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MTB news & racing round-up for January 11, 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

Coronet Peak hosts two South Island Cups rounds

Riding Lookout Mountain
Photo ©: Olly Hagen
(Click for larger image)

In hot and still conditions this weekend in New Zealand, Scarlett Hagen and Nathan Rankin won the opening round of the elite women's and men's races at the Subaru South Island Downhill Cup series while Eric Drower and Jeanette Gerrie rode to wins in round two of the South Island Cross Country Cup. The cross country field was of modest size, but the downhill race drew 265 racers, one of the largest fields ever seen at a Mountain Bike New Zealand downhill race. Both rounds were held at Coronet Peak.

A retired Rankin, who formerly represented New Zealand in competition, was still in good enough shape to take a tight victory over Justin Leov of Team Yeti by just 0.6 seconds. Hagen's win came with a much more comfortable 12.9-second margin over Sheryl MacLeod.

Drower lead the entire elite men's cross country race and finished with a convincing nine minute and six second gap over Dayle McLauchlan. Jon Richardson was another two minutes and 40 seconds back. With his good form, Drower also set the fastest lap time (19'06").

Gerrie and Cathy Hamer battled it out in the elite women's race although Gerrie assumed the lead on the opening lap of five total laps and held it until her win. Hamer finished second, 22 seconds behind. Each of them now has one win in the South Island Cup Series, with the up and coming third and final round to determine the winner.

The racing continued just a few days later on the South Island with another round of the Downhill Cup at Dirt Park, in the Pisa Mountain Range, in Wanaka on January 8-9. Hagan and Rankin both collected wins, taking an insurmountable lead in the series.

The final downhill wraps up in Nelson on January 12-13 and the next and final round of the Cross Country Cup is scheduled for January 20 in Omihi in North Canterbury.

See full coverage of the South Island Cross Country Cup #2, the South Island Downhill Cup #1 or the South Island Downhill Cup #2.

Stropparo to lead Ideal Bikes International Team

Italian Annabella Stropparo will head up the Ideal Bikes International Bike team for 2008. The Italian has won national titles in cross country and marathon mountain bike disciplines as well as cyclo-cross. This season, she'll race many major events on the Italian calendar as well as some World Cup events. Stropparo finished second at the Italian National Cyclo-cross championships this weekend.

The Ideal Bikes International Team will host its official presentation on Saturday, January 26 in the head office of Serenissima Diffusion srl, in Suseganea near Treviso, Italy, where the rest of the team's racers will be announced.

Lehikoinen back on his bike

Matti Lehikoinen (Team G-Cross Honda)
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Following a training accident in September which resulted in three fractured vertebrae, Matti Lehikoinen is back on the bike. The Finnish downhill racer's motivation was helped by a new Intense Spider XVP bike he received just in time for Christmas from MS-Intense Factory- Racing.

Lehikoinen, who is stoked to be riding again, has just started preparing for the upcoming downhill World Cup season. At the end of January, he will take a trip to Temecula, California, to test out his new downhill bike.

Kenda, Titus and Hayes support 2008 team

Zephanie Blasi (Kenda) racing in 2007
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Kenda USA, Titus and Hayes Bicycle Group are sponsoring the pro mountain bike team of Quick Release Racing, Inc., based out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, for 2008. The team's roster reflects the broad range of endurance-discipline events. From cross-country racing to ultra-endurance events and festivals, team members will attend events such as the 24 Hours of Old Pueblo in Tucson, Arizona, the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California, the US National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS), La Ruta in Costa Rica, the US National Championships and the Kenda Bicycle Festival in Massachusetts.

In addition to competing, the female athletes will serve as ambassadors for women's cycling across the country. A focus on developing young athletes will continue with school and community programs aimed at getting more girls involved in sports and cycling by partnering with local advocacy and junior racing programs. The Joan C. Banfield Foundation of Dexter, Michigan will host the team for a number of clinics targeting health and wellness in the school system.

The team will ride Titus Carbon Racer-X and Exo-Grid titanium and carbon hard tails.

Kenda / Titus/ Hayes Team for 2008: Zephanie Blasi, Wendy Caldwell, Hillary Harrison, Heather Holmes, Robert Marion, Philicia Marion, Danielle Musto, Krista Park, Amanda Riley, and Andy Schultz.

Gispert closes ECP-Tau Cerámica roster

Martí Gispert will continue racing for the ECP-Tau Cerámica team in 2008. The rider from Puigcerdà will support Carlos Coloma and Marc Trayter in the elite category and young riders U23 Olivés Avilés and junior Umbert Almenara.

Gispert will be aiming to regain the form he had during the 2006 season when he raced well internationally, including a second place in the Roc d'Azur, a 15th in the World Championships and several top 20 finishes in the World Cup.

With the signing of Gispert, the team closed its roster for 2008.

Merida Czech partners with CeMBA

The distributor of Merida bicycles in the Czech Republic pledged to sponsor the fledgling Czech Mountain Bike Association. Merida's financial support will help boost the organisation's MTB advocacy activities. Long in the making, the Czech Mountain Bike Association, CeMBA (www.cemba.cz), was founded in May 2007 to represent mountain bikers' interests before national agencies and authorities. It is the first such organisation within the former European socialist bloc.

The relatively young organization has worked to develop ties to the worldwide mountain bike movement and acquired considerable expertise in advocacy. CeMBA's president, Tomás Kvasnièka, became well acquainted with the achievements of IMBA UK during his studies in England and in the summer of 2007, he was granted an internship at IMBA's headquarters in the US.

The agreement, signed in December, will provide funding to CeMBA and allow the organization to hire two employees including Kvasnièka and also Petr Slavik, communications coordinator. The association's establishment comes in conjunction with a time when IMBA is directing more efforts outside of North America.

Australian 4X to close this weekend

Leigh Darrell
Photo ©: Evan Jeffery
(Click for larger image)

The Australian Four Cross series will close in Hawkesbury on the outskirts of Sydney at Ebenezer and finally Kurrajong this weekend. Hosted by the Western Sydney Mountain Bike Club, round five will happen Saturday, January 12 with round six the following day January 13. The series opened back in October with rounds one and two at Sydney Olympic Park. More recently, the series visited Illinbah on the Gold Coast for round three in November and Thredbo for round four in December.

Current national champion Caroline Buchanan is leading the series. She will battle current second place in the series Sarsha Huntington. On the men's side Luke Strom, Terrance Scarr and Thomas Hubert will go up againt series leader Leigh Darryl. Ryan Hunt will be on hand to defend his spot at the top of the U19s.

For more information on rounds five and six, contact Steve Humphries at water.care@bigpond.com.

Juarez's calendar filling up

Cannondale's Tinker Juarez will be returning to the 24 Hours of Adrenaline World Championships to defend his 2007 solo title. The 2008 will return to its roots in Canmore on July 26-27.

"After 30-something years of racing, and winning lots of races, lots of national titles and going to the Olympics twice, the only thing missing from my career was a world title," said Juarez. "So I can't even put into words how proud it made me feel to win [in 2007]."

Juarez, who was also recently announced as scheduled to race the new Baja Epic race in November, said the race in Canmore is his "number one goal."

Founder Stuart Dorland reported that Kenda USA had signed up as a major sponsor for the entire 2008 24 Hours of Adrenaline series. Entries are still being accepted for all events except the team categories have filled for the Canmore event.

24 Hours of Adrenaline Series for 2008
April 26: Hurkey Park Spring (Southern California, USA)
May 3: Laguna Seca Raceway (Monterey, California, USA)
July 26: Canmore Nordic Center (Canmore, Alberta, Canada)
September 19: Hurkey Park Fall (Southern California, USA)

For more information, visit www.24hoursofadrenalin.com.

Alaskans race despite winter

Winter is no reason for mountain bikers in Alaska to stop racing thanks to the Valley Mountain Bikers and Hikers Association which is hosting three races including the Winter Trails Day downhill slalom race at Hatcher Pass on Saturday, January 12. Unlike some downhill races, riders will have to push their bikes up to the top of the hill prior to each run according to the Anchorage Daily News.

On February 3, the endurance oriented racers can race the 25-mile VaMoose 25 cross country race in Willow. Racers will ride groomed, wooded hilly trails and negotiate frozen swamps and the Susitna River. Finally, the second annual Moose Drewl cross country is scheduled for early March and is part of the Anchorage winter race series.

Revised date for Mohican 100

The Mohican 100 will happen May 31, not June 7 as originally announced. Organizers told Cyclingnews that the original calendar posting was a mistake and that the race is happening as usual on the weekend after the Memorial Day Holiday in the US.

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