MTB news & racing round-up for January 10, 2009
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Edited by Sue George
Defending NUE champions Schalk and Sornson face uncertain futures
By Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor
Photo ©: Chris Scott
Defending National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series champions Jeff Schalk
and Cheryl Sornson are re-evaluating their 2009 season plans after losing
their sponsors when Trek and Volkswagen terminated
its partnership and ended the longstanding Trek / VW team which had
backed both riders in previous years.
Men's overall winner Schalk is still working on sponsorship possibilities
for 2009. Nonetheless, he is planning to defend his title. The NUE, in
the United States, kicks off April 25 with the Cohutta 100 in Tennessee
and stops in Ohio, Michigan, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Virginia
on its way to a September 12 finale in California.
"My focus will be more or less the same as last year," said
Schalk from his residence in Maryland. "My priority is the NUE series
and the BC Bike Race, assuming I can go race with [former teammate] Chris
[Eatough] again this year. The NUEs are what I've made my name in, so
I'll continue to focus on them."
In 2008, Schalk won the Cohutta 100, Mohican 100, Lumberjack 100, Wilderness
101 and the Tahoe Sierra 100.
"In between, I'll do a few national series races like the Pro Cross
Country Tour. In the past I've liked to do as many of those as I can,"
said Schalk to Cyclingnews. "Or maybe I'll just do the US
Cup East. It largely depends on what support I get."
As for the 100 mile NUE series, Schalk learned a valuable lesson racing
last year. "Last year - I felt kind of invincible when I started
winning. Then I went to the BC Bike Race, and I gave a ton of energy to
overcome mechanicals. It all caught up with me soon after. I won the Wilderness
101, but then I was completely exhausted.
"I had gone too hard thinking I could win everything. I will
save myself this year for the 100 milers." He aims to race six or
seven of them at a minimum, and maybe even all eight. "I'll focus
on the ones with more climbing like Cohutta and Shenandoah because that's
what I'm good at, but all have equal importance in the series and a win
is a win in the overall," he said, before adding, "I think the
chances of winning any of them are fair."
To make ends meet while he figures out future sponsorship, Schalk, a
former full-time structural engineer, has been picking up some non-cycling
professional contract work this fall and early winter. "As of now
I'm training full time. I've done a little side work in engineering like
I used to do structural engineering like building design. If I
don't get enough sponsorship, I'll have to start doing more of that."
Photo ©: Jonathan Bruck
As a school counselor, women's winner Sornson never relied on her Trek
/ VW sponsorship to pay the bills, but it helped her with race equipment
and travel expenses. Without the support, she's unsure about her future
racing the series.
"It's kinda of a bummer. I had just gotten into a groove,"
said the Pennsylvania-based Sornson, a former cross country racing pro
before her more recent endurance racing endeavors. "I don't know
what to expect without any sponsors. With last year's sponsorship on the
factory team and with my winnings, I about broke even."
Her wins came at the Lumberjack 100, the Wilderness 101, the Shenandoah
Mountain 100 and the Tahoe Sierra 100.
Sornson, a wife and mother, is reluctant to bankroll full participation
in the series. "It's hard, having a family, to take to major money
out of the budget to go race."
She has inquired about other sponsorship options, but found out that
those making the decisions are interested in younger riders, nearer to
the beginning of their career and with more long term potential. "I
don't know what I want to do. Maybe I will race regionally with my old
team or with my local shop. Hopefully something will come through - it's
hard to be motivated (without sponsorship)."
She has yet to make a decision about racing the full NUE series. "I
still haven't decided. In some ways, I can be satisfied - it was fun and
good- and in other ways, I don't want to have to contest it," she
said. "In any case, it is a fun experience to share with others and
that makes me want to go do it again."
"I think if I do it, it will be a smaller attack. I raced seven
rounds last year. I think this year I could do about four," she said
before noting the main advantage of not having sponsorship. "I don't
have the pressure. Now I can decide to race the series if it's exciting.
Of course, I'll always ride. I still enjoy riding hours and hours for
some reason. But if I'm not motivated, I won't go compete if I don't have
Team LaPierre ready for 2009
Photo ©: Team LaPierre / Pure Agency
The Lapierre / Pure Agency mountain bike team will support five racers
for the 2009 season under the direction of manager Cyril Lagneau and team
trainer Hubert Fléchais. It will continue to partner with the Véloroc
mountain bike club in Cavaillon, France, as a feeder team for developing
its under 23 racers.
Cedric Ravanel and Cécile Ravanel headline the team after a successful
2008. The 30-year-old Cedric finished 14th at the Olympic Games in Beijing
and 12th in the overall World Cup standings. He also finished fifth at
the Houffalize World Cup and the Vallnord World Cup as well as taking
third in the French National Championship.
Cécile, 28, is the French National Champion and was an alternate
in for the Olympic team last year. She finished 10th at the Bromont World
Cup and 12th in the Schladming World Cup for an 18th place overall.
Photo ©: Team LaPierre / Pure Agency
Pierre-Geoffrey Plantet, 24, took third in two rounds of last year's
French Cup and finished fourth at the French National Championship while
19-year-old Fabien Canal logged several top ten placings in the French
Cup and National Championship. Fellow U23 racer Alexis Vuillermoz, 20,
showed his talents with a second place at the Houffalize World Cup, a
fifth place in Offenburg at the World Cup, a win at the St. Raphael French
Cup and as a member of the World Championship team relay squad.
In 2009, the Lapierre team will contest the UCI World Cups, the World
Championships, the French National Cup and the French National Championships
along with races like the Offroad Cassis, the Tranvesubienne, Forestière
and Roc d'Azur.
Team Garmin - Adidas debuts in Stellenbosch
A Garmin rider
Photo ©: Zoon Cronje
Some of South Africa's top mountain bikers, including the Garmin Adidas
team (formerly known as Garmin DCM) will gather in the hills of Stellenbosch
to kick off the new season and battle for points at the first round of
of the MTN Cup Series in Jonkershoek this Saturday.
Executive director of Garmin South Africa, Jason Theunissen, announced
the line up of the team and confirmed that Garmin and Adidas had signed
a three-year sponsorship deal. The team will be based in South Africa
and will focus on races like Cape Epic, Subaru Sani2C and the National
series, but will also include an international stint in conjunction with
the team's European partner adidas with races still to be confirmed.
The star rider on the team is none other than "Mr African"
himself - Mannie Heymans - who has in his career won the 1998 Trans Alp
eight-day stage race, the African Championships in 1999, 2001 & 2003,
also the 2004 Cape Epic, as well as finished a credible 26th at the Sydney
Olympic Games. Heymans will be paired with compatriot Marc Bassingthwaighte
who stands to gain from the vast experience Heymans has built up over
his illustrious career.
The addition of the two Pretoria-based youngsters Philip Buys and Francois
Theron proves the team's investment in future talent. Both riders have
done exceptionally well in their short careers and at only 20-years-old,
have the potential to become household names in the next three years.
Recent Pick n Pay MTB Cycle Challenge winner Samantha Oosthuysen is the
only woman on the team. She finished off her 2008 season with a series
of wins that catapulted her into the spotlight and confirmed her spot
in the team for 2009.
Former Barloworld rider Jock Green commented that the team is just as
well looked after, if not better, than he was when he was based in Europe.
Garmin adidas for 2009: Mannie Heymans (Namibia), Marc Bassingthwaighte
(Namibia), Francois Theron (RSA), Philip Buys (RSA), Jock Green (RSA),
Samantha Oosthuysen (South Africa), Renato Albrecht (South Africa), Shaun
Mackenzie (South Africa)
Khanchendzonga stage race returns
Over nine days, racers will wind through the foothills of the Himalayas,
covering 430km and 14,000m of climbing in the shadow of the third highest
mountain the world Mount Khanchendzonga. India's state of Sikkim and the
Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation are partnering to sponsor the Khanchendzonga
Mountain Bike Challenge from March 20-29.
Singletrack, village back roads and jeep tracks will comprise the route
through the foothills of the Himalayan mountain range. Contestants will
always be within site of the race's namesake mountain as they race each
day from one small village to the next. Like other major stage races in
Europe and the US, this one will feature two-man teams and an international
field. However, unlike the other races, the Khanchendzonga event will
be comprised of stages between just 37 and 71km, and it will offer a solo
Organizers will use the race to highlight the cultural riches of the
region. The relatively short stages will let participants have time to
enjoy their surroundings off the bike - including visits to Buddhist monasteries
and Hindu temples. With Nepal to the west, Tibet to the north and Bhutan
to the east, Sikkim's isolation has created a unique culture separate
from the rest of India.
The race will also offer helicopter rides to the race's start, an Indian
Airforce Air Show and a day of site-seeing after the race is over. Racers
will compete for US$25,000 in prize money.
For more information, visit www.sikkimmtb.com and www.indiastagerace.blogspot.com.
New Zealand's MacLeod breaks neck
Reigning New Zealand downhill national champion Sheryl MacLeod suffered
a serious crash last Sunday while on a training ride. The 30-year-old
MacLeod broke her neck and dislocated two vertebrae, her second and third,
when she slid out while riding in wet conditions. A helicopter took her
to Dunedin Hospital, from where she was transferred by air ambulance to
Christchurch for an operation on Monday.
"Sheryl slid on the log drop, moved sideways and landed awkwardly,"
said her partner Warren Black to the Otago Daily Times. MacLeod's
vertebrae were fused during surgery that included a bone graft, too. She
remains hospitalized and is expected to begin walking in the next few
MacLeod's partner said she is in good spirits though she does not know
when she will be able to ride again.
MacLeod finished sixth in the UCI
World Cup in Canberra last August and second in the third
round of the Australian national series in Geelong.
Giant Italia training camps
Giant Italia is kicking off its international race season with two training
camps. The first, from January 10-12 in Cote d'Azur will include just
a portion of the team, but the entire squad will meet up in Sicily from
February 5 to 23 in preparation for the team's opening race the Muretto
di Alassio Marathon.
The team will race the UCI World Cup, Continental and National Championships
and series like the Bundesliga, the Swiss Cup and the Internazionali d'Italia.
North Island Cup next stop: Auckland
Round two of the RaboPlus New Zealand North Island Cross Country Cup
heads to the purpose-built Woodhill Mountain Bike Park near Auckland this
weekend on January 10.
Road racer Clinton Avery, national champion Stu Houltham and Mike Northcott
will do battle in the elite men's race while in the elite women's field,
young racers Monique Avery and Samara Sheppard will race each other for
the first time in the New Zealand Cup this year. Sheppard is making the
move to the elite field after dominating the U19 category.
After last weekend's sprint finish between Patrick Avery and Dirk Peters
and considering the talents of Reuben Horn, another exciting race is expected
for the under 19 men.
Racers will tackle multiple laps of an 11km course including some of
the most technical sections in the park.
Capital punishment in Canberra
Mountain bikers visiting Canberra will no longer have to choose whether
to race at Mt. Stromlo, Sparrow Hill, Bruce Ridge or Majura Pines. Instead,
they will have the chance to take in all of them on a single day ... as
part of the Capital Punishment race on Saturday, May 30.
The 100km enduro race course is being designed by Tom Landon-Smith.
It will start at Sparrow Hill where, meandering on singletrack through
the pine forest, before heading to Kowen Forest, Majura and Bruce Ridge.
Then, it's on to Black Mountain and the finish with a bang at Mt Stromlo.
A 50km option will also be available. Registration opens February 15.
For more information, visit www.arocsport.com.au
TransAndes registration ending soon
Registration for the TransAndes Challenge 2009 ends on January 13. The
multi-day stage race will take place from February 3-8 in Patagonia, Chile.
For more information, visit www.transandeschallenge.cl.
NorCal League hiring intern
The NorCal High School Mountain Bike Racing League announced a last minute
candidate search for the position of Winter/Spring Intern. The Program
Intern will be responsible for helping with program coordination, distribution
of materials, event planning, office needs and general office and field
League Assistant Director Justin Morgan accounted for the short notice
by noting that a generous "11th hour funding source" had made
the position possible.
Last year's intern Kyle Wright said, "I loved working for the League.
As the Intern I did just about every job there was to do, newsletters,
lots of errands, helping plan events, course design and building, and
League promotions. The best part of working for the League was that it
never felt like a job."
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing Limited 2009)