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MTB news & racing round-up for September 4, 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

Kalentieva rides to second World Cup win while Naef silences critics

By Paul Verkuylen in Stromlo Forest, Canberra, Australia

Irina Kalentieva
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

A week after taking a bronze medal and the Beijing Olympics, Irina Kalentieva left the rest of the field trailing in her dust as she rode to her second World Cup victory of the season in Canberra, Australia. Rosara Joseph stormed her final lap to pass Catherine Pendrel for second, with Tereza Hurikova taking fourth place and the under 23 race win in the process. Mary McConneloug took the final podium position in fifth.

The event featured four of the top 10 placed riders from the Beijing Olympics, but unfortunately the gold and silver medal winners, Sabine Spitz and Maja Wloszczowska opted to skip the eighth round of the World Cup in favour of returning home to Germany and Poland respectively.

This left Kalentieva as the hot favourite coming into the event. She did not disappoint. Taking an early lead on the first lap, Kalentieva never looked in trouble leading from start to finish. "I felt good today, it was my [type of] weather and course," Kalentieva explained shortly after crossing the finish line.

Joseph's last lap surge to claim second place, her highest finish in a World Cup event, surprised not only the crowd, but also Joseph herself.

"I was basically not feeling very good all this week," she said to Cyclingnews. "Then this morning I was feeling really tired and on the verge of being sick. So I didn't know what to expect. As I went on I was feeling stronger. I was riding technically very well, and putting the power down when I could."

Catching and passing Pendrel in the dying moments of the final lap, Joseph couldn't afford to savour the moment until after she crossed the line. Pendrel was just six seconds behind her and Hurikova a further 11 seconds down.

Ralph Naef
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

In the men's race, after the disappointment of not being selected to represent Switzerland at the Beijing Olympic Games, Ralph Naef showed that he is still one of the best cross country riders around in the only way he knew how – by winning the very first World Cup after the Games in Canberra.

Attacking the lead group of riders in the third lap, Naef quickly took a 30-second advantage. His Multivan Merida team-mate, Jose Hermida, controlled things in the chase group it was going to take a mistake on his behalf to bring him back.

Hermida crossed the line for second, embracing his team-mate after a job well done for the Merida Multivan team. Geoff Kabush continued his strong season with third.

"After the Olympics where I was only the third rider, I wanted to do my best here and show that I am still one of the top riders," Naef explained. I was really nervous on the start, maybe one of the only riders who were, as the others were all quiet now after the Olympics.

"I wanted to push really early and get away, which I did. It was not so easy but I when I knew that Hermida was in the second group, I knew that so long as I didn't make any mistakes I could win this race."

Florian Vogel (Swisspower) and Todd Wells (GT Bicycles) rounded out the top five.

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

Buchanan storms to hometown win

By Paul Verkuylen in Mount Stromlo, Canberra, Australia

Australia's Caroline Buchanan
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

Local wonder-child Caroline Buchanan stormed to her first World Cup victory in the women's four cross. The 17 year-old Australian, who hails from Canberra, took advantage of her intimate knowledge of the circuit to dominate first her semi-final and then the final.

"It feels like so much more than just another race on my home track. It feels amazing," an emotional Buchanan said. "The best riders in the world are here and this is only the second time that I have made a World Cup final and to be on top of the podium at only 17 – I am stoked, it hasn't set in yet."

Buchanan used her explosive power to take the hole-shot and build up an early lead ahead of the Anneke Beerten, who would finish second and take over the World Cup lead going into the next round in Schladming, Austria..

The huge Canberra crowd went nuts upon Buchanan's win. Receiving the congratulations of her competitors on the podium, it slowly sunk in just what she had achieved. As the huge Australian crowed sang along with the national anthem Buchanan, draped in the Australian flag, bust into tears.

Yeti's Jared Graves
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

An Australian also won the men's 4X, but few would have guessed that the final would be an all Australian affair. .

"It's the best to come to races like this and get the home crowd support," winner Jared Graves said. It was Graves' last race for the season after a hectic build up to the Olympics, to come away with a win was bonus.

"It's good for the head to go home and know that I finished the season strong," he said after even a mechanical could not derail his winning ride.

"I lost my rear brake at the top. It is pulling right to the bar. Trying to slow down for the corners with just the front brake was a bit sketchy."

With four Australians in the final, the crowd was pumped as they lined up for the final run down the course. Interestingly, Graves was the only rider in the final who had actually experienced a World Cup before. The others, regulars at Australian events, had never raced an international four cross before.

"But they are all top level BMXers and have raced internationally before," Graves said. "If we get more of these guys racing four cross we [Australia] would be the dominant country in the world.

Sam Willoughby, Luke Madill, Thomas Hubert and Leigh Darrell, all Australians made up the top five.

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

Minnaar & Mosely triumph in World Cup downhill

By Paul Verkuylen in Mount Stromlo, Australia

South Africa's Greg Minnaar took victory from Santa Cruz Syndicate team-mate Nathan Rennie
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

South Africa's Greg Minnaar stole the victory from his Santa Cruz Syndicate team-mate and local Australian favourite Nathan Rennie, as he blasted down the course as the last remaining rider to take the victory by over four seconds. Gee Atherton (Animal Commencal) rounded out the podium in third just over a second behind Rennie.

Minnaar's victory was well met by the local crowd, even if they were all jeering on Rennie as he sat in the hot seat waiting for his two team-mates, who had qualified second fastest and fastest in the semi final.

"The Springboks beat the Aussies last night and today we did it again," Minnaar said while accepting a local beer from the crowd. "Sorry to rub it in but it does feel great!" Minnaar was referring to a rugby match the night before.

Rennie was happy with his second place, even if he did come oh so close to winning on home soil. "This is my best result this season, with a second. It was hard to push through the mud; it almost feels like a win," Rennie said. "A good solid result, I am happy."

Minnaar had nothing but praise for his Australian team-mate. "He has had an up and down season but today he has shown what he is really made of. He rode an awesome race."

Tracy Moseley
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

Like Minnaar, Great Britain's Tracy Mosley (Kona) was on track to take her second World Cup win of the season. She outclassed her compatriot Rachael Atherton (Animal Commecal) in wet and slippery conditions. Moseley was the last to start after taking the fastest time in the semi finals earlier in the day.

In the end Moseley finished over four seconds ahead of Atherton, who was just 15 one-hundredths of a second faster than Sabrina Jonnier (Team Maxxis) in third.

A long flat run into the line made for a difficult finish to the demanding circuit, with many of the women complaining that it dragged on way too long. Overnight rains turned the dust to paste like mud, which sapped their legs of any remaining energy.

Moseley was the strongest coming into this section taking advantage of her strength to distance herself from the rest of the field. "That sprint to the finish was brutal in this weather," she explained. "You feel like your going somewhere and then you hit a muddy patch and it completely saps your energy. It comes down to the pedalling on this track. Having a bike that rolls really good and tyre pressure make a difference."

Atherton was disappointed, but admitted that a number of mistakes at the top of the course cost her a win. The battle for the World Cup remains close. Atherton still leads after placing second, but anything could happen at the World Cup final in two weeks.

Kabush completes epic intercontinental weekend

By Dave McElwaine

Geoff Kabush
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

Canadian Geoff Kabush completed what was perhaps the most impressive feat of the weekend, claiming two podium finishes on opposite sides of the world. After finishing the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup cross country round in Canberra, Australia on Saturday he left the Asia-Pacific nation early Sunday morning to compete in the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) Finals in Utah in the United States of America that same day.

"It was interesting," said Kabush. "I was glad I booked an insurance flight from Vegas since I missed the scheduled flight. [His wife] Keri met me at the airport and I brought a radar detector…it was very tight."

Despite the incredible journey, totalling nearly 13,000 kilometres point-to-point, Kabush was ready to race in time for the start in Utah. Kabush needed to contest the North American event to preserve his NMBS championship lead.

"We got to Brian Head half an hour before the start, so I kitted up and got ready to race," he added.

With time zones on his side as he travelled east across the international date line, Kabush raced to a strong third place finish at Brian Head in Utah. The podium finish was enough to secure Kabush his second consecutive NMBS title.

"It is great to win the series again," said Kabush according to organizers. It was his fourth career NMBS series win, which tied him with the great Ned Overend.

"It's nice to be on the same page as a rider like Ned," said Kabush. "One more NMBS cross country win, and I'll tie John Tomac. He had 14."

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the elite men's and elite women's downhill at the Canberra World Cup

Nash, Horgan-Kobelski win NMBS final round

By Dave McElwaine

Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Gary Fisher/Subaru)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Gary Fisher/Subaru) claimed his first cross country win this season at the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) finals in Brian Head, Utah. While he narrowly lost the American Mountain Classic stage race last weekend, also held at Brian Head, it did allow him the chance to acclimatize to the 10,000 ft. altitude, which paid off for him today.

"I put Brian Head on my radar early in the year. I thought 'what a great way to end the season it would be to win there,'" said Horgan-Kobelski.

Ross Schnell (Trek/VW) continued an amazing weekend by finishing second while Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) took third ahead of Colin Cares (U-23 National Team), and Andy Schultz (Kenda Titus).

Kabush's third placing was enough to win the Canadian his second consecutive NMBS Cross Country Championship.

"For the first 10 minutes the race was neutral up the road climb, which was good for me," said Kabush. "I crested the hill in about 10th place. It is hard to just race 80 percent so I just started to go hard. It definitely hurt but I could see the leaders ahead of me. Most of the race I was sixth to eighth and was able to pick off a few guys near the end. J.B (Jeremiah Bishop) had a flat, then I passed Colin - he looked really strong."

Cares made it onto two podiums this weekend, easily his best result as a young professional. Schultz also capped off his best season by finishing fourth in the series. He and brother Sam (Gary Fisher/Subaru) are two of the brightest lights on the mountain biking horizon.

Katerina Nash (Luna Women's MTB) got her second
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Katerina Nash (Luna Women's MTB) got her second cross country win in the women's race at Brian Head. After appearing on countless podiums for many years, Nash earned her first cross country victory at Deer Valley earlier in the season.

Olympian Georgia Gould (Luna Women's MTB) was second, followed by Heather Irmiger (Gary Fisher/Subaru), Lea Davison (Trek/VW), and Willow Koerber (Gary Fisher/Subaru).

Nash won the NMBS short track title on Saturday, making it a productive weekend for the rider. In total she had six wins this year, despite suffering a deep gash to her knee at the Fountain Hills race.

Gould knew going into the race that she had to be within three positions of Nash to nail down her NMBS title. By finishing second she easily had enough points to take the top step on the overall title podium. Irmiger finished third in the series again this year with Davison in fourth and Pua Sawicki (Ellsworth) in fifth.

The action packed weekend of racing also included downhill, short track, dual slalom and super D. After the dust settled, Brad Benedict (X-Fusion) and Darian Harvey (SoBe/Cannondale) took home the downhill series trophies; Petr Hanek (Totally Wired) and Melissa Buhl (KHS) won the dual slalom / 4X series; Barry Wicks (Kona) and Nash triumphed overall in the short track series; and Carl Decker (Giant) and Michelle Rivera (StevenKSD) won the Super D overall.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the elite cross country, short track, downhill, dual slalom and super D events for the NMBS finals.

Eatough nabs win as Sornson and women steal the show at Shenandoah 100

By Harlan Price

Cheryl Sornson (Trek / VW) celebrates
Photo ©: Jonathan Bruck
(Click for larger image)

The women's field at the Shenandoah Mountain 100 set a new turnout record for any of the 100 milers in the National Ultra Endurance series. 52 women lined up along with 450 men to start a long day in the saddle. In the end, a record number of women crossed the line to collect their finishers' pint glasses. Cheryl Sornson (Trek VW East) took the top honor in the women's class on a course dampened by a rain storm the night before.

It was a win Sornson never expected, but by this point she is used to achieving more than she has hoped. "Getting back into racing was a long shot and a tough undertaking. I am fascinated at what I can do with my mind and body at this point in my life," said Sornson after being asked about her season and first place standing in the series.

In the early 90s Sornson raced as a professional but eventually put aside the racing to pursue motherhood and a career as a guidance counselor. With school back in session, the last couple of weeks have been difficult for training for many of the women racers. Second place finisher Trish Stevenson (IFracing.org) also found herself juggling the books, a couple of jobs and training.

True to form, Betsy Shogren (Sobe Cannondale) launched herself up the first three climbs and built a padded lead by the time she reached the top of Hankey Mountain, but a flat tire cost her some time and the lead as she was passed by Sornson and Stevenson.

Despite a bee sting between the eyes, Sornson pulled away from Stevenson on a pavement section before the race's half-way point. Now in first place, she put her head down and let her legs do the talking.

Stevenson pushed on and despite having only ridden once since the Fool's Gold 100 race two weeks prior, was able to hold on to second only 11 minutes down. Shogren fell to the fate of a second flat and ended the race in third with 36 minutes behind.

Eatough gets one

Chris Eatough (Trek / VW) is all business
Photo ©: Jonathan Bruck
(Click for larger image)

24 hour solo national champion Chris Eatough (Trek / VW) was winless in the National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series going into the second to last race, the Shenandoah Mountain 100.

Was it a superhuman team-mate or a slow start to the season punctuated by a house move and a baby? Either way, the questions can be put to the side after this weekend's race in which Eatough (Trek VW) got back to familiar territory atop NUE podiums. Eatough was clearly strongest all day and went on to win.

A recently separated shoulder and a long season of being on form early were most likely the key ingredients to NUE series leader Jeff Schalk's third place finish behind Eatough and perennial threat Sam Koerber (Gary Fisher 29er Crew).

"I figured that Jeff was the guy to beat, I knew he wasn't comfortable in wet singletrack. If I could put the pressure on he would wear himself out," said Koerber, whose technical trail skills are dazzling to most. Few on the course would be able to match his get-away skills in the rocks, but the one person capable was Eatough who stuck his wheel to the bottom of the first descent.

With a small gap, Eatough and Koerber worked together to close the door. Some riders caught them, but only Schalk hung on a tough descent down Wolf Trail. The three stayed together through aid station two and the subsequent hour-long climb to the top of Hankey mountain before Schalk began to show cracks in his game.

Koerber had the lead into the off-camber, sometimes rocky, sometimes buff eight minute descent to aid station three. "We got a big gap on the downhill. We were just flying," said Koerber. "Jeff was just gone, we must have gotten a minute on him. At the next feed station, Chris was like this is it."

Eventually, Eatough set a pace that even Koerber couldn't be followed. Motivated by a receding Koerber, the Trek Factory rider took his yet to be released 2009 Trek Top Fuel 9.9 to the finish in a solo run for the podium. A small flat on the Chestnut Trail descent was quickly remedied with a burst of C02 and the tubeless sealant held for the rest of the race.

Koerber rode strong to finish second, just 11 minutes behind Eatough. Schalk kept his head up and finished in third without knowing that Beck was hot on his heels and only a minute behind at the finish line.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Shenandoah Mountain 100.

Zander sweeps all three stages and overall at Laddies Loppet

Woodruff captures win for second consecutive year

Jenna Zander leads
Photo ©: www.skinnyski.com
(Click for larger image)

Maplelag Resort played host to round nine in the Minnesota State Championship Series and a stop on the USA Cycling National Calendar series over Labor Day weekend. The Laddies Loppet stage race featured a three mile timed trial on Saturday morning followed by short track racing in the afternoon. Sunday featured the cross country event which included the infamous "lakeside drops". Tempted by the US$3,000 prize list, most of the top Midwest pros opted to race closer to home versus racing in the NMBS finals in Brian Head, Utah.

In the women's elite field, Jenna Zander (Sobe/Cannondale) swept all three events to take the overall stage win over Kyia Anderson (Echo/Cannondale). Velo Rochester rider and former Minnesota state champion Jennifer Fisher placed third with Corey Coogan (Ridley) and Linda Cooper (Great Plains Cycling) rounding out the top five in overall classification.

TJ Woodruff
Photo ©: www.skinnyski.com
(Click for larger image)

In men's elite, three riders cracked the 10 minute barrier in the opening time trial with Doug Swanson (Grandstay) taking home $50 extra dollars with a sub 10-minute time of 9:40. TJ Woodruff (BMC) and Brendan Moore (Velo Rochester) were just 10 seconds behind with only a tenth of a second separating Woodruff and Moore. Swanson scored his second win of the weekend by making a move on the final lap to hold off Woodruff and the rest of the field. A group of seven riders jockeyed for position the final three laps after brothers Sam and Eric Oftedahl (Hollywood Cycles) did work at the front in the first chase group to bring everything together.

Warm and windy conditions dried the course making for dusty conditions in the cross country on Sunday as Doug Swanson set a blistering pace on the first lap to open the race. Woodruff and Sam Oftedahl kept Swanson in check as Oftedahl eventually made his way to the front. Woodruff continued the chase in second after Swanson had to let up and recover from his torrid pace. Woodruff caught Oftedahl on the last lap and held off Oftedahl by 15 seconds to take the win. Brendan Moore rode steady to place third 15 seconds back with Eric Oftedahl and Swanson rounding out the top five, respectively.

In the final general classification, Woodruff took the win the second year in a row followed by Moore, Sam Oftedahl, Swanson and Eric Oftedahl. Junior Expert rider Jake Richards (Salsa/Hollywood Cycles) rode to a top 10 finish in the GC after an eighth place finish in the cross country among GC riders which featured mostly elites and semi-pros.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Laddies Loppet.

Youngest winner yet at Birkebeinerrittet

The 20 year-old Anders Hovdenes became the youngest elite winner of the popular Norwegian Birkebeinerrittet on Saturday. En route to victory, Hovdenes logged a new record time of 2.40.50 on the 91 km parcours from Rena to Lillehammer, where he took a two-up sprint against Lars Ragnar Manengen. Hovdenes heads next to the World Cup final in Schladming, Austria, in two weeks.

Team CSC - Saxo Bank professional Kurt Asle Arvesen, a Giro d'Italia and Tour de France stage winner, also took the start and finished 19th in the elite field. On the final descent, he climbed off his bike to be on the safe side, avoiding possibility of an injury that might interfere with his road career.

"It was to steep, simply," said a smiling Arvesen after the race which he enjoyed as a nice outing with some friends.

Finland's Pia Sundstedt won the women's race in 3.09.06, and in total, an impressive 15,047 racers finished.

Nielsen appointed Danish Champion after Andersen positive

Klaus Nielsen has been appointed Danish MTB Champion by the Danish cycling federation. The winner of the championship race in Aalborg July 20, Peter Riis Andersen, tested positive for EPO at an out of competition test on June 25. The test results were not ready until after the championships. Riis Andersen admitted the use of EPO July 28.

Nielsen was Riis Andersen's team-mate at Team Alb Gold. The silver medal now goes to Christian Poulsen of Kolding Bicykle while Thomas Christian Bonne, Team Rivette, gets the bronze. The champion will be presented with his jersey and medal at a later occasion.

Lehikoinen looks towards next season

It's been a season to forget for the Finland's Matti Lehikoinen, with his latest crash in training at the Canberra World Cup last weekend taking him out of action for the duration of the 2008 season.

Lehikoinen returned home to Finland on Monday, after he decided to have surgery in his home country rather than in Australia. He broke the radius bone in both of his hands, with the right hand being worse than the left. There's still no 100% confirmation on the condition on his scaphoid bones in both hands at the moment, but the possibility of fractures does exist and will need to be explored with his doctors.

His estimated recovery time is at least eight weeks, so Lehikoinen is now looking to the 2009 season.

Before boarding his flight home, Lehikoinen summed up a mediocre year. "This season was really bad for me. Eight weeks recovery time means that I will have been out of game for seven months out of the past 13 months. So now I can forget this unlucky season and concentrate on next year."

(Additional editorial assistance provided by Tomas Nilsson.)

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