MTB news & racing round-up for March 15, 2007
Welcome to our regular roundup of what's happening in mountain biking.
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Edited by Sue George
What happened to NORBA?
Women's start at NMBS event
Photo ©: Susan Candee
Stand around at any mountain bike race in the US or talk to long-time
racers and you'll hear the term "NORBA" used again and again.
For years, it has been an acronym for National Off Road Bicycle Association,
once an independent governing body of mountain bike racing in the US,
and then later the mountain bike racing division of USA Cycling (USAC).
For many years, "NORBA National" was also a short linguistic
reference to any of the collection of about a half dozen top-level elite
races that comprised the national series. After several changes of ownership
and licensing, that series is now called the National Mountain Bike Series
(NMBS) and is run by Blue Wolf Event Productions. The NMBS is not to be
confused with the USAC-owned Mountain Bike National Cross Country and
Gravity Calendars, which include not only the NMBS races, but many other
All series aside, USAC has dropped the use of the term "NORBA"
in association with races in general, although the organization itself
still exists. The terminology changes are all about marketing.
"NORBA exists as an organization from a legal and governing perspective.
That's the mountain biking arm of USA Cycling. We're trying to retain
everything under the brand USA Cycling now," said USAC spokesperson
Andy Lee, to Cyclingnews.
"The NORBA Board of Trustees and USA Cycling decided to do away
with the use of the term NORBA for the race series and any (mountain bike)
Mountain bikers are not the only group subject to the change in marketing
philosophy. "It's not specific to NORBA," said Lee. "What
we've called the USPRO (road) championships for years, for example, we
now call the USA Cycling Professional Championships. We're doing the same
thing with the USCF (for road cycling) and the NCCA (for collegiate cycling)."
Lee recognized that old speaking habits die hard, and it will take time
for racers and promoters to adopt the new lingo and stop using the word
"NORBA." "It's tough to eliminate that term from their
vocabulary. We understand it's not something that's going to happen overnight."
UCI unveils new World Cup sponsor
The UCI announced a new title sponsor for the Mountain Bike World Cup.
The Nissan UCI Mountain Bike World
Cup presented by Shimano will see 11 total events across 10 countries
during 2007. The World Cup covers the disciplines of marathon, cross-country,
downhill, and four cross.
The partnership hopes the high profile World Cup events will attract
a global television audience that will encourage mountain biking development
across all levels.
"Mountain biking is a modern and dynamic discipline with an attractive
image and enormous potential," said UCI President Pat McQuaid. "Thanks
to the joint efforts of Nissan and the UCI, everyone associated with mountain
biking will see fantastic progress in the years to come."
Darren Cox, European Brand Manager for Nissan said, "Nissan has
historically supported adventurous activity, but now we are stepping up
a gear...we hope to inspire adventure spirited people throughout Europe."
Nissan has a history of involvement with adventures sports; they have
been sponsoring the popular international XTERRA off-road triathlon series
Under the new agreement, Nissan's sponsorship is good through 2009. The
first round of the World Cup series kicks off this weekend with the cross-country
marathon on March 17 in Gran Canaria, Spain.
Absalon and Fullana win first race of the Gran Premi Massi
Photo ©: Eduard Aguilera
The Orbea Team dominated the race in Banyoles - Pla de l'Estany in Girona,
Spain. The first event in an eight-race series drew more than 500 riders
from 11 different nations.
Last year's winner José Antonio Hermida (Multivan-Merida) seized control
of the race early by setting the pace on the first 3km loop. Then Julien
Absalon, current Olympic Champion and three-time World Champion, attacked
aggressively and finished the first of five laps with a ten second gap
on a chase group consisting of Hermida (Multivan-Merida) and the two Orbea
riders Ruben Ruzafa and Jean Cristoph Peraud. Back at 42 seconds was a
group of three composed of Cedric Ravanel (Lapierre), Peter Riis (Team
ALB-Gold) and Sergio Mantecón (Massi).
From that moment on, Absalon ruled the race perfectly with Peraud and
Ruzafa controlling the attacks from Hermida. This chase group was losing
time on the leader, so spectators switched to the question of who would
be the one not to make the podium.
Photo ©: Eduard Aguilera
The two Orbea riders attacked Hermida a few times, trying to burn the
Multivan-Merida rider. The strategy worked perfectly, and Ruzafa escaped
from his French colleague and Hermida, going for the second spot. In the
last lap, Peraud also opened a very small gap on Hermida, but still enough
to get the third position and give Orbea a podium sweep.
In the women's race, Marga Fullana (Spiuk-Tau) dominated easily. She
escaped from her rivals right from the beginning and finished in 1:18:43
about two and a half minutes ahead of French rider Cecile Ravanel (Lapierre).
Laurance Leboucher (Sarthe-Gasseau) rounded out the top three in 1:22:29,
and Sandra Santanyes (Massi) took fourth.
To read the complete report, click
Canada and US dominate Pan Am Continental Championships
Max Plaxton (Canada)
Photo ©: Mikkeli Godfree
The US team swept the elite women's podium and Canada took two golds
and a silver in the men's competitions at the Continental Mountain Bike
Championships in Villa la Angostura, Argentina, last weekend. Both countries
were on a quest to secure the maximum number of start positions for the
2008 Olympic Games.
In the elite women's race, Georgia Gould (Luna) led the elite women's
contingent with a win in the 24-kilometer race in a time of 1:56:46 ahead
of silver medalist Mary McConneloug (Kenda-Seven) 2:06 back and bronze
medalist Willow Koerber (Subaru-Gary Fisher) 4:51 back. Heather Irmiger
(Subaru-Gary Fisher) finished fourth to give the Americans a sweep of
the top four spots. Francisca Campos Salas of Chile rounded out the top-five,
5:46 back. One of the favorites, Shonny Vanlandingham (Luna), did not
start due to illness.
Meanwhile, all three of Canada's team members at the race came home with
medals in the elite men's race. Geoff Kabush and Seamus McGrath took first
and second in the elite men's category while Max Plaxton won the Under
23 division. Kabush clocked a winning time of 2:02:40 while McGrath crossed
the line 49 seconds later.
Winner Geoff Kabush was proud of the team, but worried about his own
condition going into the race. "I was unsure if I would be recovered
after finishing the 13th day Tour of Cuba in February; but obviously the
racing paid off. It was a very close race, and luckily I timed things
Geoff Kabush & JHK
Kabush faced a challenge from American Todd Wells (GT-Hyundai), who was three
kilometers away from a possible victory when mechanical failure derailed
his hopes. Wells settled for third while his teammates Adam Craig (Giant)
and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary Fisher) a fourth and fifth respectively.
Wells led for most of the 30km men's contest before wet and sandy conditions
caused his rear derailleur to malfunction. He finished two seconds off second
Photo ©: Susan Candee
Max Plaxton took the U23 race ahead of Sam Schultz (Subaru-Gary Fisher)
and Sam Jurekovic (USA Cycling National Development Team). "It's
one of the best courses I have ever raced. I did the job I had to do.
I am satisfied. I cannot wait to race with the elite," said Plaxton,
who has been dominating the under 23 event for two years in a row. Plaxton
had gone into the race confident after previewing the 6km course.
Chloe Forsman (Luna) took gold in the women's U23 race, with a four-and-a-half
minute final lead over second-place finisher Alexandra Serrano of Ecuador.
Melanie Meyers (Kenda-X-Fusion-Titus) added a bronze to the American medal
Entering Sunday's race, the United States was ranked fourth in the men's
standings behind Switzerland, France, and Spain, while the American women
were ranked sixth behind Norway, Germany, Canada, China and Poland. Nations
earning top-five for men and top-four for women on December 31, 2007 will
accumulate the maximum number of Olympic start spots (three for men, two
for women). Canada came to the event looking to secure two men's cross-country
For results, click
Kulhavy & Spitz win Race Under Sun
The women's podium
Photo ©: Mike Hadjioannou
Jaroslav Kulhavy took a surprising win in men's competition of the Race
Under the Sun in Yermasogia, Cyprus. In an exciting contest, the Czech
rider beat Italian riders Yader Zoli and Toni Longo.
Favorite Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe) crashed on the first lap. He then
abandoned, leaving a group of four men to set the pace. One of them, Roel
Paulissen (Bel) fell back in the fifth lap.
Kulhavy spent most of the time in the last position of the lead group
until the final lap. Then the 2003 Junior World Champion attacked, gapped
Zoli and Longo, and eventually celebrated his victory with a margin of
six seconds. The 22-year-old rider showed that he has finally arrived
amongst the elite after several years in the senior ranks.
The women faced temperatures of 25 degrees, an advantage for Sabine Spitz,
who likes racing in the heat. After some troubles for the women's peloton,
which went the wrong way during the start loop, Spitz led the field onto
the demanding course. In her first race this season, she was left Tereza
Hurikova behind on the second of four laps, eventually finishing 1:30
minutes ahead of the young Czech challenger.
To read the complete report and see full results and photos, click
Team Rocky Mountain Bicycles inks new sponsor & finalizes roster
The Rocky Mountain Bicycles race team signed a new title sponsor for
2007. Haywood Securities, a sponsor since 2001, is also a supporter of
the Canadian National Cross Country Ski team, and has stepped up its commitment
this year. The new sponsor is a Vancouver-based securities company with
offices in Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, and London, England.
Seamus McGrath (Canada)
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
The 2007 team welcomes a new member--another Canadian Olympian; Seamus
McGrath of British Columbia will join existing Olympic and multiple World
Championship medal winners and team members Marie-Hélène
Prémont Max Plaxton, Alison Sydor, and Carsten Bresser.
With 15 years in the sport, McGrath's career highlights include his
ninth place finish at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, a silver and bronze
medal at the 2002 and 2006 Commonwealth Games, and winning the overall
US National Championship short track title in 2002. McGrath also has a
number of top 10 World Cup and World Championship finishes in his resume.
"I will focus on racing very competitively on the World Cup circuit
and in North America to help Canada build ranking points towards the 2008
Olympics," said McGrath, who adds to the men's pro roster of two-time
German Olympian Carsten Bresser and 2006 World Championship bronze medal
winner Max Plaxton. McGrath and Bresser will also partner to compete in
some of the World's biggest epic stage races in 2007.
Plaxton, 2006 Espoir Bronze medal winner at the World Championships,
finished his 2006 season with a victory in the Pan American Championships
in October. In 2007, Plaxton will focus on the World Cup Espoir (Under
23) title and on earning points for the 2008 Olympic team selection.
Another Olympic hopeful, Prémont is one of the fastest women on
the cross-country mountain bike circuit. Her 2006 achievements included
two World Cup victories, a bronze medal at the cross country World Championships,
podium finishes at every World Cup race, and her fourth consecutive Canadian
National title. Prémont will focus on the World Cup circuit and
World Championships in 2007
Three-time world champion and Olympic silver medal winner Alison Sydor
continues with the team. Sydor has won an amazing 13 World Championship
medals. In 2007, she will race high profile Marathon events and continue
to help Canada score points in the Olympic quest.
2007 is the final qualifying race year to earn starting positions for
the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. With many national team members on
its squad, Rocky Mountain will support the Canadian National Team in the
quest to maximize Canada's chances for starting positions at those Games.
Looking further ahead, perhaps to the next Olympics in 2012, the team
has re-signed young riders Raphael Gagné, Marty Lazarski, Jean
Ann McKirdy, and Matt Hadley. 2005 Junior National Champion Gagné
finished third overall in the Canadian National Series as a first year
espoir racing in the senior category. McKirdy took the 2005 and 2006 U23
women's national championship while Hadley and Lazarski both are coming
off solid 2006 seasons.
After a season debut at the Sea Otter Classic April 12-15 in Monterey,
California, Prémont, Plaxton, McGrath, and Sydor will go to Europe
for World Cup races in Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland. McGrath and
Bresser will contest the prestigious Trans Alp Challenge victory in July,
and Prémont will strive for a third consecutive victory at the
World Cup in Mont Sainte-Anne, Québecon June 25. The team looks
toward the World Championships in Fort William, Scotland, with a goal
of bettering its 2006 performance of winning three medals at the Worlds
in New Zealand.
World Cup series kicks off with Gran Canaria marathon this weekend
Photo ©: Rob Jones
The first round of the World Cup marathon series will happen this weekend
in Gran Canaria. Organizers have been confirming the participation of
various racers, who will contest the 90km event. Among them are two top
riders from the Gewiss - Bianchi team: Pia Sundstedt from Finland and
Thomas Dietsch of France.
Sundstedt, also a cross country ski marathon racer, finished the year
2006, one of the best seasons of her career. She was crowned Finnish National
Marathon Champion and European Marathon Champion. She also finished fifth
at the Worlds. The 33-year-old Dietsch was European Champion in the marathon
in 2003 and 2004.
Meanwhile, Team ALB GOLD announced the participation of German marathon
master Hannes Genze. He will take on the likes of roadie Gilbert Simoni.
Genze expects technical skills will play a role--a recent storm left some
sections of the course washed out and with littered loose debris.
Oceania Championships schedule set
The Oceania Mountain Bike Championships are happening in less than two
weeks in Thredbo, NSW, Australia, from Friday March 23 through Sunday
March 25. The continental championships will feature the mountain cross,
cross country, and downhill disciplines and be contested by elite riders
from New Zealand, Australia, New Caledonia, and other Pacific regions.
The event is run by Raw NRG, Threadbo, in conjunction with Mountain Bike
Australia. For many elite riders, this is their last race in Australia
before heading overseas to compete in the World Cups. Younger riders will
be tackling this race as a selection event for the World Championships
in Fort William Scotland.
Last year's Oceania championships were held on the World Championships
courses in Rotorua, New Zealand.
Friday March 23: Mountain cross heats & finals
Saturday March 24: Downhill qualifying, Men U19 cross country
Sunday, March 25: Downhill finals, Women, Men, and U23 cross country
Gunn-Rita diary: Sunny days on Majorca
We're still on Spanish soil, enjoying fantastic days of exercise and
training in the sun. Even though my legs are beginning to get pretty packed
with kilometres, we're glad that we postponed our return home. Our last
days down here will be utilized to their fullest potential. We'd be happy
to stay even longer with conditions as good as these.
We've had unusually good weather for February here on Majorca, meaning
that we've been able to do all-important intervals and high intensity
loads these last two weeks. My break due to sickness is far behind and
we're well under way again. Four days sick in bed were irritating and
impractical as always. So in order to complete our planned training for
this period in preparation for the upcoming race in a good week from now,
we decided to postpone our return a few days.
There are many cyclists at our hotel these days, but our own group has
diminished considerably this last week. The final members of Team Merida
left on Saturday. Today the mountain-biker Linda and ice-skater Annette
left for Norway, so now it's just Lene, Kenneth, and me left here. I know
that there are several Norwegian cyclists here on Majorca right now and
they're probably also very happy for the fantastic cycling conditions
To read the complete diary entry, click
Granny Gear National Points Series to continue
In 2006, Granny Gear Productions announced the inaugural 24 hour National
Points Series, which was ultimately contested by 16 teams, yet until recently
the fate of the series for 2007 remained uncertain largely due to the
expense of running it. However, the series is officially back in action
for 2007, with three new events added.
Points will be tracked across 22 pro and amateur categories. To be considered
for the overall, the best three of six races will be counted, with a two-race
minimum to qualify.
The schedule is below.
April 21-22: 24 hours of Vail Lake (California)
May 19-20: 24 hours of Conyers (Georgia)
June 9-10: 24 hours of Big Bear (West Virginia)
July 28-29: 24 hours of Killington (Vermont)
September 22-23: 24 hours of Landahl (Missouri)
October 13-14: 24 hours of Moab (Utah)
IMBA Announces 2007 Kona Freeriding Grants
Kona Bicycle Company and IMBA will continue their program of awarding
cash grants to fund the development of freeriding, downhilling, and dirt
Thirteen US$1,000 awards will be available in support of the program's
goal of speeding 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 organizations
devoted to freeriding.
Funding for the program comes largely from the Buck-A-Bowl bowling tournament
held annually in Las Vegas during the Interbike bicycle industry trade
IMBA-affiliated clubs in North America may apply until May 15. Grants
will be awarded in June 1.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)