MTB news & racing round-up for January 7, 2009
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Edited by Sue George
Stander gets an early start
Neethling looking forward to racing at home
Burry Stander racing for South
Africa at the World Championships
Photo ©: Rob Jones
The first round of the MTN South African Cup series will get underway
this weekend in Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch, where U23 World Cup champion
Burry Stander will make his season debut with his new Team Specialized.
He'll be racing the cross country with a field comprised most of fellow
racers from South Africa.
"I'm looking forward to the race as it's a good way to gauge my
form after the holidays, most of which were spent doing base mileage training
in preparation for the Absa Cape Epic at the end of March," said
"It's quite a technical course with plenty of rocks - making it
difficult to find and maintain momentum, so I'll be riding my full-suspension
bike," said Stander, who was forced to withdraw while leading last
year's race due to a mechanical problem.
Stander's main opposition will come from African cross country champion
Ben-Melt Swanepoel, South African cross country champion Brandon Stewart
and Max Knox (all DCM Chrome); Francois Theron and Philip Buys (Garmin);
Mathys Beukes (MTN Energade); and Renay Goustra (Red Mongoose).
Among Stander's supporters at the event will be girlfriend Cherise Taylor,
the 2007 junior road race world championship silver medallist and current
South African road champion; and Stander's new Specialized teammate and
current cross country World Champion Christoph Sauser, with whom he'll
partner at the Cape Epic.
In the absence of current South African champion Amy Jane Mundy (Rocky
Mountain) and African champion Yolande Speedy (IMC Racing Activeworx),
the women's cross-country event will lack depth, but is still expected
to produce a strong contest with the likes of Tania Raats (Fox Maverick),
Yolandi du Toit (DCM Chrome), Mariske Strauss (MTN Energade) and Caitlin
de Wet (Mr Price Scott).
Offering UCI category 2 points, the event is expected to draw those hoping
to earn the points needed to start the first UCI World Cup event of 2009
in Pietermartizburg, South Africa, in April.
In Sunday's downhill event, Andrew Neethling (Trek) will be a marked
man by a field of mostly younger riders bristling with ambition and talent.
Neethling finished 11th overall in the 2008 World Cup and will be eager
to start his new year with a new team on a winning note. The 2007 national
champion won this event last year and he is ready to put himself and his
bike through its paces on a course that's mostly smooth and fast.
"It's not a very technical course, but it's really fast and narrow
which requires quick reaction times so it's sure to provide an interesting
contest," said Neethling. "It's always good to race at home
and I'm looking forward competing against the top South African-based
Neethling's biggest challenge for the top step of the podium is likely
to come from his brother Jonty Neethling (Morewood), Johann Potgieter
(Cannondale) and sub-veteran Gary Barnard (Morewood).
The MTN South African Cup Series is the country's most prestigious cross-country
and downhill racing series and comprises five events, including the national
New Zealand national series opens in Rotorua
It was a European affair at the first round of the 2009 Raboplus New
Zealand North Island Downhill Cup in Rotorua. Ben Lathrow from England
won the elite men's category whilst France's Emmeline Ragot won the elite
women's gravity race.
Race Organiser Dave Hamilton was pleased to see a good mix of international
contingents as well as a lot of local competitors. "It is great to
see a good international flavour alongside the many local riders in the
race," he said of the 202 riders pinning it down a track in the Whakarewarewa
The sun turned up the heat on what would otherwise have been an incredibly
muddy track after the previous day's intermittent heavy rain. The track
was still sticky and changed throughout the day, forcing riders concentrate
on their run to stay on their lines. With a time of 3:30.08, Cathro defeated
Cameron Cole by a tenth of a second and Aari Barret by just under one
Frenchwoman Emmeline Ragot, racing for the first time in the series,
enjoyed her runs and won by a comfortable 7.35 seconds over Gabrielle
Molloy. "The track was great, with good technical sections, and I
didn't mind the mud at all because I enjoy racing in these conditions,"
she said. Harriet Harper finished third.
The cross country opening round, held the day before, proved a more domestic
affair and was won by Mike Northcott and Annika Smail.
Northcott's win came by just a bike length as he sprinted to the finish
in heavy rain ahead of Stuart Houltham. The two had been battling it out
with local rider and international road cycling talent and Classics' specialist
Clinton Avery, who crashed out of his 20 second lead on a treacherously
slippery descent just two kilometers from the end of the race.
In the women's race, Smail took the title by a large margin over first-year
elite racer Monique Avery and Nicole Swain.
The next round of the North Island Cross Country series will happen at
Woodhill Mountain Bike Park, near Auckland on January 10. Round two of
the North Island Downhill Cup returns to Whakarewarewa Forest on January
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of round one of the New Zealand
North Island Downhill and
Cross Country Cup.
Kenda / Morewood signs Aussie pair
Nathan Rennie (Aus) used to race
for Santa Cruz Syndicate
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
Australians Nathan Rennie and Mitchell Delfs will represent the Kenda
Morewood World Cup racing team on the downhill circuit in 2009.
27-year-old Rennie, a former overall UCI World Cup Downhill Champion
and Junior World Champion, is a regular World Cup podium visitor. After
several World Cup podiums in 2008, with his highlight being second on
home turf at the Canberra round, Rennie is looking forward to the 2009
World Cup and the World Championships.
"I am super happy to be where I am in 2009. I'm stuck in training
already and my knee feels good. It won't be long before it will be 100%.
I feel like the change for me is for the better for all parties and just
want to get racing again," said Rennie.
Delfs, 19, is still one of the young guns on the World Cup circuit. After
a good performance during the 2007 World Cup in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada,
and a fourth place at 2007 Junior World Championships, he was given the
opportunity to participate in his first full World Cup season in 2008.
Delfs has progressed from race to race and after two top 10 finishes in
the second part of the season, he has become a contender for
"It's going to be an exciting year, with a great bike and good factory
support to race on. I'm sure there will be a few World Cups with my name
on it. With a new team mate as fast as Nathan Rennie I know my riding
will improve," said Delfs.
The pair will race the Morewood Makulu in races and train on the Mbuzi,
Shova and Ndiza.
SRAM Fund awards money to IMBA
The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) received a US$200,000
grant from the SRAM Cycling Fund. It was the second award from the Fund,
which was created on September 30, 2008. During the next five years, the
Fund plans to award $10 million in grants to support cycling advocacy
programs around the world that focus on improving bicycling.
SRAM President and CEO, Stan Day, acknowledged IMBA's achievements. "It
is hard to imagine where mountain biking would be today without IMBA's
trail building and restoration efforts over the last 20 years. Mike Van
Abel, his staff and hundreds of IMBA grassroots volunteers have a proven
track record. We are confident that SRAM's contribution to IMBA will be
a powerful investment in the future of mountain biking."
Mike Van Abel, Executive Director of IMBA, talked about how the funds
will be put to use.
"We are extremely excited about SRAM's contribution. These new funds
will allow IMBA to build more new trails and build them quicker. We will
invest $150,000 to add professional staff on a regional basis to bolster
local clubs capacity to build and maintain trails, and $50,000 in our
new grassroots fundraising program, Team IMBA, which also funds new trails,"
said Van Abel.
SRAM will announce more grants in the next few weeks.
Trek and Volkswagen end 13-year cycling partnership
By Sue George
Trek / VW's Jeff Schalk won the
men's NUE series in 2008
Photo ©: Chris Scott
Trek Bicycle confirmed reports
of the demise of its Trek / VW Factory Mountain Bike Team with an
announcement that the company had ended its 13-year partnership with Volkswagen
of America effective with the close of the 2008 calendar year. The collaboration
was one of the longest running and most successful in mountain biking
and cycling in general. For mountain bike racers, the team's cessation
marks the end of an era in which the predominantly red, black and white
colors of Trek / VW were seen nearly every weekend at local, regional
and national off-road races in the US.
"This has been a great alliance since its inception in 1995,"
Trek's Director of Marketing Dean Gore said. "Volkswagen has been
a great partner not only to Trek, but also to the sport of mountain biking
and cycling in general. Staying with one program for over 13 years is
relatively unheard of in the fast-paced world of auto marketing. And even
though they have decided not to continue with Trek in 2009, we still feel
indebted to VW for their loyalty and support over the years. Volkswagen
vehicles took us to a lot of races over the years and allowed Trek athletes
to chase a lot of dreams."
Former US national short track champion Sue Haywood, current US marathon
and short track national champion Jeremiah Bishop, current US National
24 hour solo champion Chris Eatough, National Ultra-Endurance (NUE) series
champions Jeff Schalk and Cheryl Sornson, Ross Schnell and Lea Davison
are just some of the many names of riders who grew their careers with
the Trek / VW regional and national level mountain bike squads.
What started with the 1996 Volkswagen Jetta Trek, a limited-edition Jetta
outfitted with a roof rack and special-edition Trek mountain bike, and
a four-man professional mountain bike team, grew into a full strength
men's and women's professional and amateur team that racked up a total
of 10 World Championships in cross country, dual slalom, all mountain,
and 24-hour solo events.
In addition to the teams, the partnership also backed the Ride the Best
Demo Tour and the Fit For Women Tour, two programs which offered bicycle
test rides at cycling and automotive events throughout the US. Trek will
continue to operate both programs without Volkswagen. It will also continue
sponsorship of a racing team, one with an emphasis on World Cup and other
international mountain bike events. The names on the new World Cup team's
roster differ from the now-defunct factory team.
Tracy Moseley and Liam Killeen of Great Britain, Justin Leov of New Zealand,
Andrew Neethling of South Africa and Swiss brothers Lukas Flueckiger and
Matthias Flueckiger will comprise the new World Cup team. Eatough previously
told Cyclingnews that he has one year left on his contract and
will be racing for Trek in 2009.
"While the end of Trek/VW stirs up many emotions," said Michael
Browne, Trek's Global MTB Brand Manager, "Trek is committed to racing.
As sad as we are to see the VW team end, we're really excited to usher
in a new era with the new Trek World Cup Racing program, operated by 23
Degrees Sports Management. The World Cup program is global in scope and
is the first World Cup team in years to combine highly competitive cross
country and downhill racing into the same program."
Näf finishes among strong mountain bike contingent at Flüüger
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
Mountain bikers put in a strong showing at the Flüüger Quer cyclo-cross
race in Dübendorf, Switzerland, on Sunday. They collected six of the top
fifteen finishes in the elite men's race.
Multivan Merida's Ralph Näf overcame 30th place starting position
to work his way up to the front. He finished second, 21 seconds back,
behind Simon Zahner (Rendementhypo Cycling Team). After another 20 seconds,
Florian Vogel (Scott-Swisspower Mountainbike-Team) followed for third
Lukas Flückiger (Trek) finished seventh while, Marcel Wildhaber
(Scott-Swisspower Mountainbike-Team) finished 11th, José-Antonio
Hermida (Multivan Merida Biking Team) ended in 12th and Martin Gujan (Cannondale)
came in 15th.
Next weekend Näf will contest the Swiss national cyclo-cross championships
before he heads to South Africa to continue preparations for the 2009
mountain bike season.
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Flüüger
Registration open for singlespeed worlds
Organizers have opened registration for the Singlespeed World Mountain
Bike Championships to be held September 16-20 in Durango, Colorado.
The championship race will take place on Saturday, September 19, one
day prior to the Tour of Durango. Racers in the worlds race will cover
one big, timed loop all over the Durango area, but the non-competitive
Tour of Durango will not be timed.
Entries in worlds are open to 500 total racers, and all women will be
guaranteed a spot if their entries are postmarked before January 23. Anyone
who received the approximately 143 randomly distributed spoke cards at
the 2008 Singlespeed Mountain Bike World Championships in Napa, California,
is also guaranteed entries as are past winners and those who submit a
singlespeed-related film for the 1X1 Film Festival. Everyone else will
have to participate in the coloring contest and hope for the best.
For more information, including entry forms for coloring, visit www.sswc09.wordpress.com.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing Limited 2009)