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MTB news & racing round-up for August 8, 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

Pendrel wins her first World Cup in Bromont

By Sue George in Bromont, Québec

Catherine Pendrel (Luna Women's MTB Team)
Photo ©: FJ Hughes
(Click for larger image)

Catherine Pendrel (Luna Women's MTB Team) won her first-ever World Cup in Bromont, Québec on Sunday in extremely muddy and treacherous conditions due to rain the night before and throughout the elite women's race. Finishing in front of friends and family just weeks before the Olympic Games, the win was extra special for the Canadian Pendrel.

"I woke up this morning and felt really good, so I knew I had to go for it," said Pendrel. "It was muddy but it was lots of fun."

What was on the minds of most of the top women was preventing injury prior to competing in Beijing, China, this month. Many made references to riding conservatively and having to catch a plane in the next few days. The women raced four laps on a 4.85km course which was shortened by 700m due to the day's conditions.

Pendrel and her compatriot Marie Helene Premont swapped places from the previous weekend's World Cup in Mont-Sainte-Anne.

"It was very wet, and I was very careful - especially on the downhills," said Premont. "Before the start, I asked myself if I would race or not. I just want to enjoy myself before the Olympics."

Premont is now enjoying a two-week a rest at home before the Olympics. "I'm going to Beijing with confidence," she said.

Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Behind Premont was Katerina Nash (Luna Women's MTB Team), Lene Byberg (Specialized Factory Racing) and Georgia Gould (Luna MTB Women's Team).

"I love this kind of challenge - these conditions," said Nash, who ran a few uphills because it was faster than riding. "I tried not to make too many mistakes. It was a great ride for me."

Byberg and Gould battled between themselves behind Nash. They stayed together for awhile, but then Byberg steadily pulled away.

"This race was not a priority for me right now," said Gould, with an eye toward the Olympic Games. "I was conservative. I took it easy in the trees. I didn't want to get hurt. I was going pretty slowly on the first few laps, but overall I was feeling strong and working hard on the climbs."

Although she was listed on the start list, Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa did not take the start due to a stomach ailment.

Julien Absalon (Orbea) won the elite men's cross country race ahead of Lukas Flückiger (Athleticum) and Adam Craig (Team Giant).

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the elite men's and elite women's Bromont World Cup cross country races.

Hill returns to top podium step

By Sue George in Bromont, Quebec

Sam Hill (Monster Energy) won
Photo ©: FJ Hughes
(Click for larger image)

On a slippery, technical downhill track at the UCI World Cup in Bromont, Quebec, Australian Sam Hill showed he was the man to beat with the best time in qualifying and finals. He backed that up in an exciting final, when as the last man down the hill, he ousted Greg Minnaar from the hot seat.

"It's been a bit of a dry spell since Maribor," said an elated Hill after his win. "Since winning there, I've been concentrating on trying to keep my points lead [in the UCI World Cup series] instead of trying to focus on winning. I feel like that's kind of why I haven't been riding as good."

Monster Energy racer Hill won the season's opening World Cup in Maribor, Slovenia, but hasn't been able to make it back to the top of the World Cup podium until Saturday evening. He came close with second place at the Andorra World Cup and finished fifth in Fort William this spring. Then at the World Championships in Italy in June, Hill was on his way to a win with a six-second margin, when he washed out and crashed spectacularly in the final turn, just before the finish. Despite hopping back on his bike to finish, the crash cost him some time and another year in the rainbow-striped jersey; he finished third.

"After last weekend [at Mont-Sainte-Anne], I came in with the mindset that I just gotta go there and win," he said.

Hill said the spectators at Bromont were inspirational, too. "The crowd here is just insane. It's huge from the first big drop all the way down. Someone lit off a big firework next to me and people were just going wild."

The Australian finished ahead of Greg Minnaar and Steve Peat (both Santa Cruz Syndicate). He is looking forward to the next round of the World Cup on home soil in Canberra, Australia, at the end of the month.

In the women's downhill race, despite several mistakes during her final run, Rachel Atherton (Animal Commencal) defeated Sabrina Jonnier (Team Maxxis) and Tracy Moseley (Kona).

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the UCI World Cup in Bromont including the elite men's downhill, elite women's downhill, elite men's 4X and the elite women's 4X.

Buchanan debuts in World Cup big final

By Sue George in Bromont, Quebec, Canada

Caroline Buchanan gets 4th.
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Australian Caroline Buchanan made it to the 4X big finals in only her second-ever World Cup appearance in Bromont, Quebec. The 17 year-old finished fourth of four riders. Her first World Cup appearance was last weekend in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec.

"Last weekend, I got two flats so I was hoping to have a better run this weekend. I managed to do that, so I'm very happy," said a smiling Buchanan just before the awards ceremony. "Today was awesome. It was very different than anything I've ever ridden. To make a final, I'm over the moon."

Her results bode well for her chances at the next World Cup at the end of August. Conveniently, it will be in her hometown of Canberra, Australia. "I live about five minutes from the track," she said. "It's coming together really well and I think it'll be a really good race."

Buchanan offered some insight into the 4X racing expected there. "It'll be a little different than the rest of the World Cups. The downhill is not as big and we're not in Europe or any of these other countries. I think it will be really dusty.

"The 4X track is more similar to a BMX track," added Buchanan. "There are not many jumps and logs and those kinds of things, but I think it'll be really good. [Designer] Glen Jacobs has put a lot of thought into the track."

Buchanan isn't put off by racing senior and elite women, yet it is not easy for her either. "It's tough, but I come from a BMX background so I normally do race older girls. These (4X) girls are awesome and hopefully in a few years I'll be up there on the top of the podium."

Absalon heads south to prepare for Beijing

Julien Absalon (Orbea), still clean at the start of the Bromont World Cup
Photo ©: FJ Hughes
(Click for larger image)

French National Champion Julien Absalon (Team Orbea) has made up his mind about his final preparations for the Olympic mountain bike race coming up on August 23.

Absalon, who won gold in the cross country mountain bike race at the Olympics in Athens in 2004, will head to the south of France. He will contest the first two stages of L'Hexagonale VTT, August 8 in Vittel and August 11 in Ferté-Gaucher, as well as a road race in La Motte next Sunday according to AFP.

Absalon told Cyclingnews on Sunday at the UCI World Cup in Bromont that he would decide between staying home in the north of France or heading south. "I think it will be important to train in high temperatures," he had said. "It could be really hot in Beijing."

Absalon is coming off two confidence-building victories at the World Cups in Mont-Sainte-Anne and Bromont, Quebec, Canada.

Sauser hopeful despite knee injury

By Sue George in Bromont, Quebec, Canada

Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) wins
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

After a few worrisome days, Christoph Sauser's Olympic dream appears to be back on track. The Swiss mountain biker, who is the current cross country world champion, crashed one day before the cross country World Cup two Saturdays ago in Mont-Sainte-Anne. After a trip to the hospital and five stitches, his knee swelled up, threatening to derail his remaining season objectives.

"On Tuesday, he got home and he had quite a bad knee infection... to the point where we thought his season was over," said Specialized Factory Team Manager Bobby Behan. "My heart sank when I heard and I think he got a bit worried, too.

"On Wednesday, his knee was still swollen. He went back to the doctor to get the wound cleaned out again, and the doctor said he could ride for 30 minutes," said Behan. "So he rode the roller and it wasn't great."

Doctors even warned Sauser that they might have to operate on his knee. By last Friday, however, things were looking up. Sauser did a two-hour ride which went well except for some ego bruising. "Two girls passed him and he wasn't too impressed by that, but he was happy he rode," said Behan, who also reported that as of Saturday, Sauser's knee was only slightly bigger than normal.

The injury caused Sauser to sit out the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup despite travelling across the Atlantic to attend. He tried getting on his bike the morning of the cross country race, but soon figured out racing was not an option. "I did not watch the race," said Sauser on his blog. "Instead I spent my time in a coffee shop, frustrated, drinking coffee, eating croissants."

Sauser had never planned to race the Bromont World Cup; instead he has intended to race the L'Hexagonal Tour de France VTT starting Thursday, August 7, in France. Barring any further complications affecting his knee, Sauser still intends to race the French event before heading directly from Paris to the Olympics in Beijing, China.

Sauser wasn't having a very good week. He reported on his blog that a lightning strike also damaged his phone, phone line, TV, DVD and surround sound system.

"In spite of his crash at the marathon worlds and this knee injury, we have our fingers crossed that he will go well at the Olympics," said Behan.

Fuglsang signs with CSC-Saxo Bank

Overall winner Jakob Fuglsang (Team Designa Køkken)
Photo ©: CyclingWorld.dk
(Click for larger image)

Mountain biker Jakob Fuglsang, winner of the Post Danmark Tour, has signed a two-year road contract with CSC-Saxo Bank. The 23 year-old Dane was the 2007 U23 world mountain bike champion, and currently rides for Team Designa Kitchen. He will also represent Denmark at the Beijing Olympics.

"I am very pleased indeed with this new challenge and am very pleased that the contract has fallen into place with Team CSC-Saxo Bank," he said. "There have been several teams inside the picture, but it was here that I wanted to go. I still have much to learn and I think that it is here that I can get the best conditions to be better. First and foremost, I am glad to join the world's best team."

CSC-Saxo Bank team manager Bjarne Riis added, "I started to keep an eye on him last year when he made a strong showing in the Post Danmark Tour. He has fantastic potential and is a genuine all-round rider who has many different qualities. I think he has a great future ahead of him, and it will be exciting to see him develop with us."

Fuglsang moved into second place overall on the third stage of the Post Danmark Tour and took over the lead with a strong showing in the fifth stage time trial. He also won the best young rider award. Like Cadel Evans, he joins the ranks of mountain bikers to make the switch to racing for major road teams.

Eatough and Sawicki defend American 24 hour titles

Chris Eatough (Trek / VW) and Pua Sawicki (Ellsworth) successfully defended their national titles in the men's and women's 24 hour solo division at the USA Cycling National 24 Hour Championships in Wausau, Wisconsin. Starting at 10am Saturday, the two raced 14-mile laps for nearly 24 hours. It was the third consecutive year that the 24 hours of Nine Mile hosted the championship race.

Eatough defeated Josh Tostado (Bach Builders) in a close race that came down to the last lap, with both finishing at 20 laps. Nat Ross (Subaru / Gary Fisher) completed 19 laps for third.

"He really put me into difficulty, he and I were very evenly matched," said Eatough of Tostado. "But my pit crew has our routine dialled, and the new bike let me race even faster." Eatough was riding the newly released Top Fuel.

Eatough was down by three minutes at the 12 hour mark, but he could still see Tostado on the winding trails through the northern Wisconsin woods.

"My vision started to freeze up, and I hit the wall that I always hit at the 12-hour mark. But I know how to handle those conditions. I just ride consistently through the night and save enough for the daylight," said the experienced Eatough of his winning strategy.

Eatough caught back up to Tostado by lap 17, and the pair agreed lap 20 would be the final one. Some were expecting a sprint, but Eatough pulled away on the final half-lap.

"I felt awesome. I felt twice as fast as I did earlier in the day," said Eatough. He crossed the line 16 minutes ahead of Tostado to collect his fourth national title.

In the women's race, Sawicki ended up with 18 laps (255.6 miles ridden), two laps ahead of second placed Danielle Musto (Kenda-Titus-Hayes) and third placed Sarah Kaufmann (Titus/Roaring Mouse).

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the USA Cycling 24 hour mountain bike national championships.

Speedy sent off to Olympics with new title

Evans makes it three in a row

Women's podium:
Photo ©: Theo Grobler
(Click for larger image)

Yolande Speedy and Kevin Evans won the 2008 South African marathon mountain bike championships in Stellenbosch last weekend in Stellensbosch.

For Speedy (IMC Racing Activeworx), it was a timely confidence boost ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games where she will represent South Africa.

Speedy didn't just win the title; she dominated the 66km race, which doubled as round four of the 2008 Mazda MTN National Series. She clocked a 3:13:10, a full 12 minutes faster than her nearest rival, Hanlie Booyens (Jeep), who finished second. Tania Raats (Fox) rounded out the podium in third.

"I went hard on the first climb which was soon after the start and managed to get a gap which I just worked on extending for the rest of the race," said an elated Speedy. "It's a pity the race wasn't closer among the women but it still feels good for me to retain my title."

Speedy decided to push the climbs and flats and ease up on the downhills, despite being a skilled descender.

"With a big lead it wasn't worth taking any high-speed risks with the Olympics so close by, so I just took the descents cautiously," said the 32 year-old Speedy, who said that despite the lack of rain, the course was still slippery and wet.

Evans confirmed his status as the country's marathon mountain bike racing king when he won his third successive title. He took the lead from the very first climb and went on to lead two of his MTN Energade team-mates Melt Swanepoel and Mannie Heymans to a podium sweep.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the South African marathon national championships.

Eising to Revor

Young mountain bike talent Tijmen Eising has made the leap from the Dolphin-Trek satellite team Bejan-Dolphin to the newly formed Belgian team of Revor. The up and coming rider will race cyclo-cross with his new team-mate, former world cyclo-cross champion Erwin Vervecken.

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