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MTB news & racing round-up for April 18, 2008

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

Cohutta 100 to open NUE series this weekend

By Harlan Price

2007 NUE Series Winner Chris Eatough
Photo ©: Guru Graphix
(Click for larger image)

The 2008 Cohutta 100, set for Saturday, April 19, will kick off the 2008 National Ultra Endurance Series, with the deepest field of endurance talent since the series' inception three years ago.

In the men's field, the top three series' finishers from last year are returning. Six-time 24 Hours of Adrenalin Solo World Champion and recent Cape Epic finisher Chris Eatough (Trek/VW) will be defending his 2007 Cohutta victory and overall NUE series win. He went undefeated in the four NUE races he completed last year and looks to be a clear favorite going into this year.

2006 NUE series winner and last year's runner-up Harlan Price (Fitness Together/ IFracing.org) will continue focusing on the series and returns with another year of experience. Last year's third place, Josh Tostado, will bring his Colorado climbing skills to the start line of at least four races this year when he's not otherwise busy racing 24 hour solo events.

Perhaps the biggest name on the start list for the 100 miler is Floyd Landis (Smith & Nephew - BHRhip.com). If he brings his A game, it will be unlikely that most racers can follow him on the mountain climbs. So far only David Weins, Jeff Schalk (Trek/VW) and Harlan Price have managed to defeat him on a 100-mile mountain bike course.

Schalk is the newest convert to the NUE series. He has proven himself in the hills of Virginia at the Shenandoah Mountain 100, where he won in 2007 and holds the course record. Schalk has the greatest potential for upsetting the top three from last year, and all eyes should look out for him.

2007 NUE Series Carrie Lowrey (Outdoor Store)
Photo ©: Bill McCarrick
(Click for larger image)

Michael Simonson, of Quiring Bikes, will bring his aggressive racing style to the series this year, and could put the minds of the other racers to worry. He has been steadily been improving at the 100 milers and last year's second place at the Lumberjack 100 in Michigan proved his potential.

Throwing his hat into the ring is Evan Plews (Scott USA) from Oregon. A man with many palmares to his name, he is ready to prove himself. His second place at the first NMBS marathon event of the year in Fountain Hills showed he is on form and ready to rumble.

A talented and deeper field than in years past will make just breaking into the men's top ten a chore for this year. The women's field has also seen an increase in challengers and the likelihood of any woman walking away with a win is getting narrower by the day.

Last year's series' champion Carey Lowery (Outdoor Store) will return to defend against the onslaught of new and old contenders. She will have her hands full with the likes of Danielle Musto (Kenda Titus Hayes), who won last year's Cohutta, Erika Tieszen (Kona) and Trish Stevenson (Fitness Together/ IFracing.org). Also look out for Cheryl Sorenson (Trek/ VW) and Michelle Stoppard (Visit PA).

All of the previous years' contenders will also have to watch for the 24 hours of Adrenalin World Solo Champion Pua Sawicki (Team Mata). Sawicki dominated women's endurance racing in 2007, and looks to be hunting another title.

Sea Otter action returns to Monterey

By Sue George at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California

The Sea Otter race & expo area
Photo ©: Sue George
(Click for larger image)

Under bright, sunny skies and in warm temperatures, the Sea Otter Classic opened day one of its expo and competition in, on and around the Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California. Thursday's action offered the chance for some amateurs to compete on and off road while many pros and amateurs were checking out the courses for the coming days' competitions. In the infield of the raceway, cycling manufacturers of all sorts were onhand to showcase their wares in an expo open to the general public. Most major manufacturers offered bike demo opportunities to those looking to try out the newest rigs.

Elite racing will kick off Friday with the Super D, and the endurance action gets going with the short track on Saturday and the cross country on Sunday. In past years, Sea Otter has attracted some of the world's and America's best cross country racers, but in this Olympic year, most will be otherwise occupied competing at the opening round of the UCI World Cup in Houffalize, Belgium.

That leaves the door open for other talent, especially from Canada and the US, to make their mark. Carl Decker, Nat Ross, brothers Andy and Sam Schultz, Ross Schnell, Chris Sheppard and Federic Ramez Mendez will be some of the men to watch. On the women's side, Kelli Emmett, Mary-Ellen Ash, Zephanie Blasi, Lea Davison, Chloe Forsman, Shonny Vanlandingham and Kathy Sherwin are the favorites.

Kelli Emmett (Giant)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Emmett is scheduled to race the short track, cross country and the super D. "The Super D is the most fun for me," said last year's Super D winner to Cyclingnews. "It's bombing fast down some sweet fireroads."

She is looking forward to the cross country, too, which is a change of pace from the many-lap endeavors of many national series races. The pros will race two 19-mile laps. Cyclingnews previewed the course Thursday and noted very dry, sandy conditions. Each lap is a mix of open fireroads and smooth, fast singletrack, sometimes through shaded tree groves. With no roots and few rocks, flat tires will likely not play a role in deciding the outcome.

With no gravity events at this weekend's World Cup in Belgium, many of the stars have made the journey to California for the 4X and downhill competitions held respectively on Saturday and Sunday. Among the favorites in the men's competition are Dan & Gee Atherton, Sam Blenkinsop, Amiel Cavelier, Sam Hill, Greg Minaar, Steve Peat, Nathan Rennie, Josh Bryceland and Brendan Fairclough, just to name a few.

Rachel Atherton, Anneke Beerten, Melissa Buhl, Sabrina Jonnier and Kathy Pruitt will likely be some of the fastest in the women's gravity competitions.

Cyclingnews' staff will be on hand to bring you coverage of the pro races and a look at the latest in technology and products.

Spitz and Kurschat collect first German victories of the season

The women start round one of the Bundesliga series.
Photo ©: Armin M. Kästenbräck
(Click for larger image)

Germans won both the men's and women's races at the first round of the German MTB-Bundesliga, a first in a long time as no German had won the women's category since 2002 or the men's category since 2003.

In the women's race, Sabine Spitz (Central GHOST Pro Team) took victory ahead of Sabrina Enaux (Team LAPIERRE International) and World Champion Irina Kalentieva (Topeak Ergon Racing Team). Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida Biking Team) started the women's race and led for the first two laps. Then Spitz caught and passed the 2004 Olympic Champion. Dahle followed her, but then pulled out before completing her third lap.

Dahle Flesjaa said later that she wanted to save energy for the World Cup at Houffalize, in Belgium, this coming Sunday. "I need longer to recover from a complete race because of my illness last year. So I decided to race hard and short. Next Sunday I hope to race hard and long," she said smiling.

So Spitz suddenly had a big gap and the six-time German national champion put in a strong solo ride and was able to enjoy the last lap, cheered by a crowd of some thousands of spectators. "Last lap I thought about winning again here in Münsingen and it was a good feeling," Spitz said after taking her third spring classic win. She also won in 2001 and 2002.

Enaux put in a surprise effort for her second place, and Kalentieva said after the race that she had problems in the beginning. "I hoped for getting better and later I felt better, but it was too late. But it's early in the season, I don't have to win every race," the Russian said.

New Zealand's Rosara Joseph (Team GHOST International) fought with Kalentieva and Enaux for half the race. Until the beginning of the last lap, she was with Kalentieva but then couldn't follow the Russian girl. "It was great to race her. The crowd was very noisy," said Joseph.

In men's race, after one lap it looked likely to become a duel between German champion Wolfram Kurschat (Topeak Ergon Racing Team) and European champion José Antonio Hermida (Multivan Merida Biking Team). The Spaniard caught Kurschat in second lap after a harmless crash by Kurschat. Then Hermida was in front but had to stop to fix his derailleur. Kurschat passed and stayed in front until the end.

But with two laps to go, more bad luck struck Hermida. He had reduced the gap to Kurschat from 30 to 15 seconds, when he realized that his front tire was loosing air. He decided not stop and refill. "Maybe it was the wrong decision, but I thought if I lose time again, I have no chance to win. At least I always lost time in the curves," he said.

Ergon-Topeak rider Kurschat was happy to grab his first career victory in Münsingen. "My shape is extremely good. I never pushed over the limit but could press the gas pedal whenever I want to."

Defending champion Ralph Näf (Multivan Merida Biking Team) missed the first attack and then didn't want to bring competitors up to his Multivan-Merida team-mate Hermida. He finished a safe third place against hard-chasing Peter Riis Andersen. "I' felt good. My legs were better compared to some weeks before," Näf said.

See full coverage of the German MTB-Bundesliga round one.

Vogel and Leumann collect Swisspower victories

Florian Vogel at the 2007 World Championships
Photo ©: Didier Weemaels
(Click for larger image)

Instead of horses, mountain bikers occupied the horse race track in Muttenz, Switzerland, last weekend. In front of an ecstatic crowd, Florian Vogel (Swisspower Mountainbike-Team) won the men's event, while local woman Kathrin Leumann (Goldwurst-power / Sputnik) celebrated her first victory of the season in round #3 of the Swisspower Cup.

Christoph Sauser (Specialized), who turned 32 on Sunday, and legend Thomas Frischknecht (Swisspower Mountainbike-Team) did their first race in Switzerland, both having recently returned from Cape Epic in South Africa. Non-starters were Nino Schurter, who is taking a break from racing, as well as Ralph Näf and last year's winner José Hermida, both of whom opted to start in the Bundesliga race instead.

The race on the Schänzli (little ramp) was held over three laps on the track before heading out on a nine-kilometre loop, to be done six times. The pace was fast right from the gun and the decisive move came already on the first lap, with Florian Vogel and Martin Gujan (Athleticum MTB Team) able to get off the front. Italian champion Marco Fontana (Hard Rock FRW) was able to catch the duo, with Sauser and Lukas Flückiger (Athleticum MTB Team) chasing behind.

Fontana tried to attack, but couldn't drop the other two. Vogel's attack was more successful, dropping both riders initially. Gujan was able to fight back and he and Vogel started the last lap together. One kilometre from the line they had 30 seconds on Fontana. Vogel (bird) flew away from Gujan in the finale and won the race, with Gujan celebrating his second place like a victory. Fontana hung on to third, ahead of Sauser and Andreas Kugler (Fischer-BMC). Frischknecht finished sixth.

In the women's event, Maroussia Rusca (Scott Allianz Suisse), who has won the race twice in the past, did not start. Right from the beginning of the race, a leading group developed with Swiss champion Petra Henzi (Fischer-BMC), Kathrin Leumann, Esther Süss (Wheeler Pro Team/RC) and Marielle Saner (Bikepark.ch / BMC). Henzi dropped out after two laps. Leumann was cheered on by "her" spectators and won the race ahead of Süss and Saner.

See full results from the Swisspower Cup in Muttenz.

Injury still sidelining Stander

Cape Epic team-mates Christof Sauser and Burry Stander before they pulled out due to Stander's injury
Photo ©: Karin Schermbrucker / SPORTZPICS
(Click for larger image)

An injury that brought a premature end to Burry Stander's debut at the Absa Cape Epic has continued to plague South African cross-country mountain bike champion. Most recently, Stander sat out round four of the Mazda MTN South Africa Cup, held in George last Saturday. The injury is hampering his build-up to the Olympic Games.

The 20-year-old Stander, who races for the Mr Price GT team, has been struggling for the past two weeks to recover from the Iliotibial Band (ITB) Syndrome that forced him to quit the Cape Epic on stage three whilst wearing the leader's jersey.

"It's really been a problem in that I can only ride for an hour and then the pain sets in," explained Stander on Thursday before the race. "It's very frustrating because I have a World Cup race in Belgium next weekend and am not even sure I'll be able to race it."

Stander had intended to start the South Africa Cup race and continue as long as he was pain free. He was also getting bike set-up help from Dr. Jeroen Swart to see if any position fine-tuning might help him.

"As for the weekend's race in George, I decided to just spectate as the leg needs as much rest possible right now. It's not really something I can ride through."

The Iliotibial Band is the longest tendon in the body. It connects the hip to the shin and runs along the outside of the leg. ITB Syndrome is an inflammation of the ITB, with an excruciating, stabbing pain where the tendon crosses the bony protrusion on the outside of the knee each time the knee bends.

Pedros under new ownership

Christopher Zigmont
Photo ©: Sue George
(Click for larger image)

The Pedro's s brand will be under new ownership effective May 1. Management announced at the Sea Otter Classic that the company, now owned by Swix Sport USA, is being acquired by Sports adVentures International S.A. (SaVI) of Lausanne, Switzerland. SaVI is an investment group with a focus in the active life, health and wellness sectors. Pedros makes bicycle tools, care products and accessories and has long been a supporter of mountain bike races and festivals.

"We're starting a new chapter," said Christopher Zigmont, the new CEO at Pedro's from the company's booth in the Sea Otter expo area. "We're excited to find folks that get it. They [SaVI] ride really hard and also backcountry ski. But they also bring a business acumen that we haven't really had before. They understand investment and product development."

"We have some product directions in mind. We want to focus on accessories that are meaningful. We will do some pruning with our product line. We are very aware of transportation and the bike utility market. You will probably see more in that area from us," Zigmont hinted.

Current Pedro's staff will stay in place and no layoffs are planned. The company will move about 100 feet to a new office in the short term before finding a new, more permanent location still to be determined in the Boston area next January.

Pedro's will emerge as a new US-based legal entity from May 1. The parties have agreed to keep the terms of the agreement confidential.

Fumic brothers suspended over "whereabouts"

Lado and Manuel Fumic have been warned and suspended for three months for not submitting their "whereabouts" forms, the Bund Deutsche Radfahrer (BDR, German cycling federation) announced Thursday. They were warned for not filing for the fourth quarter of 2007, and suspended for not filing for the first quarter of 2008. The brothers have said that they will contest the suspension in court.

The Missed Test Policy, which was introduced in 2007, requires members of the national test pool to report their "whereabouts" on a quarterly basis. Missing this requirement one time called for a warning, which they received. As of January 1, 2008, the "whereabouts" must be reported through the ADAMS system.

"Since the 'whereabouts information' for the first quarter of 2008 was also not properly reported, the Bundessportgericht has issued a second sanction for violating the reporting requirement," the BDR press release said, "and – as is required in the NADA code for a second reporting violation – the riders Lado and Manuel Fumic have been given a three-month ban." The brothers from Kircheim, Germany, now have 14 days to appeal the decision.

MTBA announces preliminary schedule

After analyzing the six bids for five rounds of the Australian national series, Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA) announced a preliminary schedule for the 2007-2008 season.

Australian National Series
November 1-2: Round #1, Adelaide, XCO#1, XCC#1, DH#1
November 29-30: Round #2, Gold Coast XCO#2, XCC#2, DH#2, 4X#3
December 13-14: Round #3, Geelong XCO#3, XCC#3, DH#3
January 31 - February 1: Round #4, Mt Buller XCO#4, XCC#4, DH#4, 4X#4
February 28 - March 1: Round #5, Hobart XCO#5, XCC#5, DH#5, 4X#5

4X rounds one and two are expected to be hosted at the Sydney Olympic Park in October, but more details will be published after an upcoming promoter forum in Adelaide.

NPS 4X series to start in Chicksands

The British NPS 4X series will begin April 20 at Chicksands with the opening round, which will see a battle between Scott Beaumont (Rocky Mountain), Martin Ogden, Lewis Lacey (Charge Bikes), several neo-pros and locals Tom Dowie (Spank) and Pat Campbell (Identiti)

The first race of the series is always the biggest and thanks to the Beds Fat Trax club, will see a slightly longer track with an added flat corner before the new finish line.

NPS 4X Series for 2008
April 20: Round 1, Chicksands
May 17: Round 2, Bridgnorth
May 18: National 4X Championships
June 15: Round 3, Location to be determined
July 12: Round 4, Redhill Extreme, Gloucester
July 13: Round 5
August 16: Round 6, UK Bike Park, Dorset
August 17: Round 7,

For more information on the series, visit www.nps4x.com.

Go211.com auction to benefit Llanes

Tara Llanes
Photo ©: Sue George
(Click for larger image)

Beginning April 25, a new online action will raise funds toward Tara Llanes' ever accumulating medical costs. Llanes was seriously injured on September 1 of last year while racing at the Jeep KOM Finals. The four-time US National Champion is presently paralyzed from the waist down, but still hopes to walk and ride again.

"Recovery is going well," said Llanes to Cyclingnews from her wheelchair at the Giant booth at the Sea Otter Classic Expo area. "I'm getting stronger every day. All the emails I get just make me stronger." After months of therapy following her accident, Llanes showed she is handy in her wheelchair and was spotted catching up with many of her supporters throughout the expo area. She also demonstrated the motion she has regained in her upper left leg.

Hosted by Go211.com, a social networking and online video share site, through May 9, the online auction will feature items such as Eric Carter's 2006 National Championship 4X bike, " Steve Peat's signed replica Troy Lee Designs helmet, " Tracy Moseley's UCI leader's jersey, " Adam Craig's signed XC jersey, and additional items from Shaun Palmer, Leigh Donovan, Alison Dunlap, etc.

"We're very pleased to be partnering with Tara..." said Sean M. Aruda, CEO of Go211.com. "The positive attitude and determination she demonstrated while competing bodes well for her during her recovery, and we look forward to hosting this auction."

"I am a fan of each and every one of these riders so these items are a big deal to me," said Llanes.

All proceeds will go to the Tara Llanes Road to Recovery Fund (www.tarallanesroadtorecovery.com). For more information on the auction, visit www.go211.com.

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