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MTB news & racing round-up for October 24, 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

Crocodile Trophy: Czechs take over Australia

By John Flynn in Gunnawarra

Ondrej Fojtik and Ivan Rybarik
Photo ©: John Flynn
(Click for larger image)

Tomas Trunschka took his second stage win in three days at the Crocodile Trophy, running from October 21 to 30 in Australia's Outback. The Czech racer isn't leading the race, but his teammate Ondrej Fojtik is. In fact, the Czechs are presently occupying all three top spots and six of the top ten places in the men's general classification after stage three.

The attrition rate was understandably high on day three as the race's protagonists fought the elements and their own internal demons. As expected, the Czechs attacked early as the peloton ventured out from Koombooloomba on a picturesque rainforest road, and team VIG's Martin Horak launched the first major assault when the lead bunch entered the famed powerline track.

Horak was offered a little breathing space early as the remaining non-Czech contenders in the race, most notably Belgian Nic Vermeulen (Team Lingier) and Australian solo entrant Craig Gordon, kept a close eye on overall leader Fojtik. But with so many options at their disposal, the Czechs were holding all the aces.

After a technical, mountainous section of the powerline track, just four riders were left in the hunt for the stage - Gordon, Vermeulen, Fojtik and Trunschka, who led on the road. A series of attacks followed on the dead straight, red dirt road on the way to the outback cattle station at Gunnawarra Lagoon. Gordon fought to stay in contention, and Vermeulen gave it everything as Fojtik and Trunschka took turns launching themselves off the front.

"It was hot, very hot, but nice track, with the Czech team it is difficult," admitted Vermeulen, who finished third. "On the technical I'm maybe the best. Then for the finish, it was one against three Czechs; the Australian was good but he could just follow."

Joanne Bennett (Merida - Flight Centre 2) with Karen Steurs (Team Ride for Stars)
Photo ©: John Flynn
(Click for larger image)

Gordon, whose form appears to be improving with each day, also came close. "A hard day, a little bit disappointing, I got fourth, but the Czechs look like they've got this race sewn up," the Australian solo entrant conceded. "They've got a strong team, and there are quite a few guys there working... very, very strong."

For the Czechs it was another case of mission accomplished. "There were three of us and it was very fast at the end of the race," Trunschka said. The question now is who will be officially appointed team captain for VIG+ racing, with three riders (at least) in contention for the overall result.

On the other hand, the women's race has been anything but a Czech affair. Australian Jo Bennett of Merida Flight Centre team enjoyed some help during stage three from husband Tim on stage three after he came to the realisation he couldn't match it with the Czechs in the men's event.

A husband and wife battle between Australian and Belgium is taking shape, as Karen Steurs also brought her partner along for the ride. Bennett won stage three, but the battle is expected to go down to the wire.

"We were together until the finish today and Tim was a big help," Jo Bennett said. "Karen and I had a sprint, and I managed to get the win, which was great, but there's still a long way to go and she's very strong."

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage of the Crocodile Trophy.

Colorado stage race going live in 2009

A new stage race, The Breck Epic, is hopping onto the crowded endurance racing calendar for 2009. The six-stage event will be held in the backcountry surrounding Breckenridge, Colorado, on July 5 – 10. The race's first edition was originally planned for the summer of 2008, but was postponed until next year as organizers worked on land access and sustainability logistics.

The race is adopting a cloverleaf format, whereby each of five stages and a prologue will begin and end in Breckenridge. The model means one host campground and no between-stage transfers. Participants are being told to expect little road riding and minimal stretches of gravel and fireroads. The route, which will change each year, is still being finalized, but racers can expect 235 to 250 miles total.

"The Breck Epic is intended to showcase the unilateral collaboration of local, regional and federal land managers," read a press release about the race. "The trail network here is almost impossible to understand in terms of size and connectivity - it's a rider's paradise."

"All race profits will go to the Breckenridge Open Space and Trails and the Dillon Ranger District of the US Forest Service in the form of a restricted grant, which will dictate the funds be used for the addition of one seasonal trail employee per organization."

Solo categories will be offered, but organizers will review resumes prior to accepting entries. A field limit of approximately 400 riders will be in effect. Racers will compete for US$10,000 in cash plus merchandise.

Although not technically overlapping, the close proximity of the Breck Epic on the calendar to the BC Bike's dates of June 28 to July 4 could force some endurance racers to make a tough decision about which race they will contest.

For more information visit breckepic.blogspot.com.

Olympian Madill & Buchanan make it two in a row at Aussie 4X opener

Luke Madill just holds off a fast finishing Tom Hubert
Photo ©: Evan Jeffery
(Click for larger image)
BMX Olympian Luke Madill reaffirmed his position as one of Australia's leading four cross riders after winning the first two rounds of the Red Ass National Series in Sydney over the weekend. The 28 year-old raced BMX at the sport's Olympic Games debut in Beijing, China, in August and is looking to compete in many of the 4X World Cup events next season.

Reigning national champion, Caroline Buchanan, was in top form to win the first two women's rounds and gained the series lead. Celebrating her 18th birthday next weekend did not deter the World Cup winner from Canberra in displaying strong first straights in every race.

In the first national round on Saturday, Madill won over last season's overall winner Leigh Darrell. In the second national round on Sunday, the win was hotly contested with 21 year-old Thomas Hubert from Newcastle clearly hot on the heels of Madill from the start. Madill led at the gate only to slip just before the third corner.

"The final was a bit messy," admitted Madill of Sunday's race. "I felt pretty safe and knew I had a good lead then I slid and clipped out. I had to go to the outside and that took a bit more time."

In the women's race, Sarsha Huntington from Brisbane ended up second in the series after an unlucky fourth place in the first round on Saturday.

The third round of the four cross series will be held on the Gold Coast at the end of November while the first round of downhill and cross country series will be in Adelaide in two weeks' time.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage for round one and round two of the Australian National Four Cross Series.

New faces hop onto Copa Chile Jeep podiums

Elite men's cross country podium
Photo ©: Cristóbal Sahr
(Click for larger image)

The third round of the Copa Chile Jeep 2008 series was held at Cajón del Maipo last weekend. The category one UCI event was one of just three such categorized races in South America. Javier Püschel proved triumphant in the men's cross country over established favorite Cristóbal Silva, and Juan Cartoni was the surprise winner of the downhill. For the women, Francisca Campos and Verónica Miranda proved victorious in the cross country and downhill.

The cross country circuit featured technical climbs and descents. In the men's race, Püschel (Scott) brought an end to the supremacy of the Pan-American champion Silva (Cannondale), beating him by more than two minutes.

"This victory was the morale boost that I was missing," said Püschel. Silva appeared exhausted in the early laps, showing fatigue after so much racing in recent months.

In the women's cross country, Francisca Campos (Scott) proved why she's one of the best on the continent, after obtaining a solid first place finish more than five minutes ahead of her closest follower, Daniela Bunzli (Cannondale).

Downhill racers faced a steep and rough track. National champion Antonio Leiva, who suffered a broken femur in the last Copa Chile Jeep race, was, of course, still absent from competition. Juan Cartoni didn't let the opportunity pass and won a hard-fought final by only four seconds over Pedro Ferreira.

"This podium is the fruit of my consistency and proves that I am a candidate for the overall ranking," he said from the hot seat.

In the women's downhill, Verónica Miranda proved her bike handling skills and secured the win as well as leadership of the overall rankings.

The next round will be held on November 8-9 in Concepción, Southern Chile.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Copa Chile Jeep round in Santiago.

American collegiate MTBers return to North Carolina for nationals

Adam Snyder of Ft. Lewis College led start of the 2007 men's national cross country Division I race
Photo ©: Went Knipe
(Click for larger image)

Providing the proving ground for many rising American fat tire stars, Lees-McRae College will again host the USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships on October 24-26 in Banner Elk, North Carolina.

The action will begin Friday morning with the battle for supremacy in the cross country event on a five-mile loop through the Appalachian Mountains. Both Division I and II men and women will compete for the crown in the Olympic-style race over the varying, 50 percent singletrack course, which is a permanent fixture on the Lees-McRae campus.

Later that afternoon, gravity riders will attempt to qualify for the finals on the technical downhill course at Sugar Mountain Resort that has tested the country's top professionals during other events.

Also on Friday, professional Decline Team America gravity racer and 2007 USA Cycling Dual Slalom National champion Chris Herndon will lead a complimentary course inspection clinic open to all collegiate attendees. The clinic, set for 10:00 am to 2:30 pm on Friday, will cover line choice and form on Sugar Mountain's downhill course. A former collegiate racer at nearby Lindsey Wilson College, Herndon gives back to collegiate cycling in the form of coaching gravity and skills with the Brevard College cycling team, course design and production, and leading a variety of skills clinics.

Saturday the action will return to the Lees-McRae campus where the short track cross country races and will provide an opportunity for spectators to witness bar to bar racing as riders battle it out for the title of national champion. That afternoon at approximately 2:00 pm, the finals of the downhill competition will take place on what is largely the same course as was used in the 2007 event, featuring 1,200 feet of vertical drop over the 1.5-mile course.

In the spirit of collegiate cycling, the USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championship Banquet will take place at 7:00 pm on Saturday, at the Ski Sugar Mountain Lodge where USA Cycling National Development Team graduate and multiple-time collegiate national champion Brent Bookwalter will serve as guest speaker.

Sunday's finale will begin at 8:00 am and will feature a pure dual slalom competition on Lees-McRae's own course complete with four-foot high starting deck. Immediately thereafter, the event will conclude with the coronation of the overall team and individual omnium national champions in both Division I and II as defending champs, Fort Lewis College and the Colorado School of Mines, will seek to regain the glory of last year's team victory.

Warren & Buhl to defend lead at Jeep 48Straight finale

Melissa Buhl leads in Utah
Photo ©: Jeep 48Straight Mountain Bike Series
(Click for larger image)

American riders are in control of the Jeep 48Straight Series standings, holding five of the six men's and women's podium spots toward the season-ending championship. The final dual slalom event is set for October 24-25 in San Luis Obispo, California, where Cody Warren and Melissa Buhl are expected to defend their leads.

Atop the men's standings is US National Champion Warren who won the first race of the season in New Jersey and finished fourth place in Utah at round two. Tied for second behind him are 18-year racing veteran Eric Carter, a former World Champion and three-time World Cup titlist, and Czech Republic transplant Petr Hanak, a former NORBA series champion.

A number of exceptional American and foreign athletes would be happy to break their way into contention, led by Greg Minnaar, who won in his first-ever Jeep mountain bike competition in Utah. The South African has earned an astounding 35 World Cup titles, a World Championship and two World Cup Championships, yet he's just one of many outside contenders. Other big gravity names expected to compete are Brian Lopes, Jared Rando, Rich Houseman, Cam Zink, J.D. Swanguen, Cam McCaul, Kyle Strait, Duncan Riffle, Chris Van Dine and snowboarder Shaun Palmer.

New to the world of Jeep gravity competitions will be Adam Craig. The reigning US National Champion in cross country and super D will be testing himself in the world of gravity racing after a season-long cross country campaign that culminated at the Olympic Games in Beijing, China.

In the women's standings, reigning World Champion and US National Champion Melissa Buhl earned a second place finish in New Jersey and a win in Utah to earn the top spot. Despite her brilliance on the dirt, she holds only a slim lead over former US National Champion Kathy Pruitt, who won in New Jersey and placed third in Utah. Griffiths, thanks to her impressive second place finish in Utah, rounds out the bunch, with US Open Champion Lisa Myklak right on her heels.

Fionn Griffiths of Great Britain is the lone international athlete expected in the overall mix, but no less than a half dozen of the world's elite gravity racers have the opportunity to shake up the standings with an upset in this cycling haven.

Local professionals and semi-pros will also have a chance to earn a spot in the dual slalom by participating in the open qualifier on Friday, October 24. Finals happen on October 25, with a maximum of 75 men and 25 women.

For more information, visit www.Jeep48Straight.com.

UCI updates MTB regulations for 2009

The UCI Management Committee recently approved some new regulations governing next year's off-road racing.

World Cup riders will continue to require 20 UCI points in order to participate, except for those in the junior cross country races. Those same junior riders will compete as part of national teams and be required to wear national team clothing.

The rules clearly dictate details like who must attend the World Cup award ceremonies for each category, start orders and numbering for various disciplines and what kind of clothing gravity riders must wear during training and in competition. Specifically, the UCI has banned the wearing of skin suits for downhill and 4X racing and required a full face helmet to be worn not only in competition, but also in training.

The UCI is also soliciting team registrations, which much be received by February 1, 2009. Complete rosters must be finalized by February 15 for each registered team.

A full listing of 2009 season regulations will be published on the UCI website in December.

New film to highlight Irish downhillers

Ever wonder what it's like to be a downhill mountain biker in Ireland? Sharon Kennedy and Andy Yoong from Northern Ireland Production Company Honcho Designs, have teamed up on a film project with 10 of the best Irish downhill riders including National Champion Colin Ross, Masters world silver medallist Meave Baxter, and Irish pro Ben Reid.

The new movie, Break the Cycle, aims to give insight into the lives of the riders while also showcasing Irish landscapes. It will capture the extent to which the downhill riders' lives revolve around their bikes. By shooting them at the places they ride, train, work and live, the film will look into how these riders have used their bikes to "break the cycle" of everyday life.

For more information, visit www.breakthecyclefilm.com.

IMBA looking for next World Summit host

IMBA is requesting proposals to host the 2010 World Summit. Its biennial summits attract mountain bike enthusiasts, companies and land managing agencies from North America and around the globe. The most recent edition was held in Park City, Utah, in June although others have been held in locales such as Moab, Utah, Whistler, British Columbia and Park City, Utah.

Requirements for hosting are A major airport within 1.5 hours of driving time; trail access within a short distance of conference facilities and lodging; a main conference center, capable of handling at least 500 people in one room for keynotes and plenary sessions, as well as seven concurrent sessions of 100 people or more; a variety of conveniently located lodging options, such as hotels, rental houses and dormitories; access to an "outdoor classroom" appropriate for teaching trailbuilding techniques; and a strong local organization that would be willing to act as a local host and fundraising partner.

Dates are flexible to accommodate good weather in the selected locale. Interested hosts should complete IMBA's online survey by December 1. For additional information, contact Events Manager Patti Bonnet at patti@imba.com.

Swiss Power Cup signs new title sponsor

Organizers of the Swiss Power Cup have secured its future with the involvement of a new main sponsor, Athleticum. The two parties signed a three-year agreement, with an extension option, on Thursday. In 2009, the Swiss Power Cup will go by the new name Racer Bike Cup, after "Racer" an exclusive brand of Athleticum bikes. Athleticum is already known in mountain biking as major team's title sponsor.

USA Cycling Calendars wrapping up this weekend

USA Cycling will conclude two of its three annual calendars this weekend. The final Ultra-Endurance event will be the National Mountain Bike Oktoberfest, an eight-hour race in Davidson, North Carolina, on October 25. For more information, visit www.nationalmtboktoberfest.org.

The cross country calendar will conclude with the Piney Hills Fall Classic, a stage race in Ruston, Louisiana, on October 25-26. See www.DLTmultisport.com for more information.

Planning for 2009 with Cyclingnews' MTB Calendar

Cyclingnews has been hard at work on the Mountain Bike Calendar for the upcoming 2009 season. Our calendar is as usual a work in progress, but check out the dates of major UCI and other international events here.

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