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

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

Edited by Sue George

Cramer leaves role with USA Cycling mountain bike development director

By Sue George

Matt Cramer and the under-23 mountain bike team from 2005
Photo ©: Mitch Friedman
Click for larger image

USA Cycling's National Mountain Bike Development Director Matt Cramer announced last week that he is leaving his post. For nearly the past five years, Cramer has filled a range of responsibilities including developing the US national team's under 23 mountain bikers through working with elite athletes on US Olympic Team selections. He'll move on to a new position with the US Olympic Committee (USOC).

Of his job at USA Cycling, Cramer said to Cyclingnews, "It was multi-faceted. Just dealing with all the aspects of mountain biking as it pertained to athlete programs from the grassroots through the elite levels. I managed the U23 development team as well as the dissemination of information from USA Cycling to all athletes…including information pertaining to selection [to teams] for the Worlds and Olympics."

Although Cramer was involved in developing and publicizing the selection criteria for the 2008 Olympics, he said, "I don't think my departure will change the selection process. That has been solidified for some time and will remain as it." He said he did not know who would replace him in overseeing it, but indicated the replacement process is already underway.

"I will miss the relationships that I've developed over the years with teams, athletes, and USA Cycling," said Cramer. "There are no negative reasons why I'm leaving; it's all professional development. I'll miss everyone." Prior to his current position, he worked as a resident coach and on contract projects since 1999.

Cramer has seen the rise of many upcoming and elite athletes in the national and international rankings. "From the development side, a lot of the riders that have come through the U23 program are still in the program or have graduated to pro teams. Nick Waite went to Kelly Benefits and John Devine went to Discovery for a short amount of time. Sam Schultz left a year early to ride for Subaru / Gary Fisher. They all took the steps we'd hoped." And they could be the Olympians of the future.

"On the elite level, all of our top guys have been making gains: Adam Craig, Jeremy Horgan Kobelski, Todd Wells and Jeremiah Bishop. They've been on a very steady, healthy upward trend." All four will be vying for spots on the US Olympic team in 2008.

On the women's side, Cramer remarked on the growth of Georgia Gould as a racer. "Following behind her are Mary McConneloug, Heather Irminger, Willow Koerber, and Sue Haywood. Look out for Chloe Forsman. She's gone from top level junior to being a top-level international U23 rider and competitive on the domestic circuit. She rides side by side with her Luna team-mates [Gould, Katerina Nash and Shonny Vanlandingham]." Forsman recently defended her US National Collegiate Mountain Bike title and is the reigning Under 23 champion. Cramer also named Jeanna Xander as young American rider to watch.

In his new position as Manager of Sport Partnerships for the USOC, Cramer will manage a portfolio of sports including rowing, canoeing/kayaking, volleyball, baseball, equestrian, fencing, modern pentathlon, skiing and snowboarding to name a few. He will also be involved in water skiing and racketball, which are not Olympic sports, but are in the Pan American Games.

"I'll be working with twelve sports instead of one," Cramer told Cyclingnews. "I will work with a team of four people. I'll deal with resource and funding allocation for the sports and with National Governing Body (NGB) development. I'll deal with the sports from the NGB level through the USOC level."

Despite leaving USA Cycling, Cramer said, "There is a good possibility that I will be going to Beijing, and I may also go to Vancouver because I have winter sports in my portfolio, too."

Cramer, who's new work has no involvement with any aspect of cycling, plans to remain involved as an avid fan.

Winners crowned in 15th anniversary La Ruta de los Conquistadores

By Rob Jones in Costa Rica

Riders carefully make their way across
Photo ©: Luis A. Rueda Fonseca
(Click for larger image)

Federico "Lico" Ramirez (BCR-Pizza Hut-Powerade-KHS) became the first four-time champion of the La Ruta de los Conquistadores, while first-time attendee Sue Haywood (Trek-VW) took the women's title. The 15th edition of the 360km, four day race ended Saturday on the Caribbean Sea in Costa Rica after traversing the country from its start on the Pacific Ocean on the west side of the country.

Both winners had claimed the first three stages as victories, but neither made it a sweep on the final day. Thomas Dietsch (Gewiss-Bianchi) took the men's stage four win and Louise Kobin (Sho Air-Rock and Road) the women's. Ramirez finished ahead of Paolo Montoya (Macosta-Lee Cougan) and Dietsch, and Haywood ahead of Kobin and Maria Carvajal Brenes (BCR-Pizza Hut-Powerade-KHS) in the general classification.

"This was another hard stage, and I struggled at the end," commented Haywood after stage four. "All I could do was follow Louise."

The final stage may have looked easy on paper, but among several challenges of the day, were a pre-race soaking by rain and 35km of riding railway ties, a bone-jarring effort that broke up any attempt at a rhythm. Finally, a waist-deep swamp had some of the smaller riders all but swimming with their bikes.

"This was another hard stage," said Dietsch, "just as hard as the others. The trestle bridge was difficult to do; you were watching where you put your foot all the time, and the railway [ties] were very rough and hard on the body."

"I'm very pleased to win; I've entered five times and won four of them," said Ramirez. "This one maybe means the most, because the level of competition keeps getting better and higher. Also, for the first time we crossed the whole country with no gaps, so I feel that I am really the champion now."

This year's edition was made harder by the weather, too. Race Director Luis Diego Viquez said that the rain definitely made it more difficult for the organization as well as the riders. "We had lots of problems with the weather; unlike last year, which was really good. It made everything harder for the logistics, for marking the course, for getting our people in place. The rain makes us work double." The race will stick with its four-day format for 2008.

While there's no word yet on whether Haywood will return next year, but Ramirez promised another attempt. "I will be back for sure, for five," he added.

For full coverage of the La Ruta, click here.

Kessiakoff signs with Full-Dynamix

Fredrik Kessiakoff (Cannondale-Vredestein)
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

27 year-old Swedish cyclist Fredrik Kessiakoff signed for 2008 with the Full Dynamix team, which will be run by Mauro Bettin. Kessiakoff, who moves after two seasons with Cannondale Vredestein, won his first cross country World Cup race in 2007 - the finale in Maribor, Slovenia. He finished fifth overall in the World Cup standings for the season.

Kessiakoff also earned a fourth place finish at the World Championships in Fort, William, Scotland and a bronze medal at the European Championships in Cappadocia, Turkey. Other wins came in Cyprus, Lugagnano, a round of the German Bundesliga, and a stage of the Internatzionali d'Italia, and he took third at the World Cup in St. Felicien, Canada.

The reigning Swedish national champion won his fourth consecutive national title so he will race again in 2008 in the blue and yellow colors of his country. Kessiakoff's goal for 2008 is to make the podium at the Olympic Games in Beijing. He'll be looking to improve on his 11th place finish in 2004 in Athens.

In addition to the Olympics, Kessiakoff will be aiming for additional World Cup victories and the World Championship title in Val di Sole, Italy, and he'll be looking to build on his marathon resume by racing the marathon worlds and the Dolomiti Superbike.

Kessiakoff's reliable mechanic, Swede Daniel Rosdahl, will also switch with him to Full Dynamix.

Minnaar to Santa Cruz Syndicate

Greg Minnaar (South Africa) took fourth
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Former World Champion and two-time World Cup champion Greg Minnaar signed with Santa Cruz Syndicate for two years. After four years of racing for Team G Cross Honda, which is disbanding at the end of 2007, Minnaar is moving to join fellow downhill strongmen Nathan Rennie and Steve Peat.

"The most important factor for me in choosing a team I race for is the level of support, and the ability to race at my best. It's clear that the Syndicate is driven by people who love to race," said Minnaar. "To have a race winning bike beneath me as well as team-mates that will continue to push me, makes me very excited about the upcoming season. We are going to be a pretty tough team to beat!"

"Racing for Team G Cross Honda for the past four years was an amazing experience. I had more wins and World Cup podiums on that bike than any other, and the support and friendliness of the whole team made for a very sad day when the announcement came down that it was ending," continued Minnaar. "In this game though, you hope that there is always a new and exciting chapter around the corner, and I'm sure that the Syndicate is going to be an awesome experience for me."

"Clearly...Greg has immense passion for his craft, which is evident in his demeanour and race results throughout the many years he has been racing," said Rob Roskopp, owner of Santa Cruz Bicycles and founder of the Syndicate. "We strive to support each athlete as an individual under the umbrella of the Syndicate, in order that they may express their individuality in a manner that they feel most happy and have their personal integrity expressed through their sport. We are delighted to have Greg."

Minnaar's first race appearance with his new squad will be at the Sea Otter Classic in April 2008.

Spitz calls for more controls

By Susan Westemeyer

Sabine Spitz
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Sabine Spitz has called for further doping controls in cycling, saying that current controls don't go far enough. "If you don't have anything to hide, then you can face unlimited testing," she told Sport Bild magazine.

Spitz, 35, suggested that athletes could be located for doping controls by using their mobile phones. "That would finally clear up the problem of missed doping tests." She further criticized the fact that so many athletes have a medical certificate allowing them to use otherwise forbidden products. That 95 percent of athletes allegedly have attests for asthma, is "lies and deception," said Spitz, who finished as runner-up at the World Championships.

She also had harsh words for Rudolf Scharping, head of the German cycling federation, Bund Deutscher Radfahrer (BDR). "Sometimes I am ashamed to belong to his federation." She feels herself in the anti-doping fight "not properly represented by Mr. Scharping or the BDR leadership. I simply cannot see that they are systematically going a new way."

Tour de Trypotophan to benefit Lllanes

This year's Tour de Tryptophan will benefit fallen cyclist Tara Llanes, a downhiller who crashed this summer at Jeep King of the Mountain round of racing in early September. Llanes was partially paralyzed by the accident and is undergoing long-term rehabilitation at the Craig Hospital in Denver, Colorado. Just last week, she reported a major milestone - moving her left leg.

Partcipants in the Tour de Tryptophan will compete from high noon on Friday, November 23 through high noon on Saturday by doing laps on the 11 mile Fullerton Loop in Fullerton, California. The Fullerton Loop is a network of suburban trails that pass through city parks, horse trails, hidden pathways and creekside wilderness. Llanes has previously ridden the loop.

Proceeds from the event will go directly to the Tara Llanes Road to Recovery Fund. To read a recent interview with Llanes, click here.

Nat Ross diary: If you build it, they will come

Greg Watts
Photo ©: Russell Lee Photography
(Click for larger image)

I just got off the plane from riding my mountain bike in Cleveland, Ohio. My team-mate Greg Watts and I flew in to Ray's Indoor Bike Park for this season's Grand Opening. With 97,000 square feet of indoor mountain bike terrain, Ray's is the largest and only place of its kind in the world. Ray's features a full cross country course; beginner, sport and expert sections; a killer head-to-head pump track; box jumps; a foam pit; ramps; and a skate-type bowl. It is absolutely mind blowing and was created by a bike enthusiast superhero "Ray" making a place for riders of all abilities to ride indoors when it is cold and crappy outside. Joe and Lindsey are two locals who gave me a tour and some pointers once inside.

We were not the only ones in town for the Grand Opening. Another of my favorite sponsors SRAM was there to dial in the lounge and hang out spots. Several years ago, they put in a foosball table and air hockey. This year, they styled out the lounge even more and brought a load of stickers for the kids. Along with SRAM, Dirt Rag, Red Bull, and Fox had a presence as well. There were a several pros in the house for the weekend. Aaron Chase and Jeff Lenosky were throwing down right beside Greg all weekend long.

"Why was I at Rays?" you might ask. Well, a lot of people there were calling me the "24-hour racer". Of course that's what I do, but there is a lot more to my mountain bike lifestyle. For me, riding my bike is a way of life. Actually, it is my life! I chose to skip two UCI 'cross races over the weekend to enjoy time on my bike and check out something different. I do my best to keep it fresh and exciting weather it is the travel or the new people I meet.

To read the complete diary entry, click here.

Singlespeed Worlds 2008 dates set

Organizers of the Singlespeed World Championships announced the dates of August 23-24 for the next edition of the championships. The competition, which was held in Scotland in 2007, moves to Napa, California, for 2008.

Two Wheel announces 2008 schedule

Two wheel promotions of announced a full slate of mountain bike events, including many to please endurance riders, throughout Queensland, Australia for 2008. Some also feature gravity or night racing and many of the longer endurance races can be ridden solo or as part of a team.

February 9-10: Ay-Up Dusk to Dawn 12 Hour Challenge - Kooralbyn, Queensland (XC)
March 15-16: Weekend Warrior Mountain Bike Festival - Canungra, Queensland (DH, DS, XC)
April 19-20: Merida 24 Hour Mountain Bike Challenge - Kooralbyn, Queensland (XC)
June 1: Incline Boonah Marathon - Boonah, Queensland (XCM - 30, 60 or 85 km)
August 2: Race Face 8 Hour Challenge - Kooralbyn, Queensland (XC)
September 21: Coffs Mountain Marathon - Coffs Harbour, North South West (XC - 25, 50, or 90 km)
November 2: 6 Hour MTB Team Challenge - Kooralbyn. Queensland (XC)

For more information, visit www.twowheelpromotions.com.au.

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