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MTB news & racing round-up for May 29, 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

NUE Series round two to Ohio's Mohican 100

By Harlan Price

Last year's Mohican 100 winner Chris Eatough
Photo ©: Guru Graphix
(Click for larger image)

The National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series continues its tear around the US this weekend in the northern wilds of Ohio. Racers will be staged for round two out of downtown Loudonville before they head out to tackle 11,000 feet of climbing during a 100 mile loop through four counties of rolling forests in northern Ohio. In its sixth year, the Mohican MTB 100 has grown to a field of 300 plus riders, and among those riders are some of the best endurance athletes in the country.

The women's field will have its hands full trying to contain the strength of Team Mata rider Pua Sawicki. Cheryl Sornson (Trek/VW), Carey Lowery (Outdoor Store) and Trish Stevenson (IFracing.org) will be looking to improve on their second, third and fourth positions from the Cohutta 100 in April, but they should not be surprised if their spots are challenged by the tough competition from behind. Colorado rider Erika Tieszen (Michelin/ Dakine) will be making her debut 2008 NUE appearance, while Danielle Musto (Kenda Titus Hayes) will be looking for payback after a couple of crashes in the Cohutta 100 took her out of podium contention.

Racers roll out
Photo ©: Guru Graphix
(Click for larger image)

On the men's side, we'll see a return of Chris Eatough (Trek/VW) to defend his Mohican and NUE series win of last year, but if the last 100 miler was any indication, his dominance is no sure thing after the winning race of his team-mate Jeff Schalk (Trek/VW) at the Cohutta 100. Schalk is the clear favorite, if his recent performances are any indication. A top 10 finish at the last NMBS race and a first place at the Greenbriar USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Calendar race, proves this California rider turned East Coaster has some doors to knock down.

Others who could upset are Evan Plews (Scott USA/ Capitol Subaru), Christian Tanguy (American Cycle and Fitness) and 2006 series winner Harlan Price (IFRacing.org). Dirts Sweat & Gears runner-up Brandon Dragaulis (Cannondale/ Bear Naked) will be on hand to bring the pain. The big question is whether Floyd Landis (Smith Nephews) has gained form since the Cohutta 100 and will be ready to stay in the lead pack.

In the singlespeed division expect to see DeeJay Birch (Niner Bikes) and Tim Dougherty (Sobe/Cannondale) battling for the top two spots, while the 50+ division sees the return of last years winner John Majors (Giffen Interior), but his two-year dominance is likely again to be challenged by Cohutta winner Greg Turner (RBM/Velo VooDoo).

Massanutten Hoo-Ha! celebrates 20 years

By Sue George in Harrisonburg, Virginia

Riders will get to race plenty of rocks
Photo ©: Sue George
(Click for larger image)

The Massanutten Hoo-Ha!, a mainstay on the East Coast cross country racing circuit, will celebrate its 20th annual running this Sunday, June 1 near Harrisonburg, Virginia. The event serves as a stop on the cross country USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Calendar and is a qualifier for the US National Championship coming up in mid-July in Mount Snow, Vermont. The former National Off Road Bicycle Association (NORBA) designated classic is also the finals of the three-race Virginia Series.

"Mark Nissely, Tom Proctor, Eric Bickert were among those sitting around one Wednesday evening at a bike shop meeting and came up with the idea," said George Willetts of the Massanutten Ski Resort, which promotes the event. "They approached the Massanutten ski office and asked about running the race. They decided to do a pond jump and observed trials and dual slalom on a Saturday and cross country on Sunday."

The first event in 1989 was won by Steve Hetherington and Tora Stith. In fact, Stith won the first four women's editions. Coming from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, near Michaux State Forest, she was not deterred by Massanutten's legendary rocks. Early editions of the race were attended and sometimes also won by one of the East Coast's first professional mountain bike teams, Team Tuffy Muffler.

Race director Kenny Hess has been in charge of every edition of the race, and Willetts is his right-hand man; he spends days clearing the course that runs all over the West side of Massanutten Mountain, the namesake of the ski resort. Fortunately for him, those days are a little bit cooler ever since the race moved from its August spot on the calendar to the first weekend of June.

Talking to Willetts about the early editions of the race is like getting a crash course in the who's who of East Coast mountain biking. "Where all this came from was West Virginia. We learned from Laird Knight [of Granny Gear Productions' National Points Series - ed.] and the West Virginia Mountain Bike Association (WVMBA). It was all Matt Marcus and Laird." Knight was hired to serve as the race's emcee in 1989 and 1990. When he wasn't busy with the mike, he also competed in the observed trials.

Local Sue Haywood (Trek / VW) will not be at the Hoo-Ha!
Photo ©: Sue George
(Click for larger image)

For the 20th edition, Hoo-Ha! organizers have invited back all past winners for the weekend. "We're all going to ride Saturday in the Super D." One former multi-time winner Shawn Withers will be among those out to enjoy the Super D - an approximately 20 minute singletrack individual time trial descent from Kaylor's Knob, a high point on the Massanutten Ridge. The 4.5 mile Super D will happen the evening before the cross country, with riders departing from the top [after an hour or more ride to the top, of course] at 5:00 pm local time.

"The cross country race started out as a lap race for eight or nine years. Then Kyle Inman of the Virginia Series convinced us to adopt a point to point approach," said Willetts who competed in the very first event - taking sixth overall and second in his then-sport category.

The course has changed over the years, in part thanks to trail work by the local Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition mountain bikers and IMBA Trail Solutions. "We now have trails built by cyclists for cyclists. We want cyclists to enjoy those, and we want to showcase flowy, fun bicycles trails," said Willetts, "but there will still be some climbing."

This year's course will repeat some trail for certain categories and events. Beginners and first timers will race one lap while sports and experts will race two laps of a 10.5 mile course. The XXC, part of the West Virginia / Virginia Ultra Series, will run about 32 miles and include the main lap plus additional trail in the adjacent George Washington National Forest. The XXC will start at 9:00 am and the XC at 11:00.

Massanutten has previously hosted the UCI Downhill World Cup, and it continues to host the annual Yee Ha downhill race every spring. Last year's cross country, won by Jeff Schalk and Carolyn Popovic (Trek VW East), attracted 225 racers, despite cold and rainy conditions. Missing from this year's event will be Harrisonburg locals Sue Haywood and Jeremiah Bishop. Both pros will be contesting the World Cup in Andorra.

Griffiths successful at US Open

By BikeRadar

Fionn Griffiths (Norco World Team) won
Photo ©: Fionn Griffiths
(Click for larger image)

UK gravity racer Fionn Griffiths (Norco World Team) had a successful outing at the US Open of Mountain Biking, held in Vernon, New Jersey, on May 23-25. Griffiths won both the dual slalom and downhill events, defeating Kathy Pruitt and Joanna Petterson for the top prizes.

Griffiths' campaign didn't start particularly well, as she crashed on the downhill course during Friday's practice session.

"With the track as rough and rocky as it is here at Diablo Freeride park, the conditions in practice were unforgiving," she said. "Just finding yourself slightly off line in the wet rocks will more than likely end in tears or at least with a quick nature appreciation visit to a nearby tree."

She escaped without major injury and impressively went on to qualify fastest in the dual slalom later that day ahead of Pruitt and Petterson. The top two positions were reversed in Saturday's downhill qualifying, with Pruitt recording the fastest time, just 0.1 seconds ahead of Griffiths.

The slalom finals were held late on Saturday evening. After beating fourth place qualifier Katie Holden in her semi-final, Griffiths advanced to the final where she met Kathy Pruitt. Both riders charged out of the gate in hopes of opening a time margin which Pruitt did, taking the win in the first run. But a frustrated Griffiths made up for it in the second, doing enough to beat Pruitt overall.

Sunday's downhill final also went Griffiths' way, although it was not without a hitch:

"I was all good at the start, got focused and went for it out the gate but in the second turn I noticed Jo walking back up the side of the track," Griffiths said. "She had left the start house only one minute before me so I thought it was kind of weird but carried on anyway. I got maybe another 45 feet before an official jumped into the track and stopped me."

But she refocused and on her second attempt knocked nearly 10 seconds off her qualifying time to finish in 3'03.333. That was good enough to defeat Pruitt by 2.8 seconds and Jo Petterson by 9.3 seconds.

"The Norco was working really well for me on this rocky track today, I loved every second of it. I just had fun riding my bike and the rest came together for me," concluded Griffiths.

The next stop for Griffiths is the Andorra round of the mountain bike downhill World Cup this weekend.

See more of Cyclingnews' coverage of the US Open of Mountain Biking.

McDermott wins Qashqai Challenge overall

Lance McDermott (Adiridas Team)
Photo ©: Adiridas Team
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Adiridas Team member Lance McDermott of Manchester won the overall title of the 2008 Nissan Qashqai Challenge after the final in London, England, last weekend. His consistency with a fourth place in Munich and a third place in London scored him the victory of the series with just one point ahead of Germany's Benny Korthaus and Norway's Trond Hansen.

British crowds at the Tate Modern were stoked when McDermott took the overall crown after fellow countryman Sam Pilgrim had already won the London contest, his biggest result to date.

"When I was in the top five after Munich I thought I had a good chance for the overall victory," said McDermott. "I had scored good points so I was really hoping for it. And I knew I would have home field advantage in London."

In his first final run he presented a tire grab off the drop, E.T. to tuck no hander, a back flip, a tailwhip, and a flair on the quarter pipe. In his second run he crashed on the drop. "After my fist run I thought there is a good chance that I can do really well, so I said to myself I must stay calm and pull another good run. However, then I crashed and there was so much pressure as I had only one more chance to do a good one.

"That's why I tried to use my head and think more about the overall result instead of winning the contest. My third run would have normally been my second run. For my third run I had planned to go crazy with an X-up off the drop, a tailwhip on the first jump, a back flip no foot on the second, front flip no hander on the third, and I wanted to finish with a wallride to flair."

Instead, he put himself into the top three and secured his overall win with an E.T. to tuck no hander, back flip into front flip finishing with a clean flair on the quarter pipe. "When I was waiting around for the final results it was very nerve wrecking," he recalled. "I didn't know what to expect. I had the feeling that I could have won, but I wasn't sure. When the overall standings appeared on the screen my parents went crazy. And so did the other riders. They gave me a shower with champagne, beer, a fire extinguisher and I don't know what else. I was completely soaked."

McDermott is planning to spend his 40,000 euros in prize money on his house and a new car. The rest will go into savings.

Jackson and Smith fastest at Anaconda Enduro

Overall race winner Adrian Jackson
Photo ©: Rapid Ascent
(Click for larger image)

While eyes have been focused on racing in the Northern hemisphere in recent weeks, some racers down under were busy contesting the seven-stage Anaconda MTB Enduro in and around Alice Springs, Australia. Adrian Jackson and Imogen Smith took home the overall wins for the men and women last week.

Jackson, who set up his event win with a solid first stage, was pleased with his form this week. His consistency in placing in each stage contributed to his overall first place, and he attributed the win to mental toughness and the ability to concentrate and push himself in the tricky conditions. Jackson took home the AUS$2,500 in prize money.

In fact, the race proved to be a family affair for him with his mother Carolyn, winning the Vintage women's category and his sister Melinda, placing high amongst the open women.

The men's racing saw plenty of excitement with several stage winners and a few of the top men overcoming crashes and injuries. In the end, Jackson finished with an overall time of 11.38.25. Perren Delacour was second at 3'40" and Matthew Fleming finished third at 7'03".

Naomi Hansen enjoyed some time in the lead women's jersey, but Imogen Smith got to take it home. In the final stage, Smith had a bit of a scare, thinking she had lost her way, but then found a marker pointing her to the finish.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Anaconda MTB Enduro or check out some video coverage.

Houseman and Buhl come out on top of US 4X nationals

A pair of gravity veterans took home the USA Cycling 4X Pro National Championship in Angel Fire, New Mexico last weekend. Rich Houseman and Melissa Buhl took the titles in an event that was part of the Chile Challenge. With their wins, Houseman and Buhl earned spots on the US national team going to the worlds in Val di Sole, Italy in mid-June.

About 30 men tackled a revised course. Second through fourth places in the men's races went to Blake Carney, Chris Boice, and Joseph Backus while Neven Steinmetz and Jessica Vogt rounded out the top three women's places.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of all events of the Chile Challenge, including the US 4X National Championships..

Van Houts and Kalentieva sitting out Andorra World Cup

Dolphin-Trek rider Rudi van Houts and reigning World Champion Irina Kalentieva (Topeak Ergon) will sit out this weekend's UCI World Cup round in Andorra.

Van Houts, a young rider, who finished fourth at the Benelux Cup race in Apeldoorn, has taken ill. Missing the Andorra round is crucial point for the Dolphin-Trek rider as this was one of his final three chances to qualify for the Olympics.

"I feel terrible in these circumstances, but there's nothing I can do about it then take some rest and recover," said van Houts. "I'll be focussing completely on the remaining World Cup in Fort William and the World Championships at Italy!", said Van Houts.

The Russian Kalentieva withdrew from last weekend's Bundesliga race on the second lap after she was not feeling fully recovered after a recent illness. "It was a shame, and for me, what distressed me was letting my home fans down, as the race is local to where I live. The anti-biotics I took though simply haven't left me with enough condition to ride properly," said the disappointed rider, who had won the previous year's event in a sprint.. "If I had tried to [finish], then the damage would be greater."

Kalentieva is already looking toward ahead. "Together with the Olympics, the World Championship is my highlight of the season. For that reason I need to be 100% fit."

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for complete coverage coming up for this weekend's round of the UCI World Cup.

Australians select worlds team

Australia selected its full team to compete in the UCI MTB World Championships in Val di Sole, Italy, from June 17 to 22. The team includes reigning world champion Sam Hill, who will be out to defend his downhill title.

Australian National Team for the UCI MTB World Championships

Elite Men
4X: Leigh Darrell, Cody Eichorn, Jared Graves, Randall Huntington, Alex Lloyd, Terry Scarr, Thomas Twentyman
DH: Bryn Atkinson, Amiel Cavalier, Ben Cory, Mitchell Delfs, Sam Hill, Chris Kovarik, Jared Rando, Nathan Rennie
XC: Chris Jongewaard, Daniel McConnell, Sid Taberlay

U23 Men
XC: Lachlan Norris, Paul Van Der Ploeg

Elite Women
4X: Caroline Buchanan, Sarsha Huntington
DH: Sarsha Huntington, Emma McNaughton, Claire Whiteman
XC: Dellys Franke-Starr

Junior Men
DH: Tamryn Murrell, Shaun O'Connor, Tom Patton, Dylan Prohm, Matthew Vincent, Rhys Willemse
XC: Peter Braunsteins, Charlton Durie, Luke Fetch, Robbie Hucker, Daniel Johnston

Junior Women
DH: Caroline Buchanan
XC: Rebecca Henderson

US juniors and U23s chosen for worlds

USA Cycling selected twelve junior and U23 cross country athletes for the national team racing at the UCI MTB World Championships in Val di Sole, Italy, June 17-22. Nominations include eight men and four women.

In the U23 ranks, Sam Jurekovic received the only automatic nomination to the men's team after placing fourth among the elites at the Fontana NMBS in March. He is joined by Colin Cares, Mitchell Peterson and Tim Allen, who received discretionary nominations.

On the women's side, Jamie Dinkins received the only automatic nomination after turning in the top U23 performance at the Fontana NMBS. Chloe Forsman received the sole discretionary nomination.

In the junior division, Kerry Werner and John Bennett received automatic nominations after Werner's victory at the Greenbrier Challenge and Bennett's win at the Santa Ynez National. Robbie Squire and Seamus Powell will join them as discretionary selections.

Jill Behlen won the Greenbrier Challenge in April to solidify her automatic nomination, while Deidre York took the victory at Santa Ynez to earn her spot on the junior women's squad.

The rest of the US team will be announced on June 9.

US National Team for the UCI MTB World Championships (partial)
U23 men XC: Sam Jurekovic, Colin Cares, Mitchell Peterson, Tim Allen
U23 women XC: Jamie Dinkins, Chloe Forsman
Junior men XC: Kerry Werner, John Bennett, Robbie Squire, Seamus Powell
Junior women XC: Jill Behlen, Deidre York

The brightening star in the Subaru-Gary Fisher sky

By James Huang

Schultz has many tools available to him
Photo ©: James Huang
(Click for larger image)

Sam Schultz is only just starting his second year as a professional mountain bike racer but the 23 year-old Missoula, Montana native who now calls Colorado Springs home has already been drawing attention with his impressive mix of climbing speed and even flatland power that belies his lanky frame. Schultz won the short track and finished second in the cross-country at this spring's Sea Otter Classic and then gained some valuable experience on the World Cup stage in Offenburg and Madrid.

As a member of the well-stocked Subaru-Gary Fisher team, Schultz enjoys the luxury of having several different bikes at his disposal (not to mention a new Subaru WRX wagon... vroom vroom!). Included in the stable for any given event are an aluminium hardtail and Gary Fisher's new HiFi Race short-travel full suspension platform, both with 26" wheels, as well as the company's new Superfly carbon fiber 29"-wheeled hardtail flyer.

Schultz had 29" bikes available to him last year but rarely opted for one on race day given their extra mass. However, reasonably successful forays into the larger wheel size by team-mate Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and the Superfly's newly svelte sub-1.3kg (2.9lb) weight have made the choice much more palatable this time around.

"I think this year I'm going to be on it a lot," said Schultz. "It's as light as my 26" [bike]. That's one of the big things is that it's a little bit heavier. In the past I haven't picked it on climbing courses as much but now it's going to be more of a viable option.

"Basically, if the overall speed is fairly high then the two-niner seems good but if it gets really tight and twisty and the overall speed is low, then it's maybe not quite as good just because the acceleration is a little bit slower because you've got some more weight in the wheels. It handles super well but still, in the super tight stuff, it's a slight weak point. I actually really like it for short track. Cornering on this thing is unreal."

Read the complete Pro Bike feature.

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