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MTB news & racing round-up for December 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

Fuglsang switching sides

By Luke Webber

Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark)
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Former Under 23 mountain bike World Champion Jakob Fuglsang collected solid results in his first year as an elite racer and earned two big contract offers for 2009. Fuglsang, one of cross country racing's biggest talents, is swapping mud pack for a bumpy life on the road.

Miguel Martinez, Michael Rasmussen, Cadel Evans are all mountain bikers who have made a successful transition from dirt to the road, and their ranks will be strengthened by Jakob Fuglsang in 2009. The news that the Dane would be joining Bjarne Riis and the new Saxo Bank Team, formerly known as Team CSC, came as an end-of-season surprise among the usual plethora of sponsorship swaps, but his leap is an exciting move for one of cycling's most promising prospects.

After several years of success on the mountain bike World Cup Circuit while riding for Cannondale-Vredestein, Fuglsang was seen as a star for the future. His first year as an elite rider included two World Cup podium appearances, Olympic team selection and victory alongside teammate Roel Paulissen in the Cape Epic. His biggest win to date though came in late 2007 with the title of Under 23 World Champion in Fort William.

Upsetting race favourite Nino Schurter of Switzerland may have been a shock for fans and pundits, but it was not such a surprise for Jakob. Two weeks previous, both were preparing at the same race and the young Dane saw the tide turning.

"We were doing a road race in Switzerland just before the worlds, and I could see that I was stronger than Nino, so I knew I would have the mental edge. Winning the worlds in 2007 was the goal for the whole season. Becoming World Champion was my overall goal for mountain biking. I came to the race with the mental image that I could do it."

His win did not come easily. At first, Schurter gained the advantage. "In the beginning he rode away from me," said Fuglsang. "I rode far too safely on the descent. I was not doing a good job there. So I said to myself, 'Either I go 100% and take the risks or you will have to be satisfied with second place.' So from then on, I was riding with everything."

The win set Fuglsang up as the latest hot property in cross country racing in stark contrast to where he was two years before when he was ready to quit mountain biking following a string of bad results. The young Dane was looking for a way out. Fortunately no road teams were interested in him, so he renewed his commitment to mountain biking rather than mixing road and off-road disciplines.

This focus, along with a move from Denmark to Italy, helped Fuglsang become a fixture in the World Cup top ten. However, though his success was off-road, he has been training more as a road rider. "I have been living like a road rider when it comes to training for the last few years. Almost all my training is on the road and then I mountain bike when I get to the race."

Read the complete feature.

Kenda team set for 2009

Amanda Riley-Carey at Sea Otter
Photo ©: Sue George
(Click for larger image)

Kenda USA renewed its title sponsorship of the US-based mountain bike team for what will be its third year in 2009. The team will consist of a mix of returning athletes such as Zephanie Blasi, Wendy Caldwell, Amanda Carey, Heather Holmes, Danielle Musto and Andy Schultz and two new recruits, Kathy Sherwin and Colin Cares. Kenda USA will focus on endurance and ultra-endurance racing.

"This diverse group gives us the flexibility to compete in a broad range of events from the US Cup and the NUE Series to single-day epics like Leadville 100 and stage races like the American Mountain Bike Classic," said team director David Myers. Several members of the team also plan on competing at the two World Cup races in Canada, and the team will also make an appearance at the Kenda Fest in Hancock, Massachusetts.

Kenda USA took over sponsorship of the team from Ford Motor Company in 2007 and looks at its role as important for the continued success of the sport in North America.

Jim Wannamaker, Kenda USA North American Marketing Director - Bicycle Division says that continued sponsorship for the team is not only important for Kenda, but also for the continued success of the sport in North America. "Despite the economic downturn, we made a conscious decision to support our flagship team of athletes who are as committed to the sport as we are," said Jim Wannamaker, USA North American Marketing Director.

Racers will compete on Tomac Type-X carbon hard tails or Carbide full suspension bikes.

In addition to team sponsorship, Kenda will play a major role in American races next year with the title sponsorship of the US Cup Series announced a few weeks ago.

2009 Kenda USA Team
Elite women: Zephanie Blasi, Amanda Carey, Heather Holmes, Danielle Musto, Kathy Sherwin
Elite men: Andy Schultz, Colin Cares (U23)
Management: David Myers (Director), Ted Bentley (Mechanic and Event Manager), Wendy Caldwell (Community Programs)

National Champ Jongewaard outclasses Olympians

By Sharon Payne

Even winner Chris Jongewaard found conditions difficult
Photo ©: Evan Jeffery
(Click for larger image)
Chris Jongewaard and Katherine O'Shea won the third round of the National Mountain Bike Series cross country in Geelong last weekend. Racers were surprised to find themselves racing in the rain at a venue that tends to be dry. Conditions were severe enough that the super D was cancelled.

In the men's cross country, Jongewaard led from the first of five laps and won in an overall time of two hours, nine minutes and 17 seconds. A top class field was assembled, akin to a national championship. The field included three Olympians: Beijing's Dan McConnell and Athens' Sid Taberlay and Josh Flemming.

Jongewaard surprised himself after recently returning from a five-week layoff. "I just went out and wanted to have a good workout. I did fade in last three laps," said Jongewaard, who added that the granite tracks at the You Yang's Regional Park held up surprisingly well despite the deluge.

"It was horrendous conditions, but it's probably the track I would rather ride in the wet," Jongewaard said. "The conditions didn't affect the race results overall."

Aiden Lefmann and Under 23 rider Nathan Haas completed the top three, but after his win Jongewaard takes over the overall series lead.

Katherine O'Shea celebrates her win
Photo ©: Evan Jeffery
(Click for larger image)

In the women's cross country race, 29-year-old O'Shea said she'd only ridden there twice in the wet, despite the course being located close to home. She went out strong in the first of four laps. "I actually didn't think people would let me go. I got a decent lead and just tried to maintain it after that. It was hard out here but hard for everyone."

Covered in head to toe with mud, she was clearly delighted by her win. "It's quite cold now," she said after winning. "A shower would be great!" she admitted.

Jodie Willett finished in second, one minute behind O'Shea and ahead of Jo Wall in third. Will keeps her series lead by just two points.

Amiel Cavalier and Claire Whiteman won the elite men's and women's downhill events.

The next round, number four, of the Australian Mountain Bike National Series will be held at the end of January in Mt. Buller.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the round two cross country, downhill and short track at the Australian Mountain National Series.

Mazda bids farewell

Following a successful seven-year partnership, Mazda reluctantly ended its sponsorship of South Africa's National Mountain Bike Series, with 2008 being its final year as title sponsor.

In 2001, Mazda saw potential in the mountain biking market for its selling its all-terrain vehicle brand, so it threw its support behind the Mazda Drifter Series, which created a series out of six premier marathon-distance races at the time. The company also became the first major corporate brand to associate with mountain biking in South Africa, which at the time operated in a fragmented state in the shadow of road racing.

The Mazda National Series, as it became known, grew each year in numbers and in profile. In 2008, almost 8,000 mountain bikers participated in the 17 Mazda-sponsored National Series events throughout the country. More recently, the National Cup Series for cross-country and downhill mountain bike racing was also included in the Mazda sponsorship portfolio.

In 2008, Mazda's mountain biking properties comprised the seven-event National Marathon Series, the five-event National Cross Country Cup and the five-event National Downhill Cup, including the South African championships for each of the three disciplines. The sponsorship totaled 17 events.

"Mazda has been a very loyal sponsor and we're so grateful for its support over the past seven years," said Fritz Pienaar, former multiple national champion and now National Series Director. "Unfortunately, with the economic pressures facing the motor trade internationally, uncertainty prevails and much as the marketing people at Mazda wanted to continue to support South African mountain biking in the long term, they were restricted to a short-term budget.

"On behalf of thousands and thousands of South African mountain bikers, I'd like to thank Mazda for believing in our sport and for its support in taking mountain biking to the strong position it holds today," said Pienaar, who confirmed that a replacement sponsor has been secured and will be announced soon.

Rennie says goodbye to Santa Cruz Syndicate after five years

Nathan Rennie (Aus)
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

After five years, downhiller Nathan Rennie is departing the Santa Cruz Syndicate for a yet-to-be-announced squad. During his time with the team, he climbed the podium 40 times, was twice crowned Australian National Champion and earned a bronze medal at the 2006 UCI World Championships. He also helped the team to a World Cup overall championship in 2008.

"I just want to thank everyone involved with the Santa Cruz Syndicate... . All I can say is that I'm a little lost for words. For some time now I have needed some change in my life, on and off the bike. I feel a change for me is for the best in all aspects. I am looking forward to getting back to my best and having the right outlook to better myself, and the new people around me," said Rennie of his departure.

"I have so many people to thank so of course. In true Rennie fashion, I would like to thank the gift that we can all agree on which is the creation of the 'wheel'. The wheel and I have a love hate relationship, but it always seems to keep turning."

"His big presence and sense of humor will be sorely missed as well as his powerhouse performances on the racetrack. We wish him well on his new team and will continue to be proud of him and his efforts," said the Syndicate's Kathy Sessler.

"He always has the best stories and is always good fun to hang out with. I can't wait until 'Renoir's Memoirs' hits the newsstands. He is an asset to any bike company and a great friend to me," said teammate Steve Peat.

New bicycle festival to accompany World Mountain Bike Conference

The Original Bicycle Festival will be held in Dumfries & Galloway from May 2 to 24, 2009. The new festival will complement the World Mountain Bike Conference on Sustainability that is being staged in Dumfries from May 12 to 15. It will celebrate the mountain bike and road cycling trails and rich cycling heritage of the south west of Scotland.

The sixteen-day Festival will promote access and participation in cycling in the region through a varied programme of open mountain bike and road cycling events, guided rides and coaching sessions, youth and women's activities, a cycle expo, a film festival and music.

The festival will cater to both residents and visitors alike; people of all ages from families with children to youth groups and "weekend warriors" to cycling commuters, the over 50s and those new to the sport but keen to have a go.

Venues will include the 7stanes mountain bike trail centres, Drumlanrig Castle, DG One in Dumfries - the Council's showcase Regional Leisure Complex, the Easterbrook Hall and Dumfries town centre.

Dumfries and Galloway are proud of their cycling heritage. Kirkpatrick 'Pate' Macmillan invented the first pedal bicycle in the 19th century and the area now hosts a stage of the annual Tour of Britain.

A full programme will be announced in February.

Giant Italia looking to 2009

The Giant Italia team is readying for the 2009 season, which it will kick off with the fourth edition of the Muretto di Alassio Marathon in Italy in March. The team recently renewed its partnership with Giant Italia srl, the company which distributes Giant bikes in Italy.

Although full details of the team's roster and management for next season have not yet been released, the squad hopes to build on its results from last year which included second place at the Roc d'Azur, third at the Schladming round of the UCI Cross Country World Cup and two of its members being selected to compete in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.

International events on the 2009 calendar include the World Cup and rounds of the Swiss, Italian, German and French national series. Many of the team's riders will be aiming to represent their nations at the World and Continental Championships.

"We have worked hard in the last few weeks to prepare a strong team," said Technical Manager Gianfranco Bechis. "Soon we will release more news about the team.

Vuelta a Ecuador

Ecuador's Vuelta al Cotopaxi was held on November 29 to 30 this year. The two-day stage race drew 400 local and international racers to compete around the Cotopaxi Volcano, the world's highest active volcano at 5,890m. Teams of two competed in men's, women's, mixed, masters and super masters categories.

Martin Saenz & Alexandra Serrano (Cikla - Birm) won the mixed pair category ahead of Angelica Ramirez & Ruben Garrido (Cikla - Specialized) and Rebecca Rusch & Greg Martin (Specialized - Redbull). Rusch, the 24 Hours of Adrenalin World Champion, made the trip south from the US to compete with her partner Martin.

"The entire race took place above 10,000 feet and topped out at around 14,000 feet," said Rusch in an emailed account of her race. "The air was extremely thin, the high mountain weather changed from intense sun to freezing rain in minutes and the course was some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen."

Galo Tamayo & Edwin Arroyo (Specialized - Bike Shop) won the men's overall pairing while Daniela Costa Tobar & Daniela Endara Gómez (Danielas) won the women's overall.

See Cyclingnews' full results from the Vuelta a Cotopaxi.

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