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MTB news & racing round-up for May 7, 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

Absalon absolutely amazing at Belgian World Cup

Fullana win's women's race

By Rob Jones in Houffalize, Belgium

Julien Absalon (Orbea)
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)
Julien Absalon (Orbea) took his second consecutive victory on Sunday in the men's cross country World Cup and his second ever win at Houffalize, Belgium. The Frenchman's win helped pad his lead in the overall World Cup standings.

"This is a country of cycling. They are really crazy about it here, so this makes it the biggest World Cup of the season," said Absalon.

The men's five and a half lap race began with an attack almost immediately from Ralph Näf (Multivan Merida). Only Olympic silver medalist Jean-Christophe Peraud (Massi) was able to respond, and the pair started to build a gap on a chase group containing Absalon, Wolfram Kurschat (Topeak Ergon) and Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida).

"I was trying to go hard, but conserve energy as well," said Näf. "I was with Julien until the final lap, and then I exploded totally, with nothing left."

"He went fast, so I followed. But by the middle of the race it became more difficult for me, and I had to let him [Näf] go," said Peraud. "I was still going pretty good until the last lap when I had a problem with the [last rider] moto."

Absalon decided that it was time to reel in the lead pair on lap three, and quickly bridged up, taking Hermida, and with Kurschat only a few seconds behind. Peraud was suffering and dropped back, and then Hermida flatted, leaving just Absalon and Näf at the front, with Kurschat chasing.

Näf managed to hang on until halfway through the final lap before his extended time at the front caught up with him and he couldn't respond to the latest attack from Absalon. Näf was also caught by Kurschat, who took his second consecutive second place behind Absalon, but hung on for third place ahead of Under 23 series leader Burry Stander (Specialized) and Peraud.

"It was impossible to keep the wheel of Näf, when he attacked so hard," said Absalon. "But I think that he also made a mistake by going so hard in the beginning, and it caught up with him at the end."

Margarita Fullana (Massi) has won five times
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)
In the women's race, Marga Fullana (Massi) took her first World Cup win of the year and assumed the women's World Cup standings lead.

"It is a very hard race here at Houffalize, and very special to win," said Fullana. "The crowds are so big here and the fans are very special, so it pushes you to go harder."

The women's race, at a short three and a half laps, was perfect for Fullana. The UCI World Champion excels at very fast starts and long climbs, and Houffalize has both. By the end of the start loop, Fullana had a small gap on Marie-Helene Premont (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain), with a chase group forming behind, led by defending race winner Ren Chengyuan (China). Fullana opened a gap on Premont in the first full lap, when the Canadian champion had to run a section that Fullana was able to ride.

"I was with Fullana in the beginning," said Premont. "But there was a change to the course that I didn't know about, so I got off my bike to run a section while she kept riding, and that is when she got away. Ren and Catharine [Pendrel (Luna)] came up to us, but on the second lap when Ren went hard, it was too fast a pace for me.

Fullana sealed her victory on the main paved climb of the last lap, when she opened a 10-second gap that Pendrel could not close, eventually rolling in 14 seconds ahead of the Canadian rider. Ren came in 46 seconds later, shaking her head in disappointment, with Lechner and Osl taking the final two podium spots.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the elite men's and elite women's cross country World Cup, including current standings, in Houffalize.

Graves backs up for second World Cup win

Kintner loses the monkey

By Rob Jones in Houffalize, Belgium
Jared Graves was unstoppable
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)
Jared Graves (Yeti Fox Shox) continued his run of success with his second straight World Cup four-cross victory. Graves, who won the first of the eight-round series in South Africa last month, claimed victory on the weekend in Houffalize, Belgium, ahead of Dan Atherton (Commencal) with Roger Rinderknecht (GT Bicycles) third across the line.

The Toowoomba rider, who was sixth in the BMX at the Olympic Games in Beijing, China, had an unbeaten run into the final which was not the case for many others. The course gave riders the chance to pass but with the tight corners it was a risky proposition that saw several crash out of contention.

"I couldn't protect my lead in the corners at all, so it was just hang on and cross my fingers," said Graves who in every round had come out of the gate leading. "You could see by the number of crashes that guys were taking chances."

Jana Horakova and Jill Kintner
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)
American Jill Kintner (Red Bull-Intense) came back from a disappointing first round to decisively put herself back into the fight for the women's World Cup four cross. Anneke Beerten (Suspension Center) held onto the women's overall series lead after finishing third.

Kintner's run to the final wasn't quite as smooth. After winning her first two heats, Jana Horakova (Czech Republic) managed to get by her in the semi-final, and Kintner had to battle for that second spot to make the medal round.

In the medal race, it was Kintner, Beerten, Horakova and Romana Labounkova (Czech Republic). Kintner jumped into the lead followed by Beerten, but the World Cup leader miscalculated the first corner and had to brake, allowing Horakova to slip into the second position.

"I came on the inside of Jill, thinking that she would go higher through the corner, but she went in a straight line, and I had nowhere to go," explained Beerten.

For Kintner it was a sign that she was truly back in the mix of four cross after taking last season off to prepare for the BMX event at the Olympic Games where she won the bronze medal. After a disappointing race at the World Cup opener in South Africa, where she finished fifth, the win in Houffalize was a big confidence booster.

"It felt good to get the monkey off my back," said Kintner.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the elite men's and elite women's four cross World Cup, including current standings, in Houffalize.

Atherton to undergo surgery

Rachel Atherton (GBr)
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)
Rachel Atherton will be undergoing nerve graft surgery involving her left shoulder, which she injured in a crash with a pickup truck while training in California this winter. A recent EMG test showed that the damaged nerve in her shoulder has seen little improvement over the past four weeks. The operation is scheduled for May 19.

The doctor "will take about a 20cm piece of nerve from my leg and then go into my shoulder, locate the damaged nerve [in the deltoid muscle], cut it out and replace it with the nerve from my leg," said Atherton on her blog.

The graft will take about one month to "take", then the World Downhill Champion will be able to start moving and rehabilitating her shoulder again.

After the surgery, doctors are expecting a recovery time of two to three months, which means she may be back in racing action in time for the World Championships in Australia this fall.

Felt faces problems

The Felt Team does lunch in Houffalize before the World Cup
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)
The Felt International MTB team has been facing troubled times. After the Offenburg World Cup, two of the team's riders, Andreas Kugler and Jürg Graf, left the team, citing issues including missing contact payments. Along with their departures came several reports in the European media of financial issues troubling the team.

AB ProCycling, the owner of the Felt Team, represented by Dr. Antonio Brozzu, confirmed the departure of the two riders and responded to claims about financial problems. "The financial crisis has reached two of our main sponsors outside the bicycle industry, causing a bottleneck in our budget," said Brozzu.

"We are working on solutions and are confident to move on successfully the upcoming years." Brozzu thanked the continuing sponsors for their ongoing support and noted that several athletes have expressed their trust in the team and decided to continue. "That the economic crisis reaches the sport of mountain biking was unforseeable, but still we are confident we will have a successful season in the end."

Miguel Martinez
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)
In recent weeks, former World Champion Miguel Martinez was dismissed from the team after he was called to French court to address concerns relating to a domestic dispute. After he was let go by Felt, Martinez's girlfriend told Cyclingnews that Martinez had not been getting paid according to his contract while he was still a member of the team. Martinez returned to racing last weekend at the World Cup in Houffalize, Belgium, but competed as an independent, riding in neutral colors indicating no team affiliation.

Elite riders Emil Lindgren and Blaza Klemencic remain on the team. Both were among those who raced at Houffalize . Lindgren's race suffered after a needle puncture his rear tire and cost him a possible top ten placing - he finished 25th. Blaza Klemencic fell to 30th place after mechanical troubles. The bright spot of the weekend came from Irish racer Connor McConvey, who finished 10th among the Under 23 riders.

Taberlay & Sawicki win Idyllwild

Both take over cross country US National Calendar lead

Australia's Sid Taberlay (Sho-Air / Specialized) cruised to the elite men's win in the fourth event on the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Cross Country Calendar, the Idyllwild Spring Challenge last weekend. Pua Sawicki (Ellsworth) did the same in the elite women's race in Idyllwild, Calif. Both riders used the 85 points earned for victory in the category four event to leapfrog into first place in the calendar rankings.

See Cyclingnews' full results from all the events at the Idyllwild Spring Challenge.

After four of 15 events, the current USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Cross Country Calendar standings are below.

USAC Mountain Bike National cross country calendar 
Men's Standings
1 Sid Taberlay (Aus) Sho-air-Specialized              265
2 Max Plaxton (Can) Sho-air-Specialized               195
3 Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (USA) Subaru-Gary Fisher     185
4 Sam Schultz (USA) Subaru-Gary Fisher                175
5 Manuel Prado (USA) Sho-air-Specialized              150

Women's Standings
1 Pua Sawicki (Yucaipa, Calif/Ellsworth)              235
2 Georgia Gould (Fort Collins, Colo./Luna)            210
3 Catherine Pendrel (CAN/Luna)                        195
4 Allison Mann (Murrieta, Calif.)                     180
5 Willow Koerber (Asheville, N.C./Subaru-Gary Fisher) 170

Keene & Holden win inaugural ProGRT event at Fluidride

Curtis Keene grabbed the early lead on the USA Cycling Professional Gravity Tour (ProGRT) after besting a stacked field of nearly 100 pro men at the Fluidride Cup in Port Angeles, Washington.

Katie Holden's time of 3:05.47 not only led her to a victory over several of the nation's top female downhillers but also put the Specialized rider amongst the top half of the pro men's field in her own backyard.

See Cyclingnews' full results from the Fluidride Cup.

With their victories, Keene and Holden take the early lead on the first-ever Pro GRT. The USAC Pro Gravity Tour standings are below.

USAC ProGRT Standings
Men's Standings
1 Curtis Keene (USA)                      75 
2 Luke Strobel (USA) Team Maxxis          60 
3 Ryan Condrashoff (USA) X-fusion-Intense 50
4 Andrew Mitchell (Can)                   40
5 Joey Schusler (USA) Yeti-Fox Shox       30 
Women's Standings
1 Katie Holden (USA) Specialized          75
2 Kathy Pruitt (USA) Jamis                60
3 Katrina Strand (Can) Oakley             50
4 Abigail Hippely (USA)                   40
5 Darian Harvey (USA) Cannondale          30 

Peat a dad again

While many downhillers are barely old enough to drink legally in the US, veteran British downhiller Steve Peat became a dad for the second time. His son, George Peat, was born on May 5 according to www.solobike.it.

Grand opening: Allegrippis Trails

Working in partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers, IMBA's Trail Solutions and six other trail contracting firms have built 30 miles of singletrack, the Allegrippis Trails, at Pennsylvania's Raystown Lake. A grand opening – featuring group rides; free demonstration bikes and plenty of food – is slated for May 9. Community leaders and local bike clubs will be on hand, and they'll be joined by Kelly and Collins Bishop of the Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew.

The Allegrippis trails are purpose-built for mountain biking, and range from easy greens to heartbreaking blacks. The network of trails rolls through hardwood stands, with frequent views of Raystown Lake. "We're excited to be creating a model trail facility in central Pennsylvania," said IMBA trail boss Rich Edwards on IMBA's website. "This is a notoriously rocky part of the state and it typically yields very few options for beginner and intermediate riders – these trails offer plenty of variety and will help expand the riding scene in the Mid-Atlantic region."

The Friends of Raystown Lake acquired funding for the work through Pennsylvania's Department of Natural Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers. A team of professional trailbuilders did the construction, with much of the time-consuming handwork performed by local volunteers.

Frank Maguire, who directs IMBA programs in the Mid-Atlantic region, said, "When the project started, it was 'build it and they will come' proposition. Now there's a bike shop in town, and the Raystown Mountain Bike Association, which didn't exist 18 months ago, has more than 30 active members. "This is going to have a huge impact on the economy in the area."

The Allegrippis trails are accessible from several population centers, including Baltimore, Metro New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington, DC.

West Virginia Association sponsors trail system of the year program

The West Virginia Mountain Bike Association (WVMBA) has kicked off a new "Trail System of the Year Program" which will award the most deserving trail system in the state. This will be determined by number of volunteer trail work hours per year, trail conditions, system layout, trails for different ability levels, etc. This award will consist of a US$500 cash prize that will be used to further trail improvement, along with a "WVMBA Trail System of the Year" sign to post at the winner's main trailhead.

Applications are due by August 1. For more information, visit www.wvmba.com.

Sand Creek Series to kick off

The first race in the 2009 Carmichael Training Systems Sand Creek Series will happen May 10 at Bear Creek Terrace in near downtown Colorado Springs, Colorado. In addition to this Sunday's race, there will be four Wednesday races at this urban venue.

Other events in the series will include the USA Cycling ProXCT Short Track Series race on June 12 followed by the Sand Creek International Classic cross country race at Cheyenne Mountain State Park on June 13. The race will serve as the finale to the US Cup West.

The series will conclude on August 1 with the State Games of America Sand Creek Series Final using the regionally famous Falcon Trail at the US Air Force Academy.

Sand Creek Series Events 2009
May 10 - Sand Creek Series, Bear Creek Terrace
June 3 - Sand Creek Series, Bear Creek Terrace
June 12 - US ProXCT Short Track, Bear Creek Terrace
June 13 - US ProXCT XC, Sand Creek International Classic, Cheyenne Mountain State Park (UCI Cat. 3)
June 24 - Sand Creek Series - Bear Creek Terrace
July 1 - Sand Creek Series - Bear Creek Terrace
July 8 - Sand Creek Series - Bear Creek Terrace
August 1 - State Games of America and Sand Creek Series Final, US Air Force Academy
October 17 - Sand Creek Fall Classic, Palmer Park

For more information, visit www.sandcreeksports.com.

Netti MTB Enduro 2009

For one weekend in September, hundreds of racers will invade Mogo for the annual Netti MTB Enduro. The 100km Angry Doctor will feature 2,850m of climbing and this year's course will feature new singletrack in the second 50km loop. The Irate Intern 50km will take some riders back to the finish at the halfway point. Those looking for a shorter event might race the Nasty Nurse 11km prolouge the day before.

After two sold-out editions in 2007 and 2008, the Netti MTB Enduro September 12-13 will be limited to 1,000 riders. Entries opened May 1.

Visit www.nettimtbenduro.com.au for more information.

Kovarik & Co. confirmed for BikeRadar dual slalom

By BikeRadar

Team Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense will be racing in the Mountain Biking UK Eliminator slalom at BikeRadar Live on May 30-31.

The Chain Reaction team is made up of Australian downhill racing legend and World Cup winner Chris Kovarik; 2007 junior World Champion Ruaridh Cunningham; World Cup four cross rider Lucas Mechura; top UK downhiller Matt Simmonds; UK BMX and 4X rider Lewis Lacey; and team boss, and UK downhill and four cross star, Nigel Page.

"We're excited to be competing in the MBUK Eliminator dual slalom," said Page. "It looks like the BikeRadar event will be one of the biggest on the calendar this year in the UK, and dual slalom is always great racing and brilliant for the spectators, as the racing is always close."

"As it isn't so important to get out of the gate first, like it often is in four cross, I think we’ll see the best four cross and downhill riders competing head-to-head on a course that suits both."

"With Will Longden and Bullhead [GT rider Dave Wardell] designing the track, it should be a good one as they're very experienced racers and know what the riders want."

MBUK Eliminator – the lowdown

Starting early on Saturday May 30, pro riders will race head-to-head for the chance to win big money and the kudos of being crowned BikeRadar Live's dual slalom champion.

And if you fancy having a go at the MBUK Eliminator yourself, you can book now for the open event on Sunday.

BikeRadar Live is brought to you by Future, the makers of MBUK, Cycling Plus, BikeRadar.com, What Mountain Bike, Cyclingnews.com and Procycling.

For more details and tickets see the BikeRadar Live site.

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