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MTB news & racing round-up for February 6, 2009

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

Buchanan a World Cup privateer in 2009

By Greg Johnson

Caroline Buchanan
Photo ©: Evan Jeffery
(Click for larger image)

Up-and-coming Australian mountain biker Caroline Buchanan is looking to ride a selected, self-funded World Cup program in 2009, after being unable to find a team for this season. Buchanan won her first World Cup race in August last year, in the 4X discipline of her home round, having made her World Cup debut just months earlier in North America.

"I have had many dramas and struggles trying to pick up a ride for 2009," said Buchanan. "I am riding as a privateer, you could say. Mum and dad - my biggest sponsors - are going to scrape the bank and hopefully get me to some of the World Cups, but I won't be able to get to all of them this year because it's just too expensive.

"This is pretty disappointing for me as doing the whole World Cup MTB series was one of my goals for 2009," she added.

The Canberra local hopes to contest this year's World Cup rounds in Andorra, Scotland and Slovenia. She will also take part in the UCI World Mountain Bike Championships which will be held in Canberra, Australia ­ where she claimed her maiden World Cup win and also grew up.

While Buchanan is disappointed she hasn't gotten a sponsored ride this season, it hasn't all been bad news. In addition to winning another Australian 4X title last month, Buchanan has joined the Australian BMX Elite Development Squad, training towards the 2012 Olympic Games in London, United Kingdom.

Buchanan will contest the Denmark BMX Supercross event before starting her mountain biking program. She will also contest the UCI BMX World Championships held in Adelaide, Australia this year.

"I think I am very lucky this year to have two World Championships in Australia and I'm definitely going to make the most of it," she said.

Behind the scenes of mountain bike management

Martin Whitley
Photo ©: Mountain Biking UK
(Click for larger image)

Former downhill racer and UCI official Martin Whiteley takes a look at future of mountain biking. Mountain Biking UK goes behind the scenes at Whiteley's 23 Degrees Sports Management company, a successful business venture that has represented athletes like reigning World Cup champion and former World Champion downhiller Greg Minnaar. For 2009, 23 Degrees is backing the Trek World Cup team. 23 Degrees' previous teams, which have won World Cup titles, include Global Racing and the more recent Team G Cross Honda.

Mountain Biking UK: What is 23 Degrees Sports Management?

Martin Whiteley: We're a secretariat for the riders. We handle sponsorship contracts, special invites to promotional races and events, help with their interviews and look after websites, as well as working on their media profile in many national markets. I speak four languages so that helps with contacts overseas. We also advise on other issues like race season strategies, off-bike professionalism and so on.

MBUK: What's with the number 23?

MW: That could take up the entire interview, but if anyone's seen the movie Number 23 with Jim Carrey, it's kind of like that but with a little less mania. It's a number that's been ever present in my life, maybe through coincidence or whatever - but it became my race number, then a nickname. It seemed logical to name my company after the fact that the world does actually spin on an axis of 23 degrees. There's a lot more to it, but that's for another day.

MBUK: Why sports management?

MW: I was always a lot better at admin than I was at racing downhill, and I found that most top-level downhill racers are way better at racing than handling admin! It looked the perfect way for me to continue working in a sport I live for, and to help riders I really respect.

Read the complete feature.

Former World Champion Dupouey commits suicide

Former mountain bike World Champion Christophe Dupouey committed suicide Wednesday evening in Tarbes, France. He was said to have suffered from depression.

Dupouey won the World championship title in 1998, and finished fourth in the Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1996.

In 2006 he was given a suspended three-month prison sentence for participating in a trafficking network for "pot belge", a mix of cocaine, caffeine, pain killers, sometimes amphetamines and heroin.

Jongewaard and King conquer the heat in Mt. Buller

By Sharon Payne

National Champion Chris Jongewaard
Photo ©: Evan Jeffery
(Click for larger image)

Newly crowned national champion, Chris Jongewaard, backed up his win at the Australian titles last Sunday by winning the fourth national series round in Mt Buller. Jongewaard rode the five laps in an impressive 2:09:17 over a newly-developed, 8km cross course and called the race tougher than winning the national championships last weekend in Canberra. With his win, Jongewaard kept his series lead, with only one race remaining.

"I reckon last weekend was a little bit easier for me," said Jongewaard. "The first couple of laps were good but the course is so rough it gets you every lap, so it's very fatiguing out there."

Soaring temperatures elsewhere in the southern states reached over 40 degrees Celsius; however, 400 mountain bike riders at the event were relieved to race in mountain air that was nearly 10 degrees cooler. Many riders still succumbed to the heat and tough conditions, and even for Jongewaard it was the rocks that caused him to struggle in some sections of the course.

Zoe King
Photo ©: MTB Australia
(Click for larger image)
In the women's race, Zoe King from Manly won her first race of the national season after sitting behind national champion Rowena Fry early in the four-lap race. King pounced on Fry on the penultimate climb and gained a minute on her to secure the victory.

"It feels great, it's a really long day out in the heat. Two hours is a long race anyway and just to be in these temperatures it was hard work. I certainly went out conservatively and tried to stay strong," explained King.

Fry claimed second in a sprint for the line with Mt Beauty rider, Tory Thomas, in third. Jodie Willett finished seventh and kept her series lead.

Hill annihilates the competition

Sam Hill
Photo ©: Evan Jeffery
(Click for larger image)

Two-time World Champion, Sam Hill, annihilated his opposition in a blinding downhill run in the fourth National Series round in Mt Buller last weekend. Hill blitzed the 3km run in 3:18.84, beating National Champion Mick Hannah from Cairns by six seconds.

"It was pretty hard," admitted Hill. "I wanted to give it everything I had to see what time I could do. It's a fairly technical and a loose and dusty and dry course." Third was Amiel Cavalier from Wollongong.

Hill will spend two months in Perth to prepare for their assault on the World Cup series which has been dominated by Hill in previous years. "I've got two months before the first World Cup. I will just get as fit and strong as I can," explained Hill.

While there was little surprise in the men's winner, the women's race was the exception when Tasmanian downhiller Leigh Douglas took the win from National Champion Claire Whiteman from Canberra. The 30-year-old Canadian claimed the first win in her career after placing on the podium only once in the second round of the series.

"It feels awesome, especially when I called my parents back in Canada. It felt really, really good," smiled Douglas. She qualified fourth fastest but put in a convincing final run.

The fifth and final round of the Australian national series will be held in Hobart at the end of February.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the fourth round of the Australian National Series.

Spitz notes effect of Olympic win

Sabine Spitz of Germany won an Olympic gold medal in Beijing
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Winning the mountain bike gold medal at the Olympics in Beijing changed Sabine Spitz' life, but not her person. "I'm still me," she said. "But if I'm honest, I'm still just realising what I accomplished."

The changes include many more commercial offers, everything from judging beauty pageants to opening football games to appearing at cycling shows. Spitz, 37, is now asked to appear on German television and is interviewed for women and fitness magazines, according to badische-zeitung.de. In addition, she was voted female German cyclist of the year and was sixth overall as female athlete of the year.

Her husband and manager, Ralf Schäuble, noted however, that "Many people think that you have made your fortune with an Olympic win. But athletic successes don't necessarily bring financial successes with them." Spitz has acquired two new sponsors, "but not in a dramatic extent."

"We are moving in a problematic area. The financial crisis is having a negative effect on the sponsor market," Schäuble said.(SW)

Jean Christophe Peraud to ride for Massi

By BikeRadar

Olympic silver medallist Jean Christophe Peraud has signed with the Massi cross-country mountain bike team. The 31-year-old from Toulouse joins women's world champion Marga Fullana on the Massi UCI Team. He will ride the limited edition World Champion version of Massi's Pro Super Light carbon hardtail.

Spanish world champion heading to South Africa

Margarita Fullana, with her rainbow jersey,
Photo ©: Gary Perkin
(Click for larger image)

Spain's three-time world champion Margarita Fullana has confirmed that she will be competing in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, at the opening round of the 2009 UCI World Cup in April.

The pint-sized (1.59m, 50kg) Spaniard is one of the most successful female cross country racers of all time and will be one of the biggest names among the women competing at the event, which runs from April 10-12.

In 2008, Fullana finished on the podium at two rounds of the nine-event World Cup series, with victory at round four in Andorra. She also claimed her third world championship title in Italy, to go with her previous world titles in 1999 and 2000.

The 36-year-old Spaniard was also the European champion in 2006 and won the bronze medal the 2000 Olympic Games.

"It's the start of what we expect to be a flood of big name entrants," said Event Director Alec Lenferna. "It's the first round of this year's UCI World Cup, and it's in South Africa, a new venue, which has attracted much interest. We're expecting the biggest names in mountain bike racing to be here in April."

Kona's Factory team ready to race

Ryan Trebon
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
(Click for larger image)

Kona's Factory Racing Team is returning for 2009 with its riders from last year along with one new downhiller Joe Smith.

Tree Farm, also known as, Ryan Trebon, is back after winning the US National Cyclo-cross and overall North American Cyclo-cross Trophy (NACT) titles. Still tall and fast, Trebon's schedule will include a few stops on the Kenda US Cup Series, the Downieville Classic, Kona's 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo and a World Cup or four.

The other half of Kona's Twin Timbers, Barry Wicks, returns with his eyes locked on World Cup cross country races. Wicks will return to the BC Bike Race to defend his title along with teammate Kris Sneddon, who is returning after injury dampened part of his 2008 season. Wicks will also race at the Old Pueblo.

Back for his ninth season on a Kona rig, hometown hero Erik Tonkin will complete a handful of Kenda US Cup Series races and will attempt his first solo 24-hour race at Old Pueblo.

"It'll be like racing 24 'cross races in a row," Tonkin said.

Ripper Wendy Simms returns for another season, this one focusing on multi-stage races. Fresh off her fourth Canadian National cyclo-cross title, Simms will look to defend her BC Bike Race title with husband Norman Thibault.

Team newbie Smith, a three-time Junior Welsh National Champion and 2008 IXS European series winner, holds an impressive track record. He finished 18th overall and in the top five as a junior at the World Cups last year.

De Villiers on the road to recovery

Yolande de Villiers at the recent MTN National Marathon event in Barberton,
Photo ©: Fresh Media Solutions
(Click for larger image)

The long road to recovery took another encouraging turn for South Africa's top female marathon racer, Yolande de Villiers, when she won The Herald VW Mountain Bike Tour at the Addo Elephant National Park just outside Port Elizabeth last Saturday.

Racing for the Cycle Lab Supercycling Toyota team, De Villiers clocked four hours and 17 minutes for the 85km event, which hugged the boundary fence of the world-famous elephant park and took in some of the Eastern Cape's most rugged terrain.

It was her second victory in successive weekends following her win at the MTN National Marathon event in Barberton last weekend. De Villiers, the 2006 national marathon champion and winner (with Yolande Speedy) of the 2007 Cape Epic has undergone two operations to her left shoulder following a crash in mid-2007.

The injury and subsequent surgery virtually ruled her out of racing for most of last year, although she did finish second in the Mixed Category at the 2008 Cape Epic with Johan Labuschagne.

"I'm very happy with my result today," beamed the 35-year-old mother of three. "There was some very technical and bumpy terrain, and I made it through without any pain. The steep downhill switchbacks made me nervous but I got through them fine which will do wonders for my confidence, especially for this year's Cape Epic which is a lot more technical."

De Villiers, who still experiences complete numbness in her left arm and hand, has been told to expect another two years to reach full recovery.

"The nerve damage takes a long time to heal. At the moment, after two hours of riding, whether racing or training, my left hand and arm go numb, which requires some extra concentration, especially on tricky terrain," said De Villiers. "I may try switching from a hardtail to a dual suspension bike to see if that helps at all."

De Villiers is just happy to be riding again. "I couldn't ride my bike for ages and took up running to keep fit while my shoulder healed. Winning is great, but I'm a mountain biker and just riding my bike again makes me very, very happy!"

Counting down to the US Cup

The inaugural US Cup will kick off next month with round one of the Kenda Cup West on March 1 at Bonelli Park in San Dimas, California.

US Cup organizers are still working on their website, but in the meantime, Team Big Bear is serving as the acting host of information on the web at www.teambigbear.com. The US Cup website is set to go live at the end of February or early March at www.uscup.net. It will contain complete series details for both the Kenda Cup West/East series, along with the Pro XCT tour.

Round one of the ProXCT will happen in Fontana, California, on March 28-29. There, speed channel TV star and motorcycle stunt king Jason Britton will perform a stunt show, guest announce, and shoot a segment of his popular TV show SuperBikes. Britton joins motorcycles converts Johnny O'Mara and Ben Bostrom as part of Sho-Air International's efforts to reach to the mainstream while promoting the sport of mountain biking in the US.

"It's awesome that Jason wants to bring outside exposure to our sport," said Scott Tedro, the man behind the US Cup. "His stunt shows are unbelievable and will bring people who don't normally watch mountain bike racing into our venue. When Jason gets on the mic to pump the bicycle racers, that will bring mainstream credibility to our sport. Maybe we'll get him out for a lap or two on the cross country course!"

KLUNKERZ wins award

Cycling legends Gary Fisher and Charlie Kelly with actor Dennis Christopher
Photo ©: Steeltoes and Flannel
(Click for larger image)

KLUNKERZ won the 2009 "Cycling Film of the Year" honor at the 17th Annual Competitor Magazine Endurance Sports Awards. The film chronicles the birth of the off-road bicycle in the 1960s and 1970s, and the unique athletes and artisans credited with inventing the world-wide phenomenon. The black-tie gala was held last Saturday night in San Diego, California.

Cycling legends and subjects of the film, Gary Fisher and Charlie Kelly, were on-hand to support the film's writer/producer/director, Billy Savage, who accepted the award, which was presented by Dennis Christopher, star of the groundbreaking 1979 cycling film Breaking Away.

"I'm honored and humbled to be the recipient of this award. This award is for all of us, the cycling pioneers who trusted me to tell their story, and for my amazing crew who worked so hard on this film," said the slightly underdressed Savage.

The event raised funds for the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

(Additional editorial assistance by Susan Westemeyer)

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