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Las Vegas, USA, September 26-30, 2005
Interbike MTB coverage, Day 3: trade show floor
By Steve Medcroft
You could see the pain in the eyes of vendors and attendees on Thursday at Interbike. Two straight days of walking the more than 300,000 feet of floor space and three to four nights of industry parties were taking their toll. But it was almost impossible to drink in the whole show in just the first couple of days so - on the last day your MTB reporter would be spending at the show - we stalked the aisles like the rest of the addled and exhausted crowd and found a few more things to write about.
Heather Irmiger signing
One of the responsibilities of a professional-level mountain biker is to help their sponsor in the marketing of their products. Some pros, like Dejay Birtch of Genuine Innovation and Andy Jaques-Maynes of Specialized, are full-time employees of their sponsors and worked as staff at their employer's booth at Interbike. For other athletes, the job of helping out means showing up for autograph sessions to draw people to the booth.
At Interbike, there was a lot of autograph signing. It's a great service to the retailer; having athlete-signed posters on your bike shop walls shows that you are connected to the cycling world in a way customers seem to appreciate. Everyone from Thomas Frischknecht and Alison Dunlap to Geoff Kabush and Mary McConneloug was on hand at the show.
We caught up with first-time Interbike autographer Heather Irmiger at the Schwalbe booth to see what her experience was like. "I've been to Interbike before but this is my first year as a racer," she said. "I've always tagged a long with Jeremy (Horgan-Kobelski, Irmiger's soon-to-be husband)."
Irmiger's role at the show was to sign autographs and answer questions about racing and the products her sponsors provided her during the season. After a successful NORBA season (Irmiger won her first NORBA cross country race in Brian Head, Utah), Interbike was Irmiger's last stop before her October 9th wedding.
Asked if she's had a chance to absorb the meaning of her breakout season, Irmiger said, "Absorb the season? I actually had a surprising amount of time last weekend to absorb the season. My friends kidnapped me on Friday morning," she explained. "Everyone in the world knew except for me. I was getting ready for work and my friends came busting in wearing sombreros. They're like 'come on - you're going to Mexico!' They had taken care of getting me time off work and had been planning for months. We went to Mexico for four days and lay on the beach for 12 hours a day. I definitely did some absorbing."
The time to reflect gave Irmiger a clear concept of where to take her career. "I feel really good about next year," she said. "The thing that is satisfying about a season is meeting your goals and this year, I started wanting to be on a podium at a NORBA and to make the World's team. I was on a lot of podiums. Winning a race was a total surprise. And I was on the world's team and raced well there. It all means I get to go into the next season with a better understanding of the big picture of racing; I had something I wanted to do and I did it. Which gives me confidence in the new goals I'll be setting for myself."
Irmiger also hinted that her sponsorship arrangement would become more serious for 2006, but wasn't ready to release details. Stay tuned to Cyclingnews throughout the week as we track down any leads and news about mountain-bike team signings.
Cruising by the Seven Cycles booth at Interbike, we found US National Champion Mary McConneloug and partner and teammate Mike Broderick working the crowd. Broderick was showing a retailer Seven's 2006 line of ti/carbon composite bikes (called IMX). Broderick took us through the MTB hardtail version of the IMX line. "Weight savings is the real reason for this bike," he said. "The IMX frame is 300 grams lighter than the older bike (the all-titanium Sola-a; the bike on which McConneloug won her National Championship in Mammoth in September)."
The top tube and down tube are made from IMX Argen TC™ tube sets; carbon tubes moulded into titanium lugs. Broderick says that the addition of carbon gives Seven engineers a fine tunability to the frame's handling characteristics. The ability to customise handling is a core component of Seven's pitch to buyers; every one of their bikes can be ordered customised to the individual rider. The customisation options include sizing, materials and performance. You can order a frame to be quick and agile, stable and resolute, or anything in between.
Broderick says the combination of carbon tubes and titanium joints also means their frame is more durable than Seven's all-carbon competitors. Coming from a company that has always built frames to last a rider's lifetime (and gives a lifetime frame warranty), this is a significant claim.
Available in sizes 10 through to 25 inches, or completely custom at no extra charge, The IMX weighs an average of just three pounds for a 16-inch frame.
Alison Dunlap retirement gig
At the close of show business on Thursday a reasonably large crowd gathered at the Luna/Clif booth to see off Alison Dunlap. Clif Bar founder Gary Erickson had Dunlap immediately in tears (not hard to do if you've been following her various retirement celebrations at the end of the season) as he recounted the relationship the former World Champion has had with his company.
Then he let Bob Roll take over. "She's a five-time national cyclocross champion," Roll said. "A World Cup champion. Sea Otter two times. Three cross country NORBA titles. 13 national titles in total. But probably one of the greatest accomplishments I've ever seen in cycling was in 2001. It was very troubling time in the history of the United States; one of the first events after the 9-11 tragedy in New York City, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania, was held in Durango, Colorado, where Alison Dunlap won a world title. There was not a dry eye in the house."
Sugoi then presented Dunlap with a framed version of the unique jersey they gave to her at call-ups during the National Championship Short Track race in Mammoth. Tom Danielson and Fred Rodriguez acted like proper podium girls, giving Dunlap a kiss and huge bouquets of flowers, then Roll, after alluding to an after party that would include "drinking and nakedness," asked Dunlap about her plans after racing. "I can't believe it's been 18 years that I've been racing bikes," she said. "I'm going to miss everybody a lot."
DT Swiss release new downhill/freeride wheel
DT Swiss had a snappy-looking set of rims on display at Interbike. The bright-red prototypes were made up of 440 hub and FR6.1 rims. The company says they wanted to offer a complete wheelset to the downhill and freeride set for 2006; something that builds on the tradition of their popular wheel components.
The wheel component and spoke manufacturer was also showing off a new rim in their hoop family. The Enduro bridges the gap between the wide and stable downhill standard (FR series) and their narrow, lightweight cross-country (XT series) rims. David Agapito, DT Swiss booth spokesperson (no pun intended) said the company, which began as a chain mail maker's shop in Sweden some 300 years ago, has been getting a lot of demand for an all-mountain rim; something not as heavy as a downhill rim but tough enough to stand up to hard riding. "The 500-gram hoop better fits 2.5" MTB tires," he said.
Giro may be the most popular supplier of helmets to the pro peloton thanks in part to their association with a certain Texas-based roadie, but German-based Uvex wants you to know they put the lid on Armstrong's biggest rival; Uvex is the official supplier to both the T-Mobile US Women's National Team and Jan Ullrich's T-Mobile Pro Tour team.
The association with T-Mobile is not surprising though; Uvex is a 79-year-old German protective clothing company which branched into helmet making 15 years ago. 2005 is their third year offering cycling helmets in the US, and on display at the Uvex booth, we found a sweet time trial shell worn by the pros. Of course, the helmet is not approved for consumer use so you can't buy it at a bike shop. Instead, you have to call the company, prove you're a professional racer and shell out $250 if you want one.
We also noticed a really clean-looking MTB helmet on the Uvex rack. With a matte finish, permanent visor, bug screens in the forward-facing vents and a mount for a red LED flasher at the rear of the helmet, the 266-gram helmet seemed perfect for MTB.
Uvex also offers an inexpensive pro-level junior helmet. At only $49, it's suitable for any small head, but juniors will especially like having equipment on the same quality level as their parents. Uvex also makes a nice freeride helmet. In a carbon finish, the helmet has a deep rear bucket to provide a little more protection from falls. They say they sell a lot of that particular model in Colorado (not sure if that means Colorado is a fall-prone MTB community or a freeride haven - talk amongst yourselves).
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Steve Medcroft/Cyclingnews.com