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MTB news & racing round-up for March 22, 2007

Welcome to our regular roundup of what's happening in mountain biking. Feel free to send feedback, news and releases to mtb@cyclingnews.com.

Edited by Sue George

Emmett signs with Giant

Kelli Emmett
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Kelli Emmett has traded her Ford Cycling gear for that of Team Giant. She joins fellow Giant cross country racer Adam Craig and Carl Decker. Emmett talked to Cyclingnews as she prepared to depart for the Medalla Light Ultimate Dirt Challenge, a UCI race in Puerto Rico this weekend.

"It'll be my first race of the season," said Emmett, who will celebrate her 30th birthday in two weeks. "I'm very excited about it."

Last season was a tough one for Emmett, who calls home Colorado Springs, Colorado. "I got third at short track at nationals, and I had some decent races in Europe, where I was third American. I did have a top-five NORBA at Sugar (Mountain in North Carolina).

"Then I broke my arm mid-season. I was in July at Crankworks. I was downhilling. I learned a lesson last year: no downhilling in July, during the season."

Yet she kept her year in perspective. "It was one of those seasons where I had a lot of mechanicals and flats. But there were a couple of good results, and many times I was in good position when something did happen."

"This is my third year doing the World Cup circuit. I did it the last two years. Last year, I didn't do all the races. Both years, really, I missed one or two races. It's important to get that experience. It just takes time getting your butt kicked and learning how to race over there."

Emmett hopes to build on international success from 2005, during which she took eighth at the Mont St. Anne World Cup and finished 12th in the World Cup overall. Along with Craig, she will be attending plenty of races in the quest for UCI points.

"I'm interested in making the long team for the Olympics, which will be determined by UCI points at the end of the year." Emmet is targeting the NMBS series in the US and the World Cup races internationally.

Both Craig and Emmett are trying to cut back on the total quantity of racing they undertake. "Every year, I say I'm not going to do as many races, but I always do too many. Adam is the same way." Decker, on the other hand, will likely undertake a slightly different program. "He's not concerned with chasing points this year."

Emmett and Craig will get to test their form this weekend in Puerto Rico. Then look for them at the NMBS #1 in Phoenix and Sea Otter subsequent weekends.

Marathon opened World Cup season

Pia Sundstedt (Fin) crosses the finish line
Photo ©: MTB World Cup
(Click for larger image)

The UCI World Cup opened this weekend with no surprise winners from its first round, a marathon in Gran Canaria, Spain. Columbian Leonardo Paez won the elite men's race with a time of 3:27:24. He took second just over a minute ahead of Frenchman Thomas Dietsch and 3:25 ahead of Austrian Alban Lakata. The men's podium at this year's marathon World Cup opener was exactly like last year's opener in Naoussa, Greece, but with the second and third places switched. Paez is a proven endurance racer; he convincingly won the Costa Rican La Ruta de los Conquistadors stage race in November.

In the women's race, Finland's Pia Sundstedt won with a time of 3.27.17. She beat German Ivonne Kraft by over five and a half minutes and Frenchwoman Helene Marcouyre by six minutes. Sundstedt regularly visited the steps of the podium last year, and we'll likely see more of her this year.

The presence of several former and current roadies did not go unnoticed. Sundstedt herself is a former roadie, who renewed her love for the sport through mountain bike endurance events after she walked away from a successful road career.

Abraham Olano at the starting line.
Photo ©: MTB World Cup
(Click for larger image)

Though still riding as a current pro for Saunier Duval, Gilberto Simoni finished sixth place, 8:35 behind Paez. Adrian Montgomery of Scott USA confirmed to Cyclingnews Simoni's intentions to retire from the road after the Giro d'Italia in May and convert to mountain biking in an attempt to make the 2008 Italian Olympic Mountain Bike Team.

Montgomery believes Simoni stands a good chance of making a successful transition from road to mountain given his phenomenal bike handling skills.

Alexander Moos, former Kelme and Phonak road pro now riding for Team BMC, also completed the circuit, finishing in 26th. Moos is doing a complete slate of mountain bike races this year, and will join his team for select stage races.

Finally, road fans may also have noticed Abraham Olano, who turned up at the start in his old, pink ONCE kit. Olano raced the 90km amateur edition of the race, run at the same time as the elite race. After the race, Olano said, ""It was very hard, but as well as the wonderful experience, I never thought it would be so demanding."

Click here to see results and photos from the men's and women's races.

Puerto Rico to host cross country in Rincon

The Medalla Light Ultimate Dirt Challenge will happen this weekend on March 25 in Rincon, Puerto Rico. It is the only class one UCI race in Latin America; with its points and warm weather, it is expected to draw many top racers from North America.

Last year, more than 300 racers and 2,500 spectators converged upon the island. Already confirmed for the women's cross country are Americans Mary MacConneloug (Team Kenda Seven), Heather Irmiger (Team Subaru-Gary Fisher), and Kelli Emmett (Team Giant), and Chilean Francisca Campos (Team Zenith), and Mexican Lorenza Morfin (Team Turbo).

For the men, look for Americans Todd Wells (Team Hyundai-GT), Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Team Subaru-Gary Fisher), Adam Craig (Team Giant), Jeremiah Bishop (Team Trek-Volkswagen), and Michael Broderick (Team Kenda Seven) and Mexicans Octavio Vicente Chetto (Team Alubike) and Ignacio Torres Acosta to vye for the podium.

This year, a dirt jump contest will add to the action. Dirt Jumpers Cameron Zink (Haro Freeride Team), Kyle Strait (Team Specialized), Jamie Goldman, Adam Hauck (Team Black Market), Nate Adams (Team Santa Cruz), Carter Holland (Team Black Market), and Cameron McCaul (Team Trek) are international riders who will mix it up with locals Pedro "Pulito" Marrero (Marrero Guaynabo Ciclomundo), Christian Reyes (Ponce Ciclomundo), Alejandro Cortes (Ponce Ciclomundo), Anthomy Vazquez, Orlando Fuentes (San Juan Ciclomundo), and Victor Figueroa (Guaynabo Ciclomundo).

Australia selects marathon championship venue

Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA) awarded Brisbane-based Two Wheel promotions the opportunity to host the 2007 MTB Australian Marathon Championships on Sunday, July 1. The championship race will be the Maxxis Coffs Mountain Marathon. The race will happen at a new venue, Pine Creek Forest, in Bonville, 15 minutes south of Coffs Harbour.

95% of the course will be off-road with lots of flowing singletrack and fire trails. 500 racers will be allowed entry into the main event, although others will be allowed to enter an associated shorter marathon and recreational ride. Registration opens April 1.

Gary Fisher rolls out the 29er crew

In 2001, Gary Fisher played around with the notion of a 29" wheeled mountain bike. Six years later, the company is sponsoring a 29er team. The The inaugural 29er Crew is a mix of half a dozen cross country racers, single-speeders, and endurance junkies.

Brothers Jesse and Mark LaLonde head up the team. They have been testing, abusing, and winning on their single speed Fishers for several years. Graphic designer Jesse won the Single Speed World Championships Race in 2005 in Pennsylvania, but lost the overall title in a go-kart showdown. Younger brother Mark can be found at cross country races and regional cyclo-cross events. Mark will be rolling a new Ferrous 29 this season starting with the Wisconsin Off Road Series opener.

They will be joined by Breckenridge native Tim Faia, who has been racing on the cross country and cyclo-cross scenes in Colorado for the past 12 years.

"Desert Dan" Cain is an endurance specialist that rides a Fisher hardtail with a rigid Bontrager Switchblade. The 49-year old Borrego Springs, California, resident has been a regular presence on the podium at SoCal endurance races, both in solo and team relay categories since 2003. He has won the 12 Hours of Temecula and 8 Hours of Idyllwild multiple times.

Travis Saeler will tackle the races in the Mid-Atlantic Super Series, Ohio's OMBC Series, and a few endurance events while his fellow eastern teammate TJ Platt will challenge at endurance events like the Michaux Monster Series and those in West Virginia's WVMBA series.

Mary & Mike diary: Making the most of winter

Cross training, Massachusetts style.
Photo ©: Mike Broderick & Mary McConneloug
(Click for larger image)

Mary and I spent the majority of the winter in my hometown of Chilmark, Massachusetts, kind of by mistake. We came off a huge year of travel and racing in 2006 and were talking and planning as if we were ready for more. We dreamed of an incredible winter off-season in New Zealand or Hawaii, certainly somewhere warm and beautiful, until we made the trip to the quiet island off the east coast of Massachusetts and rediscovered how much we enjoy not traveling. Having a full size kitchen complete with breadmaker and ample room to do yoga was enough to keep Mary occupied between cold training rides and body ball workouts. For me, the lure of my own semi-set-up bike shop along with my family's metal and wood-working shop was a welcome chance to tap into some creative energy and get involved in a few crazy projects.

The highest point on Martha's Vineyard island is 311 feet--actually more like 305--but someone piled a bunch of stones up on the top of one of the local hills to edge out another for the bragging rights. So the climbing is a bit limited, but we found plenty of ways to keep ourselves occupied and in good condition throughout our longer than anticipated winter stay (November to February). Global warming was kind enough to keep things mild and snow free through the end of December before the frigid temps came.

Frozen trails
Photo ©: Mike Broderick & Mary McConneloug
(Click for larger image)

At this point, we enjoyed a rare chance to skate the local ponds, break out the carbide studded Kenda winter tires and do some performance testing in our Adidas cold weather cycling gear. Though it was a bit brutal, the training was always possible, and we made the most of it. Luckily for us (and for all those who live in the flat lands), it seems that it is possible to stay in shape without the huge climbs and radical trails that you read about and crave to ride. Just plain old hours of suffering on the windy flats and hours and hours on the knobbies on the same old trails seem to work.

We made the trip out to northern California for a two week training block in early February and only there realized how tough things had been out East. It was so much easier to put in the long rides without the limiters of frozen feet and icing water bottles. Here the mountainbiking is so good that most of it has rules, restrictions, speed limits, and etc. attached to it to keep people from hurting one another or themselves. Although this tends to limit some of the enjoyment, Mary and I were more than happy for the transition to the balmy 50 degree weather.

To read the complete diary entry, click here.

Jamis Bicycles team for 2007

Jamis Bicycles announced a team for 2007 which consists of three Pro cross country /marathon racers and one Semi-Pro cross country racer. Racers will target the NMBS as well as the Downieville Classic for the 2007 season. They will race aboard the new XCR MP3 suspension bike, the Dakota Elite aluminum hardtail, and the Reynolds 853 steel Dragon.

2007 Team Roster
Dave Yakaitis – Pro XC, Marathon, Single-Speed
Kenny Burt – Pro XC, Short track and Super-D
Shane Deal – Pro marathon
Olivier Bock – Team Manager, Semi-Pro Cross Country, Pro Super-D

Three events remain in Kona 24 Hours Global Series

The Running start
Photo ©: James Mandolini
(Click for larger image)

Kona's 24 Hour Global series is already underway. It kicked off with the 24 hours of Old Pueblo in Arizona in February. however three more events are on the schedule for the rest of 2007: Anglesea (Melbourne, Australia), Catton Hall (Derbyshire, United Kingdom), and Levi 24 (Finland). The later race may be the only 24 hour race where competitors don't need lights. Due to its location and time, above the Arctic Circle in June, the race receives light for the entire duration.

Tennessee opens series

The Tennessee Bicycle Racing Association (TBRA) has opened up its 2007 series to all racers with a valid USA Cycling mountain biking license. In the past, the series was limited to those who belonged to a TBRA club. However, the change opens the door for the series to step up in regional importance.

The series winner will receive free entry into all series' races for the following season and also a series winner's jersey. For more information on all 14 races, visit www.tbra.org.

Saugy's Cape Epic Diary: The countdown begins

I took some time to enjoy the scenery
Photo ©: Myriam Saugy
(Click for larger image)

Departure in 10 days! I am feeling more and more excited as it gets closer. So what has happened in the last two weeks? As I told you, I first went to the South of France for a week-long training camp. This was my last chance to have a lot of volume [training] and I am really happy that I could stick to my training plan.

I trained mainly on my mountain bike, which was really good as I had not found the perfect position on my full suspension before that. I had to make quite a few stops at first but in the end I was really feeling comfortable on it. The place was very nice, the temperature was mild and on top of everything I had just a few drops of rain in the whole week, whereas it rained a lot back in Switzerland.

The comeback was hard.

To read the complete diary entry, click here.

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