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MTB news & racing round-up for June 12, 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

Premont captures first World Cup victory

By Luke Webber in Fort William

Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Marie Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain), overall leader of the World Cup series, has always finished consistently. Podiums at every event have put her amongst the best, if not the most feared. But her victory in the cross country at Fort William in Scotland left everyone with something to think about heading into the second half of the season.

After a fast start on yet another perfect day in Fort William, Premont and Marga Fullana (Massi) both distanced themselves from the chasers. Neither looked likely to be caught but on the downhill it was obvious Premont wanted to get into clearer air. On lap two she got that break but it came to nothing. Fullana was too strong, countering on the brutal climb and making a gap of her own.

Premont was patient though, waiting for the time when Fullana would tire which eventually came on the final lap. With nowhere to hide Premont overtook her competitor on the upper slopes and attacked again on the downhill without fear of repercussion and claim her first victory of the year.

After the race Premont spoke about the closing stages. "I took some risks on the final downhill, I had to," she said. "On lap two I tried to get away but when Marga could follow me she could keep up but not on the final lap. I'm really happy that I have finally won a race. Marga was very strong today I knew it was her kind of course and I had to stay with her if I was to get a result.

"The longer I could stay on her wheel the better, but on lap three she got a gap," said Premont. "I kept trying though and on the last lap I gave it everything I had. I knew I was faster on the downhill but it was not easy. Tomorrow I go back home to train and rest for the worlds where I can hopefully keep my good form going."

In the elite men's cross country, the podium was an all Swiss affair with Florian Vogel (Swisspower Mtb Team) winning in a time of 2.06.27. Nino Schurter (Swisspower Mtb Team) and Christoph Sauser (Specialized Factory Racing) rounded out the top three after the two Swisspower team-mates worked over the lone Specialized racer.

With the Worlds and Olympics just around the corner Vogel explained why the Swiss riders were so strong, "Right now we are in the selection for the Olympics, too, and that is what is producing so many [good] rides; we all want in and it's so competitive."

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the elite women's and elite men's cross country World Cup.

Tough luck tests Merida in Fort William

Jose Antonio Hermida Ramos (Multvan Merida)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

At the World Cup in Fort William, tough luck kept José Hermida and Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå (Multivan Merida) from scoring top finishes. Dahle Flesjå lost a brake lever in the first lap of her race, while Hermida suffered a flat as he made part of a lead group early on in the race.

After a tangle in the first lap Dahle Flesjå lost one of her brake levers, forcing her to ride the first lap without a rear brake, which cost her several positions on the long downhill after a good start. At the repair zone, team mechanic Ralph Tiede showed a record-worthy performance. Within less than a minute, he dismounted a brake lever from a back-up bike and mounted it on the Norwegian's bike. The quick intervention allowed Dahle Flesjå a chance to catch up from 39th and still finish eighth.

Gunn Rita Dahle-Flesjaa (Multivan Merida)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

For Dahle Flesjå, this mishap was kind of a déja-vu experience: In 2006, the Norwegian suffered a flat tire in the first lap on the same course only to catch up with the entire field from way back. Back then, she finished in fourth position. Speaking of this year's misfortune, she said, "That really was a lot of tough luck here, but it can happen. The fast lap times have shown me that I might have finished way up front under normal circumstances though."

Hermida was riding in a lead group together with podium finishers Christoph Sauser, Florian Vogel and Nino Schurter. But he was dropped when he suffered a flat tire and had to walk for almost a kilometre before getting a fix. His bad luck just got worse when he suffered a second flat.

"A top finish would have been well within my capabilities. When I took the lead together with the Swiss guys, I really thought that this was the day it might work out," said Hermida at the finish, but he added that he was fully focussed on August 23 when he is hoping for better luck at the Beijing Olympic games.

Their team-mate Ralph Näf also suffered some misfortune when he had to sit out the competition due to the stomach flu. Näf is planning to compete at the worlds in Italy next week.

Gold to Graves at Fort William

Jared Graves (Yeti Fox Shox)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

After finishing seventh at the BMX World Championship in China last weekend, Jared Graves showed his versatile skills by taking a win in the 4X final at the third round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Series in Fort William, Scotland, this past weekend.

"I haven't won here for a couple of years," said Graves. "I love this course but it's always hated me and with so many quick guys you never know what's going to happen, so to get the win is just great."

The 25 year-old Graves is ranked number two in the world in BMX, in which he hopes to gain selection for the Olympic Games in Beijing, but he also boasts a solid resume of mountain bike results including a silver medal in the 4X at the 2005 World Championships.

The 4X event in Fort William was raced in warm, dry conditions not usually experienced on the Nevis Range course, and Graves made the most of them to qualify fastest. He headed into the final as the man to beat despite admitting last weekend he would be training through this World Cup and the World Championships in Val di Sole in Italy in preparation for BMX in Beijing.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the elite men's and elite women's 4X Fort William World Cup.

Moseley wins on home turf

By Luke Webber

Tracy Moseley celebrates in front of the home crowds.
Photo ©: Luke Webber
(Click for larger image)

At the World Cup downhill in Fort William, the elite women's event saw a return to form for British national champion Tracy Moseley (Kona). After an average start to the season, a return home gave Moseley the ideal opportunity to start fresh on a course that has been a favourite for many years now. In the past her victories have been on a very different course - wet, windy and damaged, but the dusty, sandy track over the weekend was different in character than anything seen before was not expected to suit Moseley so well; in fact, Sabrina Jonnier (Team Maxxis) or Rachel Atherton (Animal Commencal) were the preferred favourites for many.

But Moseley's experience on such a long and physical course was her asset and she used it to exploit big time gaps across the course. Five seconds was the deficit at the end of the race to Jonnier and a jubilant Moseley took her lap of honour in front of a home crowd that powered her to another victory at the Fort.

"It's amazing to get the season back on track, great for my confidence and good timing to get it in front of the home fans too. I'm definitely going quicker now than early on and hopefully I can keep that going through the rest of the year. I haven't yet been to the Worlds track so I'll be riding it blind, but I'm on such a high already I am confident of a good result there."

Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz) wins
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Sandwiching between Moseley and third placed Atherton was Frenchwoman Jonnier who regained her World Cup leaders' jersey, but was unhappy with her overall result. "The race went well today, but I ended up making too many mistakes in the top section, I started out too fast and ended up scaring myself! I'm pretty upset with finishing second, but Tracy did a very good ride today. The main thing was I took back the leaders jersey - that's the one good thing for today. The Worlds is going to be hard, the same battle between Tracy, Rachel and I as last year though. I like the course over in Italy, fast and technical but it needs some more pedalling!"

In the elite men's downhill, the podium was largely a Santa Cruz Syndicate affair with Greg Minnar on top, Steve Peat in second and Nathan Rennie in fourth.

After the race Minnaar was hoping the win was a sign of things to come. "I haven't won a World Cup for a while so hopefully this is the start of a new trend. When I jumped in I couldn't hear as much noise as I did in the semi finals, so I thought I was down, I thought I really needed to pedal hard to get something. But over that last jump I could see my team-mates celebrating and that was the first time I realised I had the fastest time."

Last weekend's World Cup winner Gee Atherton (Animal Commencal) finished second while World Champion Sam Hill (Monster Energy / Iron Horse) finished fifth.

Hill got to keep his World Cup overall leader's jersey and was already looking forward to the World Championships coming up. "After the semi I tried to attack a bit more in the finals but it ended up about the same," said Hill, "so I'm a bit disappointed with a fifth, but happy to head out of this round with the leader's jersey."

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the elite men's and elite women's downhill Fort William World Cup.

Second Trans Germany crowns winners

The peloton races the final stage
Photo ©: Wolfgang Watzke
(Click for larger image)
The Craft & Friends / Team Bianchi won the second Trans Germany after its Thomas Dietsch and Martin Kraler triumphed on the final 79km stage from Oberwiesenthal to Seiffen in 2:48:48 hours. In total, over seven stages, the French and Austrian pair race 23:22:34 hours for the 658 kilometres and 15,259 metres of elevation gain.

After their fourth stage victory, Kraler was more than pleased. "In the beginning of the Trans Germany we had some bad luck and weren't in shape for 100 percent. We weren't able to compete during the weeks prior to this race. But as the days went by we were getting better and better. That's why we controlled the competition over the last stages. I'm happy that we won."

For a short time during the final stage Anna-Sofie and Kristine Norgaard questioned the outcome of the their women's race when they faced some scary moments. Kristine's tube and tyre were damaged. "We had to change the tube, so we put in our last one! We also fixed the tyre with an ordinary tape. I was hoping that this would work out," said Kristine after the final stage in which the two Danish sisters finished third (3:14:09).

The tyre repair did in fact work, so even a final stage win by Team Rocky Mountain with Alison Sydor and Pia Sundstedt (3:11:02) didn't affect the final standing. In the end, Team Cube WLS secured their second consecutive title with a lead of 15 minutes over Team Rocky Mountain. "It was a stressful day and for a few minutes I was really scared of losing our lead but it finally worked out. We are super happy that we were able to win again after 2007," said Kristine Norgaard.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Trans Germany.

Experience pays off at Big Bear

Tinker Juarez (Mona Vie / Cannondale)
Photo ©: Harlan Price
(Click for larger image)

The third event of the 24 hour National Points Series (NPS), the 24 Hours of Big Bear, started just days after heavy rains the previous week threatened to make the technical, wooded course slick. Racers and support crews also battled intense heat over the weekend which altered the normal expectations of cooler conditions in the Appalachian highlands of West Virginia.

1996 Olympian-turned endurance specialist Tinker Juarez (Mona Vie / Cannondale) had his own doubts about his ability to win the men's solo division. The southern California native and resident is a bit out of his element on technical, muddy East Coast courses, but in the end his experience mitigated any unfamiliarity with regional course conditions.

Juarez used a familiar race strategy from his days on the international cross country scene: a fast start to open up a sustainable gap on his competitors. With a time of one hour, 16 minutes, he was the third on his first lap and racing with some of the team riders. For the next five laps, Juarez stayed in the top ten places in the overall standings, before stepping off the gas slightly.

The start
Photo ©: Harlan Price
(Click for larger image)

Meanwhile, Ernesto Marenchin (Asylum Cycles) of Stow, Ohio, followed the reverse plan. Holding back slightly in the opening three laps, by nightfall Marenchin was turning nearly equal lap times with Juarez, leading to significantly faster laps number 10, 11 and 12 on Sunday morning. Juarez kept his cool in the sweltering heat, however, and the late charge by Marenchin was not enough to erase the gap sustained by the consistent, measured effort from Juarez, who took the win with 15 laps ridden and a 52 minute advantage over Marenchin.

"Marenchin deserves to be commended. He kept the pressure on me the whole race. I knew that I shouldn't panic, though, and just focused on my own performance and keeping it steady," said Juarez.

In the women's solo race, a racer registered mysteriously as "Ms. Cookie" displayed her own experience and consistency to win the class. Further research revealed "Ms. Cookie" to be the pseudonym of Carol Clemens (Dirt Rag), a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, resident who finished second in 2007. The early challenge was mounted by Liz Baumgardt-Kays (A&B Machine) of Rockford, Illinois, who turned two fast early laps before fading to third overall behind the quickening pace of Clemens and Heidi Schilling (Ellsworth) of Whitehall, Ohio.

"I knew from previous years that you can't start out too fast, and have to really gauge your efforts to survive the whole race," said Clemens, displaying the wisdom of a seasoned 24 racer.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the 24 hours of Big Bear.

Record numbers to compete at World Championship

Italy will host the UCI World Championships for the third time from June 17 to 22, when a record number of racers are set to compete. Val di Sole is hosting this edition while Ciocco (1991) and Livigno (2005) have hosted previous Italian editions

More than 970 racers from 52 countries will compete next week. The breakdown includes 532 in the cross country, 261 in the downhill, 96 in 4X and 100 in trials according to the UCI's website. The large numbers are due in part to the upcoming Olympic Games - many riders will use the World Championships to prepare.

By comparison, last year's worlds in Fort William, Great Britain drew 715 racers from 47 countries. In 2004, the last Olympic year, there were 794 racers in Les Gets, France. 2005 and 2006 (Rotorua, New Zealand) saw 702 and 482 racers respectively.

German, Swiss, US & Canadian teams for worlds

The American, German, Swiss and Canadian Cycling Federations finalized their selections for representatives for the 2008 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships next week in Val di Sole, Italy, from June 17-22. Teams for each nation are listed below.

US for the 2008 World Championships

Cross country
Elite men: Adam Craig, Todd Wells, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, Jeremiah Bishop, Michael Broderick, Sam Schultz
Elite women: Mary McConneloug, Georgia Gould, Willow Koerber, Heather Irmiger, Sue Haywood, Lea Davison, Kelli Emmett
U23 and junior: Kevin Aiello, Naish Ulmer, Joseph Schusler, Taylor Borucki, Dustin Belcher, Graeme Pitts and Geoffrey Ulmer were named as additions to the previously announced junior and U23 cross country teams.

Elite men: Kyle Strait, J.D. Swanguen, Duncan Riffle, Cole Bangert, Cody Warren, Kain Leonard, Lars Steinberg
Elite women: Melissa Buhl, Kathy Pruitt
Junior men: Kevin Aiello, Naish Ulmer, Joseph Schusler, Taylor Borucki, Dustin Belcher, Graeme Pitts, Geoffrey Ulmer

Elite men: Brian Lopes, Ross Milan, Mike Haderer, Erik Nelson, Blake Carney
Elite women: Melissa Buhl, Neven Steinmetz, Jessica Vogt (declined nomination)

Canada for the 2008 World Championships

Cross country
Elite men: Geoff Kabush, Seamus McGrath, Derek Zandstra, Max Plaxton – wildcard selection
Elite women: Marie-Helene Premont, Catharine Pendrel, Kiara Bisaro
U23 men: Neal Kindree (injured and unable to attend), Raphael Gagne
U23 women: Emily Batty
Junior men: Evan Guthrie, Tyson Wagler, Jonathon Boucher
Junior women: Leah Kirchmann , Bianca Adolf

Elite men: Steve Smith, Andrew Mitchell, Charles -Alexandre Dube, Hans Lambert
Elite women: Claire Buchar, Micayla Gatto, Denise Uyesugi, Kim Huard, Marie-Eve Marcotte
Junior men: Yann Gauvin, Trenton Zoobkoff, Alex Prochazka, Philippe Cyrenne Blanchard
Junior women: Miranda Miller

Men: James Barton, Jeff Anderson

Switzerland for the 2008 World Championships

Cross country
Elite men: Ralph Näf, Jürg Graf, Thomas Frischknecht, Christoph Sauser, Nino Schurter, Fabian Giger, Mathias Flückiger, Lukas Flückiger, Martin Gujan, Patrik Gallati, Pascal Meyer, Florian Vogel, Nicola Rohrbach, Martin Fanger
Elite women: Petra Henzi, Esther Süss, Katrin Leumann, Marielle Saner, Maroussia Rusca, Nathalie Schneitter, Kathrin Stirnemann
Junior men: Matthias Rupp, Arnaud Grand, Donat Albin, Matthias Stirnemann, Mirco Widmer, Reto Indergand
Junior women: Vivienne Meyer, Karin Rappo, Michelle Hediger, Marina Giger
Team relay: Florian Vogel, Petra Henzi, Nino Schurter, Matthias Rupp

Elite men: Marcel Beer, Nick Beer, Dominik Gspan, Samuel Zbinden, Patrik Merk
Elite women: Miriam Ruchti, Emilie Siegenthaler
Junior men: Nicolas Gspan, Janick Lieberherr, Robin Hagen

Elite men: Dominik Gspan, Sidney Gerber, Roger Rinderknecht, Reto Schmid
Elite women: Lucia Oetjen, Rachel Seydoux

Elite men: Stefan Moor, Keller Roger
Elite women: Karin Moor
Junior men: Loris Braun, Jérome Chapuis, Lars Zysset, Cyril Jeker, Fabrice Demierre

Germany for the 2008 World Championships

Cross Country
Elite women: Sabine Spitz, Adel Morath, Claudia Seidel, Ivonne Kraft
Elite men: Wolfram Kurschat, Manuel Fumic, Jochen Käss, Karl Platt, Moritz Milatz, Lado Fumic
U23 women: Hanna Klein, Ines Thoma, Silke Schmidt, Anja Gradl
U23 men: Markus Bauer, Andi Eyring, Felix Euteneuer, Heiko Gutmann, Vero Lücher
Junior women: Mona Eberweiser, Gesa Brüchmann, Julia Haase
Junior men: Markus Schülte Lünzum, Martin Gluth, Marcel Fleschhut, Daniel Strecker, Valentin Fiderer, Mathias Reis, Simon Stiebjahn

Elite men: Leonie Dickerhoff, Maximilian Bender, Jürgen Beneke, Marcus Klausmann, Frank Schneider, Johann Sütter

Elite women: Steffi Marth
Elite men: Guido Tschugg, Johannes Fischbach, Sascha Meyenborg, Daniel Auerswald, Thomas Schäfer

Elite women: Elisa Brieden, Ulrike Wenzel
Elite men: Michael Hampel, Felix Heller, Sebastian Hoffmann, Andreas Lehmann, Heiko Lehmann, Johannes Mahler, Matthias Mrohs, Thomas Mrohs, Julian Peter, Marc Schröder, Marco Thomä, Wolfgang Wenzel

Kalentieva rides with her head, too

By Susan Westemeyer

Kalentieva won the Worlds last year, saying that she really wanted it.
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)
Irina Kalentieva came originally from the little-known Russian province of Chuvash to conquer the world – the world of mountain biking. She won the World Championship title in cross country last year in Fort William, and will look to defend that title next week in Val di Sole, Italy. She has lived in Germany for the past five years.

Talking with the 30 year-old, one is struck by how often she mentions her motivation, leading to the question, does she ride with her head as much as with her legs? "My head – the motivation – is the most important. All the riders have good legs, good training, we are all equal physically. Five or six of us, all the same," she said. "But the one who will win in the end is the one who is strongest in the head, who thinks positively. For me, I use my head a lot in racing, for example in tactics." She continued, "In the World Championships, all are strong and it is very difficult, but I tell myself that I can do it. That is my strength."

That was also how the Topeak Ergon racer won the World title last year. "It was something very special, all the strongest riders in the world were there, even (Gunn-Rita) Dahle Flesjĺ (Multivan Merida). It was very special. I thought I could finish in the top three. The course was very good for me, the downhill, everything worked out 100 percent.

"I had the strongest motivation to win and to become World Champion, that helped. Perhaps I was no stronger than the others, but with this motivation ... that I one day wanted to become World Champion, that helped" to bring her the title.

Winning that title was the best moment in her career. The worst moment was four years ago, in the 2004 Olympics in Athens. "I got sick two days before the race. We figured on a medal and then I got sick. I rode anyway, and finished 13th out of 32, fever and all. I could have died, but that didn't matter."

Kalentieva during a training ride
Photo ©: Oliver Kessler
(Click for larger image)

The Russian is from Norwash-Shigalj in the Russian province of Chuvash, which is located in the Volga region not far from Nijnij Novgorod. Why did she make the long trip to Aalen, Germany, and end up living there? I wanted to go to Europe because there are so many races there, World Cup or Bundesliga," she said. "All of my main rivals are in Europe. It is perfect for preparation and for taking part in races. I can watch my rivals closely and change my training plans quickly when I need to."

The proximity to the races has been good for her. In 2007 she won the World Championships, the World Cup and four World Cup races. She was second in the recent European Championships in St. Wendel, Germany, as she also was in the 2006 worlds in Rotorua, New Zealand. She has been Russian national champion seven times, and is the five-time winner of the German National Series (Bundesliga).

There is another advantage to living in Germany, and that is that "it is much easier to go mountain biking in Germany than in Russia. Here in Germany there are many bike paths, where you can ride away from the autos, and in the forest, too, where you can train in peace and quiet. In Russia there is only the road, and no special trails for mountain bikers. It is much too dangerous to train there."

Kalentieva started out in track and field and tried cyclo-cross before turning to mountain biking in 1993. Her change came about this way: "Our city bought two mountain bikes for the athletes. We got one, that is, our team's trainer got one. Then I just started riding it. I liked it a lot, it was something special, and I really enjoyed it a lot, this technique. That's when I decided: I want to ride mountain bikes."

Read the complete feature.

Casalegno out with injury

Junior woman Vittoria Casalegno will have to sit out the World Championship race in her home country next week after a road accident. The Italian racer from Piedmont suffered fractures and other injuries requiring surgery. Officials from her Giant Italia Team reported that an operation was completed, but have no word yet from her doctors on expectations for her recovery.

"Vittoria was on track to be in good physical condition after some earlier problems, and she was ready to take part to the World Championship," said Technical Manager Gianfranco Bechis. "Unfortunately this accident happened but we are sure that, thanks to her determination, she will be able to start mountain biking again soon. The Team will continue to support her."

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