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MTB news & racing round-up for June 6, 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

Emmett hits her stride

By Dave McElwaine

Kelli Emmett wins her first NMBS
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)
Kelli Emmett (Giant MTB Team) is enjoying one of her best years ever as a professional mountain bike racer. Now in her second season with Giant, the team is a good fit for her. A few weeks ago, she notched her first-ever National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) cross country victory at the Santa Ynez Valley National, and took second in the short track event. She started off her season with an impressive solo cross country win at the Sea Otter Classic, and followed that up with a super D victory at the NMBS race in Fontana, California.

For years, American Kelli Emmett has been known as a serious threat in any super D race, but this season she's shown proof that she has matured into an all-around racer who can win domestically at any distance and on any terrain. While forgoing many of the World Cup events this year, the 31 year-old Emmett is concentrating on races in North America.

Not part of the chase for a spot on the US Olympic team, she currently is preparing for the gruelling seven-day BC Bike Race in early July in British Columbia, Canada, which will take her and team-mate Sara Bresnkick-Zocci from Victoria to Whistler Mountain.

Cyclingnews: You appear to be having more fun this year than ever before. Is there less pressure on you, or is winning just more fun?

Kelli Emmett: Of course, winning is more fun. But, I have been mixing things up this year. I did more snowboarding this winter and have been riding motorcycles a lot this spring. I just got a new KTM and it is so much fun to ride. I was hoping to race some enduros this summer but since the season is going so well, I will wait 'til this fall when I am done with the mountain bike racing. In years past, I was so strict with training and racing that I didn't do much else but ride my bike. I think I was consistently over-trained and mentally burned out.

CN: What were your goals at the beginning of this season?

KE: The biggest goal for me this year was to have fun. The past two years have been really tough for me, and I felt like I wasn't able to race at my full potential. I had a couple of injuries and my father passed away in March of last year. So, at the beginning of this year, I was really questioning my desire to even race. I just decided to not put any pressure on myself for results and create a schedule that allowed for a little more time at home. Winning a NMBS has always been a dream.

CN: During the past year you have won at super D, cross country, singlespeed, and came very close to winning a short track race. Which event do you enjoy the most, and why?

Kelli Emmett leads a long train
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

KE: That is a tough question... I enjoy them all. But, I would have to say cross country is what I enjoy the most. I like longer events. They suit my riding style better. I usually will say to people that I have a diesel engine. I need to ride for a while before I can get my speed up. Doing well at shorter events has not come easy for me. I have struggled with short track for years. This year I decided to spend less time riding and more time focusing on shorter interval training to help improve my power for short track. It also seems to help out my super D racing as well. Singlespeed racing is just plain fun. Not serious racing but just fun!

CN: Do you intend to defend your Single Speed World Championship (SSWC)? If you win, will you add another tattoo?

KE: Good question! No, I don't think I will do the SSWC this year. I still have nightmares from getting the tattoo last year. Man that hurt! I really had a great time in Scotland last year but unfortunately it will not fit in the schedule for me this year.

CN: When did you discover that you like to go down hills fast?

KE: I think my first year riding I realized I liked going down hills. I didn't fear crashing all that much and was completely focused on keeping up with my brother. He has great technical skills and still, to this day, he can drop me on a downhill.

Read the complete interview.

Olympic course gets more technical

When it comes to the Olympic mountain bike course, everyone's been talking about pollution as a potential major influencing factor - especially after last fall's test event saw many racers drop out. But in the meantime, the UCI has been working to make the course more technical.

Two of the governing body's experts, Mountain Bike Sports Coordinator Peter Van den Abeele and 4X Designer Phil Saxena, visited Beijing from May 8 to 15 to finalize details of the course for the Olympic Games in August. Van den Abeele said racers would encounter a more technical and more physical course than the one they rode at the test event in September.

Dutch racer Bart Brentjens previously described the 4.3 km with circuit with 250m of climbing per lap. "The course has small steep climbs and not too technical descents...a good course for 'power' riders like me."

Since then, five new sections have been added and five others have been made more technical. Cameras have also been installed along the course so that Beijing Olympic Broadcasting will be able to capture all the action.

Juarez to tackle his first Big Bear

Tinker Juarez
Photo ©: Dirt Sweat & Gears
(Click for larger image)

The third round of the Suzuki 24 Hour National Points Series of endurance mountain bike racing heads home to West Virginia at Big Bear Lake Camplands, near Hazelton on June 7-8. In effect, the NPS's roots began seventeen years ago as the 24 Hours of Canaan, the brainchild of Davis' own Laird Knight and his event company Granny Gear Productions.

Round three is drawing long-time endurance pro Tinker Juarez for his West Virginia NPS racing debut. "I'd always wanted to do the 24 Hours of Canaan or Snowshoe, but never had the chance during my pro career. I'm excited about coming to Big Bear, and I've heard it's a fun, great course," said Juarez.

The Southern California native feels more at home in the arid conditions of California courses than the sometimes-wet, wooded and technical east coast courses exemplified by Big Bear Lake, but he'll be fairly freshly practiced in East Coast riding after a recent appearance at the Dirt Sweat & Gears. "It's true that I've held back coming in the past because the conditions often don't suit me, but at the same time I'm looking forward to the challenge. Toward the end of the 24 hours, those technical sections could get really interesting and be a real challenge."

Racers will tackle oa 12.2 mile course with gradual climbs, abundant singletrack, large embedded rocks, tight slaloms and challenging rock gardens. "It's rolling - without any huge, steep climbs - and almost all singletrack," said Granny Gear's Knight. "With the shade from the beautiful rhododendrons lining the course and the altitude, it remains cool in the heat of summer." A heat wave is expected to settle in over the East Coast this weekend, with high temperatures and humidity.

NPS Director to speak at IMBA World Summit

The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and to mark the occasion, US National Park Service Director Mary A. Bomar will give a keynote address at the organization's 2008 World Summit. Bomar is one of the most senior officials charged with managing federal lands.

IMBA and the National Park Service are in the fourth year of a formal partnership to consider new opportunities for mountain bicycling on NPS-managed lands. As leader of the National Park Service (NPS), Bomar is responsible for 391 sites and a team of 20,000 employees.

The 2008 IMBA World Summit will be held in Park City, Utah, June 18-21. Held biannually for more than a decade, IMBA Summits bring mountain biking advocates, land managers, ski resort professionals, trailbuilders, park and urban planners, tourism officials and the bike industry together for collaboration, planning, and celebration.

IMBA has been working in support of the NPS Centennial Initiative, a campaign to boost funding for the agency's 100th anniversary in 2016. Over the next decade, the project would dedicate an additional US$100 million a year for park operations, and $100 million annually to match donations to the National Park Service for centennial projects and programs. The Centennial Challenge matching fund legislation must be approved by Congress, and IMBA has mobilized mountain bicyclists to support the campaign. This spring, more than 500 cyclists took this message in person to Capitol Hill.

Other IMBA summit speakers include Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Trek President John Burke, Australian trailbuilder Glen Jacobs and senior recreation officials from the National Park Service, US Forest Service, US Bureau of Land Management, and Parks Canada.

Partners join forces to support historic Eastern trail system

The 2008 Fool's Gold Mountain Bike Races & Festival has teamed up with the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA) to create a one-of-a-kind festival in the southeastern US. The two partners, along with two bike industry companies, are working together to support improvements in the existing trail system in the Bull Mountain area of Dahlonega, Georgia, as well as to support development of new trail to an already epic area of the Chattahoochee National Forest.

Fool's Gold promoters, 55nine Performance, will make a cash donation to IMBA-SORBA's Land Access Fund to support the Bull & Jake Mountain trails, the site of IMBA's first Epic ride. In addition, Ergon will give out a limited number of grips to riders who sign up as IMBA/SORBA members at the Fool's Gold, where a Vassago Optimus Titanium 29er frame will be raffled off in support of the local trails.

"The Fool's Gold MTB Races and Festival rides travel this historic trail system and showcase some of Georgia's most epic riding. 55nine Performance, along with the USFS and IMBA-SORBA, recognizes the opportunity for improvements to the current trails and the need for opening additional trails in this area. We are creating an event that brings together a national caliber race, recreational riding and trail advocacy in a way that will generate revenue to build and maintain trails. It's a perfect circle." said Race Director Eddie O'Dea. The Fool's Gold, the sixth stop on the National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series, is part of a festival the weekend of August 15-17.

Commenting on the joint efforts of an event promoter, industry and advocacy organizations, Tom Sauret, SORBA Executive Director said, "These partnerships bring together the bicycle industry, event directors and advocacy organizations are at the core of the bike culture movement. Working together in this manner will grow our sport and increase mountain biking opportunities in the Southeast."

NorCal racer earns trip to worlds

The NorCal High School Mountain Bike League represents a fun way for many students to mountain bike for their schools, and it's also a place to look for future mountain bike champions.

The League's 2008 Varsity Champion John Bennett, from El Cerrito High School, qualified for a spot on the US National Team headed to Val di Sol, Italy for the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships on June 16-22. Bennetts victory at the Santa Ynez NMBS on May 17, secured him his place. His berth on the team is a first in League history.

"I decided that I wanted to take a chance at qualifying for worlds about a week before the Santa Ynez race. [My coach] Dario [Fredrick] changed my training a little for the race which included some brutal intervals," said Bennett who also credited his parents and high school coaches for his success.

At the start line of the qualifying race he said he had been particularly nervous when faced with top competitors from all over the US who were also going for the worlds team. "When the race started I was in the back of the pack."

Things started looking up before long. "After the first set of climbs I had made my way to the front and most of them had fallen behind. I was left with two other riders, Nate Byrom and Robby Squire. At the start of the second lap we had left everyone far behind. We all stayed together until about three miles from the finish," said Bennett. "On one of the climbs after the feed zone I attacked."

O'Dea diary: Home field advantage

Eddie O'Dea rides the granite
Photo ©: Carl Mesta
(Click for larger image)

We didn't have to travel far to join the second race of the Granny Gear 24 hour National Points Series with the race at the Olympic Mountain Bike course in Conyers, Georgia. This is known to be one of the most demanding and brutal courses for a 24 hour solo race, according to the pros and the weekend warriors, alike. That was likely one factor in the solo field being quite small in this race. Being that this is our "home" course, there was a bit of pressure riding on both of us for this race.

This would be my fourth time racing a solo 24 hour at Conyers, while it would be Namrita's first. My best finish at Conyers was second place up until 2008 so this time I was fighting some personal demons and looking for victory once and for all. Rob Lichtenwalner and Chuck Wheeler were not racing, so a win for me would move me into the lead for the points series. Namrita was coming to Conyers already in the NPS lead after her victory at the 24 hours of Vail Lake just three weeks earlier.

Jimmy McMillan took off like he was on fire, and I followed. I felt great, the legs were moving with ease and there was no stress that this guy was attacking from the gun. I know this course like the back of my hand, and I used that to my advantage, taking all the smoothest lines and maintaining as much momentum as possible off the many short descents. Jimmy put a minute or two into me on the first three laps, and still I was calm. Finally on the fourth lap two of our crew let me know that I had passed him in the pits and he was backing off.

This meant that could I ease up on the pace just a little to be more consistent through the night. By nightfall I was just starting to feel the effects of the Conyers course. The millions of little stutter bumps that slowly wear you down. I was eating well (unlike my experience at the 24 hours of Vail Lake) and when my parents showed up with pizza, I quickly scarfed a piece down and then stopped myself short of eating another knowing what that would feel like out on the course.

Read the complete diary entry.

Dutch 4X series

The Dutch Fourcross Series 2008 will kick off Sunday, June 15 in the bike park in the city of Groningen, The Netherlands. Organizers report that the track has undergone several changes to make it more fun to race and watch. The second race of the series will be held on September 20. For more information, visit www.bikeparkgroningen.nl.

Mountain Lake to host Dirty Dawg

The Mountain Lake Conservancy will host the Dirty Dawg Cycling Weekend June 13 - 15 in Pembroke, Virginia, near Blacksburg. Returning after a successful first year, the second annual Dirty Dawg race is expanding into a weekend of activities. A bonfire will kick off the action Friday night and on Saturday, attendees can look forward to guided rides, live music and other activities. The racing action is scheduled for Sunday with a 30 mile XXC event and an Olympic-distance cross country race. For more information, contact Mountain Lake Conservancy Director of Recreation Ben Brown at (540) 626-7121 ext. 444 or visit www.mtnlakeconservancy.org.

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