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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Regional News for August 15, 2002

Edited by Jeff Jones & Chris Henry

Two new riders for Van Hemert Groep

Two riders have signed contracts for next year with the Van Hemert Groep Cycling Team: Ruud Aerts and Jeroen Boelen.

NORBA finals at Mount Snow this weekend

Dunlap to race with broken wrist

The final race of the Chevy Trucks NORBA series will be held this weekend in Mt Snow, Vermont. In several disciplines, the battle for the national championship looks to be decided on the day, after a very close competition this season.

The duel for the Nationals crown between Alison Dunlap (Luna Chix) and Jimena Florit (RLX Polo Sport) has been particularly intense this season. The current World Champion, Dunlap has won just a single cross country race in this five-race series. But she leads the series with three second-place finishes to Florit and a victory in Wisconsin. She also has been unstoppable in the Balance Bar Short Track series, winning four straight races to command the hunt for that national title.

Unfortunately, Dunlap will have to race with a broken wrist and badly bruised hip. The injuries were sustained while riding near her home recently in Colorado Springs, Colo, when she crashed while trying to avoid a pedestrian and a dog. According to team officials, the break is not severe. Her physician has designed a special cast to stabilize the arm and enable Dunlap to race. ,p> Noting that Dunlap still has a World Cup leadership to defend and the World Championships approaching, team officials stressed that Dunlap would not race if competition threatened to worsen the injury. She currently plans to race both cross country on Friday, in which she leads Florit by just two points in the Chevy Trucks Nationals series, and the Balance Bar short track on Saturday, hoping to win her fifth straight short track race, the NORBA title and the national crown.

Her main rival is Argentinean Jimena Florit (RLX Polo Sport), a two-time NORBA short track champion who has found amazing form in the sport's most prestigious event, cross-country. Each of her three victories - in California, West Virginia and Colorado - have been stunning solo wins at the expense of Dunlap. Only in Wisconsin, where she finished a disappointing fifth place, did she falter. That single weak result has kept her out of the lead. Dunlap goes into Friday's Mount Snow finals with a two-point advantage over Florit.

"All I know is that it's close. It's all going to come down to Vermont," said Dunlap, who has won at Mount Snow.

Despite scoring four straight wins, Dunlap's control of the short track title is also subject to threats. Florit is looming in second place, just 56 points down on Dunlap. In short, any mechanical problem could cost Dunlap or Florit the series title.

In the Men's Pro Downhill, Australian Chris Kovarik and Kiwi John Kirkcaldie are tied on first place, setting the stage for an exciting finish this weekend.

Since late last year Kovarik (Intense) has seemed unstoppable in the men's pro downhill. He won four straight Tissot World Cups and won the first two Chevy Trucks Nationals. Then came a crash at a Canadian World Cup, a flat tire in West Virginia and a poor ride at the Telluride World Cup. Kovarik suddenly seemed beatable.

Defending Series Champion John Kirkcaldie (Maxxis) has only scored a single victory at Snowshoe Mountain Resort, but his results have been consistently high enough to give him the same points as Kovarik and a share of the series lead.

Finally rebounding from injuries, Kovarik scored a victory earlier this month in Round 4, held in Durango, Colo. "It's good to have a good ride and get the win," said Kovarik. "It's a real confidence builder."

In the hunt for the U.S. title, Eric Carter (Mongoose/Hyundai) is the top American in sixth overall. Right behind him, just 34 points down, is Colin Bailey (Maxxis), the second best American.

Finally, in the women's SoBe Mountain Cross there is a similar situation with Frenchwoman Sabrina Jonnier (Intense) and Australian Katrina Miller (Jamis) tied for first place.

When Tara Llanes (Yeti/Pearl Izumi) crashed in Durango, she broke her collarbone, ended her season, and reshuffled the entire SoBe Mountain Cross standings. And at the top stood two foreign riders, Sabrina Jonnier Katrina Miller, tied for the lead with 420 points. Llanes remained in third with 380 points.

Despite her injury, Llanes could still win the national title, as she remains the top American. Just 60 points behind her, however, is Melissa Buhl (KHS/ODI). Hence Buhl needs to get into the semi-finals, where she would be guaranteed 80 points, to win the first national title in mountain cross.

Jill Kintner (Intense/Troy Lee Designs) is the only other American with a realistic chance of knocking Buhl or Llanes out of the national title. She is in fifth overall, just 20 points down on Buhl. Should she reach the final four, Kintner could pull off the upset.

Moriarty and other Irish on form in Belgium

By Shane Stokes,

Eugene Moriarty (Cycleways Lee Strand) took Team Ireland's Belgian-based initiative's first win yesterday when he outsprinted his Belgian breakaway companion at the end of the Grand Prix Theo Heyem at Kotem, near the Dutch-Belgian border. The two had gone clear 24 kilometres from the end of the 112 kilometre kermesse (circuit race) and build a solid lead.

A mix up by the race organisers meant that the duo had to do an extra lap at the end of the race, resulting in a farcical situation where the riders ended up sprinting twice for the win. Moriarty was fastest on the first occasion and, crucially, the second so he took a fine victory.

"This is the first win for us out here and so the whole squad are delighted," he said. "We had got close with some high placings - Simon Kelly was second in a race at the weekend, for example - but we hadn't yet managed to take a victory. It is a great boost for the morale of everyone out here. Hopefully more wins are on the way."

Moriarty was also a strong fifth in the Het Zeekanal race near Brussels last weekend, racing home as part of an eight man breakaway group in the 130 kilometre event. The Kerryman had been part of a bunch which was chasing a group of five, but managed to bridge across towards the end of the contest with the Australians Clayton Smith and Michael Clarke. Belgian rider Danny In't Ven won the race, with Smith and Clarke placing second and fourth and Moriarty next home.

Of the other Irish, Gary McQuaid (Emerald) and John Dempsey (Earl of Desmond) finished in a chasing group which was approximately two minutes back. Simon Kelly (Galway CC) and Paul Healion (Usher IRC) came to the line as part of the main field.

Moriarty's good result is the latest in a string of good placings for Team Ireland cyclists. Racing in kermesses, typically flat circuit races of 120 kilometres in length, the riders compete regularly in fast, testing events against a strong field. This in turn helps them to progress as competitors, and provides a valuable schooling for the younger riders on the team.

"The initiative is going really well," says Paddy Moriarty, who recently spent two weeks racing in Belgium. "Eugene Moriarty is doing a great job of running things out there in the house, which is located in Sluiven, near Liege. It is also very close to Maastricht so sometimes the lads race in Holland. Considerable praise must be given to Eugene, he is doing a fabulous job out there. With his experience and his knowledge from studying physiology, he is proving extremely valuable to all, especially to the younger members."

The Team Ireland initiative has changed radically since last year, when it funded a small number of riders to spend the year in the South of France. The decision was taken to transfer it to Belgium in order to make the base more central and to increase the number of big events which riders can compete in. Cycling Ireland is currently renting a house there and riders can travel over, stay, and race in the regular Belgian kermesses. Selected teams will also take part in bigger events, including UCI-ranked competitions.

One clear advantage of the new system is that it enables a far greater spread of riders to compete in these international events; while a handful of cyclists benefited from last year's set-up, this season many more are travelling abroad and staying in the house, which can hold up to fourteen at any one time.

Because of generous funding by the Irish Sports Council, the scheme works out to be relatively inexpensive for riders. They pay just €20 per week towards their costs, while flights out with Ryan Air typically cost between €30-60 one-way. The Team Ireland squad have a car to transport them to races, with another vehicle on standby if there are large numbers present.

"The whole project is working out extremely well," said Ciaran McKenna of Cycling Ireland. "It is proving very popular - every rider I have talked to is delighted about it. Quite a few are heading over there - there were nine over there last weekend, with more again heading out this week and next."

"The aim is that the lads themselves will learn about riding international races. If they are over here for a month or two it means that their standard will rise and they will become better bike riders. That has a knock on effect, too - when they come back home, they are going a good bit better so that means that they end up raising the level here too. So even the guys staying at home are getting some benefit out of it."

McKenna is quick to praise the backing provided by the Irish Sports Council, who have contributed a total of €60,000 towards the project. 'They have been really great - they are in touch with us all the time to see how things are going and generally have been very helpful. They gave us €40,000 towards the costs earlier this year, and that has enabled the riders to stay there very cheaply. More recently the Sports Council gave us another €20,000 towards coaching and training equipment - using some of that money, we have been able to buy two SRM Power Meter systems."

"One of those is being used by Mark Scanlon as he prepares for the world championships, while the second is there for the other riders and will be used by them to measure their progress. One possibility is that we will use it to do regular physiological tests on the riders - using the SRM meter and a set of rollers, we could test them every three weeks to a month and tailor the training programme around the results. That should in turn make a big difference to their fitness levels."

Being located just 25 kilometre from this year's world road race championship course, the base is ideally situated for the junior and under 23 riders who will be competing in Zolder this October. They will be able to travel out beforehand and fine tune their preparation through a programme of training and racing, and will also stay in the Cycling Ireland house during the championship itself. "We are hoping that this will make a difference - they should have the best possible preparation and hopefully we will get a good result out of it," says McKenna.

Additional results from recent events:

Sunday 4th August, near Luxembourg: 2. Paddy Moriarty; 3. Paul Healion; 5. Tim Cassidy; 7. Philip Deignan; 10. Jonathan Dempsey

Friday 2nd August: 25. Sean Lacey; 30. Simon Kelly

Wednesday 30th July. St Truden: 11. Paul Healion; 12. Tim Cassidy; 15. Sean Lacey; 35. Paddy Moriarty

Monday 28th July. Sint Truiden: 8. Paddy Moriarty

Saturday 26th July: 13. Paddy Moriarty; 16. Tim Cassidy

Friday 25th July: 17th. Paddy Moriarty

Those interested in staying in the Team Ireland base and competing on the continent should contact Ciaran McKenna or the High Performance commission. Contact Cycling Ireland at 01 - 8551522.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2002)