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MTB news & racing round-up for August 1, 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

Gould going fast on the way to Beijing

By Sue George

Georgia Gould (Luna Women's MTB)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Georgia Gould is just three weeks away from her first Olympic race. She is one of two women who will race in the stars and stripes representing the United States mountain bike team in Beijing, China, and just last weekend, she raced in her Luna MTB Women's team colors to her best-ever World Cup finish (fourth) at Mont-Sainte-Anne in Quebec, Canada.

"The racing is really open this year. I think there are two large handfuls of people who could have a really good day and be on the podium at the Olympics," said the 28 year-old Gould, who resides in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Of the six World Cups raced thus far in 2008, only one woman, Canadian Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain) has won more than one round. Premont took victory in Fort William, Scotland, and on home turf in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec. The other winners were Chinese Ren Chengyuan in Houffalize, Russian Irina Kalentieva (Topeak Ergon) in Offenburg, Norwegian Gunn Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida) in Madrid, and Spaniard and world champion Marga Fullana (Massi) in Andorra.

The diverse winner's list in due, in part, to a field of top women who are evenly matched competitors. In addition, not every one of the favourites has attended every World Cup round - due to various illnesses and specific approaches to preparing for the Olympics, the top women have been taking turns sitting out rounds.

"A lot of people have been skipping some races leading up to the Olympics," said Gould. "It's left the door open to more racers to do well." Gould has been one of those beneficiaries - she finished third at the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup, a race where current World Champion Fullana, Sabine Spitz and Irina Kalentieva were absent. That's not to say Gould may not have done just as well with everyone there; her previous World Cup best was fourth, and she has been steadily working her way up the elite ranks.

The same three, Fullana, Spitz and Kalentieva, will also miss the next World Cup in Bromont, Quebec, this weekend, which again leaves the door open for racers like Gould.

Georgia Gould (Luna Women's MTB)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

On her first attempt to make the US Olympic team, the Luna racer is the kind of professional who clearly loves to race in addition to finding racing itself a perfect way to improve her condition and skills.

"A lot of times when I'm not scheduled for a major race, I still go to a local race because I think racing is the best kind of training. It's easier mentally for me to push myself in a race than to go out for some training ride by myself and go hard," said Gould.

Gould's path to earning a place on the US Olympic team has not been without challenges.

"I started out the season really strong, and I was pretty optimistic. I had a couple good races. The first World Cup, I got fifth place. Then, I had an off weekend in Germany, but I got fifth place again in Madrid."

Gould's chances of being selected for the US Olympic team were looking good this spring since the criteria for making the team were based largely on World Cup performances up through the World Championships in Val di Sole, Italy, in June. But she soon saw how tenuous her position was.

Gould travelled back to the US for a National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) race in Santa Barbara, California, in May. That's where she got heat stroke. "It was the first time I'd ever gotten heat stroke," said Gould. "It's also the first time I've ever had a blacked-out experience - when I didn't remember stuff."

Read the complete interview with Georgia Gould.

Bromont to host second consecutive Canadian World Cup

By Sue George

World Champions Rafael Alvarez De Lara Lu and Melissa Buhl
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Quebec, Canada, will host its second of two UCI World Cups this weekend in Bromont, just one week after the last round in Mont-Sainte-Anne. Gravity racers will tackle round five while cross country racers will contest round seven. Bromont is just 86km east of Montreal and 290km from Mont-Sainte-Anne.

World Cup racing has previously come to Bromont, but not for nine years. The town has also hosted the elite and masters World Championships as well as a total of four World Cups. This visit will see all-new courses at the Versant du Lac section of the Bromont skiing area.

Racing action will kick off with the 4X with qualifying on Friday evening and finals on Saturday evening. After their wins one week ago in Mont-Sainte-Anne, World champions Melissa Buhl (KHS) and Rafael Alvarez De Lara Luca are the top favourites.

In the women's race, Dutch woman Anneke Beerten (MS Intense Factory Racing), who is ranked number one in the world, will look to make up for last weekend's race, in which she crashed during the Big Final, taking fourth. Both Japan's Mio Suemasa (MS Intense Factory Racing) and Great Britain's Fionn Griffiths (Norco World team) are likely to challenge for podium spots, but also look out for Austrian Anita Molcik (4 Elements Yeti/Hotec/RSP) and Australian Caroline Buchanan.

Rachael Atherton (Animal Commencal)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

On the men's side, Spaniard Alvarez de Lara Luca will face France's young Romain Saladin (Team Sunn), who last weekend returned to racing with a second place finish following a hand injury this spring. Guido Tschugg may have crashed in the Big Final along with Frenchman Cédric Gracia (Commencal - Furious - Oakley Team), but both can't be counted out for this round. Joost Wichman (Cannondale Factory Racing) and Dan Atherton (Animal Commencal), who returned to competition last week, are also among the favorites.

Downhill racing will happen Saturday, with qualifying in the morning and finals in the evening. The nearly one-kilometer course drops from 550m to 250m over its length.

World Champion Rachel Atherton (Animal Commencal) won in Mont-Sainte-Anne and will be looking for another trip to the top of the podium, but Sabrina Jonnier (Maxxis) came within two seconds in a close finale last weekend and will have other plans in mind.

See the start list and read the complete preview for 4X, downhill and cross country World Cup events in Bromont.

Subaru / Gary Fisher truck stolen at World Cup venue

The Subaru / Gary Fisher team's truck was stolen on Monday night from a lighted hotel parking lot in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec, site of the World Cup last weekend.

At the time of the theft the team's truck and trailer were disconnected, so fortunately for the team, the trailer containing team bikes and support equipment was not also stolen.

"I'm sure there is some small personal stuff gone for our mechanic, but it shouldn't affect the team's racers," said Fisher brand manager Travis Ott to Cyclingnews.

The loss is presenting some headaches for the team management. "Fortunately, the whole circuit is close knit and another team will help us move the trailer to Bromont for the next World Cup," said Ott. "But at the same time our mechanic is shopping for a new truck to replace the stolen Ford F350.

Although the two World Cups are in Canada, the American-based team is looking for a vehicle in the US, in nearby Vermont. "We have to buy the new truck in the US because if you buy it in Canada, it is a hassle to bring back to the US," said Ott. "Plus we'd like it to read out miles and miles per hour."

"It would have been easier if they'd stolen it much closer to home - they're about as far away as they ever compete in North America."

The stolen truck was decked out in Subaru / Gary Fisher colors and had "not easily removable" decals from the team and its sponsors all over it.

Theft has been a problem on the World Cup circuit this year, especially for the Multivan Merida team, which had 100,000 euro worth of equipment stolen in Houffalize, Belgium, and was the victim of another attempted theft in Madrid. GT's bikes were also stolen the day before the Houffalize round.

24 Hours of Nine Mile returns to Wausau

Pua Sawicki (Team Mata)
Photo ©: Mark Moore
(Click for larger image)

The USA Cycling 24-hour National Championships will return to Wausau, Wisconsin, this weekend August 2-3. More than 900 mountain bike enthusiasts from across the United States and Canada are expected to participate. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the event and the third year it has hosted the US Nationals.

A record number of attendees are expected, including current and former national champions vying for top honors. In addition to the six national championship categories, twenty non-national championship categories will be contested. These include team and solo events in the 12-hour and 24-hour categories. Support staff and spectators will bring total attendance to about 2,000.

Last year's race was won by Pua Sawicki and Chris Eatough.

For more information, visit www.24-9.com.

Geoff Kabush diary: The long haul towards Beijing

Geoff Kabush wining his 12th NMBS in March
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Hello again.

Once again it has been a while between reports; I usually only get the motivation to write when the racing is going well, and recently, well, it has been going smooth. I signed off my last report while I was still in the middle of a month-long European stint.

The trip went as good as hoped, with a few snags. After the podium performance at the World Cup in Andorra, I had podium legs in Scotland but technical problems put an end to that opportunity. It made for an interesting race, as after a pit-stop in the technical zone on lap one I had to charge from the back of the pack all the way up to 24th, which I was pretty satisfied with regarding the circumstances.

By now, I can only remember a few things... the weather was unbelievably nice for the whole week, I saw the top of Ben Nevis for the first time and there was one guy I had to ride behind in the race who has become a little notorious for riding downhill extremely slowly. It just bugs me sometimes how people call themselves professional mountain bikers but have never actually learned how to ride a mountain bike. It is not like this individual isn't serious either; he has been a National Champion, top ten in the World Cup and he actually rides a full suspension with riser bars, which, you would think it would help him ride down hills faster. I am just saying if you want to race mountain bikes it might be a good idea to learn to mountain bike a little bit. Okay that is my rant, see if you can figure out who I am talking about... he might like sauerkraut.

So from Scotland we went to Willingen, Germany, where they serve sauerkraut a lot. There is a big bike festival there and it was a great place to hang out for a week besides the fact it rained a lot, I got sick and the beer isn't very good. I got some decent training in though and thanks to the Maxxis Germany guys there, who hooked us up for the week. We had time there to hang out before our last stop of the Euro campaign, the World Championships in Italy.

I was sure glad to get to Italy, the land of excellent one euro macchiatos, because my beans were getting old and I was tired of hand grinding my beans. I figure the hand-grinder, although annoying, was some good cross-training while in Europe. At the Worlds, it was a hot steamer and I wasn't quite healthy; I was satisfied to end up with a 16th and move on with a few more points in the bank.

I flew back from Europe, had a few fleeting moments with Keri and the animals and then I was straight off to another NMBS bike meet in Park City, Utah. I fell a little short of the "W" in the XC, took the "W" in the STXC and was bitterly disappointed to have a technical problem in the Super D. After some trash talking with the downhillers all week I wasn't able to take it to them as I wanted; next time they better watch out if I don't have any problems. It was cool to see my team-mate "Caveman" Cole step up and take a win in the Dual Slalom though; I was happy to take some credit though for pushing his bike back up the hill for semi-finals and finals.

Read the complete diary entry.

Girls' participation sees growth spurt in NorCal League

In a shift that bucks the trend in sports participation statistics, the participation of girls in the Northern California (NorCal) High School Mountain Bike Racing League increased 50% over last year, compared to a 10% increase in the participation of boys, who saw their number grow substantially a few years ago.

The League's executive director, Matt Fritzinger, is delighted by the growth. "I'm totally in awe of this phenomenon and can't fully assume credit for this. I think the girls are just catching onto something. I know that every step of the way, our assistant director, Nadine Budbill, has ensured our programs are attractive to girls, nevertheless, I'm amazed by this rate of growth," he said.

Fritzinger paid tribute to the work of coaches, parents, and partners such as the Luna Chix Ambassadors and the Subaru Gary Fisher Pro Team, all of whom have been supporting the female league membership.

Nicola Cranmer, general manager of the Proman Women's Cycling Team, commented on the benefits of competitive cycling for young women. "Participating in cycling and racing at an early age helps young women develop not only riding skills but self confidence, focus, team work and camaraderie."

Participation of girls rose this year from 50 to 80 girls in the NorCal League. Feedback from these girls suggests that the reasons for joining in include new opportunities, confidence enhancement, sisterhood, and desire for a healthy outdoor hobby.

"I think it is excellent that girls are now starting to invade mountain biking and are creating a space for themselves in the sports world," said Aviva Prager of Albany High.

"The NorCal League has changed my life by providing an opportunity that is virtually nonexistent elsewhere. I was not a biker before I entered high school, and I didn't even know that biking could be considered a sport. Without my school's team and its part in the League, I never would have picked up such a great sport," said Laurn Catlin of Drake High.

One method of increasing the girls' participation has been girls-only camps, which prepare students for what to expect during the course of a race or recreational ride, thereby removing some considerable obstacles to participation. The anecdotes of attendees suggest that they have been popular.

"The girls' skills camp, before the racing season started, was the highlight for me this year. It really helped me learn the basic skills, especially because it was my first year. At the camp, the coaches taught me that biking is not just about winning, it's about pushing yourself, but also making sure it's fun," said Lauren Freudman.

Fritzinger is hoping to see even more girls in the League in 2009. With Budbill moving to Vermont to build a girl's mountain bike camp program, he is looking for an assistant director going into the next season.

Top riders to Adidas Slopestyle

The fourth annual Adidas Slopestyle will take place with 40 of the world's top freeriders from 13 countries on July 31 to August 3 in Saalbach Hinterglemm, Austria.

Attendees will include superstars like Canadian Ben Boyko, who won the 2007 Crankworx Slopestyle in Whistler; Lance McDermott, overall winner of the Qashqai Challenge 2008; "Chopper" Grant Fielder; and big mountain rider Pierre-Edouard Ferry as well as style kings Timo Pritzel, Alex Reveles, Phil Sundbaum, Benny Korthaus and Trond Hansen. The latter placed second and third at this year's Qashqai Challenge.

Europe's shooting stars Martin Soederstroem and Sam Pilgrim, who excelled at international contests this season thus far, will be at the start, and last but not least, the German and Austrians Joscha Forstreuter, Marius Hoppensack, Carlo Dieckmann, Niels Peter Jensen, Amir Kabbani and Niki Leitner will be competing.

Racers will be competing for US$30,000 in prizes on a course with more than 1,680 person-hours behind the construction.

For more information, visit www.adidas-slopestyle.com.

Stellenbosch Challenge

As the official venue of stop number four on the South African Mazda MTN National MTB Series, this year's Stellenbosch Mountain Bike Challenge will take place on August 2. The 66km route, which starts with a 4km climb, will pass through 21 vineyards. 42km and 15km options will also be available. The event will double as the South African national marathon championships, in which 12 national titles will be awarded.

Kevin Evans (MTN Energade) is leading the men's series after three events thus far.

"Obviously the climbs are my strength and I'll be making the most of that whenever the road points up," said a typically modest Evans on Thursday. "I've never done this race before, but I believe it's harder than it seems."

Likely racing with Evans are David George (MTN Energade), Johnny Kritzinger (Schwinn), John Paul Pearton (USN), Francis Theron (USN), Brandon Stewart (USN), Renay Goustra (Mongoose) and Oliver Munnik (Mongoose), Marc Bassingthwaighte (Garmin DCM) along with Evans' team-mates Mannie Heymans and Melt Swanepoel. Burry Stander (GT Bicycles) will be absent while overseas preparing for the Olympic Games.

For the women, Carla Rowley (MTN Energade) sits atop the standings, ahead of Yolandi du Toit (Garmin DCM), Sanet Smal, Samantha Oosthuizen (Garmin DCM) and Adele Drake.

However, South Africa's top woman, Yolande Speedy, is hoping that when she heads off to represent her country at the Olympic Games in a week's time that she will take with her the confidence of a winner and the glory of another national title. The 32 year-old Johannesburg racer, who rides for IMC Racing/Activeworx, is the favorite.

Speedy will also have to contend with Tania Raats (Maverick), last year's winner Michelle Lombardi and other top Western Cape racers, Hanlie Booyens and Sara Muhl (both Jeep).

"I'm in very good form ahead of Beijing, but there are various factors in a mountain bike race that can affect the results such as crashes and mechanical issues. Hopefully everything will go smoothly for me on Saturday," said Speedy.

Conspicuously absent will be last year's South African championship silver medallist and Speedy's archrival, Yolande de Villiers (Cycle Lab Toyota) who recently underwent surgery to a damaged shoulder and South African cross-country champion, Amy Jane Mundy (Fox), who is recovering from illness.

For those seeking entertainment outside of racing, the event will be held in conjunction with the Stellenbosch Wine Festival. Dylan Victor, one of South Africa's premier trials riders will be performing his trick show at the challenge.

Over 4000 entries have already been received.

For more information, visit www.mtbchallenge.co.za.

Home town advantage to play a role in Canberra

A hometown advantage could assist mountain cross current leaders Leigh Darrell and Harriet Burbidge-Smith in winning the elite races in the fourth and final state round in Canberra, Australia, this weekend. Over 200 riders front New South Wales and the ACT are expected to converge on the Mt Stromlo track for their final chance to race on the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup course, recently upgraded by Olympic track builder Glen Jacobs, before the World Cup on August 30-31.

Former BMX rider Darrell is closely followed by Cody Eichhorn and Russell Hood in second and third position before the fourth and last round, taking place August 2-3.

At only 12 years of age Burbidge-Smith leads the elite women's category after her win at the third round, followed by Sydney-sider Danielle Beecroft and Vanessa Thompson in third.

The closest tussles will come in Under 19 and Under 17 divisions. Under 19 current leader Blake Nielsen has overtaken Seaton Humphreys with Liam Melville in third.

The Under 17 division has been dominated by Jamie Abbot who is clearly in the lead in front of Ben Leslie and Mat Hall.

Dual slalom racing starts the proceedings on Saturday, and the current elite men's leader is Ricky Boyer, closely followed by Peter Combs and Garreth Patton. Cara Smith leads the expert women category and Alice Minahan is first in Under 19 women. In Under 19 men, Sam Reeder leads with Nathan Lucus and Rodney Day in second and third respectively.

Racers will be looking to fine-tune their form before the State Championships coming up in Kurrajong on August 23-34.

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