MTB news & racing round-up for May 30, 2009
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Edited by Sue George
Top North Americans get ready to Bump n' Grind
By Dave McElwaine in Birmingham, Alabama
Luna's Georgia Gould (front) and Catherine Pendrel (rear)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
The third stop on the USCup ProXCT resumes this weekend at Bump n' Grind in Birmingham, Alabama. Not since the national series visited Waco, Texas, in 2004, have the racers ventured this far into the Deep South. While this will be Bump n' Grind's 14th year, it will be the first time that North America's top professionals will be competing there as part of the elite national series.
With the help of US Cup organizers and Sho-Air rider Manny Prado, a new 5.4-mile course that is consistent with UCI World Cup standards has been carved out of the existing 17-mile cross country loop. This distance will make for a more spectator-friendly race and allows riders to pass by their tech zones several times. Amateur racers will be competing on the longer 17 mile-course as they have in years past.
With only 500 feet of climbing per lap, and moderate technical difficulty, the race is likely to be determined by those racers with the biggest "engines". It features 85% singletrack, a pavement section, and multiple bridge crossings. Conditions are expected to be fairly dry.
Coming up on
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as of stage 4 on Wednesday, June 10, at approximately 15:00 local Europe
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Geoff Kabush (Rocky Mountain/Maxxis)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
Many of the top North Americans have just returned from the World Cup race in Madrid, Spain. That race may have been excellent preparation for Bump n' Grind as it featured less climbing than normal, incredibly high speeds, and no opportunity to rest.
Until someone in North America can beat Geoff Kabush (Rocky Mountain/Maxxis), he has to be considered the heavy race favorite. Kabush is not only the defending American series champion, but is currently ranked sixth in the world based on UCI points.
Sid Taberlay (Team Sho-Air) has already shown this season that he can give Kabush a run for his money. Along with teammate series leader Max Plaxton, they were able to use team tactics in Fontana, California, to push Kabush to his limit. However, Kabush still came away with the win.
Willow Koerber (Gary Fisher/Subaru)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
The course may also suit Todd Wells (Specialized) who does well in races that require riders to be on the gas at all times. US Champion Adam Craig, currently 16th in UCI points, who generally excels in the most difficult race conditions, may find the course less technical than he prefers. Still, Craig is expected to compete for a top spot on the podium.
The Gary Fisher duo of Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and Sam Schultz are likely to be at the front of the race as well. It is rumored that they will be riding a new top secret Gary Fisher bike for the first time.
On the women's side, spectators will be treated to another battle of Luna teammates Georgia Gould and Catherine Pendrel. Pendrel is currently the number-one-ranked rider in the world, while Gould is ranked eighth. However, with one exception - when Gould collapsed from heat exhaustion at a race last summer - Pendrel has never beaten Gould in a US national series race.
Gould is undoubtedly one of the most powerful riders in the world. She typically wins races by simply going to the front, thus challenging other riders to stay with her. More often than not, she powers away from them and claims victory. Pendrel, one of the world's best climbers and someone who excels in muddy conditions, is likely to be seen following Gould's wheel this weekend.
The pair will have a potentially strong challenger in the form of cyclo-cross star Katie Compton. Compton's fitness level is unknown as we haven't seen her racing the MTB circuit this year so far; however, she has been known to show up on short notice and do very well at mountain bike events.
Sid Taberlay (Sho-Air/Specialized)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
Gary Fisher/Subaru teammates Heather Irmiger and Willow Koerber have also been honing their fitness on the World Cup circuit. They currently stand 26th and 20th respectively. Both are likely to compete for top podium positions.
Dark horses in this race could be the riders from the Kona squad. Former US National Champion Ryan Trebon typically returns to top form around this time of year after recovering from a long international cyclo-cross season. As the most powerful rider in the US, this course may well suit Trebon's talents. Teammates Barry Wicks and Wendy Simms can also be expected to compete for podium positions.
It is unknown what the fitness level of Luna's Katerina Nash will be. She started her season late to recover from a nagging knee injury and has skipped the first four rounds of World Cup racing. Normally she can be counted on to make the podium, and achieved her first US cross country win last season at Windham, New York.
One of several bridge crossings
Photo ©: Bump n' Grind
Missing from action this weekend will be US National Champion Mary McConneloug (Kenda-Seven-No Tubes) who has a commitment in Europe with SRAM. Also missing is 21-year-old sensation Emily Batty (Trek Toronto), who has already won two World Cup races in the Under 23 class. It is expected that she will be racing the national series in Canada.
It will be interesting to see how the 29-inch bikes will fare at this weekend's race. More and more top racers have been seen on them this season including Ryan Trebon, Todd Wells, Troy Wells, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, and Sam Schultz. The bikes seem to have an advantage on fast, flatter courses, with long straight-aways that result in having to accelerate the larger wheels fewer times. Although there are no significant straight-aways on this course, the 29ers could pay off when rolling over the many steep, rocky descents.
The weather forecast for Sunday calls for a temperature of 88 degrees with moderate humidity. Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage of the racing at Bump n' Grind.
A good report card for Pietermaritzburg
Elisabeth Osl (Central Ghost Pro Team)
won the elite women's cross country in South Africa
In its final 15-page report, the UCI praised the recent World Cup held last month in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Kind words about the organizers, the host city, the region of KwaZulu-Natal and the South African mountain biking community in association with the new event seem to bode well for future prospects of hosting another World Cup in the future.
Photo ©: Rob Jones
Among the areas that received the highest praise from the UCI was the level of the support from the public. Approximately 17,000 enthusiasts streamed into the competition arena adjacent to the Cascades Shopping Centre on the northwest perimeter of the city over the three days.
The event generated at least a R19 million for the city and surrounding areas, with more than R15.5 million spent on accommodation, restaurants and in the retail sector. The organisers also spent more than R2.1 million with local suppliers who provided services and infrastructure. Almost 100 media were accredited for the event, which included 48 international journalists, 36 photographers and 19 TV- and film-crew members.
Andrew Neethling (Trek World Racing)
enjoyed the chance to race at home.
As expected, the UCI did identify some areas that could be improved upon, but the Event Director Alec Lenferna, was satisfied nonetheless. "We knew there were some areas that were not 100% and we had already identified these elements in our internal meetings, so the report held no surprises for us. It was the first time that a triple event (downhill, four cross and cross country) had ever been staged in Africa so we had no template to work off."
Photo ©: Rob Jones
The UCI will perform a final evaluation of all UCI World Cup events this weekend at the UCI Management Board meeting.
"I've believe a recommendation has been made already that Pietermaritzburg be included in the 2010 worldwide programme. We'll know for certain when the UCI releases its 2010 racing schedule on June 19. We are very confident that we will be staging the event again in 2010 and the dates that have been set aside are April 9-11."
Lenferna also revealed that the UCI has asked him and his team to put in a bid for the 2013 UCI World Championships.
"The Mountain Bike World Championships is something that was always in our plans but we and the UCI officials had to see how we handled a World Cup event first. We have been asked to submit an expression of interest letter for the 2013 UCI MTB World Championships, which I did last week."
Two out of three Athertons on the mend
As if one "broken" Atherton wasn't enough, Dan joined sister Rachel on the treatment table following a crash during downhill practice at the World Cup in Andorra. He is recovering well despite breaking his scapula (shoulder) and hopes to be back on the bike in time for the World Cup in Fort William.
Rachel continues to recover following an operation on her damaged shoulder nerve in mid-May. She was due to have her stitches out this week, and is itching to get back on the bike.
SRAM breaks the 2300g barrier with new XX mountain bike group
By James Huang
The Truvativ XX crank shifts the chainline
SRAM brings their four component arms together to create their first complete
mountain bike group, dubbed XX. It's packed with features and technology and
also exceptionally lightweight - and, of course, expensive - but ups the ante
of performance for the cross-country set and may just change some riders' habits
in the process, too.
XX - what is it?
Though consumers have always been able to piece together a complete package
from SRAM's four brands, XX (say, 'ex ex') is the company's first integrated
off-road package to be offered under one label. Targeted firmly at the cross-country
and light trail crown, XX shuns the usual 3x9 drivetrain configuration in favor
of a two-ring crankset coupled to a wide-range ten-speed cassette.
Total claimed weight for a nine-piece group is a stellar sub-2300g and suggested
retail price is a heady US$2430 - over 300g lighter than Shimano XTR M970 but
at a cost premium of about US$2/g.
According to SRAM, shaving weight wasn't the primary focus of XX though. Rather,
XX was conceived to be the 'lightest and best fully featured and fully adjustable'
package available and based on our initial test rides, they may very well have
met those goals.
Read the complete feature.
IMBA seeks support for opening trail in Marin to mountain bikers
IMBA is drumming up support for a California State Parks' proposal to open singletrack to mountain biking in Marin County, on the shoulders of Mt. Tamalpais. The agency plans to permit bicycle use on the four-mile Bill's Trail segment and is soliciting public comments.
The proposal is a result of more than three years of work by IMBA California, Access4Bikes and the Bicycle Trails Council of Marin, a location widely considered to be one of the birthplaces of modern mountain biking. Despite its historic role, Marin has seen precious few opportunities for mountain biking open to the public in recent years.
A successful opening of Bill's Trail would set the stage for bicycle access to several other singletrack trails in Marin.
The trail averages a seven percent grade and features six switchbacks. It winds through native ferns, wildflowers and hazelnut trees and would likely be open on alternate days at first.
"I think that, broadly speaking, the community of trail users in Marin is ready for this," says IMBA California Policy Advisor Tom Ward. "We have seen great success with our volunteer mountain bike patrol program there. Mountain bikers care deeply about protecting the gorgeous trails and natural areas in Marin, and we will continue working with like-minded groups."
A small number of local hiking and equestrian groups have vowed to fight against any new access for mountain biking in Marin County.
The comment period ends June 26. For more information, visit www.imba.com.
Mike Broderick & Mary McConneloug diary: A break from the World Cup
Training with Mary and Maja
Photo ©: Mary McConneloug & Mike Broderick
The two-week break between World Cups in Europe opened up the doors for some incredible travel and racing opportunities. With the UCI schedule as our calendar and a cryptic German atlas as our guide, Mary and I made the trip to contest the Maja Wlosozcowska national race in Jelenia Gora. It was our first trip to Poland. The drive from Houffalize, Belgium, was long, but having the option of pulling over to train, cook dinner and sleep where we chose made the trip smooth and part of the fun experience.
Nothing more than quiet or abandoned borders physically separate most European Union (EU) countries, although most still retain their significantly different cultures, languages, and lifestyles. This makes for some diverse travel experiences while being as easy and convenient as a drive from state to state in the US. With our RV-style of travel and cross country racing focus, we can't take advantage of every aspect or experience that would be possible, but what we do is still enough to give us an exciting look around.
Finding some big climbs
Photo ©: Mary McConneloug & Mike Broderick
After putting in a few days of training in the Belgian Ardennes, riding through tight shady valleys that hide a wealth of technical terrain and significant climbs, we packed up camp and headed east towards Poland. The German Autobahn made me think twice about our choice of vehicle as many passed by at easily double our speed while we were hanging tight to the right lane, our only excuse for breaking the strict German code of slow vehicles staying to the right was passing up the hoards of slower moving trucks. Even with the incredible speed, the respect and expertise of the Autobahn driving is admirable and something that many of the world's drivers would be better off taking note of.
In Poland something like 90 percent of the energy is produced from coal, you can still smoke in the restaurants, and the drink of choice is said to be vodka. It's a wild country in some ways, far from lawless, but things here seem a bit more rough and tumble. The positive side easily balances the picture as Poland is a land of great natural beauty, wide open natural spaces, a rich history and many friendly, forward-thinking people. The mountain bike community in Poland is rad. The town of Jelenia Gora (where the race was held) sponsored the event and is working with the athletes to create a mountain biking infrastructure that is capable of helping to drive the economy by attracting bike tourism and professional bike racing alike.
Read the complete diary entry.
Mather and Bennett outclass for wins at Anaconda MTB Enduro – Red Centre
The Anaconda MTB Enduro - Red Centre finished Friday morning after five days and seven stages of intense and skilful
riding through spectacular terrain surrounding Alice Springs. From stage one on Monday, the pace was on and
competition furious between the top riders who are amongst the best that Australia has to offer. The majority
of the 264 participants were along to enjoy themselves and just complete the gruelling event that would give
them bragging rights.
The rivalry between eventual winner Ben Mather from
Tasmania and Matthew Fleming from NSW started from day
one with the two swapping the lead throughout the event with
the outcome coming down to performances on the final day.
Fleming threw everything he had at Mather for 34km and
won the last stage but it wasn't enough to take top spot on
the podium with the margin being just 30 seconds over the eight and a half hours of racing they did over the week.
The two weren't without a battle and fierce competition
from a hot men's field capped off with third place and 2008
winner Adrian Jackson, Shaun Lewis, Perren Delacour, Troy
Glennan and Nick Both. Veteran mountain biker Tim Bennett had his last hurrah at the race and is now retiring
after what was probably a disappointing week of racing in his eyes due to sickness. A commendable
performance to anyone else, he will be missed by the cycling fraternity.
Jo Bennett, Tim's wife, flew the family flag high and won the women's race. A great rivalry and tussle early in
the event with Jodie Willett saw Bennett gain momentum as the week progressed. The final margin was 10 minutes
with Niki Fisher rounding out the podium.
Wildside 2010 entries open
Entries will open for the 2010 edition of the Pure Tasmania Wildside mountain bike stage race on Monday, June 1. The Wildside was the first multi-day stage race in Australia. It will begin next from Cradle Mountain on January 30 and run for four days until it ends in Strahan.
"There can only be one Wildside, and we're confident of attracting a full field of 450 riders," said Race Director Nic Deka.
Next year's event will give more attention to teams. "The event has focussed on individual participation. We have had a team aspect but it has always been low key. We recognise that the riders and sponsors are keen for the teams to be more prominent," said Deka. Among the favorite teams are those from the AIS elite development team based out of Tasmania, discovertasmania.com.
For more information or to register, visit www.wildsidemtb.com.
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