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MTB news & racing round-up for May 3, 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

Madrid wraps up opening trio of cross country World Cup event

By Luke Webber in Madrid, Spain

Absalon tests the conditions
Photo ©: Luke Webber
(Click for larger image)

The Casa de Campo on the western fringes of Madrid will complete the third of three opening rounds of the cross country mountain bike world cup. For the second week running a dry track and hot, sunny conditions greet riders, but the course is substantially different than the one which presented itself in Offenburg.

A hard, cracked surface with a lot of "marbles" on top is presenting problems for many riders - while this course is very fast and smooth, with only one steep descent and climb, tyre choice is not simple. On many corners grip is lacking and the sight of a sliding rider is a common one.

The 8km loop winds around Madrid's city park, with a flat and uninspiring first half mainly on doubletrack with no sections of note. From halfway, the course starts to improve with some singletrack sections and punchy climbs, but there is little in the way of a bumpy surface. The weather forecast suggests conditions will not change.

A panoramic, from the course to Madrid.
Photo ©: Luke Webber
(Click for larger image)

For the women's race last week's winner and leader of the World Cup, Irina Kalentieva will not start. Following Offenburg she was suffering a sore throat, something which has still not cleared entirely. This clears the way somewhat for countrywoman Marga Fullana to impress at her home race, while Marie Helene Premont will also be a big favourite. Ren Chengyuan has started poorly in the last two races and will not be hoping for a repeat performance this weekend. If everything goes to plan on lap one and her performance mirrors her comebacks in Houffalize and Offenburg it could be a runaway victory.

In the men's race it seems there is nobody who can stop Julien Absalon. Already on the course completing three laps this morning, the flying Frenchman looks in great form to make it three from three. The followers from the previous two races remain the same. Jose Hermida, will be hoping for better luck on his home course after snapping a chain last week while vying for a top three finish. Christoph Sauser and under-23 Nino Schurter will also be in the hunt for the top position. With an improved grid position Burry Stander may also be in with a chance following last week's spectacular result.

It is not such great news for American Adam Craig however. Following an encouraging start to the season Craig faced a setback on Thursday, crashing hard while training on the trails in the nearby mountains. His left side is badly cut and this will affect any podium aspirations for Sunday's race.

See more photos previewing the Madrid round and stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full reports and updates.

World Cup burglaries continue

Thieves broke into the Multivan Merida Team's van
Photo ©: Multivan Merida Mountain Bike Team
(Click for larger image)

Theives struck in Madrid, Spain, on Saturday, just one day prior to the next cross country World Cup round. Unlike previous attempts, they met with less success.

Just two weeks ago, the cross country World Cup season started in Houffalize on a sour note for teams who had their bikes stolen on the eve of the competition. Multivan Merida was one such unlucky team - its bikes were stolen out of a secured basement.

Multivan Merida was a target again when two of its team cars were forced open. Using a pick-axe and metal shears, a hole was cut into the sidewall of the team mechanic's car in an attempt to get to the expensive racing equipment. However, although the thieves caused substantial damage to the vehicles, they failed to acquire gear. For security reasons, the cars had been completely emptied and all of the equipment, which had been transferred to a safe place.

"The material damage caused to the cars is huge and these cases of burglary are an annoyance. We have taken comprehensive security measures, and as a result we have not lost any additional equipment. Nevertheless, our equipment seems to be in high demand with professional gangs of burglars," said team manager Andi Rottler.

The team's riders, including José Hermida, Ralph Näf, Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå and Moritz Milatz will all compete in Sunday's races.

European Marathon Championships hosted in Albstadt

The Gonso Albstadt Mountain Bike Classic will serve as this year's European Marathon Championship on June 14-15. A 95km course with 2,500m of climbing and lots of corners awaits participants, who will contest two laps of both the north and south loop portions of the course - thereby passing through the start / finish area several times. Races in the Albstadt, Germany, location historically draw large, vocal crowds.

"When I first time raced in Albstadt, I was really distracted caused by a really noisy crowd and I got goose bumps on my skin," said German rider Heike Hundertmark at the event presentation.

The day prior to the marathon, a sprint-distance race will be held for amateur racers and kids. The format will be similar to cross country ski races, with quarter, semi-finals and finals.

For more information, visit www.albstadt-mtb-classic.de.

George looks for success in Graskop

David George is trying to secure his first marathon race win
Photo ©: Theo Grobler
(Click for larger image)

Commonwealth Games road race silver medallist, David George, will be in search of his first ever marathon mountain bike race victory when he lines up for the 35km Mazda MTN Forest to Falls race in Graskop, South Africa, this weekend.

The 32 year-old Capetonian, who races for the MTN Energade team, finished third at the recent Cape Epic with partner Kevin Evans, winning two stages in the process. That success, combined with his improved skill levels, make George one of the race favourites on a course that's relatively low on technical challenges.

"I'm not worried about technical riding nowadays because I'm riding the full-suspension Raleigh that I raced at the Epic and that's a big help on technical terrain," said George. "I'm at the end of a long racing block in my programme now but I feel pretty sharp and don't see why it's not possible to win if I have a smooth race on Saturday."

But with defending champion Burry Stander (Mr Price / GT) away racing the World Cup in Madrid, George's biggest competition is likely to come from his own team-mates, Evans and Melt Swanepoel. Evans was pipped in the sprint by Stander last year and won the race in 2007. The lowest he's ever finished at Forest to Falls is second.

"It's a short, fast race that's not too technical," said Evans. "My form is good and I know the course well. I'll be out to help Melt [Swanepoel] get a good finish if I can. He missed the first race in the Series due to illness and it's important for our team that he gets some points at Graskop."

With Stander absent, Evans will wear the Mazda MTN Series leader's jersey. It's a jersey he's used to wearing having been overall winner of the prestigious series for the past three years.

Challenges will likely come from a string of in-form riders led by Namibian star Marc Bassingthwaighte, a two-time winner in the 2007 Series. Racing for Team Garmin DCM, Bassingthwaighte will be supported by his compatriot Arno Viljoen. Also in peak form and certain challengers for the title over the scenic 70km race are Brandon Stewart (USN), Max Knox (Adidas William Simpson), and Johan van Zyl (Mr Price / GT). Both Stewart and Van Zyl have shone over shorter cross-country races recently, so the fast, flowing Forest to Falls course is bound to suit them, while Knox, partnered with Stewart, finished an impressive seventh at the Cape Epic a month ago. Favorite Mannie Heymans (MTN Energade) is also absent, racing the World Cup.

With Yolande Speedy (IMC Racing) busy in Madrid, long- time archrival, Yolande de Villiers (Cycle Lab Toyota), clad in the leader's jersey, inherited the pre-race favourite status. But it's more than just another race for De Villiers, who is eager to erase the memories of the 2007 edition which saw her crash out while leading, fracturing her elbow. De Villiers won the first leg of the 2008 series in Barberton in January.

Amy Jane Mundy (Jeep / Rocky Mountain), Carla Rowley (MTN Energade), Tania Raats (Maverick), Yolandi du Toit and Samantha Oosthuizen (both Garmin DCS) will be out to best De Villiers.

New Zealand picks Worlds team

Top New Zealand riders Kashi Leuchs and Rosara Joseph will lead a strong New Zealand team to contest the 2008 UCI World Mountain Bike Championships in Val di Sole, Italy in June. Cross country racers Joseph and Leuchs have been in Europe preparing for the Olympics in August. Joseph is currently recovering from an ankle injury sustained in the first UCI World Cup in Houffalize, Belgium, but is expected to be fully fit for the World Championships on June 17-22.

"The cross country side of the team represents the depth of talent in the junior ranks especially," said Chris Mildon, Mountainbike New Zealand president. "These junior athletes relish the opportunity to compete at the world championships and perform above and beyond expectations against the world's best." Samara Sheppard, Ashley Hough, Scott Green, Dirk Peters, Kieran Hambrook and George Bennett are the chosen U19 racers.

The elite and junior downhill team features three former Junior World Championship medallists with Hawkes Bay juniors Aari Barrett and Brook MacDonald expected to do well. Yeti/Fox team professionals Sam Blenkinsop and Justin Leov, along with seasoned campaigner Nathan Rankin, will lead the strong elite downhill team.

Debutante Matt Walker, 2006 junior downhill world champion Cameron Cole, Wyn Masters and Craig Pattle will contest the 4X event.

Most of the rest of the team's racers will depart for Europe within the next few weeks to compete at world cup events in Andorra and Scotland before the Italian Worlds.

New Zealand for the World Championships

Cross Country
U19: Samara Sheppard, Ashley Hough, Scott Green, Dirk Peters, Kieran Hambrook , George Bennett
U23: Josh Barley
Elite: Rosara Joseph, Kaytee Boyd, Kashi Leuchs

Brook MacDonald, Matt Walker, Peter Cooper, Aari Barrett, Richard Leacock
Elite: Scarlett Hagen, Amy Laird, Justin Leov, Nathan Rankin, Sam Blenkinsop, Kieran Bennett, Glenn Haden, Mike Skinner, Cameron Cole
Elite 4X: Wyn Masters, Craig Pattle, Matt Walker, Cameron Cole

Custom carbon lightweight for the world champion

By Luke Webber in Offenburg, Germany

Kalentieva's bike
Photo ©: Luke Webber
(Click for larger image)

Current UCI mountain bike world champion Irina Kalentieva has done ample justice to the rainbow stripes she earned last year in Fort William, Scotland. Kalentieva finished second at this year's first World Cup round in Houffalize, Belgium and then followed that up with a convincing win in the hot and dry conditions of Offenburg, Germany.

At just 1.5m and 46kg (5'1", 101lb), Kalentieva is a natural climber and thus places a particularly high priority on cutting grams off of her equipment which can easily comprise roughly 20 percent of her body weight. As a result, her team-issued Rotwild R.R2 carbon hardtail boasts a wealth of unique modifications and custom equipment well beyond its fancy paintjob and stickers. These differences are most noticeable on the scale: Rotwild's top-end R.R2 production model weighs 8.8kg (19.4lb) but Kalentieva's bike is an even slimmer 8.3kg (18.3lb).

According to Topeak Ergon head mechanic 'Wolfie', "Irina's frame is a prototype not available anywhere else. They left out a few layers of carbon to save weight and since Irina's not the heaviest rider that's no problem. This frame is a custom size too - it's tailor made."

The carbon theme continues with the new 1230g DT Swiss XRC 1250 wheelset. In addition to the ultralight 330g carbon hoops, the wheels feature DT Swiss' newest 190 Ceramic hubs which not only include a weight-saving relieved freehub body and star ratchet rings but also hybrid ceramic bearings that decrease weight even further while also reducing rolling resistance and increasing reliability. According to Wolfie, the tyres also sit deeper in this hoop for a more rounded profile.

Read the complete pro bike article.

Trek introduces Women Who Ride club

As part of its ongoing effort to support the participation of women in cycling, Trek Bicycles recently introduced its Women Who Ride Club. The official launch came at the Sea Otter Classic. The mission of the club is to engage women of all sizes, shapes, ages, abilities and ethnicities to ride.

The idea was born out of a contest the company ran last year. "We got 2,400 entries - all 500 word essays and we read them all," said Trek's Krista Rettig to Cyclingnews. "We learned that what women want is community. The social part is important for women in a male-dominated industry." The contest collected information from women ranging from 20 to 60 years-old who considered themselves to be fitness riders, triathletes, road racers, mountain bikers and commuters.

"We launched the Trek women's [travelling] demo program four years ago, and every year we learn something new. Last year, we did the 'Ladies Night Out', but the problem was those experiences ended that night," said Rettig. "We wanted to keep the community going."

Trek already sponsors four teams which support women in cycling including America's Dairyland (Madison, Wisconsin), Team Revolution (Kansas City), Team 19 (Florida), Trek / VW (elite - international and national team), and Little Bellas (Vermont), the group of young women run by elite racer Lea Davison, but the first local Women Who Ride chapters will start out of local shops in California. Trek is hoping the chapters will grow and spread nationwide. As part of the club, five women have also been selected to write blogs about their experiences as women cyclists.

For more information, visit www.trekbikes.com/women.

Dirt Sweat & Gears

Coming up this weekend on May 2-3 is the 12 hour Dirt, Sweat & Gears, the next stop on the US National Mountain Bike Calendar at the Cotton Mill Preserve in Fayetteville, Tennessee. Those attending will compete for some of the US$10,500 purse.

Gary Fisher and his 29er Crew will attend the race along with many of America's favorite endurance racers. Reportedly, Fisher will race his singlespeed bike. Last year's event drew racers from 31 states. The race's singlespeed event on Friday and regular race starting Saturday will raise funds for both the American Cancer Society and the new partnership with the Southern Off Road Bicycle Association and the International Mountain Bike Association.

For more information visit: www.dirtsweatandgears.com.

El Reto de los Misioneros returns to Peru

The second edition of Peru's El Reto de los Misioneros, set for September 20 and 21, will celebrate the 17th century missionary groups that travelled across the nation's mountains and central jungles to reach the current and founding people

The race will feature open men, open women, master A and B categories for up to 120 racers. Like last year, there will be three stages over two days, but the mileage is being increased for 2008. Two 50km stages are set for day one with a queen stage, including three mountain passes, for day two's 80km stage. The race will visit the Andes and the jungle.

For more information, visit www.perunavigator.com/retodelosmisioneros.

Kellevie to host six hour race

Building on the success of the last two editions of the Kellevie 12 & 24 hour race, the Hobart Dirt Devils Mountain Bike Club is running another event this weekend on May 4 at the Kellevie Mountain Bike Park. The Avanti Plus Kellevie six hour race will see more than 200 mountain bikers from around the state battle it out solo or as part of teams of up to four riders on a 9.5km purpose-built track.

The six hour race, in the Sorell Municipality, Kellevie, will feature the largest individual prize award of any mountain bike race in the state. Male and female winners will win AUS$1,000 in cash. One lucky racer will also win a new Avanti bike, worth AUS$2,500 just for turning up and racing.

The winners of the recent Kellevie 12 & 24 hour races, Mathew Hope, Dion Shaw and Jen Brodie, are expected to do well in the shorter race format. The race is also drawing schools from around Tasmania as well as a large population of female racers for women-only teams.

For more information, visit www.kellevie24.com.

USA Cycling calendar rankings

USA Cycling announced the rankings in its National Mountain Bike Calendars after several early-season events.

Going into this weekend's Dirt Sweat & Gears in Fayetteville, Tennessee, the ultra-endurance standings reflected races up through and including the 12 hours of Santos. Jason Sager and Harvey Minton were tied for the men's lead while Christina Smith and Carol Clemens were tied for the women's lead.

On the gravity calendar, only one men's event has been contested so far, the Keyesville Classic. After the one event, Curtis Beavers stands atop the men's standings. This weekend's 4X and dual slalom at the Chalk Creek Stampede in Nathrop, Colorado, are the next events on the calendar.

Ultra Endurance Individual Rankings

Elite men

1 Jason Sager             60                         
1 Harvey Minton           60                      
3 Evan Plews              40                  
3 David Wood              40                    
5 Robert Lichtenwalner    30                  
5 Bryan Fawley            30                 
7 David Hall                            
7 Michael McCalla                       
9 Chris Janiszewski                     
10 Jed Schober                          
10 Raymond Hall                         
12 Nat Ross                             
13 Douglas Smith                        
13 Nathan Winkelmann                    
15 Loren Dodson                         
16 Scott Henry                          
17 Matt Gordon                          
17 Kevin Hofmann                        
19 William Sullivan                     
19 David (Shawn) Adams                  
21 Mitchell Comardo                     
22 Andy Lee                             
23 Matthew Davis                        
Elite women
1 Christina Smith       60                  
1 Carol Clemens         60                 
3 Jennifer Wilson       40                
3 Rita Borelli          40                
5 Alice Pennington      30                
6 Kim Jennings                          
7 Leslie Reuter                         
7 Karen Minor                           
9 Jennifer Turner                       
Gravity Individual Rankings

Elite men
1 Curtis Beavers        30                     
2 Anthony Medaglia      15               
3 Jason Moeschler       12               
4 Ben Furbee             8               
5 Tim Allen              4              
6 Mark Jordan                           
7 Tyler Wilson                          
Elite women

Mid-Atlantic Endurance Cup still accepting teams

The mid-Atlantic Endurance Cup kicked off with the 13 Hour of Bakers Dozen which drew a record turnout in just its second year. Thus far, four teams are in the running for the overall and they include DCMTB\CityBikes, Gripped Films\ Kenda, The Bike Lane, and Pedal Shop.

The next and second stop is the 12 hours of Lodi on May 3. Teams and clubs have until the third event to sign up for the competition and previous results will count.

1 DCMTB/Citybikes         250 pts
2 The Bike Lane           225
3 Gripped Films/Kenda     205
4 Pedal Shop              190

For more info, visit midatlanticendurancecup.googlepages.com.

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