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MTB news & racing round-up for October 30, 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

Fojtik's Dream comes true in Australia

By John Flynn

Likely overall winner Ondrej Fojtik.
Photo ©: John Flynn
(Click for larger image)

Czech cyclist Ondrej Fojtik achieved his life's dream Wednesday by securing his win in the Crocodile Trophy in a most emphatic fashion possible, with a victory in the penultimate stage nine from Cooktown to Daintree. Under siege from VIG+ Racing teammate Martin Horak who attacked as the race ventured past the famous "Lions Den Hotel", Fojtik was forced to prove once and for all that he was the best rider of the 2008 edition of the race.

In second place on the general classification heading into the stage, five minutes behind Fojtik, Horak won no friends with his Czech team that rallied to support the race leader in his great moment of need. Nicknamed "The Ivanator" by his rivals, Czech strongman Ivan Rybarik pulled huge turns to reel in his renegade teammate, assisted also by Tomas Trunschka.

When the moment of truth came as the race ventured upward on a 20% gradient to the legendary Creb Track, Fojtik stepped up. "I am happy that I won the stage because I think it was the most difficult stage of the Crocodile and for me it's great satisfaction," Fojtik said. "It was most important that I had Ivan and Tomas Trunschka to help today and I thank them so much, for me their help was the real highlight."

Belgian Nic Vermeulen's legs exploded on one of the steeper climbs as the race ventured into one of its most technical sections and he finished fifth for the day. Vermeulen's loss was the gain of Australian Craig Gordon, who looks likely to end his race in fourth place on the general classification.

Karen Steurs at the Roaring meg crossing
Photo ©: John Flynn
(Click for larger image)

"That was an awesome day," Gordon said. "It was quite tactical."

In the women's event Belgian Karen Steurs (Ride For The Stars) put her foot to the floor despite already being 15 minutes ahead of Australia's Jo Bennett going into the stage.

Retiring at the end of the race, Steurs was comfortable in the knowledge, the pain experienced during her past six years on the road is almost over. "The beginning was easy in the group. Then it became hilly, and I found my own tempo," Steurs said. "[It's my] last time of suffering. [For] six years I have been cycling and now, the end. I am only biking for fun now. This is very satisfying."

The Crocodile Trophy will conclude Thursday with a final 48km stage from Ayton to Cape Tribulation.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Crocodile Trophy, including video footage.

Granny Gear series gets leaner for 2009

By Sue George

Always good scenery at the 24 hours of Moab
Photo ©: Drew & Garrett Geer
(Click for larger image)

Granny Gear announced a slimmed-down National Points Series (NPS) for next season. The six race series will shrink to three races, keeping its two most popular events: the 24 hours of Moab and the 24 hours of Big Bear and adding the 24 hours of Nine Mile. Gone from the series are past venues like Killington, Vermont; Conyers, Georgia; Vail Lake, California; and Landahl, Missouri.

The series will commence with the 24 hours of Big Bear in Hazelton, West Virginia, on June 13-14, 2009. It will stop next at the 24 hours of Nine Mile on July 25-26 in Wisconsin before wrapping up at the 24 hours of Moab in Utah on October 10-11.

Granny Gear's owner Laird Knight gave both business and personal explanations for next year's shorter calendar.

"My mantra for next year is manageability and profitability. Obviously a company has to turn a profit to survive. The smaller races haven't been holding their own. In addition, I'll be adopting three children from Ethiopia," said Knight, who wants to make sure he has time for his new family.

"In 2009, we'll do what we do best - run big races. I'm really excited about next year."

The 24 hours of Nine Mile will be new to Granny Gear's series. Although Knight and his crew helped with timing at the 2008 event, which doubled for the final time as the USA Cycling 24 hour national championships, 2009 will mean much more involvement for the West Virginia-based company.

"I've been working with the Wisconsin race since the beginning, and last year was a chance for me to do the site visit. I think the race is a good addition to the series. The spirit and feel are similar to that of our other races, but the course is very different. It's a high-speed, turning-type course - fairly flat and not super technical. It's really fun."

With the shorter schedule, Knight predicted, "We'll be able to put a lot more heart into the races. I'm so proud of my staff for pulling it off this year, but it's important for us to put one race away and move on to the next one." That's something that should be easier to do with just three races during the course of the season.

The first Granny Gear event was the predecessor to the 24 hours of Big Bear; it was run in 1992. The 24 hours of Moab started just a few years later, in 1995. 2009 will mark the fifth time the Big Bear event is run at its current Hazelton location after it was previously held in Canaan and Snowshoe, West Virginia.

New for 2009 will be the addition of 12 hour categories at the Nine Mile and Big Bear events. "Last year, when we helped time the 24 hours of Nine Mile, we had to include 12 hour classes. We realized that our timing system can do that easily."

Knight said he's still figuring out some logistics like which 12 hour portion of the 24 hour event to use for the shorter race. "Details will come out later," he said before adding that the 12 hour option will better serve those looking for "a means of entree into 24 hour racing or those who might not want to race the full 24 hours".

The 24 hours of Moab will not feature a 12 hour option. "We have a field limit and we don't want to exclude our 24 hour teams there," explained Knight. "However, at Big Bear and Nine Mile, we have more room to host more teams."

Fort Lewis & App. State take home American collegiate titles

Division 1 Team Podium
Photo ©: Went Knipe
(Click for larger image)

Fort Lewis College narrowly surpassed host Lees-McRae College to win the Division I team omnium competition at the USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships last weekend. Even fewer points separated Division II champions Appalachian State University and second-place Colorado School of Mines. The top individual scorers in both endurance and gravity events were also awarded individual omnium crowns following a weekend of competition hosted by Lees-McRae College in North Carolina.

Fort Lewis College used a strong showing by its women in the final contest of the competition, the dual slalom, to leapfrog host Lees-McRae College and take home the Division I team overall championship by 20 points, 698 - 678. The University of Colorado-Boulder was within striking distance, but had to settle for third while Lindsey Wilson College and the University of Vermont rounded out the top five.

"We had a lot of great individual performances with some tragedies and some victories we didn't expect," said Lees-McRae head coach Brian Sheedy.

"I am very proud of the whole team. Not only was our overall performance better than we've ever had in the past against perhaps the strongest team Fort Lewis has ever had, but the team rooted, cheered and supported each other throughout the entire three-day event. Although the weather could have been better, it was workable. In fact, especially with the talented and skilled riders competing, the mud added some excitement to the short track races."

The Division II team race was even closer with nearby Appalachian State University edging last year's champion, the Colorado School of Mines, 585 - 575. Evenly dispersed talent was on display with the top five schools finishing within 100 points.

The individual omnium crowns were awarded to the top racers who competed in both an endurance and gravity event. Eli Krahenbuhl of the University of Wyoming took home the men's individual omnium crown in Division I with finishes in all four of the weekend's races. His 272 points narrowly edged Scott Stewart of Lees-McRae.

Winning a pair of national titles on the weekend and finishing in the top five of three of the four events, Carla Swart (Lees-McRae College) racked up 494 points only to narrowly defeat a talented Division I women's field, which included Eszter Horanyi (University of Colorado-Boulder), Sage Wilderman (Fort Lewis College) and Jamie Dinkins (University of Tennessee-Chattanooga).

In Division II Zach Winn of Union College earned a commanding win in the men's omnium title after several national title near misses.

The Division II women's race was the closest of the day with officials forced to exercise five tie-breakers before Johanna Tuttle (Brevard College) was awarded the title over Rebecca Tomaszewski (Appalachian State University).

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the USA Cycling Collegiate MTB National Championships.

Jeep 48Straight Series winners crowned

Melissa Buhl (KHS)
Photo ©: Sean Walkinshaw
(Click for larger image)

The Jeep 48Straight Series wrapped up last weekend in San Luis Obispo, California. Eric Carter and Melissa Buh took the overall titles while Brian Lopes and Fionn Griffiths won the final round.

The men's race turned into a battle between Eric Carter and Brian Lopes. Lopes, with four world championships and nine national championships, outlasted his friend and rival to win the individual event title, but Carter, with a world championship, two national championships and over 30 career victories under his belt, earned the season championship based on this race and previous stops in New Jersey and Utah.

"It's funny because I didn't feel so good on the course, and never really felt I had my rhythm, but I guess I was riding a lot faster than I thought because I had some good runs and knocked off some great competitors," said Carter. "I had to bust tail to get this done and am kind of blown away that I was able to execute like I know how. I'm somewhat speechless because I've been trying to get this title for six years now."

"I felt really strong at practice on Friday and came in first in the qualifier, which gave me a lot of confidence heading into today's race," said Lopes, who was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame earlier this year and will soon be accepted into the BMX Hall of Fame.

On her way to the final, Buhl earned victories over Leslie Slagle and Lisa Myklak. Griffiths began with a win over Joanna Peterson and then went on to defeat Kathy Pruitt. Griffiths took the day's title over Buhl while Pruitt topped Myklak in the consolation heat for third.

"I felt confident today because I really liked the speed and layout of the course, which matches my race style," said Buhl. "This whole season has been amazing for me, and is by far the best I've ever ridden. I am having a great time, and I know that I'll now have a target on my back and I'll have to work harder and harder to stay at this level."

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Jeep 48Straight.

Sawicki & Bishop win Oktoberfest

By Ron Sawicki & Sue George
The start of the eight-hour race
Photo ©: Taylor Sullivan
(Click for larger image)

The National MTB Oktoberfest in North Carolina wrapped up the USA Cycling Ultra Endurance Mountain Bike National Calendar. Over the course of the weekend, four events were run including the festival's main event, an eight-hour race on Saturday. Some of the best racers from around the US showed up to duke it out.

In the men's eight-hour race, which started at noon, Nat Ross (Subaru/Gary Fisher) and Tinker Juarez (MonaVie/Cannondale) took the early lead, but after a couple of laps they were overtaken by Harlan Price (Independent Fabrication) and Jeremiah Bishop(Trek/VW). Ross had come down with a virus just prior to the race and found himself battling the bug to stay in the race. Juarez held on about a minute or two back for most of the race while the leaders battled in front for the full eight hours.

Price and Bishop switched turns in the lead several times with each never letting the other get away. Finally on the last lap Bishop made a break for it and put a small gap on Price on the final climb. Near the top of the climb, Bishop's chain dropped, and he ran up the hill scared that he would be caught. In the end he won with a 12 second gap over Price.

Juarez finished third, Ernesto Marenchin (Speedgoat.com) fourth and Ross rounded out the top five. Ross's finish gave him enough points to secure the series win.

In the women's race, Pua Sawicki (Team Mata) found herself alone out front for the entire race, only to do battle with the solo men and team racers. Despite falling early in the race on a slippery, wet section of the course, Sawicki was able to win by several laps and also take the fastest overall women's day and night laps along with the Queen of the Mountain hill climb contest.

On the final lap Sawicki took her dog Koa out to top off a really great race. Koa may be the first dog to ride on the victory lap at a Nationals and he loved it. Denelle Grant (Bike Factory Racing) and Blakely Sapsford (Guy's Racing) rounded out the top three in the women's field.

With her victory, Sawicki won the series, making it her third national series championship and sixth national title in her four years of professional racing.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the National MTB Oktoberfest.

Hannah returns to racing with Mongoose

Squad announces 2009 roster

Mick Hannah
Photo ©: Mongoose
(Click for larger image)

Mongoose announced its 2009 team with some returning racers and some new additions. Eric Carter will stay with the team while downhiller Mick Hannah will make his return to mountain bike racing with the team. Freeriders Steve Romaniuk, Andrew Cho and Garett Buehler will also be part of the squad.

Carter, known as "EC" at Mongoose, will focus on supporting the sport and the Mongoose brand through his involvement with developing trails, backing events and helping to run bike demos and rides at shops around the country.

Hannah's tore up the 2007 World Cup scene, but was absent in 2008. He returns in 2009 to showcase his racing skills at events like the World Cup races, Crankworx and the US Open.

"I'm really excited to start racing again in 2009. I enjoyed my year off but couldn't stay away from racing. I did a race a few weeks ago and was very encouraged by the way I was riding. I've got my focus back," said Hannah.

"I turned down a few offers so I could partner with a company that has one of the most professional teams on the circuit and a great product development staff to work with. I feel confident that this season will be one of my best."

"I've admired Mick's skills at absolutely pinning it and his professional approach to the sport. Prior to Mick's signing, the two of us discussed our individual approaches to bike development and testing, and I quickly realized how much of an asset he can be to our product development process," said Darren Salsbury, Director of Mongoose Product Development.

"It's not often you can combine athletic prowess with the ability to deliver technically relevant feedback on designs. I'm confident Mongoose bikes are going to continue to progress and refine with Mick's input."

Romaniuk is the only returning freerider. Fresh talent Garett Buehler and Andrew Cho will be new to the squad.

British Cycling revamps National series

By BikeRadar

Britain's national cross-country series has been given a facelift for 2009.

The NPS has been renamed the British Mountain Bike race series. It is set to feature overseas World Cup riders at each round, world ranking points and shorter, more challenging courses at a mix of old and new locations.

Organiser Inevent, which staged the series from 2004-2007, says it wants to bring "a new vibrancy" to cross-country racing.

British Cycling's official cross-country race series will also feature £10,000 of prize money for the pros, UCI status for all rounds and endurance races at three rounds to create bigger event weekends.

Other highlights of the 2009 British Mountain Bike race series will include New course at Dalby Forest as a test event for the 2010 World Cup, a return to England's previous World Cup venue Newnham Park for a Class 1 UCI event - the biggest UK cross-country race in 2009, series commentary from World Championships commentator Dan Jarvis, free camping on-site at all events, free children's races, an option for non-British Cycling licence holders to enter their local race or the open class, a mixture of dirt crits, cyclo-cross and short-course races as extra entertainment.

2009 British Mountain Bike Series
Sunday, April 5: Sherwood Pines, Mansfield (2)
Sunday, May 10: Dalby Forest World Cup Test Event, Pickering (2)
Saturday, May 30: Margam Park, Port Talbot (2)
Saturday, June 27: Crow Hill, New Forest (2)
Saturday, September 26: Newnham Park, Plymouth (1)

For more information, visit www.britishcycling.org.uk.

MBA series starting this weekend

The Mountain Bike Australia National Series will kick off its first of five rounds of cross country, short track and downhill racing on November 1-2. The opening round will be held at Eagle Mountain Bike Park in Adelaide.

In the cross country, Olympians Dan McConnell and Dellys Starr are possible contenders, and strong riders like Adelaide's Chris Jongewaard and up and coming Lachlan Norris from Bendigo are expected to compete.

Many of the women being groomed for the London 2012 Olympic Games as part of Australia's "Dirt Road to London" program will start to make their mark this season with riders like Launceston's Rowena Fry, Bendigo's Joe Wall, Manly's Zoe King and Melbourne's Katherine O'Shea. Former National Champion Tory Thomas from Mt Beauty and Brisbane's Jodie Willett will also throw down some challenges this season.

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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