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MTB news & racing round-up for September 5, 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

Tahoe-Sierra last stop on the 2008 NUE series tour

By Harlan Price

Jeff Schalk will claim the overall NUE title this coming weekend
Photo ©: Chris Scott
(Click for larger image)

The Tahoe Sierra 100 will mark the end of the 2008 NUE series coming up this weekend on September 6. Look for some of the stiffest competition to show with every winner of the men's 2008 NUE series races in attendance.

US National Marathon and Short Track Champion Jeremiah Bishop will be coming from two weeks at high elevation in Brian Head, Utah. Josh Tostado will be driving out from Breckenridge, Colorado. Jeff Schalk and US 24 Hour Solo Champion Chris Eatough will be trekking from the East, as well as Harlan Price, who will be returning to his first race since fracturing his wrist a month ago. Evan Plews, who has been absent from the hundred milers since Lumberjack 100, also plans to attend.

A US$2,500 for first place will be sure to pull a couple more heavy hitters to the line-up.

After last weekend's record-breaking women's attendance at the Shenandoah Mountain 100, the women's field in California will have fewer of the top women, but Cheryl Sornson, who has the women's series locked up, has committed. There is no word yet on the other favorites.

Though the top overall spots are filled, there are still some battles for second and third overall positions in the series. Eatough will have to keep behind him by the finish line to keep his small lead for second place.

In an exciting series battle, the men's singlespeed class features a tie between Fuzzy John Myline and Chris McGill going into the final race. All ties will be decided at the California finale.

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage.

Olympians headline next Swisspower Cup

Sabine Spitz (Germany)
Photo ©: Casey Gibson
(Click for larger image)

The final race of the Swisspower Cup heads to Bern for its final round of the season on September 6-7. Saturday will feature a marathon with 45 and 23km options plus kids' events, and the elites, amateurs and masters will race a cross country Sunday. The race is drawing several of the top-placing Olympians.

In the men's race, World Champion Christoph Sauser will take on Swedish Champion Frederik Kessiakoff, Florian Vogel and Olympic bronze medallist Nino Schurter. In addition, last weekend's World Cup winner Ralph Näf will be on hand as will the Flückiger Brothers, Martin Gujan will join the fray, and Thomas Frischknecht will tackle his in his last professional race on Swiss soil.

Gujan goes into the final with the lead over Vogel. Italian Marco Aurelio Fontana and Schurter will battle for third.

In the women's race, Olympic champion Sabine Spitz will make the trip from Germany, and she will face bronze medallist Russian Irina Kalentieva, Austrian champion Elisabeth Osl, Italian champion Eva Lechner and Swiss racers Petra Henzi, Nathalie Schneitter, Maroussia Rusca and Kathrin Leumann. Rusca leads the series for the ladies going into the finale.

For more information, visit www.swisspowercup.ch.

Bikes Belong awards $33,000 in grants

Industry coalition Bikes Belong announced three more grants benefitting mountain bikers and worth US$33,000 to build community paths in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Oklahoma and to build singletrack in Colorado.

A $10,000 grant will support the Centre Region Bicycle Coalition's Musser Gap Greenway project in State College, Pennsylvania. The greenway will connect the Penn State campus and downtown State College to the great trails and natural beauty of the Rothrock State Forest, a popular venue for mountain biking. The partnership also expects to receive a grant from the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to help fund the greenway.

Groundwork Minneapolis will receive a $10,000 grant to help complete the Ryan Lake Trail in north Minneapolis, Minnesota. They'll use Bikes Belong's grant as a match for DNR and community funding to construct a highway underpass, completing the first phase of the multi-use path. This project will serve bike commuters and recreational riders in north Minneapolis and nearby inner-ring suburbs, who currently have no safe way to access the regional trail system to the south.

An $8,000 grant will support Team Evergreen Trailblazers' trail work in the Buffalo Creek Recreation Area of the Pike National Forest. A major destination for mountain bikers from the Denver and Colorado Springs metro areas, the trail system at Buffalo Creek is well loved—and well used. Trail expansion there will help mitigate user conflict by giving equestrians, mountain bikers, and hikers more room to ride and roam.

The City of Enid, Oklahoma, will use their $5,000 grant to begin to construct its comprehensive multi-use trail system. Enid, a rural community north of Oklahoma City, currently has no trails for active transportation and recreation-and 98% of its street infrastructure is without sidewalks. Their "Master Trail" system, as it has come to be called, will improve the quality of life in Enid by providing residents with a safe, inviting route for walking, running, and bicycling. Bikes Belong's grant will help match OK DOT grants and local funds for path construction.

IMBA hiring new Trail Care Crew

The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) announced a search for a full-time, professional two-person team to join the Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew program. This job requires a passion for mountain biking, excellent communication and volunteer organizational skills, and team compatibility. The Crew will travel nearly all year in a specially outfitted 2009 Subaru Outback.

The Trail Care Crews work to grow the mountain bike community, improve the social and environmental sustainability of trails, and motivate mountain biking volunteers to give back to the sport. Couples that enjoy travel and adventure, love to work outside and want to help improve trails and mountain biking are encouraged to apply for this two-year commitment.

The application deadline is Oct. 3, 2008.

For more information, including detailed job responsibilities, visit www.imba.com.

Tour de France organizers go off road

The Amaury Sport Organization, organizers of the Tour de France, have created an off-road race, the Merrell Oxygen Challenge scheduled from May 21-24. ASO already promotes motorsports, equestrian and golf events in addition to road cycling. Seven events will fill four days of competition. The prologue, cross country marathon and enduro results will be combined to determine an overall winner.

Registration will open September 15. Visit www.oxygenchallenge.com for more information.

Diablo Free Ride Park gets new partner

On its 30th birthday, Jamis Bicycles announced further sponsorship of the Diablo Freeride Park, in Vernon, New Jersey. The park, which hosts the US Open of Downhill, is just one hour from Jamis headquarters, and the company's product managers regularly take advantage of Diablo's network of jump lines, ramps, wall rides and downhill trails to bang up product and initiate new office staff.

"We've spent the better part of the past year testing prototypes of this bike at Diablo," said Jamis MTB product manager Craig Hoyt "so it only made sense to partner up with the park and make something happen. Those guys and gals do such a great job and it's right in our backyard. We're really excited to see how Jamis and Diablo can work together to invigorate East Coast mountain biking."

Bennett & Gordon lead Aussie attack on Crocodile Trophy

Il Campioni Mauro Bettin won the 2007 Crocodile Trophy
Photo ©: John Flynn
(Click for larger image)

The strongest and best-credentialed line-up of Australians yet to contest the Crocodile Trophy will face-off against the Europeans when Australia's legendary outback classic hits the dirt and dust of remote Tropical North Queensland on October 21.

Confirming its participation, the Merida Flight Centre team, led by Perth's Tim Bennett, will return for a second shot at winning what will surely be another long, hot and tough stage race.

Bennett became only the second Australian to make the podium of the Crocodile Trophy last year, when he finished an impressive third behind former World Cup Champion Mauro Bettin of Italy and Ondrej Fojtik of the Czech Republic. In 2008, Bennett will once again be joined by Merida Flight Centre team-mate Nick Both, who showed superb form to finish second in last weekend's 2008 edition of the Flight Centre Epic at Peppers Hiddenvale. Both was beaten by Australian Champion Chris Jongeward, on a day when the Merida Flight Centre Team did enough to suggest the goal of winning the Crocodile Trophy is not beyond reach.

"Yeah sure, I think I can finish higher on the podium this year at the Crocodile Trophy," Bennett said after battling illness to finish fifth on Sunday. "I learnt a lot last year and know what I have to do; it's a tough race."

The Merida Flight Centre Team won't just have the Europeans to worry about at this year's Trophy, with the announcement that 2006 24 hours of Adrenaline World 24 Hour Solo Champion Craig Gordon will be putting an end to the talk and showing up to contest the race many of his fellow Australians have long been frightened to enter. Gordon, who has been rumoured to start many times previously, will finally get his opportunity to "show the Euros how it's done", after being handed a wild-card entry.

With Australia's "Croc Man", two-time champion Adam Hansen (Team Columbia) unlikely to make it home from Europe in time to race his beloved Trophy, the opportunity awaits for another home-grown talent to earn international gravitas on the dusty corrugated roads of Australia's steamy tropical north. "It's great to see the Australians getting hungry and with the Merida Flight Centre Team returning I believe Bennett could be a chance for the overall classification if circumstances go his way," Race Supremo Gerhard Schoenbacher said. "If you ask Adam Hansen, Christophe Stevens or Mauro Bettin, the former champions will all tell you that you must experience the hardship of the Crocodile Trophy before you can win it."

The start-list for the fourteenth staging of The Trophy, from Mareeba to Cape Tribulation in Australia's remote Far North, has been capped at a record 100 riders, with the Belgian contingent alone expected to number close to forty when the final marquee signings are made public.

On the other side of Europe, a dozen battle-hardened mountain bikers from the Czech Republic have confirmed their attendance at the iconic race. They include triple stage-winner Ondrej Fojtik, who will enter as provisional favourite. The two-time runner-up (2004 and 2007) made a vow at the end of last year's Trophy to "one day come back and win this great race." Fojtik's 2008 campaign has raised the stakes to a new level. He will return as part of a ten-man contingent from Czech team VIG+ Racing, fronting a lineup stacked with Marathon World Cup talent.

"We always welcome the Czech riders at the Crocodile Trophy, they bring with them a strong work ethic and survival instincts, especially Fojtik," said Schoenbacher. "As Fojtik and Radoslav (Radek) Sibl have also shown us in recent years, the Czech mountain bikers have strong endurance qualities and are always threatening in the final days of the race."

Cyclists from 13 nations have already signed on from Australia, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Italy, Austria, The United States, Spain, The Czech Republic, Great Britain, Denmark, and Switzerland.

2008 Crocodile Trophy
October 21: Stage 1 - Mareeba - Irvinebank 86km/1100m
October 22: Stage 2 - Irvinebank - Koombooloomba 128km/1400m
October 23: Stage 3 - Koombooloomba-Gunnawarra 122km/2235m Thursday, 23. October
October 24: Stage 4 -Gunnawarra-Chillagoe 130km/900m
October 25: Stage 5 - Chillagoe-Chillagoe 120km/850m
October 26: Stage 6 - Chillagoe-Mount Mulgrave 138km/800m Sunday, 26. October
October 27: Stage 7 - Mount Mulgrave-Laura 148km/1100m Monday, 27. October
October 28: Stage 8 - Laura-Cooktown 142km/1050m
October 29: Stage 9 - Cooktown-Ayton 128km/1900m
October 30: Stage 10 - Ayton-Cape Tribulation 48km/520m

For more information, visit www.crocodile-trophy.com.

Fort William to host unusual downhill endurance race

Around 120 downhillers are set to participate in the inaugural Fort William Downhill Endurance event in Fort William, Scotland, on Sunday, September 7. The event will be staged on the internationally renowned downhill track at Nevis Range, home to the 2007 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships.

As one of the longest and most physically demanding courses on the international race circuit, riders will need physical strength, quick reflexes, superb bike control and an unerring eye for the right line as they speed down the 2.82km Nevis Range track. They will also need huge amounts of stamina in order to ride the track as many times as possible in six hours.

The Nevis Range Downhill course is a full-on, flat-out, no-compromise charge down the face of Aonach Mor, the ninth highest mountain in the United Kingdom. A succession of big jumps and bumps, berms, drop-offs, rock slabs and technical natural sections provide plenty of challenges for the riders, all the way from the top gondola station (at 655m) to the finish section above the Nevis Range car park (100m).

Local elite rider Chris Hutchens (Team Mojo Orange) has signed up and will lead a strong field including Stu Thompson and Iain Cookson

'The Fort William Downhill Endurance is a new and totally unique event to the UK and it has already captured the imagination of some of the key players in the downhill community," said organizer Frazer Coupland. "It is a fresh, new and different event, whilst challenging enough to be completely in keeping with the gnarly hardcore scene normally associated with downhill riders.

Although it is a downhill race, it will start with an uphill Le Mans style start, which will separate the field in the early stages. After a short run to the event tech area downhill bikes will be collected and ridden uphill to the Nevis Range Gondola's Tower Nine – about three quarters of the way down from the top. Riders will then race as fast as possible to the bottom where they will catch the gondola to the traditional start of the track at the top station. Each descent will be timed with the cumulative descent times counting in cases of equal total numbers of descents.

The event will test not only endurance but reliability. Participants will only be allowed one bike and a list of itemised spares to see them through the whole event. There will be time penalties for riders who have to change wheels, forks, bars, frames and other major components and riders will not be allowed assistance outside the tech area.

For more information, visit www. nofussevents.co.uk.

Gunn-Rita Diary: No success at the Olympics

Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway)
Photo ©: Casey Gibson
(Click for larger image)

It's tough having to drop out of the Olympics because of technical problems, but the disappointment would have been even greater if I had been in the lead when I had the accident. Realistically speaking, I really wasn't a candidate for the gold medal this time, but very few believed us.

Now it's four years until next Olympics. Time flies and I'm happy to have a long term goal to be working towards again. But right now I'm looking forward to a solid winter of proper foundation training. It will give me strength and stability so I can compete at the top through a whole season again. Now we're looking back on a fantastic comeback season which has given us one World Cup win, a medal in the European Championships and a World Cup title. At the beginning of this season, we couldn't even have dreamed about such great success.

I encountered a lot of disappointed people after the race in Beijing. With my limited foundation, it just wasn't realistic to expect the same kind of success as I had in Athens. We've repeatedly tried to convey in great detail to the media and people in general what my physical condition has been through the season, but it's been difficult getting them to actually believe what we've been saying.

I'm thrilled about the season this year. I'm back at the top again. I find no reason to be depressed because of a bad day in Beijing, technical problems and a bit of drama while training in the preceding days - it's all part of being an athlete. I've experienced unbelievably many gold medals through my career, and there will be more of them. We quickly put bad days behind us, only paying attention to the experiences which can be used for further improvement.

Read the complete diary entry.

Tour of the White Mountains changes for 2008

The 13th annual Show Low Bluff Tour of the White Mountains presented by Cellular One is taking on a new look and picking up some new trails for 2008.

The endurance mountain biking event, which will be held Saturday, October 4, still will be on trails in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest located near Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona, but some of those trails are new. More recent additions to the forests' trail system including Timber Mesa, Panorama, Ice Caves and Ice Caves connector trails will be added this year, with the previously more enjoyable sections of the route including Los Burros, Country Club and Blue Ridge trails remaining part of the course.

"The Apache Sitgreaves National Forest and TRACKS, the local trail construction and advocacy club, have worked hard to rehab the Ice Caves trail and build the new Ice Caves-Timber Mesa connector trail, called the Osprey Trail. With completion of the Osprey Trail, people will be able to get on the White Mountain Trail System at the Timber Mesa trail head and hike, mountain bike, or ride horses all the way to the Los Burros Trail," said Nick Lund, TRACKS president. "These trails exemplify the best of Northern Arizona riding, with climbs, fun and challenging, groovy singletrack, and of course spectacular mountain scenery."

The Show Low Bluffs property will also be a new venue for the race. "The site offers amazing camping, and it's close to town," said promoter Todd Sadow, who mentioned it's also close to the official race hotel.

The weekend kicks off with an inaugural White Mountains Jam Session on Saturday evening including Xtra Ticket, Arizona's longest standing Grateful Dead cover band, and Kindread a Reggae band from Glendale

To support the International Mountain Bicycling Association's "Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day", also October 4, organizers will offer all youths 18 and under a 50 percent discount on entry fees for the eight and 15 mile rides

For more information, visit epicrides.com/towm/towm.htm.

Widmer Brothers Rivers Edge Marathon to Charlotte

North Carolina's Charlotte Sports Cycling and the US National Whitewater Center have teamed up to host the Widmer Brothers Rivers Edge Mountain Bike Marathon. The 50 mile mountain bike race on Sunday, September 7 will serve as the USA Cycling's Southeast Marathon Championships for determining 12 champions.

The 50 mile race will consist of six 8.4 mile laps of tough singletrack. The course terrain at the US National Whitewater Center is rolling with three tough climbs gaining approximately 750 feet each lap. Neutral food and mechanic support for all racers will be provided.

For more information, visit www.charottemtnbike.com

Highland Fling sells out

Australia's Highland Fling marathon has sold out. The event, which doubles as the marathon championship, will run on November 8-9. In three weeks, all 1400 entries were sold, breaking a record for the popular event in the Southern Highlands of NSW.

Endurance junkies who missed the Highland Fling opportunity may want to sign up for another event from these promoters. Wild Horizons recently introduced the inaugural BMC Mountains To Beach, five-day stage race, set for March 1-6, 2009.

For more information, visit www.wildhorizons.com.au.

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