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MTB news & racing round-up for September 25, 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

Sauser & Emmett take Cactus Cup wins

By Dave McElwaine in Las Vegas

World Champion Christoph Sauser (Specialized)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Christoph Sauser (Specialized) and Kelli Emmett (Giant) took top honors at the inaugural edition of the revitalized Cactus Cup stage race in Las Vegas, Nevada, last weekend.

Sauser demonstrated why he is the World Champion by winning the final, 30 mile cross country stage of the Mountain's Edge Cactus Cup. Sam Jurekovic (U-23 National Team), who won stage 2, pushed Sauser at times and finished less than two minutes behind. Carl Decker (Giant) took third place in a sprint finish against Sid Taberlay (Team Shoair), the winner of stages 1 and 3.

Coming as the final stage after an uphill time trial, a super D and a fat tire crit, the cross country used a course consisting of two laps, the first being 18 miles, followed by a 12-mile loop. Riders faced two incredibly difficult sections of trail that they had not seen before in this weekend's racing. The Black Velvet trail in the foothills of the mountains was full of rock, sand, washes, and plenty of tight turns where riders could barely avoid cactus bites. Most who raced on a hard-tail lamented afterwards they had not chosen a dually for the race.

Halfway through the first lap the riders faced the most difficult climb of the week, a trail that locals call 'The Hurl'. The incredibly rocky, switchback-ridden climb rises 600 feet up from the desert floor. On the back is a treacherous descent leading down towards the town of Blue Diamond.

In the final stage, Sauser had a 15 second lead over Jurekovic as the racers approached 'The Hurl'. Generally Sauser's strength is his ability to handle steep climbs, while Jurekovic is more of a power rider who can handle super technical trails.

"My tactic was to stay in second and then before the hill to go ahead and definitely be the first going up that hill," said Sauser. "I would try to make a gap even if it's only 15 seconds because you can then ride your speed and if the other guy is just a little weaker you will gain time.

"The other trail (Black Velvet) was so technical with so many cacti, and I was way ahead so I took it very conservative," he added. "Then I heard a bike noise and said to myself 'Sam is coming' so it put me under pressure again…and then I was full speed ahead."

Behind the front pair, overnight race leader Taberlay and Decker had their own battle going on. The pair came through after one lap together and third place was not decided until they sprinted to the finish.

Jurekovic bested Sauser in both the time trial and super D stages, despite spending six weeks off the bike with a serious injury after July's US national championships. After four stages Jurekovic finished only 53 seconds behind Sauser on general classification. Taberlay finished 3:58 behind Sauser.

"Sauser was in sight the whole time but on every climb he would pull away and I would catch him on the downhill, and on that technical section (Black Velvet) I would catch him a bit," Jurekovic said.

Kelli Emmett (Giant) was looking to sweep
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Emmett had little trouble taking the win in the elite women's race over the only other competitor, Maureen Kunz. Emmett won all four stages en route to victory.

In the final race, she led Kunz by one minute as they headed up 'The Hurl'. Both could see one another easily as they traversed the many switchbacks. Emmett added another minute to her lead by the time she rounded the back side of the mountain and started the six mile climb back to the start/finish. At the end of lap one she had increased her lead to eight minutes and cruised to victory on lap two.

"It was super fun," Emmett said. "It was really techy so you were so focused on the rocks and steps that you didn't even notice you were climbing."

Many of the professionals were in town to make appearances for their sponsors at the Interbike Trade Show in Las Vegas this week. Several racers will also be racing in Cross Vegas, one of the first major cyclo-cross races of the season.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Cactus Cup.

Spitz and Milatz win Bundesliga finale

By Erhard Goller

Sabine Spitz (Central Ghost Pro Team) won
Photo ©: Armin Kuestenbrueck
(Click for larger image)

Olympic gold medalist Sabine Spitz took the win at German Bundesliga finals last weekend. At Bad Salzdetfurth, Spitz finished ahead of Elisabeth Osl and Anja Gradl, while Sabrina Enaux was celebrated as overall series winner.

The men's race was dominated by Moritz Milatz. The rest of the bunch was controlled by his Multivan- Merida teammate Jose Antonio Hermida in second and third place went to Wolfram Kurschat. With his victory Milatz grabbed the overall title ahead of last year's series champion Kurschat and Klaus Nielsen.

Spitz arrived late Saturday evening after winning St. Wendel marathon (106 km) the previous day. So it was no surprise that the Olympic champion in the first of five laps suffered just hanging on the wheel of Osl. But with the beginning of the second lap, Spitz looked better, and in lap three, she escaped off the front alone.

"I wondered if I could do that well. The first lap was hard for me, and I was happy when the legs went better and better," said Spitz.

Osl was satisfied with second place, the same as in 2007, and also happy to follow Spitz for a while. "She is one of my idols, and I can see a lot to learn when I'm on her wheel," said the Austrian Osl.

Moritz Milatz (Multivan Merida) on his way to a win
Photo ©: Armin Kuestenbrueck
(Click for larger image)

With 22 year-old Anja Gradl, who stayed with Osl and Spitz in the beginning, the third place on the podium was also occupied by a Ghost rider. Gradl is member of Spitz's own team Central-Ghost. "I'm happy to make the Bundesliga podium for the first time. I lost most of the time in the downhill parts," Gradl explained.

Enaux was able to keep her lead in the overall by finishing on fifth position. "It was my last race this season and my legs were bad. But I'm now happy to get the overall in Germany as well as I got the overall in French Cup before. The Bundesliga races are highly competitive, and they are organized very well."

Her performances should help her going into 2009. "I'm still searching for a new team because Lapierre is adopting a new structure," Enaux said.

In men's race, a large crowd saw a Multivan-Merida show. It was a strange situation to see Moritz Milatz alone in the lead after just three kilometers. After the start the course led the riders into an uphill, shortly followed by another climb. Some riders, like Milatz set a high pace, but no one could follow the German who had gained 30m by the top.

"I thought, 'Okay I won't wait,'" said Milatz, who from that point on, rode solo to his second Bundesliga win this year - also the second of his career.

The chasing group was controlled by Milatz's teammate Jose Hermida. The Spaniard was laughing after crossing the finish line. "I think my attendance in the group made them calmer," he said with a smile. Hermida had an easy day and even a short technical problem didn't put him in trouble. He closed the 15 second gap quickly and was able to beat Kurschat and Fabian Giger by doing the last lap as the fastest lap of the whole race.

"Congratulation to Moritz, he was strong today," said Hermida. "I felt pretty good, and I could enjoy the race in this super atmosphere. This was my last race for this season. Now I will go for holidays with my family."

Milatz, who confirmed his sixth place at World Cup finals in Schladming last weekend, exulted about his race and about his first overall series Bundesliga win. "Today it was perfect, I never had to go over my limit and when I realized that Jose is in the chasing group, I knew that I could win. It's a really nice gift to the end of the season."

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Bundesliga finals.

Minnaar & Buhl take Utah's 48Straight

Greg Minnaar and another rider
Photo ©: Jeep 48Straight Mountain Bike Series
(Click for larger image)

World Cup Champion Greg Minnaar and reigning World Champion and US National Champion Melissa Buhl captured the second leg of the Jeep 48STRAIGHT Mountain Bike Series held at The Canyons in Park City, Utah.

Despite facing one of the strongest fields in Jeep mountain bike history and intermittent rain showers that affected the surface of the course, the experienced Minnaar and Buhl swept the competition without losing a heat, a feat all but unheard of since the event's inception.

Minnaar reached the final by beating Cameron McCaul, Steve Peat and Petr Hanak. In the championship heat, Minnaar faced off against World Champion and three-time World Cup titlist Eric Carter, who had earned wins against Christopher Herndon, Amiel Cavalier and US National Champion Cody Warren. In the finals, Minnaar outran the veteran Carter in both runs to earn the title. Hanak topped Warren in the consolation heat to earn the final podium spot.

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

"This year I have had great success in dual slalom competitions, having already won two of them," said Minnaar. "I really wanted to win this one, and I pushed hard. When you add up the three World Cup wins and the overall World Cup championship, plus three dual slalom wins, this has been a solid year for sure."

Buhl's day was no less spectacular, featuring wins over Lisa Myklak and Tammy Donahugh. In the final she took on three-time World Cup winner Fionn Griffiths. Griffiths reached the championship heat following defeats of Allie Burch and US National Champion Kathy Pruitt.

In the finals, Buhl was just too powerful, taking both races against Griffiths to win her long-awaited first Jeep title. Pruitt earned third place with a win over Donahugh in the consolation heat.

"I came into Utah feeling really confident, focusing on my own race and making all of the jumps I needed to make," said Buhl. "The weather definitely impacted everyone's plan, and I had to race just a bit more conservative at times than I normally would. But I'm thrilled to get out of here with the win, and I couldn't be happier with how the season went. I'm very excited about the final race in San Luis Obispo [for round three - ed.], where I like the dirt and racecourse and have a chance to win the season championship."

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Jeep 48 Straight round two.

Gordon back after injury with a win at Coffs Mountain

Craig Gordon (Rock Star Racing) won
Photo ©: Evan Jeffery
(Click for larger image)

After a 12-month break from racing, Craig Gordon (Rock Star Racing) proved his is back with a win at the Coffs Mountain Marathon last weekend in Australia.

Heavy overnight rains, left the course wet and slow. Gordon emerged solo after 23km from an initial break that also contained Jason English (BMC), Nick Both and Tim Bennett (Media Flight Centre). Gordon pressed his pedals to expand his initial gap, and by 50km, he had a lead of six and a half minutes. By 72km, it was up to 12 minutes.

He crossed the line in first in 4:37, 17 minutes ahead of English. Bennett finished third.

Gordon's win came after being off the bike for eight months due to an altercation with a car in October 2007. A long rehabilitation with extended trainer sessions followed. The former 24 hours of Adrenalin World Solo Champion Gordon is slated to race the Scott 24 hour race coming up in October as well as the Crocodile Trophy. He won a free entry to the epic Australian stage race, set for October 21-30, thanks to his popularity in an online voting poll.

Ross and Rusch triumph at Payson Stampede

By Sue George

Nat Ross and Rebecca Rusch returned to the Payson Stampede, the penultimate USA Cycling National Mountain Bike Calendar Ultra-Endurance event in Payson, Arizona, last weekend. On their way to winning the men's and women's solo 24 hours races, they had plenty of time to check out the venue that will host the 2009 US National 24 hour championships.

"I love desert racing," said Ross, who described the course as a nine-mile lap with 1,300 feet of climbing per lap. "Last year, Rebecca and I came to do it because it was in the Ultra-Endurance series, but it was at a different time of year."

The move on the calendar from May last year to September this year meant hotter temperatures for racers - as high as 90 degrees and very dry conditions - during the daylight hours.

"I just took a bottle to start with and then grabbed my Camelbak for more. I think the water in the bottle evaporated before I even had a chance to drink it," joked Ross, who was otherwise unfazed by the heat.

"It was really, really hot. I was putting ice in my sports bra," said Rusch.

Ross lead from the start. "I like to race against the team guys. I tried to stay in front of them as long as I could and then I tried to ride with them as long as I could. That will make a lap of mine about a minute faster," said Ross of his winning strategy. Ernesto Marenchin (Asylum) and Dave Harris would finish in second and third.

Rusch also took the fast approach at the start on her way to a win. "After 24 hour worlds [which she won -ed.], I was pretty spent emotionally and physically, but I came for points in the national series and to preview the course for 24 hour nationals next year. There was no rider list, so I had no idea who was coming."

It turns out that Rusch was one of just two pro women's racers. She did battle with Lynda Wallenfels, a successful pro racer in the 1990s who has returned to racing during the past few years after a break to have children.

"I didn't know what I would have in my legs," said Rusch. "Lynda's race strategy was to go out conservative because of the heat. Mine was opposite - to go out fast and see where I was. By 7:00 in the evening, I had two laps on her. I think I was among the top guys then."

Eventually the heat would take a toll on Wallenfels, who later told Rusch she wasn't feeling like herself at the race. Wallenfels sat out a lap during the day and then stopped again at night.

Rusch was curious about what was happening with Wallenfels, who also coaches Rusch's boyfriend.

"I went over and talked to her and she said she wouldn't ride more night laps, so I took a three hour nap and we both rode more laps in the morning. We then rode the last lap together and just chatted and stopped early," said Rusch, who estimated she rode 17 of 24 hours.

"I could have kept going if I needed to, but I was happy not to," said a tired Rusch, who spent much of the week before the race filling her duties as a part-time firefighter, including combatting a major, historic fire in downtown Ketchum, Idaho.

Both Rusch and Ross also took the fastest lap primes - both logged on their first laps.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Payson Stampede.

Glassford and Ardal win inaugural Crank the Shield

Over three days last weekend, Ontario hosted the inaugural Crank the Shield stage race. Hints of fall were in the air with some cool, crisp riding conditions. In the end, Peter Glassford (Team Trek Store Toronto) took top overall honors for the men, with a time of 9:39:19, ahead of Derek Zandstra (3 Rox Racing) and Adam Morka (3 Rox Racing).

In the women's race, the top three riders rode consistently each day. Kate Ardal of Hardcore Bikes won all three stages and the overall in a time of 12.20.17. Tricia K. Spooner (The Cyclery : EMD Serono/Stevens) wrapped up the second spot while Joanne Uhlmann (Gears Bike Shop Club) took top honors in the over 40 solo women's category.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of Crank the Shield.

Frischknecht wraps up professional racing career

Thomas Frischknecht, 38, completed his final mountain bike race as a professional this past Sunday at the Frischi Bike Challenge according to sport.be. The well-known and successful Swiss racer began his professional career in the 1990.

Frischknecht won the World cross country championship in 1996 and the marathon championships in 2003 and 2005. At various World Championships, he also won four silver and two bronze medals. He also won silver at the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996. The 11-time Swiss national champion won 18 total World Cup races.

At the Frischi Bike Challenge, he finished second behind his country man Lukas Flückiger.

Earlier this summer, he was honored by UCI President Pat McQuaid at the Mountain Bike World Championships in Val di Sole, Italy.

UCI selects 2011 mountain bike worlds locations

Although the spotlight will be on the road racing action at the UCI World Road Championships this week in Varese, Italy, those that make decisions about elite mountain bike racing have been busy behind the scenes.

On Wednesday, the UCI Management Committee selected the World Championship venues for 2011. The Mountain Bike & Trial World Championship will be held in Champéry, Switzerland, which won out over Alpago, Nevegal, Italy. However, Italy will still get to host the marathon World Championship in Montebelluna.

According to the UCI, those involved in the Mountain Bike World Cup will also begin voting for the best 2008 event in the categories of Olympic cross-country, downhill and four cross. Top-placing riders, UCI mountain bike teams, journalists, UCI sponsors and UCI staff will vote for the three best events. Ballots are due by Friday, October 19, and results will be announced at the end of October.

Since the final World Cup marathon event does not happen until October 4-5 in Ornans, France, therefore ballots will not be sent to eligible voters for best marathon event until October 5.

Finally, the UCI Management Committee is considering new sections and modifications to the 2009 Mountain Bike Regulations and working on approving the final 2009 UCI Calendar.

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