MTB news & racing round-up for May 8, 2008
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Edited by Sue George
Dahle Flesjå back to the beginning
By Luke Webber
Gunn Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
One year ago the most dominant woman in cross country was sidelined with
a virus that kept her out of competition for the rest of the 2007 season.
Through a mix of complacency, urgency and a passion to ride came her biggest
downfall. Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå talked to Cyclingnews after
the Offenburg, Germany World Cup as she orchestrated her slow, but steady
comeback. Little did she know at the time of the interview that she'd
win the third round of the World
Cup in Madrid just days later.
If you were to ask any mountain bike afficionado the odds of Gunn-Rita
Dahle pulling out of a World Cup held in the home country of title sponsor
Merida, at a time when she was at the head of the race after only two
laps without any mechanical difficulty, everyone would have deemed it
A dominance stretching over four years and an ability to race and win
even when not in peak condition had led to a previously unseen level of
respect from other athletes. A tireless schedule of racing, training and
media work never detracted from her results, but in May 2007 that all
"I should definitely not have raced - that's why I say to everyone on
the team now, 'Don't make the same mistake that I did'," said Dahle Flesjå.
"When we arrived here in Offenburg last year I had already been sick for
three weeks, but I was in such good shape because I was in a peak. So
I felt like I could compete and do OK."
Former World Champion Dahle Flesjaa
goes to the front early
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
What followed was the onset of a virus that would ravage cross country's
premier rider of any energy and deny her chances of racing for another
rainbow jersey last September. Even before the race it was evident that
this was more than a small illness, but Dahle Flesjå admits that
both she and her husband/trainer, Kenneth, got carried away in the moment.
"Looking back in the last five and a half years, we have been pushing
the body to the absolute limit and you are on the edge where it can be
bad for your health in the long term," she said. "After the first World
Cup we were in such good shape when we had planned no peak so we were
working so hard to get the maximum when we did peak. But we felt so strong.
We only lost Houffalize by a couple metres.
"The body was on the limit for sure but we wanted to push the hardest
ever," she said. "But in that period we got too excited and forgot. We
got complacent, we missed the sign pointing of resting, but feeling more
tired. And we didn't listen, we were not awake enough. If I hadn't felt
the pressure we would have been more honest with ourselves. It was a German
race with a German-based sponsor. If I was less pressured I would have
not raced. But the pressure only came from within."
Read the complete
Three in a row for Absalon
By Luke Webber in Madrid, Spain
Julien Absalon (Orbea) got away
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
In Madrid last weekend, Julien Absalon captured his third
World Cup in succession - all in three consecutive weeks. The Frenchman
finished in 2:12:30 and beat Spaniard José Antonio Hermida by 12 seconds
and compatriot Jean-Christophe Peraud by 52 seconds.
His win was far more of a challenge than in either Houffalize, Belgium,
or Offenburg, Germany, thanks to a fast course. A lead group split and
reformed during the early laps. In the initial stages, American Todd Wells
even led it out - his first experience and one he will not forget.
At one point, the lead group consisted of 20-30 riders, but as some made
attempts at getting away, Absalon was aware that this move would not be
successful. "With groups so big, never would one man or even a pair
be able to ride to the win. It would be impossible," the savvy winner
said after the race.
Absalon ended up duelling with José Antonio Hermida by the end. The latter's
wheel washed out on the descent just as Absalon made a decisive attack
that would stick until the end of the race. "On the steep climb,
I knew I had the speed over Jose, so I entered the descent first and attacked
hard in the final two kilometres," said Absalon. "Once you had
a small gap, there was not enough time in the closing stages to make it
Commenting on the race after brief stint at the front, Wells said, "The
course in Madrid hasn't changed much since the first time I raced here
back in 2002. It's fast with short one-minute climbs, super hard pack
with ball bearing type pebbles on top which make for slick corners. There
are also tons of spectators packed on the course's six main climbs. Last
weekend in Offenburg the race was only 35kmsthis weekend we did
about 56kms, so that gives you an idea of how fast this course is."
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the elite
men's World Cup race in Madrid.
Premont and Dahle do battle in Madrid
By Luke Webber in Madrid, Spain
Gunn Rita Dahle-Flesjaa (Multivan
Merida) is elated with her first major victory
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
Just three races since returning to competition, Gunn Rita Dahle Flesjå
why she is still considered the best female mountain biker in the
world by coming to Madrid and winning under less than perfect circumstances.
The Norwegian former World Champion outsprinted Canadian Marie-Helene
Premont in a near photo finish to take victory with at time of 1:48:14.
Marga Fullana, racing in her home country, finished third at 1:13. Sabine
Spitz and Georgia Gould rounded out the top five.
Just one year ago Dahle Flesjå was forced to stop riding after
a long period of over racing and training led to a virus breaking her
body down. It was only in Houffalize, Belgium, at the opening round of
the cross country World Cup three weeks ago that Dahle Flesjå could
return to racing at the top level. Then one week later in Offenburg, she
withdrew from the race due to ill health. Nobody expected the result -
least of all Dahle Flesjå herself.
Her husband and coach, Kenneth Flesjå was equally shocked, but
said after his wife's win, "Here we had a diamond and you can never
crack one of those. Gunn Rita was scratched and now we have polished that
diamond back into shape."
Dahle Flesjå escaped with Premont, who's had a strong World Cup
Season so far with a second and a third in the previous weeks. The Canadian
was probably the favorite based on performances this year, but Dahle Flesjå
could draw from plenty of experience and a strong motivation upon her
return to the front of the peloton, and it was Dahle Flesjå who
won out in an almost-sprint finish.
"During the first few laps, I was riding at my very limit, but I
managed to keep my position in the leading group," said the Norwegian
winner. "In the end, it came down to just Premont and me, so I told
myself: Now I can win. This self-confidence combined with all of my experience
and passion were the basis of my victory here in Madrid."
The World Cup takes a few weeks off for cross country riders before reconvening
in Andorra for round four on May 31 - June 1. In the meantime, the opening
round of the Gravity World Cup will take place May 10-11 in Maribor, Slovenia.
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the elite
women's World Cup race in Madrid.
Kenda and Tomac launch new downhill team
Photo ©: Team Kenda Tomac
Tire manufacturer Kenda and bicycle manufacturer Tomac have teamed up
to sponsor the new Kenda Tomac Mountain Bike Racing squad, an international
downhill and four cross team featuring Filip Polc (Slovakia) and Mitch
"To have Filip Polc and Mitch Delfs in our squad is a perfect mix,"
said Team Manager Peter Siulczynski. Polc is a proven talent while Delfs
is working his way up and will have a chance to learn from the more experienced
"I'm happy to join the Kenda Tomac team. New season, new bike and
I can say it's going to be a great year. I am focusing
especially on downhill where I want to step up and show what is in me!"
said Polc enthusiastically.
Photo ©: Team Kenda Tomac
Delfs is looking forward to his first chance to do a full World Cup season.
"I can concentrate on racing and achieving my goals of making an
impact at a World Cup level. Its awesome opportunity to ride with Filip
who has such a good experience at racing. I am looking forward to hitting
the season hard."
The racers will be crewed by Peter Siulczynski (Team Manager), Michal
Kozak (Assistant Team Manager), Jean-Philippe Simard (Team Mechanic),
Gary Perkin (Team Photographer) and John Lawlor (Team Videographer).
The team has a busy race schedule planned including all the World Cups,
the World Championships and several major European and American events.
Ghost picks up healthy sponsorship
By Bjorn Haake in Offenburg, Germany
Sabine Spitz (Central Ghost Pro
Team) gets the hole shot
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
Central health insurance, based in Cologne, Germany is the main sponsor
for the 2008 Ghost Team. Marketing manager Oliver Suhre told Cyclingnews
that multiple reasons were weighed in the decision to sign the new sponsor,
including "the health aspect of sports and having an athlete like
Sabine [Spitz], who stands for a clean sport."
The health insurance company, founded in 1913, is concerned about the
current trend toward people being overweight, even children. Suhre cited
causes like "a lack of exercise and bad nutrition habits". So
he is hoping that supporting a mountain bike team will encourage people
to become more active. The motto of the insurer "Health moves
us" expresses this concern about health issues as well as emphasizes
the commitment to getting people moving.
Suhre sees one of the problems as a lack of information and intends
the widespread sponsorship campaign to reach more people. "People
need role models," he said, explaining that average sedentary people
may draw motivation from seeing their heros in action.
The team's most famous rider is the 36 year-old Spitz, but she sees no
end in sight for her career as she works into peak form for the upcoming
Olympic Games in August. "I don't set myself a limit; as long as
I am having fun I will continue."
But the team is also looking ahead to a future time when she does retire.
Besides Spitz, there are currently U23 riders Anja Gradl and Nicola Rohrbach,
who hails from Switzerland, as part of the formation, but the team is
aiming to grow to nine riders in the future. Spitz could evolve her role
into becoming a mentor and coach for the young riders over time.
Central has committed through 2010, but the team is hoping for a long
term investment to build the next generation of elite mountain bikers.
Juarez and Sawicki win Dirt Sweat & Gears
By Ron Sawicki in Fayetteville, Tennessee
The third round of the USA Cycling Ultra Endurance Mountain
Bike National Calendar (MBNC) drew some of the most talented male and
female competition for the second consecutive year to Fayetteville, Tennessee,
for the Dirt Sweat & Gears 12 hour race.
The weather forecast called for rain the night before and
continuing into the morning and that is exactly what the racers experienced.
As soon as they hit the singletrack into the woods, the mud-fest began.
Bikes clogged up, derailleurs and chains broke for many during the first
20 minutes of what would prove to be a very long lap for most.
Tinker Juarez won the men's race with 11 laps. Brandon Draugelis
finished second with the same number of laps while Josh Tostado completed
10 laps for third place. In the women's race, Pua Sawicki defeated Rebecca
Rusch for the win although both racers had nine laps. Carey Lowery finished
in third with eight laps. Dejay Birtch won the men's singlespeed elite
race ahead of John Mylne and Greg Martin.
Juarez only brought one bike and it was a hardtail. Before the race,
he thought this might not be a wise choice due to the rocky and bumpy
course, but it would ultimately pay off given the muddy conditions. While
others were messing with there bikes in the mud during the race, Juarez
was way out front and able to keep pedaling. Singlespeed racers such as
Dejay Birch and John "Fuzzy" Mylne also had an advantage over
the geared racers. Less was definitely more and they were able to pedal
their way through the muck and get out front, too.
Juarez kept himself out front and held on to his lead until the end.
Draugelis was just six minutes back while Tostado made an impressive comeback
after mechanicals and a huge deficit to round out the top three.
Sawicki opted for the suspension as most did and she also got caught
in the muck, with stops required to remove the mud just to keep on pedaling.
After the first lap she switched onto her hard-tail and she was able to
move at a steady pace again.
The women's winner rode strongly to increase her lead over the second
placed Rusch, who was about 19 minutes back after six hours. After the
halfway point, Sawicki settled in for the next five hours on her way to
the win. Rusch finished 16 minutes later on the same lap with Lowery one
See full results from
Dirt Sweat & Gears and check out the latest Mountain Bike National
Calendar (MBNC) Ultra
Endurance standings after three events. In the men's category, Harvey
Minton and Jason Sager are tied for the lead while Carol Clemens, Christina
Smith and Pua Sawicki are tied for the women's lead.
USAC MBNC Ultra Endurance Standings
1 Harvey Minton 60 pts
2 Jason Sager 60
3 Nat Ross 41
4 Brandon Draugelis 40
5 David Wood 40
1 Carol Clemens 60 pts
2 Christina Smith 60
3 Pua Sawicki 60
4 Jennifer Wilson 40
5 Rebecca Rusch 40
MBNC Gravity standings
The second event on the USA Cycling Gravity Mountain Bike National Calendar
(MBNC) happened at the Chalk Creek Stampede in Nathrop, Colorado this
past weekend. Aaron Gwin and Joanna Petterson won the dual slalom while
Petr Hanak and Petterson won the 4X race. In the non-gravity events, Jay
Henry and Jennifer Smith won both the short track and the cross country
races. See full results for all
four disciplines at the Chalk Creek Stampede or check out full
standings (briefs posted below) for the USAC National Gravity calendar.
USAC MBNC Gravity Standings
1 Petr Hanak 40 pts
2 Aaron Gwin 36
3 Richard Houseman 32
4 Ross Milan 32
5 Curtis Beavers 30
1 Joanna Petterson 60 pts
2 Neven Steinmetz 30
3 Jessica Vogt 24
4 Bobbi Watt 20
5 Lisa Myklak 20
MBNC Cross Country standings
After seven events, including the most recent Idyllwild Spring Challenge,
Josh Kelley and Georgia Gould lead the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National
Calendar (MBNC) for cross country events. Trevor Walton and Carolyn Popovic
won the elite men's and women's pro categories at the Idyllwild in California.
See full results for
the Idyllwild Spring Challenge and check out the MBNC
cross country standings.
USAC MBNC Cross Country Standings
1 Josh Kelley 90 pts
2 Adam Craig 70
3 Brad Stephenson 70
4 Anthony Manzella 60
5 Matthew Freeman 50
1 Georgia Gould 90 pts
2 Katerina Nash 70
3 Heather Irmiger 30
4 Kelli Emmett 30
5 Lea Davison 27
Keith Bontrager diary: Warming up
Another tough training ride…
Photo ©: Keith Bontrager
It's been a hectic winter and spring but I finally got on a bike with
more than a test ride in mind a few weeks ago.
First things first – my friend Bruce Muhlfeld got hurt last year, pretty
badly. You might remember me talking about him – he is 50 and still racing
pro. He is on the way back now. Check it out and give him some encouragement
Second - thanks to everyone who straightened me out about the deer
skull mystery. Antlers. Guess you can tell I am not a seasoned hunter,
other than fungal prey of course.
Onward. A few weeks ago the Sea Otter came to town and my friend Dror
came over from Israel to race. Dror showed me Israel last spring and we
rode all over the place there, so this was a chance to return the favor.
He'd had a rough spring too with surgery in the middle of training,
but he seemed to be in good shape and was very happy to be racing again.
We rode together on the road for the week before the event. He was just
recovering from the flight and tapering for the race or I would never
have really been close to him on the road. And, of course, if he dropped
me he didn't know the way back...
I cooked for him too, which was a challenge. His step mother is an amazing
chef - she prepared one of the best meals I've ever had with his family
when I was there. He's a pro, and pros eat carefully so they don't have
to haul too much baggage up hills. And they eat a lot. I don't cook entirely
with fueling athletic performance in mind though I am not that heavy handed
with the butter and cream of course. Making sure he was happy pushed me
a bit farther though and it worked out well. I've always wanted to see
Chef Willi – the chef who worked for the Postal and Disco teams in action
to see how this is done. Maybe this year.
Read the complete
Pro Bike: Todd Wells
By Luke Webber in Offenburg, Germany
The bike that may carry Todd Wells
to the Olympic Games
Photo ©: Luke Webber
To most onlookers at the opening UCI World Cup in Houffalize
the GT factory team camp was operating as a well oiled machine, powering
US Olympic hopeful Todd Wells to a career-best eleventh place finish on
a brand-new GT Zaskar Carbon. However, for both Wells and his teammate,
Burry Stander, these bikes were anything but part of the race day plan.
Both riders were originally supposed to race on their familiar aluminum
bikes from late 2007 while the new carbon frames waited in the team van
until time allowed for a proper build and shake-out period later in the
season. However, Saturday morning brought an unpleasant surprise for the
GT, Multivan Merida, Scott, and Hope crews as a rash of overnight thefts
left many without bikes and other key equipment. Fortunately for GT those
new carbon frames were left inexplicably untouched (others were not so
lucky) and a manic building process ensued to salvage the weekend. Helped
by some friends who had come to spectate for the weekend, team mechanic
Mark Maurrisen set forth on a frantic mission sourcing parts from across
the expo area.
Both bikes were ready to go by the evening but they were still something
of an unknown quantity having never been ridden before. As any mechanic
will tell you, this was far from an ideal scenario as cables stretch and
new components bed in.
Nevertheless, the team's spirits were lifted just 18 hours later as both
riders were racing in the top 20 and Wells later gushed that the untested
bike rode "like a dream."
Read the complete Pro
F1RST to Slovenia
By Sue George
F1RST, the Clay Porter move that premiered at the Sea Otter Classic,
last month is making its way around the globe on a world tour. It's already
been to Denver, Portugal, Montreal and Calgary.
The movie that followed the 2007 World Cup Downhill scene and its star
athletes will make its next stop is Maribor, Slovenia on May 9, on the
eve of the UCI World Cup. The movie will be shown in the Planet Tus Theatre,
and will feature introductions of some of the stars of the movie, as well
as an appearance by the fillmmaker, Clay Porter of the US.
F1RST follows downhill's biggest names to World Cup events all
over the world and to the World Championships in Fort William, Scotland.
Candid interviews mix with race footage showing some of the most skilled
racers in the world negotiating all kinds of courses with roots, drops,
rocks and other features. The movie captures the essence of the elite
downhill scene. Those who downhill may learn a few things from watching
the best. Those who don't will be in awe of the skills on display.
The movie takes a few meandering detours from the main plot. For example,
Porter takes viewers to South Africa with Steve Peat and Greg Minnaar
and to England to visit the Athertons as they set up a practice night-time
downhill run. Those trips don't add directly to the storyline about the
racing season, but gives fans of those riders a more comprehensive glimpse
of the lives of their favorites.
Next stops on the tour include Budapest, Hungary on May 15 and Mackay,
Australia on June 8. For more information, visit www.f1rstmovie.com.
Seasons premiers in Boston and Toronto
Seasons is showing in two East Coast cities in the next few days:
Boston in the US and Toronto in Canada. Seasons is a film that
follows seven of the world's top mountain bikers through the course of
four seasons of one year. The film explores what it means to be a full
time rider as told through the lives of downhill racers, slopestyle competitors,
and big mountain freeriders. It stars racers like Thomas Vanderham, Matt
Hunter, Andrew Shandro, Steve Peat, Steve Smith, Cam McCaul and Darren
In celebration of Bike Week, The Cycle Loft will be hosting the movie
at the Regent Theatre in Arlington Center on Thursday, May 15 at 7:00
pm. Tickets are US$10 and are available through the Regent Theatre website,
www.regenttheatre.com, by telephone 781-646-4849, in person at the box
office or at The Cycle Loft. The premiere will benefit the New England
Mountain Bike Association (www.nemba.org) and World Bicycle Relief (www.worldbicyclerelief.org).
Those north of the border may catch Seasons in Toronto on May
8 at the No Regrets Restaurant and Lounge (42 Mowat Avenue). Doors open
at 8:00 pm and tickets costs CAN$5.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing Limited 2008)