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MTB news & racing round-up for September 15, 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

2007 World Cup season to wrap up in Slovenia

By Rob Jones

The elite men's field will be fast so soon after Worlds
Photo ©: Didier Weemaels
(Click for larger image)

One week after the mountain bike world championships in Scotland, the final event on the World Cup schedule is taking place September 14-16 in Maribor, Slovenia. Maribor is a new venue for the cross-country, but it held a gravity World Cup for four years previously: 1999 - 2002. The downhill World Cup was well attended in the past, attracting upwards of 25,000 spectators, and the weather forecast is excellent for the entire weekend - sunny and mid-20s Celsius. Organizers are predicting 30,000-plus spectators.

The venue is to the south of Maribor, at the ski slopes of Pohorje, that face north towards the city in the valley. Maribor is in the northeast corner of Slovenia next to Austria, and is the second largest urban centre in the country (after the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana). Originally an industrial centre, it is reinventing itself as an academic and cultural city.

The cross-country will take place Saturday, on a circuit that is just under five kilometres. Unlike the world championships last weekend - with groomed trails and one long climb/descent - the Pohorje course is highly technical, with lots of roots and tight, twisty turns.

For the opening lap, the riders will be sent up a gravel fire road to spread them out - on the regular lap it is a rooty, singletrack climb for much of the main ascent, so not many opportunities to pass. At the top, the riders immediately lose all the altitude they gained. The first part of the descent is technical and wooded, before moving out to open grassy slopes. At the bottom the riders pass through the feed/tech zone and do a second short, sharp technical climb and descent, before making a slight uphill run to the finish line.

The top riders are all in attendance from the Worlds, and the racing should be intense, since it is a final chance to score high UCI points for world (and Olympic) rankings.

Irina Kalentieva (Russia) is focused
Photo ©: Didier Weemaels
(Click for larger image)

Julien Absalon (Orbea) has already mathematically won the men's World Cup, however, he is scheduled to race a full suspension bike for the first time in a World Cup, and his sponsor is likely very anxious for a dually win. Christoph Sauser (Specialized) was one of the strongest riders last week, but a broken shoe put him out of contention for a medal, so he is likely very hungry for a win. Sauser's team-mate Liam Killeen is also here - after a respectable 44th place last week (he started 112th). Killeen was encouraged by his returning form following an illness.

The Belgians and the Germans are set up for an interesting battle in the men's race - cyclo-cross star Sven Nys stated earlier that the Worlds would be his last mountain bike race, but then he finished 15th, meeting Olympic qualification criteria. Belgium is also only a few points ahead of Germany for the final three starting spots in Beijing, so Nys is back on a mountain bike this weekend. Italian road star Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval) is also here, making his bid for an Olympic spot.

On the women's side, newly minted world champion Irina Kalentyeva (Topeak-Ergon) has all but clinched the women's title, so might be expected to take it easy, however, she is anxious to show off her new rainbow stripes, and the course suits her.

To read the complete preview, click here.

Singlespeed World Championships: A singular experience

By Jo Burt

The most recent edition the Singlespeed World Championships drew those of the one-gear persuasion to Aviemore and the challenging Cairngorm hills in the wild heart of Scotland during the first weekend in September. All were there to celebrate and ride in the unique atmosphere that surrounds Singlespeed Worlds, where just a small part of the action is the racing.

Riders head off
Photo ©: Matt Ferari
(Click for larger image)

A global selection of riders, with well over a third coming from overseas, arrived by plane, train and automobile. Some came by bike, with a small group pedalling most of the length of the United Kingdom from the southwest toe of England. Singlespeeders filled the cafes and bars of the outdoorsy town, rode around the stunning countryside and, almost incidentally, raced.

Saturday saw the itinerant converge on the race headquarters of Bothy Bikes for registration, mutual bike love - be that of the shonky or the bling, guided rides and some pre-race competition. Rollapaluza were there to provide cheerful rivalry on their roller-racing set-up; two cyclists each on a bike mounted on rollers, connected to a huge dial. They battled it out to race over a simulated 500m distance. It was fast and surprisingly hard for something that only lasted about 20 seconds. The final heats were for those with the best times; eventual winner Nigel Foskett from Brighton, England, rode his opponent to a standstill.

Things then moved on to the contest to decide who would hold next year's Singlespeed World Championships. The right to host the event has always been decided rather differently. In fact, this year's organisers had won the honour for Scotland in a drinking competition at the 2006 Singlespeed Worlds in Stockholm, Sweden.

The 2008 hopeful hosts had to do a turn on the bike rollers, down a slug of the (not at all) finest whisky and then perform their best interpretation of a highland fling. Wrapped up in the fleeces, wooly hats, Buffs and Goretex traditional to a Scottish summer, the crowd was eager for somewhere warm to win. Their prayers were answered when Curtis Inglis from Napa, California, was crowned triumphant. Cheers went up and everyone drifted into the town to celebrate the decision with beer.

To read the complete feature, click here.

Absalon claims fourth world title

By Rob Jones

Julien Absalon really likes this jersey
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Top-ranked Julien Absalon claimed his fourth consecutive world men's cross country title last weekend in Fort William, Scotland at the UCI World Mountain Bike Championships by dominating the 119-rider field in the 48-kilometer race with a final time of two hours, 17 minutes and six seconds. Rounding out the podium was a pair of Swiss riders as Ralf Naef and Florian Vogel won the silver and bronze medals respectively.

The action started on the first climb, with Vogel attacking to open things up. "To attack is the best defence. Everyone was watching Julien (Absalon), Christoph (Sauser - Switzerland) and (Jose Antonio) Hermida (Spain), and they weren't watching me so I was able to open a gap. This let me go at my own speed and not have to fight for positions," Vogel said.

Behind, all the favourites were content to set a high tempo and wait for someone to make a move. Eventually Vogel was caught by a small group of riders. From it, Absalon would attack on lap four and quickly gain 30 seconds. By the bottom of the descent he was up to 45 seconds, and early in the fifth lap nearing a minute.

"My main goal this season was to keep this beautiful jersey," said Absalon, explaining his ongoing motivation to win. "I made a special preparation for the world championships, with the national team coming here in April and video taped the circuit, and I trained all season with this in mind."

When told he had broken Djernis' record, Absalon commented, "I am very happy and proud to get the record, but it was not my major motivation to win. I love this jersey. I was looking at it last night on my bed, and I knew that I wanted to keep it again."

Riders like José Antonio Hermida Ramos (Spain) and Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) dealt with mechanicals. Hermida Ramos stopped at a tech zone to deal with a cracked fork that had resulted from a crash, while Sauser's right shoe ripped open and he had resort to duct tape to hold it together. Cedric Ravanel (France) also suffered a mechanical.

"The goal is always to beat Julien," said second placed Näf after the race. "But he is the best. He is so steady and consistent that I am proud have been able to win silver."

Russian Irina Kalentieva won her first world title over Sabine Spitz (Germany) and Jingjing Wang (China) in the women's race. For complete coverage of the men's and women's cross country world championship races, click here.

Hill and Jonnier win consecutive downhill crowns

Sam Hill (Australia) repeats
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Australian Sam Hill claimed his second consecutive elite men's downhill World Championship last weekend in Fort William, Scotland. Hill posted a time of 4:52.01 for the 2,820m course down the slopes of Ben Nevis, the United Kingdom's highest mountain. Silver medallist Fabien Barel of France was 0.64 seconds slower in 4:52.65 while Great Britain's Gee Atherton was more than four seconds off Hill's pace with his bronze medal time of 4:56.38.

The 22 year-old Hill, also ranked number one in the world, went into the final as the 24th seeded rider after posting a time more than 15 seconds slower than his finals ride but his slow qualifying round proved to be a tactical advantage.

"Everyone has their cameras out there and they're filming each other's lines so I took different lines (in qualifying) and they're a lot sneakier," said Hill who despite his seeding run time had gone into the event as the hot favourite. "I wanted to keep them to myself for the race and I didn't want the pressure of being the last rider to start."

The Scottish Highlands delivered rain, mist and wind for the final turning the course into a slippery slope of mud and rocks.

"I had a good run," said Hill who had to sit in the leader's hot seat and wait for 23 other riders to tackle the Ben Nevis course before knowing he had won. "I think it worked out (for me) with the wind because it got stronger towards the end so the last few guys had a bit of a disadvantage but that's the way worlds go.

"Maybe because I don't know what it's like (riding in the rain), I go out and try and ride it like it's dry and it worked for me," said Hill after local media asked how the Australian rider could be so dominant in the wet when his home area of West Australia is renowned for hot, dry and sunny weather.

Favorites like British rider Steve Peat and Nathan Rennie both ran into problems on the course. Peat said, "About 100 yards into the course I went over the wood bridge transitioning to the dirt and the bike slipped and both my feet came off and I landed heavy on the seat and it broke off. When I rode the chair lift up the wind blew my bike badly and it was barely hanging on by the seat. I think that might have weakened the seat. The weather conditions up there were so gnarly. The wind was blowing hard. I'm really gutted."

Sabrina Jonnier (France) defended her title
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Rennie had a fine run going and then entering the first woods section he lipped and as he said, "I went straight over the bars. I was stunned at first as to what happened. I ran back up to get my bike and kept going. I just made one mistake after that. I’m really pissed about it. I had a really good run going and I was just 11 seconds back with the crash."

In the women's downhill 2006 Junior World Champion Tracey Hannah (5:39.89) performed strongly in her first year at elite level to claim the bronze medal. French defending champion Sabrina Jonnier won gold with her time of 5:28.35 and Great Britain's Rachel Atherton posted a time of 5:32.36 to finish in second place.

"It wasn't the best for me, as it was wet and muddy, and I am from the south of France where it is dry," said Jonnier in contrast to Hill. "Also, it felt like I was on enemy territory, with Rachel and Tracy (Moseley) having so much support! But I focussed and just went for it. I broke my derailleur somewhere on the track, and made two huge mistakes when I took the wrong lines. It was so easy to make mistakes because the course was so long. But there was no way that I wanted to give up my jersey; I like it too much."

Check out full results of the men's and women's downhill.

Minnaar injured at Worlds

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

Following x-rays, Greg Minnaar discovered that he rode the remaining two minutes and 40 seconds of the World Championship downhill final last weekend in Fort William, Scotland, with a broken and dislocated shoulder. Despite losing time in the crash and riding the second portion of the race injured, Minnaar, who qualified fastest, only missed the podium, finishing fourth by a few seconds.

Minnaar will not race in Maribor, Slovenia, this weekend at the World Cup finals, and will be off the bike for at least three to four weeks. He will still travel to Maribor to support his team-mates before returning to South Africa on October 10. In particular, Minnaar will be cheering for his team-mate Matti Lehikoinen, who finished a career-best sixth place at Worlds last weekend.

"My fault I crashed. My shoulder is hurting a lot so I'm off to hospital now," said Minnaar soon after his crash. "I know I came here with enough to win and I feel that had things been a little different, there was a medal with my name on it, but I crossed it up in the woods and came down heavy. Congratulations to the guys that finished ahead of me, they did a good job."

Minnaar's shoulder has been dislocated three times this year already - all anteriorly. This dislocation was a posterior one, more uncommon and very painful. His shoulder was put back in place this time three hours after the event while he was sedated. Minnaar also suffered a fracture of his scapula.

US celebrates two titles and five medals at Worlds

Team USA
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)
18 Americans collected two titles and five medals for their country at the World Championships last weekend in Fort William, Scotland.

Georgia Gould, Adam Craig, Ethan Gilmour and Sam Schultz opened the competition with a bronze medal performance in the team relay. It was the first-ever medal for the Americans in the team relay. Successfully defending champion Switzerland and Poland occupied the top and second steps of the podium.

The 4X was where the US really shined as Jill Kintner and Brian Lopes won the women's and men's titles, and Melissa Buhl took a bronze medal, taking a total three of six possible medals in the discipline. Kintner and Lopes served up a replay of the 2005 world championships with their wins.

Lopes survived a crash in the finals to take his win ahead of France's Romain Saladini and the Netherlands' Jurg Meijer. "Leading up to the semifinals I had pretty good gates and led pretty much from start to finish in each round," Lopes explained. "Unfortunately in my semi I came out of my pedal on the second stroke straight-away, and when that happens you pretty much fall off the pace real quick. I was pretty bummed out as soon as it happened, but I got my foot back in, grabbed a gear and just started pedaling. Thank God they added a little bit of length to the course because if it was a 20-second course it wouldn't have played out too well for me."

Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)
Kintner, who was riding a two year winning streak, defeated Anneke Beerten (Netherlands), Buhl and Jana Horakova (Czech Republic) to earn her third consecutive rainbow jersey. Like Lopes in the men's contest, Kintner looked unbeatable all evening and jumped out to an early lead in the final once the gate dropped. Almost immediately after the start, Buhl and the top-seeded Horakova crashed, leaving Kintner to hold off only Beerten for the win. Of the two downed riders, Buhl was the quickest to recover before descending down the course to claim the bronze medal.

"The length they added (from the previous World Cups) was great - it was tricky with the sandy dirt," said Kintner. "There weren't a lot of options, so the start was critical, you had to get out of the gate first or second. This was a bit weaker course than Rotorua (New Zealand, site of last year's Worlds), because there weren't enough passing options."

John Swanguen gave the US its fifth and final medal of the week with a second-place finish in the junior men's downhill competition. Swanguen captured the silver medal after descending 2.8 kilometers down Aonach Mor, the ninth-highest peak in the United Kingdom, just 2.07 seconds off the pace of gold medalist and British racer Ruaridh Cunningham and half a second ahead of bronze medalist Matthew Scoles of New Zealand. Swanguen's medal was the first American downhill medal since 2004 when Kyle Strait won the junior men's bronze in Les Gets, France.

Vink to make comeback in Maribor

Team Dolphin cyclist and Belgian champion Nico Vink will be returning to world-level downhill competition this weekend at the World Cup race in Maribor, Slovenia. Vink is looking forward to competing again after being injured for two months following a severe back injury. He rode moto-cross last weekend to keep fit and is keen to set a good time in Maribor.

Tech goodies for the world's elite racers

By Luke Webber in Fort William, Scotland

The new hoop from DT Swiss
Photo ©: Luke Webber
(Click for larger image)

With most major new product announcements made at Eurobike the previous week one would think that there was little in the way of exclusive tech action around the pits this year in Fort William. However, there were still a number of interesting setups to see, provided you looked closely enough.

For the cross-country racers, this year's MTB World Championships were dominated by featherweight wheels using either carbon fiber rims or aluminum ones from Stan's NoTubes. The NoTubes ZTR-series rims have long been popular among elite riders thanks to their ultralight weight and easy tubeless compatibility. The readily available consumer versions are already shocklingly light at roughly 350g a piece, but rumors circulating around the pits suggested that certain riders competed on special 240g versions.

In contrast, some riders opted for tubular Reynolds Topo rims made from unidirectional carbon fiber. These were laced to Hope Pro III hubs with custom Dugast tyres for what was not only easily one of the trickest setups in the field, but one almost completely impervious to pinch flats as well.

DT Swiss launched a new carbon fiber road wheelset at this year's Eurobike show but stealthily debuted a mountain bike version at Fort William that was compatible with standard clincher treads. In a possible attempt to go unnoticed, the new rim looked remarkably ordinary and was almost entirely unmarked save for the 330g sticker and giveaway carbon weave. These were paired these with DT Swiss' new 190 ceramic hubs to yield another featherweight wheelset that at least appeared to be reasonably durable as well.

To read the complete feature, click here or check out the pro bikes of repeat world champions Sabrina Jonnier or Julien Absalon.

2008 IMBA World Summit to Utah

The International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) will host its 2008 World Summit in Park City, Utah from June 18-21. The annual summit draws together mountain biking advocates, land managers, ski resort professionals, trailbuilders, tourism officials and the bike industry for collaboration, planning and celebration. The 2008 edition is open to the public. Topics for discussion will include economic power of trails, sustainable trailbuilding, liability and risk management, urban trail networks and building club capacity.

The Utah town is an appropriate host for a mountain biking advocacy summit. "Park City is a model trails community and IMBA's host club, the Mountain Trails Foundation, is also a model of shared-use leadership, with non-motorized groups coming together to create amazing trails and maybe more important, a tight-knit trails community," said IMBA executive director Mike Van Abel.

"Park City was losing its trails to rapid development. In the course of a couple of years, we went from trails being an after-thought in the planning process to where trails are given equal weight with streets and utilities in new development," said Mountain Trails Foundation founder and IMBA Board Member Tom Clyde. "Practically all of the trail system is on private land, and now there is almost a competition among the development community to see who can build the best trails. This is because an active trails community got behind the cause."

The 2007 summit drew 400 delegates from 17 countries to Whistler, British Columbia.

2008 IMBA Summit Preliminary Schedule

- June 18: Mobile Workshops (day) and Opening Ceremonies (evening).
- June 19-20: Seminars, networking and great afternoon riding and evening parties.
- June 21: IMBA Epic Ride - Mid Mountain Trail and Park City Community Party

Terror of Teaberry wraps up Michaux Series

Harlan Price (Independent Fabrication)
Photo ©: Bill McCarrick
(Click for larger image)

The 95,000 acres of The Michaux State Forest in Pennsylvania live a tenuous existence. Technically, the forest is set aside to provide natural resources such as lumber, minerals and water. If you are a mountain biker, that land adds up to hundreds of miles of unprotected trail. It is not uncommon for local riders to have their trail disappear into a clear-cut, left with nothing but a vague idea where the trail might continue on the other side of the harvested tree farm. The curse and blessing of such an arrangement is the fact that forest managers are reluctant to establish permanent trail systems. Therefore what you end up with is a network of unmarked and lightly ridden trails that often need to be cleared or created before a race can be run through it.

Last year, racers at the Terror of Teaberry came out to one of these cuts and found themselves following a short reroute through the woods, without a trail to follow. In its place, there were arrows posted to the trees, and riders were free to choose their line between the red and white pointers. Instead of irritating racers, the detour only heightened the sense of adventure participants come to expect from the forest and promoters.

That is the stage to which the East coast's elite endurance racers will flock this weekend, for a chance to tackle some of the most technical and demanding courses in the racing world. Nearly half of Trek/VW's Factory team will be there for The Terror of Teaberry on Sunday, September 16 for the final race of the Michaux Endurance series. Trek / VW's Jeremiah Bishop, Chris Eatough, Jeff Schalk and Sue Haywood are slated to tackle the 50 mile loop. Harlan Price (Independent Fabrication) and Eatough will continue their heated battle for the series title. Only three minutes separate them after the first two races. Since taking second to Eatough in the National Ultra Endurance Series (NUE), which concluded earlier this month at the Shenandoah Mountain 100, Price is looking for a little payback and to defend his 2006 Michaux series title.

In the women's field, regional Trek/VW rider Cheryl Sorenson intends to use her local knowledge to edge out Shenandoah Mountain 100 winner Sue Haywood. Other women riders to challenge them including Carolyn Popovic (Trek/VW), who was second to Haywood at the Shenandoah 100, and Michelle Schnieder (Visit PA).

Gettysburg Bicycle puts on the three-race series with the intention of giving riders an epic day of supported riding. This year they have teamed up with the Mid-Atlantic Series in promoting the Terror of Teaberry. For more information, visit www.racemichaux.com.

Docklands 12hr MTB enduro

The fifth annual Docklands 12 hour mountain bike enduro is slated for Saturday, September 15 at the Melbourne 4x4 Training & Proving Ground, Werribee in Victoria, Australia. The 2007 edition features a course that received a makeover, including some new alignments, major B-Line action, and other tweaks. 800 racers are expected to compete in teams of two, three, four, or six for AUS$10,000 in prizes.

For more information, visit www.fullgaspromotions.com.au/new/12hour.html.

Ulster holds cross country championships

On Saturday, September 15, the fifth round of the Ulster League hosted by Dromara Cycling Club will be held on Dunmore Mountain near Ballynahinch in Ireland. This race will also be used to contest the Ulster Championships. This is the second year that Dromara CC has proudly held these prestigious championships. For more information, visit www.dromaracc.co.uk.

Bear Creek to end MASS series

The Mid-Atlantic Super Series will wrap up its championship series with a weekend doubleheader at the Bear Creek Mountain Resort in Macungie, Pennsylvania, on September 22-23. Saturday will feature a short track event. Sunday, racers will contest the cross country on a course about eight miles long, with six miles of technical singletrack, rock gardens, log bridges and plenty of switchbacks. There will be over 700 feet (200 meters) of climbing per lap.

One junior will go home with a new ride donated by Rob Lichtenwalner of Team Bear Naked/Cannondale, a series regular and well-known endurance racer. The top three finishers at the end of the series from each the junior classes will be entered into a drawing to win the bike.

Pork Chop Challenge raises funds in Minnesota

The 2007 Revolution Cycle and Ski Single Track Escape mountain bike race on Saturday, September 22 and the Pork Chop Challenge 'cross race on Sunday, September 23 will serve as fundraisers for the Nordic Ski Club and the Cycling Club with all proceeds going directly to trail development, grooming, and snowmaking for both clubs in central Minnesota. The Single Track Escape will be the Finals of the MNSCS Series. For more information, visit www.mnscs.com or www.mcf.net.

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