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MTB news & racing round-up for August 9, 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

Olympic Games - take three for Hermida

By Sue George

Spain's Jose Antonio Hermida,
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Jose Antonio Hermida won a silver medal at the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece four years ago. Now he's got his eyes on a gold medal in Beijing, China. As an enduring and consistent Spanish cross country mountain bike racer, he will be counting on experience and hoping for a little good luck at his third Olympic Games.

Hermida (Multivan Merida) isn't new to the Olympic Games. In fact, with this year's event in Beijing, China being his third appearance, Hermida's Olympic career has outlasted that of many others. While the Beijing test will feature some new faces, Hermida is depending on experience for his gold medal ambitions.

"Probably the younger riders will be more explosive and more competitive than me, but I have a card to play - experience, and that is also important," said Hermida, who will celebrate his 30th birthday one day after the Olympic cross country race. "I'll be arriving at the Olympics at a good age.

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"I have experienced two past Olympics, and I'm at the age when most of us guys are at the top of our careers," added Hermida, who finished fourth at his first Olympics in Sydney, Australia in 2000. "This experience card is one that I have to play."

Hermida hasn't won any World Cups so far in 2008, but he's been steadily building his form going toward the Olympic Games. At the World Cup in Madrid, Hermida came close to a win with a second place, just 12 seconds behind French National Champion Julien Absalon (Orbea).

In Mont-Sainte-Anne in late July, Hermida was riding in third before the "crash of his life" sent him and his bike flying. After landing on his head and losing his seat, along with over a dozen places, Hermida worked his way back up to 11th. At the Bromont World Cup last weekend, he finished fifth, earning a spot on the podium after a blazing fast start.

"It is not a secret that I want to win," he said. "Most people put me on the favourites list based on my past results in the Olympics. Now it is the time to fight for the gold, but of course, it is the Olympics and racing is racing, so you never know. You can make everything perfect, but your result still depends on luck."

Hermida lives in Puigcerdā, Spain, with his wife and two year-old son, whom he is teaching to ride when he's not away travelling. His home is in the mountains of the Pyrenees, only 500 meters from the border in Spain, and he does most of his training in France.

With two Olympic appearances under his belt, Hermida's approach will be a little different this time around. "In my last two Olympics, I had a lot of fun," he said. "I was there for racing and tried to do my best, but I also had fun enjoying the Olympic experience. I was lucky. There are many riders that go to the Olympics and see nothing and have no time to enjoy the ambiance.

"These Olympics will be different as I will be pushing myself to go for the gold medal, so I will probably need to remove some of the fun part of the Olympics and focus more on my goal," added Hermida.

Read the complete interview.

Armstrong returns to racing in Leadville

Since his retirement, Armstrong has turned his attention to marathon running
Photo ©: AFP
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Three years after the end of his career, seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong hopes to finish a cycling race again. On Saturday, August 9, Armstrong will line up in the Leadville Trail 100, a 100-mile mountain bike race through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

The Texan has been keeping fit in running marathon races since he retired from racing in 2005. Still, he pointed at last year's winner Dave Wiens for the likely Leadville victory. Wiens won his fifth straight title at the mountain bike race in 2007, beating Floyd Landis by two minutes.

"A race like this takes a lot of experience and endurance. He has that. So, I guess he's the odds-on favourite," Armstrong said to AP on Wednesday. "I would reiterate that I'll be happy if I'm Top 5. I don't think I'm in it to win it, as they say."

The 36 year-old hasn't finished a competitive bike race since winning his seventh straight Tour de France title. In spring, he dropped out of the "Miles of DisComfort" mountain bike race in Texas with nine miles to go before the finish.

The Leadville Trail 100 begins at the old mining town of Leadville with 1,000 participants setting out at 10,500 feet and climbing to a maximum elevation of 12,600 feet. En route, racers tackle 14,000 feet of climbing in total. "I fully expect to get beat up," Armstrong said.

Armstrong's longtime personal coach, Chris Carmichael, is also signed up for Saturday's race and hopes to beat his personal best time of just over nine hours. "I don't know if I can beat Wiens, but I'm 100 percent sure I can beat Carmichael," Armstrong said. "I will be home, showered and probably three beers in by the time Carmichael gets back."

Schalk gets new challenger at Fool's Gold

Jeremiah Bishop will join his Cape Epic team-mate Chris Eatough at the Fool's Gold 100
Photo ©: Sven Martin
(Click for larger image)

Trek / VW's Jeff Schalk has won four of the four National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series events he's contested this year, and he's well on his way to the overall title. Only one other rider, Josh Tostado (Bach Builders), has won an NUE round this year, but that may be about to change. Schalk's team-mate Jeremiah Bishop, the current marathon and short track national champion, will race the next NUE round, the Fool's Gold 100, in Dahlonega, Georgia, on August 16.

"It will be my first opportunity to rock the Stars and Stripes jersey at an epic long-distance mountain bike race, and it's a great reason to explore the legendary trails of north Georgia," said Bishop.

Newly re-crowned 24 hour solo US National Champion Chris Eatough (Trek / VW), Tinker Juarez (Monavie Cannondale), Harlan Price (Independent Fabrication) and local Thomas Turner will all be on hand to ensure the men's race is a tough one.

"It's going to be an awesome competition; the most competitive endurance race in the southeast. I look forward to it, and I'm really excited to see all the trails," he said. "A race like this is a really cool way to see a region's best trails. One hundred miles really highlights an area. Without even having to use a map, you get a great tour of the best riding in the region."

In the women's race, Cheryl Sornson will be racing for another NUE win. There is no word yet on whether last year's winners Trish Stevenson (Independent Fabrication) and Sam Koerber (Gary Fisher) will attend.

The Fool's Gold Festival will include a 50 mile race option as well as a festival with organized rides, games, bands, and on-site food and lodging from August 15-17.

The TransWales summary

Camping at the TransWales
Photo ©: TransWales
(Click for larger image)

After a Scottish sojourn last year, the MTB Trans concept returns to mid-Wales for the second-ever TransWales from August 16 to 23. The event will start and finish in BuilthWells.

Taking its cues from the epic TransAlps and TransRockies point-to-point races that cross the Alps and the Canadian Rockies, the Merida Bikes TransWales will mix seven daily non-competitive marathon linking stages - varying from 55km to 83km in distance - together with a selection of special stages on the cream of Wales' purpose built trails for singletrack speed shakes.

Cwmrhaedr, Brechfa Forest, the Cli-Machx trail, and Nant yr Arian and will all see riders tackling rally style time trials in pairs and in relay, both during the day and at night. All in all this uniquely epic challenge demands that the riders - split amongst six categories - complete a total of 550km (344miles) of riding with 15,500m (50,840feet) of climbing off-road in just seven days.

The event is known for its high percentage of singletrack.

TransWales 2008
Sunday, August 17: Linking Stage 1 - Builth Wells to Cilycwm, Llandovery (67.5km, 1,812m of climbing)
Sunday, August 17: Special Stage 1 - Exposure Lights Maxx night time-trial at Cwmrhaedr
Monday, August 18: Linking Stage 2 - Cwmrhaedr to Llansawel via Brechfa Forest (71.5km, 1985m of climbing)
Tuesday, August 19: Special Stage 2 - Brechfa Forest (Abergorlech Trail)
Tuesday, August 19: Linking Stage 3 - Abergorlech to Tregaron (71km, 1856m of climbing)
Wednesday, August 20: Linking Stage 4: - Tregaron to Machynlleth (82km, 2045m of climbing)
Thursday, August 21: Special Stage 3 - Cli-Machx trail (Corris)
Thursday, August 21: Linking Stage 5 - Cli-Machx trail to Ponterwyd (55.5km, 1683m of climbing)
Friday, August 22: Special Stage 4 - Nant yr Arian
Friday, August 22: Linking Stage 6: Nant yr Arian to Strata Florida (68.5km, 1968m of climbing)
Saturday, August 23: Linking Stage 7: Strata Florida to Builth Wells (83.5km, 2560m of climbing)


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by TransWales

SoCal Interscholastic cycling league launched

The Northern California High School Mountain Bike Racing League (NorCal League) will launch the Southern California Interscholastic Cycling League (SoCal League) for the 2009 academic year, with grant support from the Easton Sports Development Foundation II (ESDF II). The new league is based on the successful model of the NorCal League, now in its eighth year, with 400 high schoolers, 150 coaches, and 35 schools involved.

Matt Fritzinger, executive director of both leagues, said, "We are tremendously grateful for the generosity of Mr. Easton and his foundation. The grant allows us to launch a new league, and that has been a dream of ours for several years. With the SoCal League, we'll be fostering the same values of life-long physical fitness, community, and self-confidence combined with athletic competition that has been so successful in Northern California."

Jim Easton, President of Easton Sports Development Foundation II, which provides grant support to a range of youth sports, said, "Sports have been very good to me throughout my life, and my hope is to help provide sporting opportunities to young people everywhere. We feel that a great place to start creating those opportunities is right here in Southern California."

The ESDFII was set up in 2006 and plans to give back to the development of the four sports for which the Easton Companies developed innovative equipment: archery, softball and baseball, hockey and cycling. The SoCal League is one of the first few recipients of an ESDF II grant in part because of the proposal's emphasis on coaching, community, and making cycling a mainstream high school sport.

"We know that good coaching means working closely with families, and helping athletes create a balanced life perspective. We aim to take the SoCal high school mountain bike teams in the same direction as we have in Northern California – working to make cycling as important as baseball, football and soccer in the fabric of our high schools," said Fritzinger.

The SoCal League will draw from the NorCal League's pool of experience, human resources, equipment and technology while it gets established. It's schedule will include a winter-spring five-race series, including participation with NorCal riders in the May state championships; a fall coaching conference; rider training camps; an annual benefit gala (tentatively planned for November 22 at Ca Del Sole and hosted by mountain bike pioneer Gary Fisher); and promotional outreach events at bicycle stores and pre-existing cycling events.

For more information, visit www.socaldirt.org

Boulder Mountainbike Alliance launches bike park fundraising campaign

The Boulder Mountainbike Alliance (BMA) and the city of Boulder's Parks and Recreation Department launched a fundraising campaign to support the development of Valmont Bike Park. The 45-acre bicycle park is a significant component of the development plan for Valmont City Park, adopted earlier this year by the Boulder City Council.

The city of Boulder, Colorado purchased the 132-acre in 1995 with sales tax revenue, and Phase One development, including the bike park, will begin in the spring of 2009. Construction should be completed at the end of the summer.

The bike park will feature singletrack mountain bike trails, a permanent cyclo-cross course, a children's skills area, a pump track, amenities for BMX and other facilities to suit beginning to experienced athletes. The park's Front Range setting and terrain will provide a backdrop for daily riding, learning and teaching. The bike park will accommodate programming, ranging from youth cycling development programs to world-class bicycle racing.

BMA is looking to raise US$500,000 through grants, private donations and corporate sponsorships to supplement the construction budget. Contributions from the public are welcome. For more information, visit www.valmontbikepark.com

British NPS Downhill #4 to Moelfre

Round 4 of the British NPS Downhill heads to Moelfre this weekend, August 9-10. The venue offers views of the rolling Welsh hillsides and a unique, fast, wide-open track that is all about maintaining over flowing grass corners and natural undulations. Practice is scheduled for Saturday with seeding Sunday morning and racing Sunday afternoon.

For more information, visit www.npsdh.com.

Konka Crunch Mountain-bike Challenge

The Konka Crunch MTB Challenge will take place for the first time on the outskirts of Magaliesburg, South African on Saturday, August 9. Organizers have put together two options, a 50km event primarily on singletrack, jeep track and fire roads and 20km option.

The 50km event will take place predominantly on single track, jeep track and farm roads and encompasses three farms that border on Konka. The route will begin with a serious two kilometer climb, but the rest of the event is expected to be only mildly challenging -suitable for reasonably skilled riders.

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

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