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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

MTB News & racing round-up for July 27, 2006

Edited by Steve Medcroft

Falling in love again


Click for larger image
Photo ©: Rocky Mountain/Business
Objects MTB Team

An accomplished road cyclist, Pia Sundstedt had gone as far as she wanted to go in cycling by 2002. She was worn down from the stress and pressure of European road racing and walked away from the sport. Two years later, she reemerged; this time on a mountain bike at a marathon in Pfalz, Germany. After she won, and realized that the second-place rider was the current leader in the World Cup, she knew she had found something to love about cycling again. Steve Medcroft caught up with the 2006 UCI Marathon World Cup Series leader on the eve of the marathon in Vilabassa, Italy (in which Sundstedt went on to place third):

The town of Kokkola, Finland is an unlikely breeding ground for an elite cyclist. The city of 36,000, which sits some 500-kilometers north of Helsinki on the Western coast of Finland, boasts and average annual temperature of just 4.8 degrees Celsius and sunlight for as little as five hours a day in winter. But it happened anyway; in a region where every child lives, plays and gets to school on cross-country skis, Pia Sundstedt found a way to become a cyclist.

"In my school years, when I was a competitive skier," the thirty-one year old said from her hotel in Vilabassa, Italy just before the third round of the 2006 UCI World Cup, "I kept active in summer and cycling was available so I got into it."

Read the entire Pia Sundstedt interview here.

Paez and Suss take Marathon World Cup #3

Hector Leonardo Paez from Colombia won the third UCI MTB World Cup marathon at the Südtirol Dolomiti Superbike in Villabassa, Italy. The 24-year-old laid back the 119,9-kilometer long and 3,822-meters of total climbing course in four hours 52 minutes and 37 seconds. The Full Dynamix biker won with an advantage of six minutes and 25 seconds over Yader Zoli (KTM International) from Italy, who beat his teammate Mirko Pirazzoli (Salieri Arredo Quattro) in a sprint finish. Fourth to finish was the Olympic champion Bart Brentjens (Giant racing Team) from Holland (+7’.18“), fifth Thomas Dietsch (+7’.53“) from France.

Among the women the winner was the 32-year old Esther Süss (Ghost International Racing Team) from Switzerland, Küttingen in the canton Aargau, with a time of five hours, 47 minutes and 17 seconds. She was followed by her fellow countrywoman Daniela Louis from the canton Toggenburg (Team: Stöckli – Craft), who finished with an arrear of four minutes and two seconds.

For full results from the third round of the UCI World Cup Marathon Series, click here.

Gunn-Rita Dahle and Ralph Näf are European marathon champions

At the European mountain bike marathon championships, Norway’s Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa and Switzerland’s Ralph Näf secured themselves a golden medal each. Both dominated their respective races from the start, not granting their opponents a single chance.

From the start, Dahle Flesjaa drove away at such a tremendous speed that all of her opponents lost contact only a few meters into the race. With her victory at this year’s European marathon championships, she has completed her medal collection: The Norwegian has now won every title in mountain biking. She has become Olympic champion, world champion over the marathon as well as over the classic cross country distance, she has won the World Cup overall several times, the European cross country championship and now the last title that was still missing: that as European champion in the marathon discipline.

Her teammate Ralph Näf showed a similarly superior race in the men’s competition. Early on, he attacked and dropped the other riders - and was not caught again until the finish. For Näf, this was only his second race since a severe crash at the Fort William World Cup forced him out of competition. By winning the European marathon championships, he has become one of the main contenders for next weekend’s European cross country championships; a title he won in 2004.



1 Ralph Näf (SUI)
2 Thomas Stoll (SUI)
3 Andreas Kugler (SUI)
4 Roland Stauder (ITA)
5 Johan Pallhuber (ITA)
1 Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (NOR)
2 Pia Sundstedt (FIN)
3 Dolores Mächler-Rupp (SUI)
4 Elena Giacomuzzi (ITA)
5 Esther Süss (SUI)

The Athertons take Euro DH Championships

Brother and sister Gee and Rachel Atherton won their respective European Championships in Elite Downhill at the weekend, while elder brother Dan finished top 5.

Like last year, the 2006 European Championships were held in Vale di Sole, Italy and where the World Mountain Bike Championships will be hosted in 2008, as recently confirmed by the UCI.

The course was extremely tricky, with many riders crashing. In fact it was almost a matter of who could get themselves up from the ground quickest that qualified well. In the Men's qualifying, Gee qualified first, and Dan in the lower part of the top 10. In the women's qualifying Rachel crashed and came in second behind Emmeline Ragot of France.

In the final Gee stomped down the hill and won by more than three seconds over compatriot Marc Beaumont and two- time World Champion, Fabien Barel (FRA). Dan crashed but still managed a creditable 5th place.

Rachel had more difficulty with her win; "Pretty much everyone crashed in their race runs, you just had to be good at getting up! I had such a bad run, crashed then made loads of mistakes, I nearly gave up, but you can't do that! It was a pretty mad weekend," said Rachel on her return to the UK.



1 Gee Atherton (GBR)         3:50.19
2 Marc Beaumont (GBR)        3:53.29
3 Fabien Barel (FRA)         3:55.21
4 Mickael Pascal (FRA)       3:58.96
5 Dan Atherton (GBR)         4:05.05

1 Rachel Atherton (GBR)      4:50.00
2 Marielle Saner (SUI)       4:51.00
3 Helen Gaskell (GBR)        5:05.00

Kabush back to winning form after crash

Top North American riders gathered in Whistler’s mountain bike Mecca July 22 at the Canada Cup Series # 4, final qualifying event for the World Championships. Recently crowned National Champions Marie-Hélène Prémont (Chateau-Richer, QC) and Geoff Kabush (Victoria, BC) won the event.

In the men's 5-laps race, Geoff Kabush of Victoria, BC, returned to racing after a concussion he suffered at Canadian Nationals last week (a race in which he successfully defending his national championship jersey). "I haven't ridden a mountain bike since my crash last week. I only did one lap yesterday. My ribs are still sore so I was a bit worried about the race. I wanted to keep it smooth. I didn't find the heat too bad. I think my time in New Mexico helped."

For a full race report and results from round four of the Canada Cup click here.

Great Divide race ends with only one finisher

By Tom Purvis of

The grueling Great Divide solo, self-supported mountain-bike race, run on 2,490 miles of trails that dissect the United States from Banff, Alberta, Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico, ended last week with only one finisher. Matthew Lee finished in 17 days, 22 hours, 30 minutes, just missing Mike Curiak's record, which still stands at 16d 00h 57m.

Lee encountered lots of rainy weather and had a couple of key mechanical problems, otherwise he might very well have beaten the record. Matthew won the race last year in 19d 04h 17m.

In all, eight riders started the 2006 Great Divide Race. The next closest finisher, John Nobile, made it as far as Steamboat Springs, CO July 5 before dropping out. Kenny Maldonado made it to Rawlins, WY. on July 16th when he too stopped.

US MTB Worlds team announced

USA Cycling announced its automatic and discretionary picks for the U.S. National Teams for MTB Worlds August 22-27 in Rotorua, New Zealand and Marathon Worlds, August 13 in Oisans, France.

JHK at US Nats
Photo ©: Steve Medcroft
(Click for larger image)

In the elite men’s cross country category, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Boulder, Colo.) earned an automatic nomination with a fifth-place finish at the fourth round of the UCI World Cup series in Fort William Scotland. Ryan Trebon (Ventura, Calif.) earned the only other elite men’s cross country automatic nomination with a win Saturday at the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships brought to you by X-Fusion.

Automatic nominations went to Mary McConneloug (Chilmark, Mass.) and Georgia Gould (Ketchum, Idaho) in the elite women’s cross country category. Ranked ninth in the world, McConneloug earned her nomination with a top-10 overall ranking in the UCI standings, while Gould’s win at nationals solidified her nomination.

In the gravity disciplines, newly crowned national champion Duncan Riffle (Santa Barbara, Calif.) and top-ranked rider in the National Mountain Bike series standings, Justin Havukainen (Castro Valley, Calif.), earned nominations to the elite men’s downhill squad. Tara Llanes (Los Alamitos, Calif.) and Jackie Harmony (Tucson, Ariz.) qualified for the elite women’s downhill team as national champion and series leader.

See the complete announcement and full team roster here.

New Zealand MTB Worlds team announced

The Mountain Bike New Zealand selectors have named a full strength team to represent New Zealand at the 2006 Mountain Bike and Trials world championships being held in Rotorua August 22-27.

24 downhillers, 40 cross-country racers, 6 Four Cross (4X) specialists and two trials competitors have been selected in the 72 person squad announced by BikeNZ. Of those named only New Zealand’s two former downhill world champions, Vanessa Quin and Scarlett Hagen, are under injury clouds, although both are confident of being fit by August.

Most members of the elite downhill and cross country teams have been training in either Europe or North America in preparation for the world championships, with a number of encouraging results being achieved. Dunedin’s Kashi Leuchs is New Zealand’s current highest world ranked mountain biker at 9th, with Commonwealth Games cross country silver medalist Rosara Joseph ranked 11th.

For the complete New Zealand MTB Worlds team listing, click here.

Observed Trials Nationals to be held at NORBA finals

USA Cycling and the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) finals will host the Observed Trials National Championship at 9 a.m. Aug. 12 at the Snowmass Village Mall in Snowmass Village, Colo.

As part of the three-day mountain bike competition, riders from junior classifications starting at age 10 through modified and pro will compete for national championship titles. Registration for the event can be completed online by visiting

2008 Bejiing MTB course ready

A UCI delegation, comprising in particular of various sports coordinators, traveled to Beijing from June 25 to 30 to survey the progress of the 2008 Olympic Games cycling venues. The outcome of this visit is very positive since the mountain bike circuit has now been finalised, the construction of the velodrome is going ahead according to plan (end of construction: August 2007) and the test events planned at the venues where the Olympic competitions will take place, grouped together in one venue, in Laoshan, 30 km west of the centre of Beijing, will be organised in 2007.

IMBA call for help preventing Montana trail closures

A proposed Montana forest plan revision could set a dangerous national precedent by closing hundreds of miles of singletrack to bicycles. Montana's Bitterroot, Flathead and Lolo National Forests are recommending a new policy that will ban bicycles from trails in many roadless areas where access is currently allowed.

More than 400 miles of trail in seven roadless areas near Missoula are at risk, including many epic routes cherished by local cyclists. Some of the best trails include Heart Lake, Monture Creek, Bluejoint Creek and Blodgett Canyon. The Great Burn area alone contains 139 miles of singletrack that will be made off-limits to bicycles.

Unless cyclists take action, the Forest Service will zone these lands as "Recommended Wilderness," and will ban bicycles. Although most national forests around the country allow existing uses such as mountain biking to continue in Recommended Wilderness, the Bitterroot, Flathead and Lolo will not, thus setting a dangerous precedent.

For additional information about IMBA's plan to petition the forest service authorities considering the measures, please visit The deadline to submit comments regarding this matter is August 7, 2006.

Kona/IMBA 2007 Freeride grants awarded

Funded by Kona, seven IMBA clubs have been chosen to receive $1,000 cash grants to help create new freeriding, downhilling and dirt jumping opportunities. The program's goal is to support the development of freeriding opportunities on public land.

The Black Hills Mountain Bike Association has gained permission from Rapid City Parks and Recreation to construct a dirt jump park in an underutilized, heavily shaded cottonwood grove on city land. The Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association build the first purpose-built downhill trail in the Grand Junction area. The trail design provides for shuttle access and will include a number of freeride play areas. Disco Velo is developing a Hood River, Oregon gravity-fed jump trail within a small municipal park that will also meet specifications as an American Bicycle Association BMX track. The Hoosier Mountain Bike Association have built a great cross country trail system in Indiana and are now ready to add freeride features to the existing trail. Kingdom Trails Association is developing a progressive skills area in Vermont for youth and novice riders. The Pipeline Bike Club Council has partnered with the city of Coquitlam, British Columbia, to build a dirt jump park. The Surrey Off-Road Cycling Enthusiasts are transforming an unused open field into a high-skill, low-risk bike park within the city limits.

The Kona/IMBA Freeriding Grant program builds on Kona's time-tested, outstanding 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 tournament.

24 Hours of Great Glen Challenges on for August 12

The 11th Annual 24 Hours Of Great Glen begins at noon on Saturday, August 12 on 7.5 miles at the base of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. The course loop is a combination of Great Glen Trails’ packed gravel trails and the technically challenging single-track trails.

The first 24 Hours of Great Glen was held in 1996 with only 11 teams. This year, the race expects to register well over 150 teams with more than 450 riders.

Registration is open until August 7th at 11 pm at and at There will be no race day registration available.

Euro adventure racing; the Mary McConneloug & Mike Broderick diary

By Michael Broderick

Home sweet home
Photo ©: Mike Broderick & Mary McConneloug
(Click for larger image)

Driving north from the hot and dusty world cup in Madrid Mary and I could feel the shift in climate almost immediately. We crested a surrounding mountainous ridge burning the cheap(er) spanish diesel at a record rate, anxious to leave the hectic city behind. Thoroughly spent from our race efforts, we stopped as soon as we found a little out of the way campground where we could recharge.

Over the next few days Mary and I focused on putting some kilometers on the RV. Several back-to-back 800-kilometer drives left us sore and road weary but closer to the following weekend’s world cup in Belgium. Although we felt rushed, we re-learned that keeping the gas pinned to the floor is not a good option in the RV since this can vaporize a 70 euro tank of gas in 350 km, ouch!

Throughout the blur of travel, two stops at friend's houses stand out as salvation from road trip fever. One in Carcassonne at our friend Sylvain’s and another a day further into France at our friend Antoine’s; both places provided a much needed resting place to get off the road, train, and catch up with friends (internet and laundry too).

Read the entire Mike Broderick and Mary McConneloug diary here.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly; the Keith Bontrager diary

Rolling into Sagres - Cal Burgart.
Photo ©: Keith Bontrager
(Click for larger image)

I've been putting this one off for a while. I have my reasons of course; I had a lot of work to do since I got back and there have been some compelling sports events on TV. Of course, I also find it much easier to be distracted from these when I haven't done well. But I leave for England and the 24 hour race we are putting on tomorrow and I have to get it done.

I'll start with the good stuff first. That way I can delay the part about my results. This is going to jump around a bit, and it will be too long, but it was a long event with a lot to tell about.

Garmin/TransPortugal 2006

The concept of this race is similar to the other off road stage races, but with some twists that make it unique. It's an eight day long race. The course runs the entire length of Portugal. The days are hard, with lots of climbing. That's where the similarity ends.

Read the rest of the Keith Bontrager diary, part one here. Part two is here.

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