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MTB news & racing round-up for February 22, 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

Kenda Titus Hayes team takes first 2008 win at Old Pueblo

A Kenda racer
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Members of the Kenda Titus Hayes women's mountain bike team took their first podium of the 2008 season by winning the four person women's category of the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo this past weekend in Tucson, Arizona. Team members Zephanie Blasi, Heather Holmes, Krista Park and Amanda Riley covered 19 laps of the 16 mile course during the 24 hour event, finishing two laps ahead of their closest competitors Menage A Quatro (Deborah Martin- Wille, Linden Kimmerer, Sue Rawley, Jennifer Sica) in second and Swiss Chix (Lisa Barnes, Nicole Eikenberry, Chrissy Saraceni, Karen Lewis) in third.

The Kenda team was clearly not slowed by the fire that broke out in the welding area of the Titus factory last Friday. Fortunately, the team, which was there assembling bikes, was able to relocate to a nearby hotel for final bike assembly and new team kit testing.

The morning of the race brought dry skies but cold temperatures in the low 30s (degrees Fahrenheit). Thanks to some pre-race rains, Team Kenda was among those who visited a muddy ditch en route to the race on a weekend that would just keep getting nicer with temperatures rising into the high 50s with clear skies on Sunday. The early season race, held in the desert climate of Arizona, drew many big names to the race. Most were there to have fun and test both their February legs and new equipment for 2008.

See complete race coverage including full report, results & plenty of photos.

Sager and Smith crowned open champions in the Mas o Menos

By Sue George with assistance from Mike Gladu

Jason Sager, repeat Mas O Menos Open Class Champion
Photo ©: Mike Gladu
(Click for larger image)

After the traditional lead-out by the Mystery Man opened the annual Mas O Menos race, Jason Sager (MonavieCannondale.com) won the Open Class Champion in the 100km event held over President's Day weekend. Sager battled Bryan Fawley (TX Tough San Jose) for much of the race while Even Plews (Capitol Subaru) rode alone in third behind them until the end when riders changed places.

Sager led Fawley the first of two times up the Tres Cuevas climb, and also claimed the cash bonus for first Open rider to the "Top of the Hill" 1866. Armando Zacarias and Nat Ross came next behind them. Fawley surrendered some ground before the finish and ended up third behind Sager and Plews in 4:07:30. Sager finished with a time of 4:05:03, over a minute ahead of Plews in second place with Fawley two and half minutes back in third.

Christina Smith (Lonestarworks/Austin Bikes) took the Open Women 100k winner at 4:51:08 and became a repeat winner in front of Jennifer Wilson (Titus) and Alice Pennington (S&M/Desalvo Custom Cycles), while Julia Kastner brought home the 19-29 100k win with a 6:16:53 and Zoe Nance took the 30-39 100k win in 6:05:58.

The race served as simultaneous stops on the 2008 Texas Championships Mountain Bike Series, the Hill Country Bicycle Works Championships Marathon Series and the USA Cycling National Ultra Endurance Calendar.

See full coverage of the Mas o Menos.

Paulissen to meet Kessiakoff at Sunshine Cup opener

Quartet of favourites in women's competition

Fredrik Kessiakoff leads Roel Paulissen
Photo ©: Bikin' Cyprus
(Click for larger image)

Anticipation of the beginning of the international European race season comes to end Saturday when Tochni starters fire the gun to kick off the Cyprus Sunshine Cup 2008. In the first of five cross-country races, former team-mates Fredrik Kessiakoff (Full Dynamix) and Roel Paulissen (Cannondale-Vredestein) will go head to head while in the women's race Elisabeth Osl, Ivonne Kraft, Petra Henzi and Heather Irmiger will fight for victory.

The Mediterranean Island draws annually an interesting, high-level field for some early season training and racing in good weather. Adding to the talent in the men's race will be American Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and two German Cape Epic winners Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm. Swiss rider Andreas Kugler, who last year grabbed one victory Sunshine Cup victory, could also help mix it up along with Swede Emil Lindgren, Ukrainian Sergey Rysenko, and Austrian Karl Markt. Local Team Bikin' Cyprus rider Christof Bischof of Switzerland wants to be present in the front group, too.

"We are ready for take off. The weather forecast says dry and warm conditions," said chief organizer Mike Hadjioannou. For more info, visit www.mtbcyprus.com.

On Saturday at the same time and on the same course, the Kärcher German Bike Masters series will open its season with a sort of away game. The marathon riders have to go one more small lap before reaching the finish line. For more info, visit www.germanbikemasters.de.

Sunshine Cup 2008
February 23: Tochni Village (XCM)
February 29: Mantra-Kionia-Mantra (XCM) (also Afxentia stage #1)
March 2: Mantra tou kampiou (XC) (also Afxentia stage #3)
March 9: Voroklini (XCM)
March 16: Limassol-Yermasogia (XC)

German Bike Masters 2008
February 23: Sunshine Cup
May 25: Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Then follows
June 29: Frammersbach
July 13: Bad Wildbad
August 17: Neustadt a.d.W.
October 5: Münsingen

Otway Odyssey draws top racers to marathon event

Sid Taberlay and Murry Spink are two favorites
Photo ©: Otway Odyssey
(Click for larger image)

Nestled deep within the Otway ranges, the small township of Forrest is getting ready to turn mountain bike mad with the Lowan Otway Odyssey Mountain Bike Marathon this weekend on February 23.

In only its second year, the Lowan Otway Odyssey has quickly grown to a major event on the Australian Mountain Bike Calendar after selling out to 1,400 riders in the 100km and 50km races plus an extra 150 riders in the junior 15km race.

The start list reads like a who's who of Australian mountain biking with seven of the top 10 finishers from the recent cross country nationals all ready and rearing to go including Sid Taberlay, Chris Jongeward, Daniel McConnell, Shaun Lewis, Dylan Cooper, Aidan Leffman and last year's winner Murray Spink. They'll have to go fast because they'll be up against reigning 24 hours of Adrenalin Solo World Champion and Mountain Bike Hall of Famer Tinker Juarez (Cannondale).

In the women's race, last year's winner Tory Thomas will take on Commonwealth Games representative Emma Colson, current hot shot Rowena Fry, Katrin Van der Spiegel, Jenni King, and Jessica Douglas.

Offenburg prepares World Cup course

The Dual Speed section of the Offenburg World Cup
Photo ©: Offenburg World Cup
(Click for larger image)

Work has begun on preparing the course for the opening round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup for cross country in Offenburg-Rammersweier, Germany. The mild winter has given the course constructors plenty of time to prepare the 5.1 km long track, and a few changes have been made to the Dual Speed section in order to make it safer for the riders and spectators. The Offenburg round is scheduled for April 26-27.

In 2007 there were a number of crashes on this steep section. "This is something we would like to prohibit, for the safety of the riders and spectators," said a concerned Event Manager Jörg Scheiderbauer.

Special attention is also being paid to widening the course to give racers the best possible chance of getting a top result - especially with the race serving as an Olympic qualifier for some. With a great majority of the course being singletrack, chances to pass are limited. The section known as Wolfsdrop will now allow two riders side by side to battle it out on the technical downhill.

Cannondale-Vredestein sets sights on Beijing

By Marcel Slagman

Three Olympic hopefuls from Cannondale-Vredestein
Photo ©: Marcel Slagman/Wieler Magazine
(Click for larger image)

The Cannondale-Vredestein has got its eye on all three podium spots at the Olympic Games in Beijing, China. At the recent team presentation in Enschede, The Netherlands, three top riders said they hope to win a medal in Beijing. Roel Paulissen will be a member of the Belgian team, Jakob Fuglsang will be wearing the Danish tricot and Kashi Leuchs will represent New Zealand.

"In Athens I ended up fourth, now I want a medal," said Paulissen, who has won ten Belgian championships and is going this year for titles in the cross country and the marathon.

Kiwi Leuchs wants to keep the momentum going from his 2007 season. "I finished in the top 10 regularly, and in 2008 I want to do the same in the top five of big international races.''

Fuglsang made a move in January from Varese to Cola, near Lake Garda in Italy. "First I am riding some road races before starting the World Cup mountain bike series. I'd like to finish in the top five at the Olympics and maybe better...'', said the talented Dane. "And after Beijing I will think about my future - on the mountain bike or on the road. It is not clear for me, yet.''

The new leader of the squad is experienced trainer and coach Simon Burney from Great Britain. "This team is one of the best in the mountain bike scene. My goal is to help the riders [be] as good as possible. Our goals are the World Cup, the World Championships in Italy and, of course, the Olympic race in Beijing.'' Jan ten Tusscher and Ruud Poels will serve as the team's managers.

Sydor and Prémont to lead Rocky Mountain XC team

Olympic silver medallists Marie-Hélène Prémont (Athens, 2004) and Alison Sydor (Atlanta, 1996) will head up the Rocky Mountain Bicycles team. Also returning to the team are third place Cape Epic racer Jean Anne McKirdy, 2006 bronze medallist at the World Championship Max Plaxton, and Raphael Gagne.

Andreas Hestler, three time winner of the Trans Rockies will be back for select events and along with Plaxton, has planned to attack the BC Bike Race.

On the epic front Sydor and team-mates Carsten Bresser and Pia Sundsted from the German squad Bike Action-Rocky Mountain Bicycles will share duties on the Trans Germany and the Trans Alps and the World Cup Marathon series.

The team also welcomes Peter Vallance as the new manager.

TIS to host Cycling Australia's National Mountain Bike Program

The Tasmanian Institute of Sport (TIS) has been selected by Cycling Australia to host Australia's National Mountain Bike Program at the TIS Silverdome complex in Launceston during 2008. TIS becomes the first Cycling National Training Centre to support a National Olympic discipline program.

"The program will provide an excellent opportunity to help Tasmanian athletes currently striving for selection in the Australian Olympic team to compete in Beijing, in particular, Sid Taberlay and Rowena Fry, as well as the next generation of mountain bike athletes," said Minister for Sport and Recreation Michelle O'Byrne.

"The program will be coached by Neil Ross, an experienced, well credentialed coach, who was the Head Coach and Director of the National Cycling Centre and coach of the Canadian National Team. John Gregory, the TIS Sports Performance Manager and a former National Mountain Bike Cross Country Champion, will provide key sports science support to the program."

"We believe the program will produce the next generation of mountain bike athletes, rivalling some of the top Tasmanian mountain bike athletes produced in the past, such John Gregory, Eleanor Patterson and Sid Taberlay. Tasmania has an ideal training environment for mountain biking as the TIS is located next to the Kate Reid Reserve."

Tasmania is already known as the host of the Wildside mountain bike race, held on the west coast. Training camps will be held in Tasmania using the TIS in Launceston as a base over summer 2008, prior to the athletes heading overseas for competition from May onwards.

iXS European Downhill Cup 2008

After a successful 2007 season, the iXS Downhill Series is back bigger and better. iXS Sports Division will organize, in addition to the iXS German Downhill Cup and the iXS Swiss Downhill Cup, a new international series. The iXS European Downhill Cup will fill the gap between national events and the UCI World Cup.

iXS Series 2008
July 5-6: Scuol, Switzerland
August 9-10: Châtel, France
August 23-24: Ilmenau, Germany
September 20-21: Leogang, Austria

For more information, in three languages, visit www.ixsdownhillcup.com.

Minaar welcomed to Santa Cruz

New Santa Cruz Syndicate member Greg Minnaar had a chance to check out his new digs with a trip to Santa Cruz, California, in February when he was welcomed to the Syndicate family.

Minnaar arrived fresh off a holiday ocean cruise, and with a bit of a rough adjustment to the wintry weather, the tanned South African got his first chance to ride a Santa Cruz with Jamie Goldman. At day's end, somehow Goldman ended up with a cup of hot chocolate as Minnaar washed Goldman's bike.

Minnaar later visited the factory and checked out his new V-10 and Blur LT before hours of photos shoots for ads and catalogs. Afterward, he said, "Things were pretty much as I expected for my visit, but I just didn't think I'd be doing as many photo shoots."

The South African got to do one of his first cross country rides since his shoulder surgery in November. He was very cautious and tentative, but said it felt great to get out on the bike. Of course, being on the road didn't stop him from visiting the local gym to do his shoulder re-hab.

Cycling BC happy with call for riders

Twenty-one keen riders responded to the call for riders by Cycling BC's Provincial Head Coach Richard Wooles. Sixteen young downhillers came from Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, Fort Langley, Whistler, Vancouver and Squamish to attend a camp for some assessment and discussion. Riders were divided into three groups rotating through stations set up to assess their power, endurance, balance, agility and mental preparation.

They ranged in age from those just starting out to those who had some national and international experiences under their belt. They were treated to a full star line up of coaches including Wooles, who has coached to Olympic level and came to British Columbia following several years with the UCI; Aleisha Cline, a legend in the world of skiing and a certified conditioning coach; and Shaums March, an inspiring downhill rider and current World Masters Champion.

Wooles told the riders of the inspiration he has found locally for his passion of team development. He said he has been blown away by the extraordinary wealth of raw talent. He hopes to build the best cycling team in Canada covering every discipline and is hard at work trying to fundraise to cover the costs for all the disciplines, including downhill.

"This kind of opportunity is what it's all about," said Wooles. "Everyone - professionals, parents, volunteers, businesses like this club - coming together for the good of the kids and the future of the sport. It is very encouraging."

The next step is a bike skills training camp and some selection races. One of the most important outcomes of the day, for both the young athletes and the coaches was the chance to meet and get to know one another. "Now, when we are at races, we will not just be faces under the helmets and times on a result sheet," said one rider. "I really appreciated this chance. Not just to meet these coaches and try all this stuff, but to be able to recognize some of the other riders at races and have them to talk to."

Pioneers tip glasses for Trips for Kids

A group of mountain bike legends
Photo ©: Trips for Kids
(Click for larger image)
Local mountain bike legends and Marin community members gathered to celebrate Trips for Kids and raised US$3,000 at the 10th Annual Brews, Bikes and Bucks fundraiser. Among those present at the February 10 event were Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, Charles Kelly, Mert Lawwill, Jacquie Phelan, Ross Shafer, Michael Kelley and Chris Lang.

"Each year, Broken Drum owner Noah Berry not only opens his doors for the cause, but donates proceeds from the food and drink sales," said Marilyn Price, founder of Trips for Kids. "We are so fortunate and grateful for Noah's continued generosity. This would not be possible without him."

Outside the Broken Drum, admirers gawked at the rows of tricked-out mountain bikes lining the sidewalk; inside, pints in hand, the owners of these bikes tell tall tales of traveling on two wheels. TFK supporters had the opportunity to meet and socialize with the pioneers of the mountain bike industry.

Benefit Jam to help Llanes

This Saturday's Tara Benefit Jam on February 23, hosted at Rye Airfield in Rye, New Hampshire, will feature a poster signing by Trek free-rider Cam McCaul. With the purchase of each US$3 signed poster, Trek will donate an additional $12. That means that for every poster purchased, Trek will donate $15 to the Tara Llanes Road to Recovery Fund.

"Tara's injury struck a chord with me personally," said Michael Browne, Trek's MTB Brand Manager, "and I've been looking for a way to offer support. When Kyle Ebbett announced his efforts to organize the Tara Benefit Jam, Cam jumped on board. And when Cam told me about it, I knew Trek had to get behind it. This is just a great way to help out a fallen rider who needs every bit of support our community can offer."

"After so many years racing and competing, I just feel it's my responsibility to organize this event," said Ebbett, reflecting on why he decided to get riders together for the competition. "And I love Tara – she's a super incredible person who's respected everywhere. I hope for a ton of awareness, and I hope to raise a ton of money. And I know it will succeed, because who doesn't like to watch Cam McCaul ride?"

Visit www.ryeairfield.com for more details.

Gunn-Rita diary: Sunshine in Mallorca

Gunn-Rita Dahle FlesjŚ
Photo ©: Multivan Merida Biking Team
(Click for larger image)

From winter and freezing cold in Boulder to hot sun and summer clothing on Mallorca - the contrasts are striking in our every day lives, and that's exactly the appeal of being a professional mountain-biker. It's fantastic feeling the sun warm my white winter skin, even if it's only for a few minutes.

We've moved from friendly Boulder in Colorado, via Stavanger, Oslo, Venice / Montebelluna, to sunny Mallorca in Spain. We're gradually growing accustomed to the European time zone again, but we usually use about a fortnight to get completely in tune again when travelling from west to east. It's easier to travel to USA or home from Asia. Still, we've managed quite well. We've stayed awake for as long as possible at night, refused to sleep in the afternoons, and gotten up at the normal time in the mornings.

The past two weeks in Boulder were busy with exercise, and we had a day of snow and a good 15 degrees below freezing. It's awfully cold cycling in those kinds of temperatures, but it was a low-paced day anyway, so we didn't miss out on too much. The following day the sun was out and the snow disappeared from the roads as quickly as it had appeared.

Multivan Merida Team
Photo ©: Multivan Merida Biking Team
(Click for larger image)

The last two evenings we went out to eat with our friendly couple, Cari and Greg, and we just love these kinds of reunions. The final evening was spent with our landlord, Mark (a very important ally through the past five seasons) and his family. We probably won't be back to Boulder again before next summer, but we know how time flies, so we're already starting to look forward again...

The days at home in Stavanger were busy as usual, with everything from spinning classes and meetings with sponsors, to hair cuts and treatments. It was "pedal to the metal" for three days before leaving for Oslo for various errands, and then on to Italy the following day. We did have a few moments to wash clothes and exchange the clothes we had been wearing for four weeks in Boulder for new ones. One ends up wearing much the same thing every day when one only has one suitcase to fill. Most of what is able to fit in is exercise clothing anyway.

Read the complete diary entry.

Presenting Team BH SR Suntour

Last Saturday, Team BH SR - Suntour presented its squad of 16 cyclists include 13 men and three women. The team includes 2007 French women's champion in the elite marathon, Hélène Marcouyre and French marathon men's champion Jérôme Chevallier.

BH SR - Suntour for 2008: Hélène Marcouyre, Séverine Hansen and Laura Metzler (women), Jérôme Chevallier, Nicolas Bazin, Pierre Lebreton, Sébastien Hansen, Vincent Lombarda, Norman Crochet Colin, Arnaud Grosjea, Maxime Marotte, Freddy Betremieux, Brice Faugeron, Steven Garcin, Thomas Hartstern (men), Kart Poirier (junior man)

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