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MTB news & racing round-up for June 27, 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

Switzerland and France win worlds bragging rights

And they're off!
Photo ©: Sue George
(Click for larger image)

The UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Val di Sole, Italy last week and weekend saw record numbers of participants engaging in cross country, 4X and downhill competitions. When the dust settled and the medals were counted, Switzerland and France emerged at the top of the medal count list with nine medals each.

The Swiss counted two golds, four silvers and three bronzes while showing their dominance in the cross country. The French carried home two golds, three silvers and four bronzes.

Thanks to gold medals in the elite men's, women's and junior's downhill races, the British collected the most golds and five medals in total when also including its two silvers.

Nine medals
Switzerland (2 Gold, 4 Silver, 3 Bronze)
France (2 Gold, 3 Silver, 4 Bronze)

Five medals
Great Britain (3 Gold, 2 Silver)

Two medals
Spain (2 Gold)
Czech Republic (1 Silver, 1 Bronze)
Germany (1 Silver, 1 Bronze)

One medal
Colombia (1 Gold)
Slovenia (1 Gold)
Slovakia (1 Gold)
United States (1 Gold)
Hungary (1 Silver)
South Africa (1 Silver)
Australia (1 Bronze)
Italy (1 Bronze)
Poland (1 Bronze)
Russian Federation (1 Bronze)

2008 World Champions

Cross Country
Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) (men)
Margarita Fullana (Spain) (women)
Nino Schurter (Switzerland) (U23 men)
Tanja Zakelj (Slovenia) (U23 women)
Peter Sagan (Slovakia) (junior men)
Laura Abril (Colombia) (junior women)

Gee Atherton (Great Britain) (men)
Rachel Atherton (Great Britain (women)
Josh Bryceland (Great Britain) (junior men)
Anais Pajot (France) (junior women)

Rafael Alvarez de Lara (Spain) (men)
Melissa Buhl (United States) (women)

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships.

Eyes toward Australia

As the sun set on the final day of racing at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Val di Sole, Italy, thoughts turned toward next year's World Championships to be held in Canberra, Australia. Representatives from Australia were on hand in Italy to talk about next year's race.

At the same time, at the recent IMBA World Summit in Park City, Utah, Australian Glen Jacobs, owner of the World Trail design and construction firm, shared his expertise and experience working on the Stromlo Forest Park in Canberra. Jacobs discussed how sustainable trail design converted a nearly ruined landscape into a top-notch recreation destination.

In 2003, Stromlo's pine forest was decimated by a wildfire. Afterward, the government decided to convert the land's use from forestry to recreation. Faced with the challenge of a scarred land, Jacobs said according to www.imba.com, "It was a trailbuilder's nightmare."

What started as a seven-mile beginner cross country loop turned into the development of expert downhill trails, a four-cross course, and an additional 25 miles of cross-country trails.

Stromlo kicked off its new role as a world-class mountain bike venue by hosting the Australian National Championships, even after a 100-year storm ravaged area just one week before. "The area was nearly underwater, but because we incorporated IMBA guidelines in the trail design, the damage was minimal," Jacobs said according to www.imba.com. "From then on, the land managers were sold on the durability of properly built mountain biking trails."

The park has attracted an estimated 200,000 visitors since opening in 2007, with 95 percent of them mountain bikers. It will next host the UCI World Cup on August 30-31 and the World Championships September 1-6, 2009.

Time for a break for some

By Dave McElwaine

Lea Davison
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

After a long, gruelling spring season including many World Cups and culminating in the World Championships, several top cross country racers are opting to take a break from competition to rest up. Some will be re-charging before the second half of the season including the World Marathon Championships, various national championships, more World Cups and assorted national series events, while others will be resting before a final run-up in form for the Olympic Games in August in Beijing, China.

For example, three Americans who are virtually assured spots on the 2008 US Olympic Team, US National Champion Mary McConneloug (Kenda/Seven), Todd Wells (GT/Pacific Bikes), and Adam Craig (Giant), will sit out the Deer Valley fourth round of the US National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) this weekend from June 27-29 in Utah.

As for racing this weekend, Craig left the door open slightly, saying, "I won't be there (Deer Valley) unless (team-mate) Carl (Decker) guilts me into getting onto another airplane." Also grabbing some deserved downtime will be Trek/VW team-mates Lea Davison and Sue Haywood. Having a break-out season, Davison put in a career best performance at the World Championship by cracking the top 20 and finishing 19th.

On the other hand, with the popularity of endurance racing on the rise, other mountain biking stars will be returning to racing action by heading to the BC Bike Race in British Columbia, Canada, from June 28 to July 4. These include three Kona team-mates, Barry Wicks, Kris Sneddon, and Wendy Simms; Kelli Emmett (Giant), Sue Butler (Mona Vie) who currently leads the NMBS Super D competition, Max Plaxton (Rocky Mountain), and defending BC Bike Race champions Jeff Schalk and Chris Eatough.

NMBS round four: A weekend for opportunists

By Dave McElwaine in Park City, Utah

Deer Valley is gorgeous in the summer.
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Mountain biking action in America's National Mountain Biking Series (NMBS) resumes this weekend in scenic Deer Valley, Utah. With the World Championships just completed in Val di Sole, Italy and the BC Bike Race about to kick off, this may be a weekend for some up-and-coming talent to find their way onto an NMBS podium.

That is exactly what happened earlier this season at the Sea Otter Classic while all the top racers were at a World Cup in Houffalize, Belgium. Most of the NMBS series leaders will be in attendance at Deer Valley, but podium spots will be up for grabs.

Racing at Deer Valley is normally quite taxing, as racers face altitudes from 7,500 - 9,000 feet. With the weather forecast in the 85 to 90 degree (Fahrenheit) range, this weekend's event could shape up to be a suffer-fest.

At the last stop on the NMBS circuit in Santa Ynez, California, racers faced temperatures in excess of 100 degrees for three straight days. Women's cross-country series leader Georgia Gould (Luna Women's MTB Team) succumbed to heat stroke and was taken to a hospital to recover.

Cross Country

Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) leads both the
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Men's series leader Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis) has a commanding 70 point margin over Barry Wicks (Kona). With Wicks absent this weekend, the likely challenger will be Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru/Gary Fisher), who won last year's event here. With big doses of climbing, the course plays right to JHK's main strength.

Both Kabush and JHK will have just flown back from the World Championships so they should be on an equal footing.

"It'll be nice to regroup [in Deer Valley] and then head out east," said Kabush, after racing in the World Championships with a bad cold.

Last year Jeremiah Bishop (Trek / VW) provided the primary competition for Horgan-Kobelski at Deer Valley. Bishop often seems to get faster around this time of year and uses his considerable descending skills to his advantage at ski area venues like Deer Valley.

Former US National Champion Ryan Trebon (Kona) will be making an appearance at Deer Valley. Trebon's main focus this year has been a mix of mountain and road events to prepare for cyclo-cross season. "I feel good and am looking for a good result at Deer Valley," said Trebon.

Ryan Trebon (Kona) returns to NMBS
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Trebon certainly has the horsepower to ride with anybody. The question will be how the Ventura, California resident handles the altitude and the huge climbs.

Sam Schultz (Subaru/Gary Fisher), Carl Decker (Giant) and Ross Schnell (Trek/VW) will all be looking for strong rides this weekend.

The women's event will be an exciting Luna shootout. Luna has been the top women's team at every World Cup this year, and at the World Championships Catherine Pendrel, Georgia Gould, and Czech National Champion Katerina Nash finished an amazing sixth, ninth, and 12th respectively.

Both the US's Gould and Canada's Pendrel will be representing their countries at the Olympics in Beijing. Nash narrowly missed out securing a spot for the Czech Republic, due to an untimely knee injury sustained at the NMBS race in Fountain Hills, Arizona.

Georgia Gould (Luna Womens MTB) rode alone to win
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Last year at Deer Valley, Gould immediately went off the front and rode one of her typical time trial to victory. Team-mate Shonny Vanlandingham, who finished second last year, has turned her attention exclusively to X-Terra and will not be racing at Deer Valley.

While Pendrel has beaten Gould on more than one occasion this season, Gould's confidence at home, plus her experience on the Deer Valley course, will make it a difficult task. While team-mate Katerina Nash currently leads the cross country series, the NMBS series rule that allows racers to drop one race result will still give Gould a shot at repeating as series champion.

Never to be counted out are the Subaru/Gary Fisher duo of Heather Irmiger and Willow Koerber. They finished 29th and 40th respectively at Worlds and are likely Deer Valley podium candidates. Irmiger, a good climber, finished fourth there last year.

Finally, keep an eye on two other Canadian women. Nineteen year-old Emily Batty (Trek Bicycle Store) finished sixth in the Under-23 category at the World Championships, which follow two victories in the Canada Cup Series and an NMBS podium this season. Mical Dyck (Trek/VW) has also won on the Canadian Cup circuit, and has gained valuable experience racing at the World Cups this season.

Read the complete preview, including more information on the short track and gravity events.

French Olympic mountain bike team named

The French Cycling Federation announced its Olympic Mountain Bike Team just two days after the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships. According to Technical Director Patrick Cluzaud, the men's team will include 2004 Olympic champion Julien Absalon, Jean-Christophe Péraud, and Cédric Ravanel while Laurence Leboucher will serve as the sole female French representative.

Minnaar joins UCI MTB Commission

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

South African downhiller Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) has been formally appointed to the UCI Mountain Bike Commission, effectively as the gravity riders' representative.

The current MTB Commission has been without a gravity athlete essentially since Bas de Bever (Netherlands) left the position some years ago. As a member of the Commission, Minnaar will have a definitive role in recommending rule changes and policy for the disciplines of downhill and 4X in particular, after consulting with the riders he represents. As a former downhill World Champion, two-time World Cup Downhill Champion and winner of both Downhill and 4X World Cup races, Minnaar said he is looking forward to the challenges that come along with his new role.

"This is a big honour for me and for Africa. Mountain biking has always been a very international sport, and I'm glad the UCI appointed someone from outside Europe. I look forward to working with the Commission, and of course the other riders who I'll be representing. I'm going to have a Riders' Meeting in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada, next month so we can start looking at any changes we need for 2009."

Most recently Minnaar won the third round of the World Cup series in Fort William, Scotland, just prior to the World Championships.

Mountain bike legend honoured

By Sue George in Val di Sole, Italy

UCI President Pat McQuaid recognizes Thomas Frischknecht's
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

UCI President Pat McQuaid honoured Thomas Frischknecht at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Val di Sole, Italy. The 38 year-old Swiss racer was at the very first Mountain Bike World Championship in Durango, Colorado in 1990, where he took second place and the first of his 15 world championship medals. He won 18 World Cup victories en route to three overall titles (1992, 1993, 1995). Last weekend, he completed his final elite cross country world championship race - finishing 27th on a hot day when many younger competitors dropped out or were lapped.

In a special ceremony, Frischknecht said: "It seems like just yesterday that I started. But if you look back to 1990 when it all started, some things were different, some things are the same. The atmosphere has stayed the same.

"We are still fighting for glory and it's great that we can keep it that way. Passion is what has kept me in this sport for so long," he said, accepting his award.

After his race, Frischknecht commented on the pace, "It's definitely faster. It's too fast for me! If it wasn't my last one, I probably wouldn't have finished because I was going backward after the half way point and having a really hard time." Frischknecht said he was proud of the all-Swiss podium. "Three on the podium exceeds expectations although any one of them being up there is not a surprise." No doubt he is leaving his sport's mountain bike future in very capable hands.

Frischknecht has been marathon world champion (2003, 2005), cross country world champion (1996), cyclo-cross world champion, European champion and Swiss national champion (11 times). At mountain biking's Olympic debut in Atlanta in 1996, he won silver while also racing on his nation's road team.

Frischknecht now serves as a spokesperson for the Alta Rezia tourist area. He cultivates his vineyards in Tuscany, Italy, and oversees the distribution of his Chianti wine.

Schalk and Sornson on top in rain-soaked Michigan

By Harlan Price in Michigan

Cheryl Sornson
Photo ©: Jack Kunnan
(Click for larger image)

Not to be outdone by the first two rain soaked races in the National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series, stop number three at the Lumberjack 100 in Michigan saw 11 inches of rain and 80 mph winds the night before the race in the worst storm the area had seen in 30 years. The winds and rain forced a marathon clean-up of debris and trees from the trails, but by the time Saturday morning broke all that was left were a few welcome log hops and three muddy sections that grew as the 250 racers passed through them. Fortunately due to the nature of the mostly sandy course, the majority of the trail was well drained and the amount of standing water was limited to only those three short, but treacherous sections.

Undeterred by the conditions, Jeff Schalk (Trek/VW) maintained his control over the series lead with another close win by only a minute over Oregonian, Evan Plews (Scott/ Capitol Subaru). So far each of Schalk's three wins in the series have been by two minutes or less after 100 miles of racing. A group of eight racers made the early separation through most of the first 25 mile lap, but an attack from Harlan Price (IFRacing.org/ Industry Nine) on the first eight mile section of the second lap whittled the group down to five racers; Schalk, Plews, Chris Eatough (Trek/VW), Christian Tanguy (American Cycle and Fitness) and Price.

Price repeated the same attack on lap three and thinned the group down to himself, Schalk and Plews, but his early efforts took their toll towards the end of the lap and Plews and Schalk moved up the road without the Independent Fabrication rider.

Men's podium
Photo ©: Jack Kunnan
(Click for larger image)

Schalk led most of the fourth lap and found all of his attacks answered by a tenacious Plews, who was still contending despite a flat early in lap two. It wasn't until about five miles to go that Schalk was able to get a gap and hold it to the finish despite some cramping. Filling the last two positions in the top five were Eatough in fourth and Tanguy in fifth.

In the women's field Cheryl Sornson (Trek/VW) took home her first win of the NUE series with a full day riding in front of the rest of her competitors. Sornson was off the front from the beginning using her improved 2008 form to stay away on course that favored a rider capable of staying on the gas and riding smart lines through the narrow and curvaceous singletrack. Her win put her in the overall lead for the series. Seventeen minutes back from the Trek/VW rider was Karen Potter (MTB-Mind.com) from Massachusetts and rolling across the line in third was last year's winner and local Daniel Musto of the Kenda-Titus-Hayes team.

The singlespeed division saw a new face on the top of the podium. Ronald Sanborn (McLain Cycle and Fitness) found himself in the fortunate position of first by only a minute over second place John (Fuzzy) Myline (Sho-Air, rock and Road/ Niner) with a time of 7:57:19. Third position was occupied by Nate Versluis (Founders Ale / Alger Racing) and not far behind was the series singlespeed leader Dejay Birtch (Niner Bikes).

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Lumberjack 100.

Sauser wins world title on new 2009 Specialized Epic bike

By James Huang

Specialized claims the new Epic shaves almost 700g
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Christophe Sauser (Switzerland) won his second world title this past weekend aboard an all-new version of Specialized's S-Works Epic. As we predicted a while back, the new model is fitted with a number of features introduced on the company's Stumpjumper trail bike last year and shaves a substantial amount of weight in the process. Thanks to some excellent photo work from Cyclingnews editor Sue George, contributor Rob Jones and our friends at Czech web site www.mtbs.cz, we now finally have some quality images of the new steed to show you, too.

What we know

Specialized claims the new frameset lops a substantial 700g (1.54lb) from the '08 model and, not surprisingly, much of the credit falls on the more widespread use of carbon fiber. Unlike previous carbon Epic frames which reserves the material only for the front triangle and upper link, both the chain stay and seat stay assemblies on the '09 model are now made of carbon fiber, too.

Carbon is also used in the one-piece crown and steerer of the all-new Specialized Futureshock E100 100mm-travel single-crown fork. As expected, Specialized has used a tapered-and-oversized 1 1/8"-to-1 1/2" steerer tube to reduce the weight while simultaneously adding rigidity to the system. Naturally, a terrain-sensing Brain inertia valve is included here as well, meaning that Sauser no longer has to rely on the handlebar-mounted remote manual lockout of his familiar DT Swiss front end.

Sauser's frame retains the familiar four-bar suspension layout but the pivot locations have been modified and now more closely resemble those of a MacPherson strut design. The rear shock has moved to a more conventional location below the top tube and the inertia valve-containing Brain unit is mounted at the rear axle and connected to the shock via a short length of hydraulic hose. A short link (we're not sure of the material but the surface finish suggests it isn't carbon) mounted on the seat tube adds some torsional and lateral stability out back.

Read the complete feature or read another feature with more on Sauser's new Epic.

Mike & Mary diary: Two more World Cups

An incredible road
Photo ©: Mike Broderick & Mary McConneloug
(Click for larger image)

Mary and I had the challenging yet awesome opportunity to spend three weeks in the RV mobile and without the stress of World Cup obligations in southern Europe. After the prior three weeks spent contesting the opening rounds of the World Cup races, with professional trucker type mileage in between, we were tempted to head to some remote beach to relax, maybe catch a few waves and just take it easy... . Instead we pointed the RV in the direction of the highest point we could find to begin some elevation training in order to arrive at our best form for the next World Cup in Andorra.

Although 6,000 feet is really not that high, we knew that racing in the Alpine conditions and elements was going to be an extra challenge, and we were ready to pull all the stops to prepare since this was an important race for which to be on form. We decided to leave Spain and make our first-ever trip to Portugal, eventually spending the better part of a week in the Serra da Estrela mountain range training on some radically small and unpopulated roads and driving up to the still snow-covered peak at night. We burned quite a bit of propane and some extra adrenaline with our late evening drives as the wet spring weather had us dealing with more snow and hail storms than star gazing at the top of these exposed gnarly peaks. There were some moments that made us question our tactics but were rewarded with some incredible mornings at the top of several mountains as well as what we felt was at least some benefit in the form of extra red blood cells thanks to our thin air sleeping efforts.

Mike and Mary spent another night
Photo ©: Mike Broderick & Mary McConneloug
(Click for larger image)
We can't say whether it is all together legal, frowned upon or what, but we managed to just " pull over" for the night at the highest places we could find without any more problem than just driving up some dark twisty road in a hail storm in a big boxy RV. We definitely don't recommend trying to elevation train in your vehicle as it initially made us pretty grumpy and cost us a lot of sleep. But we got pretty into it and eventually slept our way from central Portugal back across Spain while competing in two national level races along the way, and we didn't spend a night below 1600 meters. We would come down during the day to charge our computer, service the RV, stock up on supplies or find a place to pirate a wireless internet signal, and often return to our night-time roost. We'd also get in our training on the bike during the day.

The next weeks were dedication to high elevation sleeping, some arctic level leg soaks, parking lot yoga routines and living on the road as best as we could in an effort to arrive at what we hoped would be our best form on the bikes. We made our way back across Spain sticking to the high mountains and radical training opportunities north of Madrid, focusing on bigger road miles and trying to ignore the sweet dirt off chutes in an effort to better focus on pushing the pedals. We still managed to do a bit of fun mountain biking and sample some local wine and a few select wheels of exotic cheeses without straying too far off our dedicated race program.

The week before the world cup in Andorra we attended a race in the small Catalonian town of Sant Lorenc de Morunys an outpost of civilization in the middle of the Vall di Lord, (quite possibly the most beautiful region of Spain we have yet to encounter)! Unfortunately race day turned out to be an absolute washout – rain had stalked us for our entire trip offering us more than our share of wet rides and drives but the weather here on race day was bordering on biblical. It was the type of race where you ride your hardest, but keep on getting colder and eventually loose contact with your senses as you go. Ouch!

Read the complete diary entry.

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