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MTB news & racing round-up for March 23, 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

UCI points game explained

The Elite Men's field takes off.
Photo ©: MTB World Cup
(Click for larger image)

Go to almost any elite mountain bike race and you will hear talk of the Olympics and UCI Points. The points chase to get to Beijing in 2008 is on. Look for racers to go to great lengths to travel far and often to satisfy the quest to accumulate the valuable points.

A recent example is Canada sending only its top elite men to the Continental Championships in Argentina to collect needed points to boost its standings. The team accomplished its mission perfectly--taking one-two in the elite men's race. On the other hand, Canada's women's team has generally faired better in the rankings lately, so they were spared the time and expense of traveling to the southern hemisphere.

Although the Olympics aren't until next year, 2007 is an important year for every nation with an internationally-focused mountain bike program. Throughout the season, top racers will compete for points for their respective countries. On December 31, 2007, the countries will be awarded start positions for the 2008 Games based on the official nations' rankings per the UCI. For men, each country may earn up to one, two, or three starting positions; but for women, only one or two slots are available.

Nations ranked in the top five can send a maximum of three men to the Games, while a top-four ranking in the women's standings results in the maximum of two starts. A nation's final ranking will be determined by a combination of 2006 and 2007 rankings.

Then the important competition will shift to filling those hard-earned spots within each team. While riders from each country may work together to secure points in the interest of having more possible spots open to them, look for competition between them, too. Although each country has a different procedure, many are using those same UCI points as an important factor in selecting individual racers for their Olympic team.

Canada and US lead UCI rankings

While on the subject of rankings, the UCI Mountain Bike cross country rankings were released on March 20, 2007. Thanks in large part to strong performances at the recent Pan American Continental Championships, Canada and the US now lead the men's and women's rankings respectively while Italian Jader Zoli sits 30 and 80 points ahead of Canadians Geoff Kabush and Seamus McGrath.

For the women, American Georgia Gould leads compatriot Mary McConneloug and Pole Maja Wloszczowska by 50 and 60 points respectively.

Men elite individual
1 Jader Zoli (Ita)                    230 pts
2 Geoff Kabush (Can)                  200
3 Seamus McGrath (Can)                150
4 Todd Wells (USA)                    130
5 Tony Longo (Ita)                    123
6 Max Plaxton (Can)                   120
7 Roel Paulissen (Bel)                118
8 Chris Jongewaard (Aus)              110
9 Jaroslav Kulhavy (Cze)              110
10 John Jairo Botero Salazar (Col)    105
Men elite nations

1 Canada                              470 pts
2 Italy                               414
3 United States Of America            330
4 Australia                           280
5 New Zealand                         254
6 Brazil                              250
7 Colombia                            234
8 Argentina                           171
9 Sweden                              158
10 Costa Rica                         143
Men elite teams

1 ASD KTM International Team          302 pts
2 Rocky Mountain Haywood              270
3 Subaru-Gary Fisher                  240
4 Cannondale-Vredestein               222
5 Dolphin Bike Team                   190
6 Macosta - Leecougan                 170
7 Giant Mountain Bike Team            100
8 Team Etto Hoydahl                    97
9 Orbea                                95
10 Gewiss Bianchi                      79

Women elite individual
1 Georgia Gould (USA)                 200 pts
2 Mary Mc Conneloug (USA)             150
3 Maja Wloszczowska (Pol)             140
4 Anja Mcdonald (NZl)                 131
5 Francisca Campos (Chi)              125
6 Sabine Spitz (Ger)                  120
7 Chloe Forsman (USA)                 120
8 Willow Koerber (USA)                120
9 Tory Thomas (Aus)                   110
10 Brenda Clapp (NZl)                 110
Women elite nations
1 United States Of America            470 pts
2 New Zealand                         321
3 Chile                               285
4 Australia                           280
5 Brazil                              230
6 Poland                              224
7 Ecuador                             180
8 Italy                               177
9 Argentina                           175
10 Germany                            168
Women elite teams

1 Luna Womens Mtb Team                320 pts
2 Halls Professional Mtb Team         224
3 Subaru-Gary Fisher                  220
4 Ghost International Racing Team     120
5 Ceska Sporitelna Mtb                105
6 Bh-Sr. Suntour                      101
7 Beone Mountainbiketeam               90
8 Pintatim Full-Dynamix                80
9 Tonis Pro Team Kirchberg             70
10 Spiuk-Tau Ceramica                  70

Cape Epic countdown

Christoph Sauser (Swizterland)
Photo ©: Mikkeli Godfree
(Click for larger image)

The Cape Epic off road stage race will kick off its fourth edition this weekend. Racers from 42 nations will contest the 886km course from Knysna on Saturday, March 24 to Lourensford Wine Estate in Somerset West on March 31. They will compete in teams of two in one of four categories -- Men, Ladies, Mixed, and Masters -- and will climb 15,045 meters. A new route is designated every year.

This year's edition will see the participation of Olympic gold medallists, world champions, and reigning UCI World Cup champions, in part because this stage race awards UCI points and in part because of its timing, three weeks before the first cross country World Cup. The pros can race, but still squeeze in a rest period before the World Cup.

Every one of the previous six winners has entered again this year. Pros Christoph Sauser, Ralph Naef, Bart Brentjens, Greg Minnaar and Thomas Frischknecht will be competing. Sauser is back to defend his 2006 win. Seventeen-time World Cup winner and Olympic medalist Thomas Frischknecht will be partnering with mountain biking legend Tom Ritchey, founder of Ritchey Logic. Frischknecht will not be competing to win, but is partnering with Ritchey to promote Project Rwanda, Ritchey's own initiative which is structured to benefit the coffee growers in Rwanda by providing them with specially modified bikes for the transportation of their goods.

Bart Brentjens, the 2005 winner of the Absa Cape Epic, Olympic gold medalist with four World Cup wins and the title of Overall World Cup Winner in 1994 will partner with fellow Dutch rider Rudy van Houts. Ralph Naef, reigning UCI world marathon champion will ride with Spaniard and Multivan Meridan teammate Jose Hermida.

An unexpected entry is Greg Minnaar, South Africa's own downhill star. Minnaar will be competing in the Mixed classification with Hannele Steyn-Kotze, one of South Africa's top female racers.

Cyclingnews' diarist Myriam Saugy will also be competing. Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for complete daily race updates and regular diary entries chronicling her experience in the race.

Firecracker 50 designated US marathon national

USA Cycling has designated the Firecracker 50 on July 4 as the US National Marathon Championships for 2007 and 2008. Entering its seventh year, the Firecracker 50 will also host several other non-National Championship mountain bike races for junior, beginner, sport, and expert divisions for individuals and teams.

Competitors will ride two laps of a 25-mile loop and the event's neutral start will once again be incorporated into the town's Fourth of July parade on Main Street before venturing off road.

The marathon discipline will be held apart from the 2007-08 USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships at Mount Snow Resort in Vermont due to limited land access around the resort.

Marathon national titles will be awarded in the following categories: Men Pro/Open 19+, 19-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-49 and 50+ and Women Pro/Open 19+, 19-29, 30-39, and 40+ categories.

Kona announces 2007 roster

Barel and Moseley start season with podium finishes

World Champion Fabien Barel (Kona Les Gets)
Photo ©: Rob Jones
Click for larger image

Kona boosts its 2007 roster with the full-time addition of Wendy Simms. The team hopes to build on last year's success which netted five national championships and an overall world cup victory.

Simms makes the move full-time to the Kona factory team after splitting time with Velo Bella-Kona. Last year, she took fourth in the cross country at Sea Otter and 16th at two World Cups. For 2007, Simms will focus on the NMBS races and select World Cups in hopes of boosting her chances to attain a spot on the Canadian Olympic team roster for the 2008 games.

Two-time world champion and current French downhill champion Fabien Barel will return to the team along with Tracy Moseley. Barel comes off an injury-plagued 2006, much of which was spent rehabbing a broken foot, but Moseley won three World Cups and never finished off the podium on her way to the overall World Cup victory in 2006. Along the way she took home a British National Championship, too. Her focus this year is on winning the World Championship title on what she considers her home track in Fort William, Scotland.

Both Barel and Moseley started off 2007 well with podium finishes at the 2007 Maxxis Cup Round #1 in Gouveia, Portugal, even after both sustained injuries during practice runs prior to competition. Moseley won the women's semi-final round; likewise Barel did the same by beating Cedric Gracia by two seconds. Moseley dropped to third in the final run, but Barel held his advantage and took the win.

Current US Cross Country Champion Ryan Trebon leads the men's endurance team. He also won the cyclo-cross national title, becoming the first rider in over 20 years to hold both elite men's jerseys in the same year. When not riding for Kona, Trebon will make guest rider appearances with the Kodak Gallery-Sierra Nevada road team. Otherwise, he will focus his energy on the North American NMBS series and defending his national titles. Barry Wicks, reigning US National Short Track champion, will join Trebon on the cross country circuit.

Other racers include Canadian Kris Sneddon, American Erik Tonkin, Canadian U-23/Espoir National Champion Neal Kindree, and 4X'er Kamil Tatarkovic, who finished third in last year's World Cup. The team will be managed by Mark Peterson.

Rocky Mountain gravity team selected

Thomas Vanderham, aka "The Kid," has resigned for a seventh year with Rocky Mountain. He joins Freeride star Wade Simmons, referred to as "The Godfather," and Germany's Rob Jauch to form the 2007 pro team.

Vanderham represented Canada at the Junior World Downhill championships in 2002, and since then he's consistently placed in the top ten in all major Freeride and Slopestyle Competitions. In 2006 he finished sixth at Monster Park and seventh at Whistler’s Crankworks competition, after returning from a broken leg that kept him out of competition for four months of the season. Some will know Vanderham from his roles in the movies "New World Disorder" and "Roam."

A fixture at Rocky Mountain, Simmons has turned his attention and focus to mentoring young riders and sharing his love for the sport while Jauch has been stacking up the slopestyle results.

For 2007, the team also includes younger riders Slopestyle and Dirt Jumpers Alex Pro and Kyle McDonald from Whistler, and two-time Junior Downhill World Championship medal winner, Micayla Gatto.

MASS signs new title sponsor

The Mid-Atlantic Super Series (MASS) announced a new sponsor. DelmarvaJobs.Com will assume a title sponsor role for what organizers call the "organization’s most ambitious season ever." The MASS is the biggest mountain bike racing organization in the Eastern US, with no less than 20 days of racing planned for 2007. The series covers Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania -- a region roughly equivalent in size to the countries of England and Scotland combined.

DelmarvaJobs.Com is an online interactive recruitment service based in Delaware that matches employers and employees in what is effectively a never-ending virtual job fair. They signed on as sponsor because "Our 'sphere of influence' meshes perfectly with MASS as we target the area from Southeastern PA right down the peninsula to the Eastern Shore of Maryland." They also cited the "well-targeted demographics and family-friendly nature of bike racing" as other reasons.

The MASS actually consists of four series. They are listed below. For a complete schedule, visit www.masuperseries.com.

DelmarvaJobs.Com Cross Country Super Series: a nine-race series for traditional Olympic-Length mountain bike races.

The Hammer Nutrition Endurance Super Series: a six-race distance series for racers who want more of the mountain-bike experience; this series features single-lap marathons, multi-lap enduros and a 24 hour race

Funk Remover Short Track Super Series: High speed races on short dirt tracks

The Cannondale Cup Teams Super Series: A season-long team omnium that includes every race on the above three series plus a couple of special "team only" events

Gunn-Rita diary: A satisfying start in Sardinia

Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

My first off-road race for this year was a brutal encounter with the terrain here in Italy. A total of two punctures would suggest that I was riding a little harder than necessary over the technical sections today. I finally ended on a second place, which I feel is an acceptable opening for the season.

Italian Annebella Atropparo won the race, seven minutes ahead of me. She rode well and seemed very strong up the climbs. We struggled against each other leaving the start, and rode together through the first round after the opening loop. And then I punctured on the first descent, not even ten minutes into the race! I quickly changed inner tubes, as I was a long distance from the nearest technical assistance, but I was unable to get the gas canister to work, so ended up having to run a fair distance to get a new wheel anyway.

When I finally mounted my bike again, I had countless women ahead of me, plus loads of junior male riders. Kenneth told me we might as well consider this a good training session without lactic acid since the opening had turned out as it did.

One by one I caught up with the other riders, but wasn't even considering a podium finish before I had started the final lap and received word from Kenneth that I was only one minute and 20 seconds behind the rider in second place.

To read the complete diary entry, click here.

Saugy's Cape Epic diary: Packing up

That's it. I am on the move. All my gear is packed, and I am flying tomorrow. Gosh, you can't imagine all you need to think of when you have to leave for such a race. For Transalp, it was kind of easier as we travelled by car to the race start so we had no weight restrictions. When you fly, things are very different. The pressure will be on until I unpack my bike and make sure that it's all in one piece.

To give you an idea here is a short list of what you would need to bring for such a race:

The bike and all you need to keep it running for an eight day stage race. For me, it includes two sets of tires (dry and mud), a spare chain, spare break pads, a mini repair kit, tire sealer, etc.

To read the complete diary entry, click here.

East Coasters to host pair of races

East Coasters Bike Shops in Blacksburg and Roanoke, Virginia, announced two races for 2007. The Dirty Dawg will kick off the season on Sunday, April 1 at Mountain Lake Resort across some of the highest trails in the East at over 4,000' of elevation. This brand new race brings back mountain bike racing to a once popular-race venue.

On the other end of the season, the 19th Annual Rowdy Dawg race will wrap up the year on October 21, 2007. It runs from the Pandapas Pond Recreation Area in the Jefferson National Forest.

For more information, visit www.eastcoasters.com

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