MTB news & racing round-up for May 10, 2008
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Edited by Sue George
On the trail with Sabine Spitz
Catch her if you can
By Bjorn Haake
Spitz in full concentration going
down the 'Dual Speed'
Sabine Spitz returned to the World Cup course in Offenburg, Germany, one week
after the race to demonstrate how to ride descents that are virtually vertical.
She showed just how a professional blasts around a technical course without
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
Sabine Spitz and husband and manager Ralf Schäuble invited media members
to a two-day event in Offenburg to get a feel for the skills required to
ride a World Cup course. While the first day was focusing on a Q&A session,
the duo had organised enough bikes so that everyone who wanted to try out
the course (in perfect, sunny conditions!) was able to do so.
The course started innocently enough, with a paved uphill before heading
onto an easy singletrack in the forest. But soon riders would have to
make a decision on the "Dual Speed" section, with two options
to get down a very steep part of the course, with several stair-step-like
drops. Fortunately for the non-professionals, the lack of spectators offered
a "Triple Speed" variant, with a wide switchback offering a
safer alternative for the unskilled.
Spitz then demonstrated the section twice, both times in perfect control
of her 7.5-kilogram machine. Part of the reason for the event was to give
everyone a different perspective. At the races, everybody waits at the
bottom of the sections to take pictures or cheer the riders on. "I want
you to see the course from the reverse angle," Spitz explained the purpose
of the shock that most felt when they arrived at the top, with no bottom
in sight until they were almost already on the descent.
dazed by the demonstration, everybody headed on to the "Wolfsdrop".
The group took a little shortcut to get there, as this one was technically
not the next difficulty of the course (it is tackled after the North Shore
and the World Class drop). Time for another round of "ahs",
as most stopped before the really steep part. Not only was it steep, but
full of roots, too. So a patient Spitz pointed out that "Here, I would
approach it from the right hand side. There aren't any roots, so the bike
doesn't bounce all over the place in the beginning of the section." This
one is arguably the most difficult descent of the parcours.
Coming up on
Cyclingnews will cover the 60th edition of
the Dauphiné Libéré live
as of stage 4 on Wednesday, June 10, at approximately 15:00 local Europe
time (CEST)/ 23:00 Australian time (CDT)/ 9:00 (USA East).
WAP-enabled mobile devices: http://live.cyclingnews.com/wap/
Another important factor the German pointed out is speed. But it's not
that a fast approach under the guideline of "Get it done and over
with quickly" that will do the trick. "You have to enter the section
slowly, get your heart rate down a bit, so you can fully concentrate on
the technical section." Riding slower also means having more control over
the bike and again, Spitz rode the section, with lots of cameras flashing.
The Wolfsdrop is arguably one of
the biggest difficulties in Offenburg
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
The group headed back up, to get to the "World Class" drop.
You really have to be world class, as this was the steepest section, a
three-metre drop that is as close to vertical as it can get. Calmly approaching
the top of it, Spitz had to make a 90 degree right turn on the gravel
singletrack, before finding her line, which has changed over the years,
due to the erosion created by the racers.
The "North Shore" was only glanced at from the top. During
the World Cup race, this is the second of five very technical parts. It
is not the most difficult, but it winds from the highest point of the
course down, and Schäuble said, "It takes about a minute to get down."
The racers use their momentum and skills to head down the very curvy part
to descend as quickly as possible, while trying to minimize pedalling
and recover a little bit.
From there, it was a short ride to the "Snake Pit". If there
were actually soft snakes, it probably would be easier to ride down, but
the solid roots across made it a tricky manoeuvre.
When a top-level athlete demonstrates those sections, they look easy
enough, yet most of the group opted for the "chicken run," as Spitz smilingly
called it. One brave soul tackled the bumpy part, and with both Spitz
and Schäuble shouting instructions – "You are too far back, shift
your weight further up front!" – the lone rider made it down on one of
the five difficulties of the day, more or less in one piece.
Rolling back to the start-finish area there was a sense of admiration
for a parcours that doesn't look nearly as technical on TV. Even Spitz
admitted that she had to swallow the very first time she encountered the
"Wolfsdrop" on the warm-up loop in her first appearance in Offenburg,
but went on to overcome the initial fear by winning the race in 2004.
She added, "It is a matter of practice. If you only ride easy stuff, you
will not improve on those technical sections. You will have to do them
over and over again, then you will be able to tackle them."
Read the complete
feature including a conversation with Spitz about the upcoming World
Championships, European Championships and Olympic Games.
Hill ready for downhill World Cup opener
Sam Hill (Australia)
Photo ©: Rob Jones
The 2008 World Cup season opens for gravity riders this weekend in Maribor,
Slovenia. No one is more ready than reigning World Cup and World Champion
Sam Hill (Team Monster Energy Iron Horse). The Australian downhiller proved
he is on form this past weekend with a win at the Val di Sole Test Event
in Italy on the course that will be used for the World Championships in
The downhill course is essentially new, but somewhat based upon a previous
European Championship course. It takes about three and a half minutes
to race. Hill took his win in the final with a more than five-second margin
over Steve Peat (Santa Cruz Syndicate), a result that had many in the
race paddock returning to their team areas scratching their heads, trying
to figure out what needs to be done to beat the four time World Champion.
Fabien Barel (Subaru Mountain Bike Pro Team) finished third, down by 7.5
"My run in the final was OK," said Hill modestly. "The
track has lots of line choices. It's technical and a lot of fun, but this
can make it really hard to get a perfect run on it. I thought it was cool
to have this warm up race to see where my race speed is before heading
into World Cup 1."
Looking to this weekend's World Cup, Hill said, "I'm definitely
looking for a clean run in Maribor this coming weekend. I'm really looking
forward to the start of the World Cup season in Slovenia...it's an awesome
track, and hopefully I can go there and start the season off with a win!"
Hill will be joined in Slovenia by team-mate Brendan Fairclough, who
will be aiming for a top five finish. Both riders were scheduled to arrive
in Slovenia in Wednesday, walk the course Thursday and begin riding it
in official practice on Friday.
Floriane Pugin (Playbiker -Iron Horse) won the women's test event ahead
of Sabrina Jonnier (Team Maxxis) and Emmeline Ragot (Suspension Center).
See full results from
the Val di Sole Test Event.
ECP-Tau riders picked to represent Spain
Carlos Coloma, Martí Gispert
and Umbert Almenara
Photo ©: ECP - Tau CerECP-Tau Cerámica Team
Three of the ECP-Tau Cerámica Team's members have been selected
to represent Spain in the upcoming European Championships to be held in
Saint Wendel, Germany on May 17-18. Carlos Coloma and Martí Gispert
will be riding in the elite cross country race, while Umbert Almenara
will fight with the best juniors in Europe in the Continental Championships.
"This will be a good opportunity to race at maximum level. Carlos
will fight to repeat the eighth place he got in last year's edition, while
you can expect anything from Martí," said Team Manager Ramón
Bartoló. "Both are talented riders and with a wide international
experience. Umbert will do his best to be up in front, although the tests
done at the junior races that are scheduled together with the World Cups
prove that he is far from the best. We hope that the work done on the
last two weeks will help him go a step forward".
IMBA renews volunteer stewardship program
IMBA and REI renewed their partnership supporting the Volunteer Stewardship
Challenge which aims to boost volunteerism in the mountain bike community
through various grants.
In 2007, the program exceeded its goals by recording 450,000 hours of
service by 40,600 volunteers during the first nine months of the year.
In dollar terms, the total donation is equivalent to a US$8.1 million
gift to public lands. Stepping up the goals for 2008, the partnership
is aiming for 650,000 volunteer hours including increased youth participation.
REI stores across the US will be used to help recruit additional volunteers.
"REI's partnership with IMBA has been critical to developing the
capacity of our affiliated clubs. Quantifying volunteer hours and club's
trail stewardship efforts has enabled us to speak more effectively with
land managers at the state, local and national level." said Ryan
Schutz IMBA Affiliate Program Manager.
IMBA clubs may apply for Volunteer Stewardship Toolkits and trailhead
signs valued at approximately US$200 per kit or for cash grants to fund
volunteer development projects. For more information, contact Ryan Schutz
Velirium to rock Mont-Sainte-Anne in July
Velirium will return to Mont-Sainte-Anne for another year from July 12
to 27. Canada's biggest mountain bike festival will host the 17th edition
of the UCI World Cup held there as well as the Canadian Championships
and the Québec Cups. Mont-Sainte-Anne is the only venue in North
America to have hosted the UCI World Cup competition every year since
its inception in 1991.
Velirium is composed of three weekends at Mont-Sainte-Anne to celebrate
mountain biking. It annually attracts 55,000 visitors, 2,500 athletes,
and 150 journalists. The weekend will also give racers a chance to check
out the area, which will host the 2010 World Championships.
July 12: Velo Mag Raid from Québec to Mont-Sainte-Anne raid featuring
two courses: a 72km or 32km
July 13: Downhill Canadian National Championships, Quebec Cup, Freeride
Cup, and 5-hour endurance race.
July 19-20: Cross Country Canadian National Championships and Quebec Cup
July 20: Cross Country Tim Hortons National Championships and Quebec Cup
July 24: Yop' Urban Delirium in downtown Québec City!
July 25: Xtreme 4-Cross World Cup
July 26: Xtreme 4-Cross & Downhill World Cup
July 27: Cross Country World Cup & Kids race
For more information, visit www.velirium.com.
Eastern Canada gets stage race
While Canadians from the western part of their nation have several options
for off road stage racing, Crank the Shield is the first such race to
appear in eastern Canada. The three-day race will traverse a section of
Ontario's near north from September 19-21.
The "Shield" in the race's name refers to the Canadian Shield,
a large mass of bedrock covered by a thin layer of soil that forms the
nucleus of Canada from Ontarios near north to the Arctic according
to the race's website. The geography associated with the shield has produced
"diverse terrain with scattered lakes, bogs, hills, and exposed rock."
Crank the Shield 2008
September 19: Stage 1 - Buckwallow to Kanddore, 80km
September 20: Stage 2 - Wilderness to Village, 90 km
September 21: Stage 3 - Hills & Singletrack, 80 km
For more information visit www.cranktheshield.com.
Epic tech from Houffalize
By Luke Webber
Fox Racing Shox' new production
remote lockout lever
Photo ©: Luke Webber
The first few UCI World Cup races in Europe usually carry with them a
swathe of new bikes and kit but this year's deluge at the Sea Otter Classic
in Monterey, California left few surprises. Even so, that doesn't mean
that there was nothing of interest to see.
As it turns out, one of the biggest pieces of news didn't even involve
anything we saw but rather something that was said (or more specifically,
wasn't denied). Given the progression of Specialized's recent mountain
bike product development over the past few years, it doesn't take a genius
to figure that the short-travel Epic cross country race platform is next
in line for a redesign and what that change might include.
Swiss powerhouse Christoph Sauser was rightfully coy when we asked him
about the possibility of an all new Epic but the smile was arguably all
we needed to know. As expected, the new bike is expected to use the same
basic suspension architecture as the current Stumpjumper design with its
rocker link and centrally located shock (current Epic shocks are placed
on the non-driveside seat stay). Also as we guessed, the bike will probably
come with Specialized's own house-brand fork which is sure to include
a more firmly tuned version of the Brain inertia valve technology found
on the Stumpjumper. We'll have to wait until next month to see if these
'rumors' hold true but we'd be awfully surprised if they don't.
Development work and race testing was also in progress in the Trek/Gary
Fisher/Bontrager stable. We've already given you a sneak peak at the new
aluminum hardtails Gary Fisher is working on for '09 but much is underway
with Bontrager's rolling stock, too. Some new tyres are currently making
the test rounds to accompany the Dry X released last winter and a new
wheelset is also rumoured to launch soon. According to our information,
these will be substantially lighter than the current Race X Lite and might
incorporate one of two advances - either the carbon rim we've seen at
some races or upgraded hubs based on the DT Swiss 190 Ceramic model. We
also don't rule out the possibility that we'll see both but we'll keep
Read the complete
Heather Irminger's new aluminum steed
By Luke Webber, somewhere on the Euro World Cup train…
Heather Irmiger's Subaru-Gary Fisher
Photo ©: Luke Webber
US Olympic hopeful Heather Irmiger is making her way across the hectic
UCI World Cup circuit on her usual bright pink bike, only this time around
it's a brand new all-aluminum model also shared by team-mates Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski
and Willow Koerber. Logistical constraints have meant that each team member
could only take one bike to the first five races and the World Championships.
For the majority of those European courses, a hardtail was deemed the
Unlike Irmiger's 2007 aluminum hardtail which was a wholly custom build
using a mix of various tubing (including some Klein Gradient road-specific
pipes), the new machine is closer to a stock offering although consumers
still shouldn't expect to see anything like it in the near future. Her
new rig is actually a prototype '09 model built with 6066 alloy and far
more dramatic tube shaping than we're used to seeing from the nameplate.
In fact, the prototype's curvaceous multi-sided down tube bears a similar
profile to that of the current Fuel EX of parent company Trek while the
top tube employs the more familiar Gary Fisher hydroformed design cues.
In spite of the swoopy appearance, the new build otherwise seems fairly
straightforward with TIG-welded joints, standard dropouts, a conventionally
threaded bottom bracket shell and non-integrated post. As with every prototype,
though, there is always a question mark over the outcome. Even so Irmiger
was decidedly optimistic.
"Even with a new bike we still know it's going to work great!" she said.
"It usually takes me about half a season to bond with a bike but I already
like this one a lot."
Some of that familiar feel was undoubtedly due to the steering geometry
which, at least currently, is nearly the same as what she used last year.
According to our information, the company does plan to introduce the latest
Genesis 2.0 geometry on its '09 production hardtails but the requisite
increased-offset forks weren't available just yet.
Read the complete
O'Dea diary: Racing Vail Lake and the 72 hours before
Photo ©: Mike Rick
It was Wednesday, April 23, and everything went smoothly that morning
until we had to switch flights. Although we had a nonstop flight, we had
to deplane and replane in Atlanta before the plane even moved...nice.
We arrived about an hour late into San Diego and the Vassago guys were
there waiting. We drove around for awhile collecting some odds and ends
and then someone mentioned beer. One of the greatest breweries ever, Stone
Brewing Co. is located in Escondido, California. Being that we are all
connoisseurs of adult beverages, we absolutely had to go.
Vassago treated us to a growler of Arrogant Bastard Oaked Ale to take
with us to our hotel room in Temecula since they were dropping us off
with no car. No worries, we now had lots of beer and two bikes to get
On Thursday, April 24, we pre-rode the race course with Eddie's local
friend Orion. The temperature on the completely sun-exposed course was
perfect for the pre-ride but we knew it would rise 20 degrees in the next
two days. After the ride we noticed that Namrita's brand new fork was
spewing oil. Uh oh!
A few hours later, we received notice that Vassago had located a replacement
White Brothers fork for Namrita. Phew...thanks guys! But wait...we then
found out that the UPS box with Eddie's front wheel, our sports nutrition
products including the essential Saltstick tabs, extra drivetrain parts,
Hayes brake pads, Eggbeater pedals, extra WTB tires, and more was officially
lost. This was not good news to receive with only one day left before
Read the complete diary
Watch Valley Bike Cup next round: Arnon Bike
Racers will converge upon Bonvillars for another round of the Watch Valley
Bike Cup on Sunday, May 11. The Arnon Bike will be held Sunday on a 35km
course with a VTT (including options from 15 to 37km available) following
In addition to a15-rider strong French squad, favorites for the third
annual competition, starting on the shores of the Neuchâtel Lake
are Stéphane Tempier and Fabien Canal in the men's race, Julie Krasniak
and Laura Metzler in the women's race and Camille Devi and Clément Koretzki
in the juniors' race.
For more information, visit www.arnonbike.ch.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing Limited 2008)