiegel (Clarence Street Cyclery)
Photo ©: Canberra Off-Road Cyclists
(Click for larger image)

As the race progressed, the fast pace began to whittle down the lead bunch. Eventually, at the front, English and Claxton were left to trade leads back and forth throughout the night with the gap never more than a few minutes. After the sun rose, an exhausted Claxton made an error which ended in a spectacular high speed crash. This opened the door for English to gain the upper hand and he gradually opened a lead. English finished the race with a win, two laps ahead of Claxton with Mackay 19 minutes further back. English completed 47 laps or 428 kilometres (266 miles) in his 24 hours of racing.

In the women's race, Katrin Van Der Spiegel gained an early advantage with a good start and was never seriously challenged. Throughout the race she continued to build her lead and she finished three laps ahead of Alexandra Kiendl. In fact, her 38 laps in a little over 24 hours would have put her in ninth overall - a spectacular performance.

Behind Van Der Spiegel, the race for second and third was fought between the experienced Kiendl and local heroine Claire Graydon. Consistent performances by both riders placed Kiendl four laps ahead of Graydon.

See full coverage of the Australian 24 hour solo national championships.

Compton returns to the dirt

Katie Compton (Spike Shooter)
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
(Click for larger image)

Four time US National Cyclo-cross champion Katie Compton will return to the dirt again on a mountain bike in a few weeks. Compton, will travel with her Kiwi husband Mark Legg to New Zealand for the New Zealand singlespeed national championships in Rotorua on Anzac weekend April 25-27.

The couple from Colorado will enjoy the chance to race on the Whakarewarewa Forest trails. Their entries were among the first dozen or so organizers received.

"We were stoked to get our first entries from the States so early," said Event Director Dean Watson. "And with Katie it was the starting point for a very strong women's field." Because Compton isn't a New Zealander she won't be eligible for the women's title and winner's tattoo.

"We explained that to her, but she didn't mind," said Watson. "Both her and Mark told us they will be here to just ride and have some fun in the true spirit of singlespeeding."

With international experience in road, track and cyclo-cross racing, Compton is, of course, one of the favorites for the weekend. She won the silver medal at the world cyclo-cross championships in 2007 and logged some mountain bike racing time last year at Sea Otter.

Polish racers ready for national series and Olympic team selection

Maja Wloszczowska (Pol)
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Poland's Skandia MTB Marathon will include six races this year with the first one beginning on April 27 in Chodziez. Additional rounds will happen in Szczawno Zdroj on May 3, Bielawa on May 1, Naleczow on June 1 and Jelenia Gora on August 17 with finals at Gdansk on October 5. This season, top riders will be fighting not only for wins, but also for a spot on the Polish Olympic Team.

Only one Olympic spot is available for the men and Marek Galinski, the overall winner of last year's series, is the most likely candidate. It's the women who have earned two spots and Maja Wloszczowska and Ania Szafraniec are looking like the favorites. The pair has been ruling domestic competition for several years. Wloszczowska will be defending her win in last year's Grand Prix MTB and she is both the reigning Polish mountain bike and road national champion. She also boasts world and European championship medals in her collection. Szafraniec has won silver at the World Championships, has been the Polish national champion and the Grand Prix MTB champion as well as a Junior World Champion.

Along with the cross country events will be several night-time four cross competitions in Szczawno Zdroj on May 4, Bielawa on May 17, Naleczow on May 31 and Jelenia Gora on August 16. The final event in Jelenia Gora will be held in conjunction with the 900th anniversary of the city of Jelenia Gora.

Adidas team extended

The international Adidas freeride team added four new riders from four different countries for 2008 including 2007 Crankworx winner Ben Boyko from Vancouver, Canada; Norwegian shooting star Mads Andre Haugen; style and flow champ Alex Reveles from Aptos, California; and Austria's dirt jump hero and first Whitestyle winner Niki Leitner from Vienna. In total, the team now features 11 riders from seven countries.

Swisspower Cup first round starts in Buchs

Round one of the SwissPower cup will start this Sunday in Buchs with the company of many Olympic hopefuls and top Swiss and international riders like Ralf Naf, Jose Antonio Hermida, Manuel Fumic, Nino Schurter, Florian Vogel, cross country world champion Irina Kalentieva, Sabine Spitz, and marathon world champion Petra Henzi, Sarah Koba, Renata Bucher, and Kathrin Leumann. World Champion Julien Absalon is confirmed for the rounds in Savognin and Bern, but will not be at the start in Buchs.

The course will feature steep ascents and descents and technical challenges and is expected to draw 750 racers from 14 nations.

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 (Final) (HC)

For more information, visit www.swisspowercup.ch.

Kona and IMBA team up for Epic Rides

Kona Bicycle Company has stepped up its support of epic mountain bike riding by partnering with IMBA to promote four IMBA Epic rides in 2008. The rides will be open to the public and showcase some of the best riding in North America. The schedule is listed below.

June 21: Mid Mountain Epic ride, in conjunction with the IMBA World Summit in Park City, Utah
August 9-17: Comfortably Numb Epic ride in conjunction with Crankworx festival in Whistler, British Columbia
May 2-4: Midwest Mountain Bike Summit ride in Peoria, Illinois
August 30-September 1: Loon Lake Epic ride in Tamarack, Idaho, in conjunction with the NMBS finals

Gunn-Rita diary: Testing time

Last Sunday [March 16 - ed.] we went out and tested the new addition to the GunnRita Marathon race track. The track had to be lengthened due to the requirements for the marathon cycling discipline. Moreover, Italy is hosting the European Championships in Marathon cycling in 2010 and the Italian Championships in 2009. So this year you can go for the - Extreme- distance of 113 kilometres!

We met an enthusiastic group of over 50 cyclists at 10:00 am on Sunday. Weather-wise we had a bit of drizzle and fog, but with 10 degrees above freezing we were okay for a ride in the forest. We had a fantastic trip in exciting terrain, surrounded by beautiful nature. A bit of rain during the past weeks had affected some of the track, but we only had to push the bikes up one hill due to mud.

The new section of the course is in more open landscape than the rest of the GunnRita Marathon track. There's a bit more gravel road and grassy fields in the new section, and less of the exciting tracks where you get the feeling you’re cycling through a tunnel of green foliage and grass. Even so, there are a good deal of short, steep climbs and descents, all on really nice and exciting tracks. There's a lot of up and down, a lot of twists and turns, and very few long flat stretches. In other words no chance of getting bored and time flies by. We had the same feeling when we did the GunnRita Marathon race during spring last year.

Read the complete diary entry.

Châtel to host snowy downhill

On Saturday, March 29, snow mountain bike downhill racing comes to Châtel, France. The Razor Snowbike, which will also involve skis and snowboards, will take place on the Linga Stadium slope. For more information, visit www.chatel.com.

Looking further ahead, Châtel will also hold a Freeride 2008 VTT competition July 4-6.

VisitPA team

VisitPA.com Team:
Photo ©: VisitPA.com
(Click for larger image)

VisitPA.com, the state of Pennsylvania's tourism agency has announced its official 2008 Mountain Bike Team. Since its inception four years ago, the team has been logging regular podium appearances in the Mid-Atlantic region while simultaneously promoting Pennsylvania outdoor recreation.

All nine members will compete primarily in the Mid Atlantic Super Series (MASS), regional USAC events and the National Ultra Endurance (NUE) MTB Series. New to the team is 2007 24 hour National Points Series Solo winner and endurance specialist Rob Lichtenwalner. Returning members include two 2007 USAC National MTB Champions: Weston Schempf, who claimed the US Semi Pro short track title as well as the Mid-Atlantic Cross Country Super Series title and Mike Yozell who earned a Master's Cross Country Championship; co-captains Mike Kuhn and Ray Adams; endurance specialist Michelle Stopper; MASS Short Track series champion and former cyclo-cross National Champion Ryan Leech; and cross country specialists Nancy Adams and Mike Hebe. The team will ride Cannondale bikes.

VisitPA.com for 2008
Ray Adams, 30 Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (Pro)
Nancy Adams, 30 Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (Expert)
Mike Hebe, 40 Camp Hill, Pennsylvania (Semi-Pro)
Mike Kuhn, 34 Center Valley, Pennsylvania (Semi-Pro)
Ryan Leech, 30 Center Valley, Pennsylvania (Semi-Pro)
Rob Lichtenwalner, 30 Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (Pro)
Weston Schempf, 30 Reading, Pennsylvania (Semi-Pro)
Michelle Stopper, 30 Williamsport, Pennsylvania (Expert)
Mike Yozell, 39 Emmaus, Pennsylvania (Semi-Pro)

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