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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

MTB news & racing round-up for February 8, 2006

Edited by Steve Medcroft

Welcome to our regular roundup of what's happening in MTB and Cyclo-cross. Feel free to send feedback, news and gossip to mtb@cyclingnews.com

Rocky Mountain Business Objects 2006 MTB team announced

Marie - Helene Premont (Canada)
Photo ©: Marek Lazarski
Click for larger image

Canadian-based MTB team Rocky Mountain Business Objects announced their full 2006 roster this week. At the core of the new squad is returning women's MTB phenom Marie Hélène Prémont and MTB's elder stateswoman Alison Sydor. Joining the two Olympic medal winners is a mix of young and established racers; a team that Rocky Mountain Business Objects team management says is built with an eye towards the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

2005 Canadian U23 National Champion, Max Plaxton, will return to the Pro team after a year racing on a European Squad. Plaxton showed great promise riding for the Rocky Mountain Business Objects team in 2004. In that year, he had multiple NORBA Podium finishes. He also had the best ever first year Under 23 (espoir) performances for a Canadian in World Cup, with two 14th place finishes at the Mont St Anne and Calgary World Cup events. Plaxton plans to focus on racing very competitively in North America and on helping Canada build ranking points towards the 2008 Olympic Games selections.

Joining the U23 National Champion, is 2005 Junior National Champion, Raphael Gagné. Gagné has signed through 2007 and will focus on Canadian National Races for 2006, with the World Championships as a main performance objective. Like Plaxton. Raphael brings with him a set of World Championship stripes as he was the junior member of the Gold Medal winning Canadian Relay Team in Les Gets 2004. Raphael and Max were teammates in taking that title.

Marty Lazarski (Rocky Mountain)
Photo ©: Marek Lazarski
Click for larger image

Trans Rockies co-champion and 2004 U23 National Champion, Marty Lazarski of Ontario will return to the team as will Fred Bussières of Quebec and U23 women's National Champion Jean Ann McKirdy. Mc Kirdy has ridden for Rocky Mountain since 2001 when she came on board as a junior and won the gold medal in the 2005 Canada Games cross country and the bronze medal on the road for British Columbia. As it is her last year as a U23 rider, she will focus on the inaugural U23 title at the World Championships in New Zealand in August of 2006.

Two new young riders, Matt Hadley of New Brunswick and Meghan Kindree of Squamish, BC, who both saw the upper rungs of the Canada Cup podium in 2005 complete an exciting cross country squad.

German Riders and multiple Epic MTB Stage Race Champions Karl Platt and Carsten Bresser will return for another year. They will race the Cape Epic in South Africa, the Trans Alp Challenge at which they were collectively victorious in 2002 through 2005, and the Trans Rockies. Both will also compete in World Cup Marathon and XC.

Canadian Olympians Andreas Hestler and Lesley Tomlinson will take care of Team Management and Director positions. However, both will race in Epic stage races such as the Trans Rockies. Hestler will also aim at defending some Super D (cross country and downhill combination) victories.

The first event on the Team calendar for Marie Hélène Prémont is the Commonwealth Games in Australia, March 16 to 26. Prémont and Sydor will then race the first World Cup in the Caribbean on April 2 2006.The first race for the entire team is the North American season opener, the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey California, April 6 to 9. May 5 to 7 is the first NORBA National race in Fontana Hills, California after which the pro team will be off to Europe for the World Cup races in Madrid, Belgium and Scotland.

Velo Bella announces 2006 all-female MTB team

Wendy Simms
Photo ©: Normon Thibault
Click for larger image

The women of team Velo Bella/Kona stand poised to spread glitter and flair across the U.S. and Canadian professional MTB series with a brand new professional women's team made up of international talent from both inside and outside the Velo Bella organisation.

For 2006, Velo Bella has partnered with Kona Bicycles USA to provide opportunity for four professional women to focus on cross country events in the U.S. NORBA National Series, the U.S. and Canadian National Championships, and perhaps even supporting an athlete or two at the World MTB Championships in New Zealand later this year.

Canadian Wendy Simms will captain the four-member team and after years of racing on her own, Wendy chose to join the pink conga line because of the Velo Bella's focus on fun, their relationship with Kona Bicycles and the ability to race in a supportive family and female-oriented environment. Kristin Danielson makes her return to the U.S. MTB scene and looks forward to showing what Durango and a little road racing can do for one's off-road form.

In between giving birth to a baby boy and preparing for the upcoming racing season, Shannon Holden ran a marathon in Seattle to celebrate her son's three month birthday... Yeah, we'll just say she is hyper organised and leave it at that. Noel Weddle completes the team, adding her climbing talents and electrifying enthusiasm to the group. Living at altitude, Noel lives with a continuous case of oxygen deprivation explaining her eagerly looking forward to the more vertical races in the NORBA series.

The Velo Bella/Kona core will be augmented at certain races by professional Velo Bella/Kona riders from around the country including Sami Fournier (Washington, DC), Allie Rau (Detroit, MI), Jennifer Tilley (Lawrence, KS) and Erin Duggan (Apton, CT). In addition to national and international racing, the Pro MTB Team will be joined by hundreds of amateur racers who will compete in local MTB races throughout California, Minnesota, Michigan, the Mid Atlantic, North Carolina, Tennessee, Connecticut, Georgia and other events across the United States.

The entire team is brand new to one another and will meet for the first time at their camp in and around Auburn, CA from March 1st to 5th.

Team roster

Wendy Simms (Nanaimo, British Columbia)
Kristin Danielson (Durango, CO)
Shannon Holden (Spokane, WA)
Noel Weddle (Grand Junction, CO)

Oceania Championships are a dry run for Rotorua World's

After the Oceania Cycling Federation announced last year that teams outside the Federation would be eligible to race at the event being held weeks before the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, a healthy turnout of riders is expected in the Sulphur City (Rotorua) Oceania Championships March 3-5.

BikeNZ marketing manager Ted Jones said the relaxing of the rule also added momentum to preparations for the 2006 UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships to be held in Rotorua in August next year.

Jones, who was part of a 13-strong official New Zealand delegation that attended last year's world mountain bike championships in Italy in a bid to promote both Rotorua events as well as observe best operational practices, said he was "pleasantly surprised" at the interest from a variety of team managers.

"There's a lot of interest to come out here," Jones said. "Countries such as South Africa, the United States and a number of European teams have all shown an interest to use the Oceania as an opportunity to test the course ahead of the World's while there will be a huge incentive for teams from top Commonwealth cycling countries like Canada and the four British nations to enter their cross-country teams."

Australia is set to send its biggest international team yet. The French mountain bike team had expressed an interest in travelling to Rotorua to test the course.

"For New Zealand riders it's a great opportunity to compete against the best in the world and be in contention for national series titles, while for non-Oceania riders it's a great opportunity to test the world's course...bring it on."

The 2006 Oceania Mountain bike Championships, which double as the final round of the New Zealand National Series, will be held on Mt Ngongotaha March 3-5.

Sea Otter releases full MTB schedule

The 16th annual Sea Otter Classic released its full competitive schedule this week. Held April 6 through 9 in and around the Laguna Seca Recreation Area in Monterey, California, the 2006 edition of Sea Otter features an number of races and events for mountain bikers.

Known as an MTB season kick-off event, Sea Otter draws nearly 10,000 professional, amateur and recreational athletes and as many as 50,000 spectators. The event features a Pro Road Circuit Race (S1), Road and Mountain Bike Recreational Rides, SRAM Mountain Bike Ride Zone, Bike Rodeo and BMX Demos. At the center of the non-stop action is the massive Sea Otter Village, home to the world's largest outdoor consumer bike exposition featuring over 250 vendors, a food court and tons of friend and family fun activities.

On the MTB front, Sea Otter offers a number of competitions: Cross Country, Short Track, Industry Cup, Downhill, Dual Slalom, Mountain Cross, PRO Gravity Omnium, and the SRAM Invitational Dirt Jump Contest.

For more information or to register for an event, visit the Sea Otter website at www.seaotterclassic.com.

Bikes Belong awards $37,850 in grants

The USA's Bikes Belong organisation announced that it will award $37,850 in grants this month to support five bicycling projects. The trails and bicycle advocacy supported by these grants will connect community paths, expand opportunities for mountain biking and, as always, put more people on bicycles more often.

Outdoor Chattanooga—Raccoon Mountain Trail System (TN). Outdoor Chattanooga, "an organisation dedicated to the recreational use, education, and stewardship of the region's natural areas", will receive $9,850 to help build the first of many new trails on Raccoon Mountain. This urban mountain bike facility will enable Chattanoogans to ride singletrack just five miles from their city's center.

City of Billings, Montana—Big Ditch Trail. The City of Billings will receive $5,000 towards construction of the Big Ditch Trail, a multi-use path that will provide a crucial north–south connector in the city's Heritage Trail Plan, linking 11 miles of existing paths. The trail will also provide a safe route for children to ride their bikes and walk to school.

City of Gresham, Oregon—Gresham/Fairview Trail. The City of Gresham, just east of Portland, will receive $7,500 to help construct phase II of the Gresham/Fairview Trail. This multi-use path will provide a north–south route for bike commuters and recreational riders as well as pedestrians. It will also link two existing paths and two proposed trails in Gresham. Bikes Belong's grant will leverage SAFETEA-LU money for this phase of the trail, classified as a linear park, which will be designed and maintained by the city's Parks and Recreation department. The Gresham/Fairview will link to Portland's 40-Mile Loop, a connected system of parks and parkways designed more than a century ago.

Friends of the Cheat—Preston Rail Trail (Kingwood, WV). The Friends of the Cheat will receive $7,500 to help develop an abandoned rail corridor into the multi-use Preston Rail Trail. The 10-mile segment will link the town of Kingwood with neighbouring Tunnelton, West Virginia, providing a safe route for commuters, families, and new cyclists. With subsequent funding, this project could be completed by the summer of 2006.

Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists—Organisational Development. Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists (MORC) will receive $8,000 to expand its organisation, enabling them to take its important mountain bike advocacy work to the next level. The Bikes Belong Grant will enable MORC to pursue more sponsorship and advertising opportunities, coordinate grant writing efforts, and focus on community building.

For more information and to get involved with Bikes Belong, visit their Web site - www.bikesbelong.org.

IMBA announces 2006 Kona/IMBA freeriding grants

In 2006, Kona Bicycle Company and the International Mountain Bicycling Association will once again award cash grants to fund the development of freeriding, downhilling, and dirt jumping projects.

IMBA-affiliated clubs in North America are invited to apply for seven $1,000 awards. The application deadline is April 1, 2006, and the grants will be awarded in May, 2006.

Funding for the program comes from Kona and the Kona/IMBA Buck-A-Bowl bowling tournament, an annual Las Vegas fundraiser held during Interbike, the bicycle industry trade show.

The program's goal is to speed the development of freeriding opportunities on public land. Grants may be used for a variety of purposes, including gaining land manager approval, addressing liability concerns, construction of technically challenging trails, kiosks and signage, and developing organisations devoted to freeriding

The Kona/IMBA Freeriding Grants program builds on Kona's long-time support of mountain biking advocacy. Kona has been a leading IMBA corporate supporter since 1994, and has developed several creative fundraising projects, including the Kona Buck-A-Bike program, the ongoing Kona Bro Deal program (which asks all bro deal purchasers to become IMBA members), and the highly successful bowling tourney, which recently celebrated its eighth edition.

For details about the application process, click here.

Haro to demo Sonix at the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo and Southridge Winter Series

If you're going to be attending the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo event in Tucson, AZ February 17-19 or the Southridge Winter Series race in Fontana, CA February 26th, take the opportunity to try out one of the new Haro Sonix VL120 bikes. 

The Haro Sonix features brand-new, patent pending Virtual Link suspension technology. The Sonix's virtual pivot moves in a half-orbit around the bottom bracket to eliminate pedal-induced bobbing, while leaving the rear wheel free to respond to the terrain. Haro says that the system's short, pivotless chainstays mean there's zero drivetrain flex.

For more information on the Sonix, please visit www.harosonix.com, on the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo event, go to www.epicrides.com, and on the Southridge Winter Series, go to www.southridgeusa.com.

Greg Watts wins Rays MTB Park 3Ride Pro Invitational

It didn't matter that Cleveland was slated to get smashed with a huge snow storm, athletes showed up to throw down at the Ray's Indoor MTB Park in Cleveland, Ohio last weekend.

Sponsored by SRAM and Red Bull, the contest was open to freeride and trials pros and kicked off Saturday February 3rd with the Sport Course Time Trial. The technical course included teeters, rock gardens and several balance lines. Riders were given time penalties if they couldn't complete each section ‘clean'. Brian Lopes was on top of his game and took first, followed by Greg Watts and Jim DeChamp.

The second competition was held on Ray's Pump Track. With side by side action, this event ran like an old school slalom. SRAM supplied a super accurate timing crew, which was key with the close racing action. At the end of it all, Brian Lopes again found first followed by Rich Houseman and Greg Watts.

The third and final event of the weekend was the Jump Contest. With the RedBull DJ pumping the music, the riders each took a shot at the jump section inside Ray's MTB Park. With $10,000 in overall prize money, everyone was pulling their biggest moves. Jim DeChamp attempted a forward flip. Unfortunately he came up short...three times! At the end, it was the Santa Cruz Syndicate star, Jamie Goldman bringing home first place. He was followed by Greg Watts and Andy Sunbaum.

When it came to crowning the overall Rays 3Ride Pro Invitational champion, Greg Watts came out on top; followed by Brian Lopes and Jamie Goldman. Watts was awarded $3,700 in cash for his efforts. In singles!

On Sunday, Ray's opened to the public for a special 'Ride with the Pros' session.

For more information on Ray's Indoor MTB Park, check their Web site at www.raysmtb.com.

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