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MTB news & racing round-up for April 01, 2009

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

Kabush and Gould continue winning ways in Fontana

By Dave McElwaine in Fontana, California

Geoff Kabush (Rocky Mountain/Maxxis)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)
Geoff Kabush ((Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) and Georgia Gould (Team Luna) were among those who counted wins after this weekend's racing at the opening round of the US ProXCT series in Fontana, California. Drawing an impressive 1,222 rider starts (720 cross country, 340 downhill, 82 super D and 80 four cross), the race was also stop number two in the US Cup West series and stop number one in the US Mountain Bike National Cross Country Calendar.

In the men's cross country race, Kabush defeated a talented field including a posse of talented ShoAir team riders. Newly acquired ShoAir racer and fellow Canadian Max Plaxton had to settle for second place, although he had led most of the race. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Gary Fisher/Subaru) out-sprinted his teammate Sam Schultz for third.

The race turned out to be quite tactical as Plaxton and Sid Taberlay (ShoAir) were the only team with numbers among the leaders. Initially Taberlay set a blistering pace, but Plaxton broke free and made it up the steep climb first. Kabush was forced to do all the chasing, with Taberlay and Jeremiah Bishop (MonaVie/Cannondale) in tow.

On the fourth lap, Taberlay got around Kabush and was able to effectively block on the descent. This allowed Plaxton to open a 15-second lead entering the next pavement climb.

"My training was going well and I knew I was 100% coming in here" said Kabush. "I had to deal with the ShoAir mafia there for a while...but that's the benefit of having a team. I just tried to stay relaxed because I knew it was going to come down to the last lap."

Kabush was right in that the younger Plaxton faded a bit on lap five, allowing Kabush not only to catch him, but put some significant distance on him before the finish line.

Luna teammates Chloe Forsman, Catherine Pendrel and Georgia Gould
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)
Gould and Luna teammate Catherine Pendrel had a slugfest at Southridge Park in the women's race. Gould's superior power on the flats allowed her to take a 36-second victory over Pendrel. A resurgent Heather Irmiger (Gary Fisher/Subaru) took third convincingly, while 20-year-old Emily Batty (Trek Bicycle Store), fresh off her Under 23 Pan American Championship win, took fourth.

Gould made the hole shot and led the women's cross country field up that first steep climb. She held a lead over Pendrel until the beginning of the climb on lap two when Pendrel passed and seemed to be riding away.

As the race progressed, however, it became apparent while Pendrel owned the climbs, Gould was superior on the two other sections of the course. When Pendrel would get away, Gould would repeatedly bring her back.

"I had a great start. I tried not to go out too hard on the first climb so I would not be too blown up," said Gould. "Then (later), Catherine passed me... she was strong on the climbs, and I was a little stronger on the flat sections."

Behind the leaders, Irmiger rode the entire race alone in third place. She appeared to climb nearly as well as the leaders and rode very consistent laps.

With wins at the opening round of the US ProXCT in Fontana, California, this past weekend, Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) and Georgia Gould (Team Luna) took an early lead on the seven-event series.

Men's Standings 
1 Geoff Kabush (Can) Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain   100
2 Max Plaxton (Aus) Sho-air-Specialized            95
3 Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (USA) Subaru-Gary Fisher  90
4 Sam Schultz (USA) Subaru-Gary Fisher             85
5 Adam Craig (USA) Giant                           80 

Women's Standings
1 Georgia Gould (USA) Team Luna                   100
2 Catherine Pendrel (Can) Team Luna                95
3 Heather Irmiger (USA) Subaru-Gary Fisher         90
4 Emily Batty (Can) Trek                           85
5 Willow Koerber (USA) Subaru-Gary Fisher          80

The Sea Otter Classic, on April 16-19, will be the next stop on the US ProXCT.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Fontana ProXCT cross country round, as well as four cross and Super D races.

Bulls capture Cape Epic

Overall podium
Photo ©: Sportzpics
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The Bulls Team of Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm walked away with top honours as overall winners of this year's Cape Epic in South Africa this weekend. They crossed the line of the final stage together with the Songo.info team's Christoph Sauser and Burry Stander.

The Bulls finished the eight-day, 685km race in an overall time of 28 hours, 10 minutes and 14 seconds. Bart Brentjens and Chris Jongewaard (Trek Brentjens) finished second overall in 28:15:08 – only four minutes and 54 seconds behind the leaders. Emil Lindgren and Andreas Kugler (Felt Factory 2) were third.

"Crossing the final finish line took a load off my mind," said Sahm. "All the problems we had this year with Karl dislocating his shoulder twice, then riding in fear that it could happen again, and those small mechanical problems we had to face, all took its toll up to now. After all these obstacles, the joy is even greater. You can't compare winning the Cape Epic to anything else. It's outstanding and for us the biggest and most important victory of all. It means the world to us."

Burry Stander and Christoph Sauser make their way
Photo ©: Sportzpics
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Sauser and Stander won five of the seven stages and the prologue, and they were the favorites for the overall until they were penalized for accepting outside mechanical assistance after Stander destroyed his front wheel beyond repair in a crash during stage four.

Team Bulls also won the Cape Epic in 2007, and its Karl Platt won in the inaugural year (2004) with Mannie Heymans, and in fact, Platt is the most successful participant in the history of the race having won three times. Stefan Sahm, Roel Paulissen (who did not participate this year), Nico Pfitzenmaier, Doug Brown, Hanlie Booyens and Sharon Laws have all won the race twice. Kevin Evans won the title Best African Team three years in a row.

Sahm had an explanation for his team's strength. "I'd say our friendship - that always comes first. We look after each other, respect each other, and would never do anything that could harm one another. And of course our experience plays a big part too. We don't need to communicate through talking, and know what to do by heart. It's almost like an atomized process because we know each other inside out."

Sign of unity: Stefan Sahm and Karl Platt (Bulls)
Photo ©: Sportzpics
(Click for larger image)
"When we were crossing the finish line all together my thoughts were bouncing," said Platt. "We had so many highs and lows and sometimes made up time only to lose it again. Mentally and physically it was a very tough race and now in the end I'm unbelievably happy. After the prologue, I really didn't expect to win."

"Stefan said to me that I'm crazy to ride with my shoulder and that he could never do it. Hearing that from him was a huge compliment and motivated me to carry on. My answer was that we're here at a good race and we spent a lot of money to get here, so I can suffer. Perhaps we're not the strongest team, but probably the smartest."

"We didn't show our real strength every day and sometimes held back to recover for the next stage. We know how long this race is and also how important it is to conserve some energy for the end. This was my 17th stage race, so by now I have a lot of experience."

Ladies overall and stage winners Hanlie Booyens and Sharon Laws
Photo ©: Sportzpics
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The Absa Ladies team of Hanlie Booyens and Sharon Laws won the women's overall race after they won all of the stages as well as the prologue. Their final time was 37:18:20. Robyn Adendorff and Sarah van Heerden (WSP – Jeep Girls) finished second in 42:19:45 while Nolene Saunders and Sarah Wielopolska of the Tread Magazine Ladies team finished in third place in an overall time of 43:41:39.

"We tried to ride as hard as possible in order to compete with the whole field, not only the other ladies," said winner Booyens. "I felt a bit tired the last two days, but Sharon was going strong. I must admit I also enjoyed this year's route much more than previous years. It was real mountain biking."

The Adidas Big Tree team of Nico Pfitzenmaier and Alison Sydor won the mixed category in an overall time of 32:13:10, having won six of the seven stages as well as the prologue. Wheeler – IXS Pro team Marcel Bartholet and Esther Süss finished second while Paul Cordes and Yolande Speedy (IMC/ Momentum GT/ Activeworx) were third.

Sydor finished the race by riding the final stage on a borrowed bike after she suffered a mechanical issue with her frame on the previous evening. She plans to ride the TransAlp and TransGermany stage races with partner Pia Sundstedt.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Cape Epic.

Gutierrez keeps on winning

Ivan Alvarez Gutierrez (Giant Italia)
Photo ©: Team Giant Italia
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Spaniard Ivan Alvarez Gutierrez (Giant Italia) collected a win at round one of the Coupe de France VTT in St-Raphael, France, on Sunday. Gutierrez preceded two Frenchman: Jean-Christophe Péraud (Massi) in second and Alexis Vuillermoz (Lapierre International) in third.

Coming off two victories in Banyoles, Spain, and Montichiari, Italy, in recent weeks Gutierrez was the favourite going into the race even though Julien Absalon, Olympic Champion, was also present.

Orbea's Absalon led the group on the first lap, and he was followed by Gutierrez, Miguel Martinez (Felt International), Cédric Ravanel (Lapierre International) and Vuillermoz. On the second lap, Gutierrez was at the front. His win was a close one, with Peraud just six seconds behind him. Vuillermoz finished not much further back, at 13 seconds.

Wet weather conditions and the track caused several technical problems, and Absalon was among those who withdrew. He pulled out of the race on the second lap.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the men's and women's cross country races at the Coupe de France opener.

Fullana & Mantecon successful in Cordoba

Marga Fullana (Massi)
Photo ©: Sergio Suarez
(Click for larger image)
Team Massi's Marga Fullana and Cemelorca-Trek's Sergio Mantecon won the Superprestigio Massi round in the Andalusian locality of Cordoba on Sunday.

On a cloudy morning, world champion Fullana quickly took the lead in the women's race. With no significant challengers for the duration, she won with a time of 1:20:07. Fullana finished the four-lap race more than four minutes ahead of the second placed Rocio Gamonal (Caixanova-BH) and more than six minutes ahead of Cristina Mascarreras (Conor-La Siesta).

In the men's race Sergio Mantecon (Cemelorca-Trek) and local rider Juan Pedro Trujillo (Cemelorca-Trek) set a blistering pace for five laps. The Superprestigio Massi series leader Mantecon won this third round with a time of 1:29:38. Trujillo finished second just one second behind Mantecon and Carlos Coloma was third at 41 seconds.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Superprestigio Massi round in Cordoba.

One downhill world champ in, one out for opening World Cup

World Downhill Champion Gee Atherton
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)
British downhill Gee Atherton (Animal Commencal), the current men's downhill world champion, will compete in the opening round of the 2009 UCI World Cup in Pietermaritzburg next week. His sister and teammate Rachel, also a downhill world champion, will have to sit out the racing due to injury.

Gee won the first round of the Maxxis Cup in Gouviea, Portugal, for the second year in succession earlier this month and declared himself motivated and ready to begin his assault on the World Cup. He is currently ranked number one on the UCI's latest world rankings, just a few points ahead of South Africa's World Cup champion, Greg Minnaar, who hasn't raced yet this year, preferring to make his competitive debut at the opening round of the World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, which is his hometown.

Despite more than a month of rest and rehabilitation, Rachel will have to sit out the opening round. "We are sorry to say there has been no major improvement with the nerve damage in Rach's shoulder," read a team press release. Atherton injured her shoulder in a collision with a pick-up truck while training in California in January.

She visited a number of specialists over the last few weeks. All have been unable to give a clear indication on her recovery time. She will wait a further four weeks to see if her nerve condition improves. In the meantime, she continues to train with the aim of returning to racing as soon as possible.

Gee's brother Dan Atherton is also confirmed for the World Cup opener. Dan is currently ranked 21st in the world for downhill racing, but is ranked fourth in 4X, his preferred discipline, which he will contest in Pietermaritzburg.

The Pietermartizburg round of the World Cup will take place on April 10-12.

Trek's teams boast seven wins so far

Mathias and Lukas Fluckiger (Trek World Racing)
Photo ©: Sportzpics
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In the first six weeks of its 2009 season, Trek's racing programs counted seven wins including Rene Wildhaber's win of the Urge Kenya enduro downhill, an Under 23 Pan American championship, a stage win at the Cape Epic and two consecutive wins at the Maxxis Cup.

This weekend, Trek World Racing's cross country brothers Mathias and Lukas Flückiger rode to victory during the final stage 7 of South Africa's Cape Epic. After finishing second place in stage 3, the Flückiger brothers rode hard despite mechanical setbacks to finish a respectable eighth place overall. The brothers were happy with their performance at a race that they had considered a "training ride" from the start.

"To cross the finish line with my brother is so much more meaningful than crossing the line by myself, and that's what I really like about the Cape Epic format," said Lukas. "I'll be back for sure."

In the same race, Trek's Bart Brentjens Mountain Bike Racing Team claimed second place overall thanks to Dutch marathon legend Bart Brentjens and Australian national champion Chris Jongewaard. Trek - Brentjens also earned second place in stage 5 and victory in stage 6.

Riding for Trek Store Toronto and Canada, Emily Batty won the Under 23 women's Pan American cross country championship in Chile. The 21-year-old Batty finished a solid seven minutes ahead of the competition.

Trek World Racing's Tracy Moseley hasn't missed a beat in gravity competitions. In the Maxxis Cup rounds in Vaigo and Gouveia, she smashed the field and put in times that would put many an elite male rider to shame.

Finally, Trek World Racing's Justin Leov nailed it on his home turf to overcome former teammate Sam Blenkinsop and claim the New Zealand National Championship downhill title. In what is fast becoming a winter training grounds for the world's fastest downhillers, Leov ruled the roost.

Dahle Flesjaa becomes a mom

World marathon champion Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa became a mother on Sunday when she gave birth to her son, Mark.

Dahle Flesjaa is hoping to return to international racing at the Montello Marathon, which will double as the Italian marathon national championships on June 28.

"Two months without a bike. It's a long time for me," said Dahle Flesjaa according to solobike.it. "I hope to be at my best during the Montello Marathon. I'm looking forward to the race and all the emotions connected with this event."

Terra Australis turning into a three-way tussle

The inaugural Terra Australis race is shaping up as a battle between leading riders. By the end of the second stage on Monday, the Great Southern Land Epic had turned into a three-way tussle between early leaders, the Total Rush team and the TORQ Allstars. The seven-day race covers a total of 550km around the Victorian Highlands. It started from the ski resort of Falls Creek on Sunday.

A combination of altitude and three sharp climbs split the field on the first stage. The 79km stage to Mt Beauty saw a succession of punctures with many of the riders caught out after running lightweight tyres. The leading team Total Rush, including Mark Fenner and Sam Bach, had four punctures while the TORQ Allstars including Dan McConnell and Luke Fetch, suffered three punctures.

An early attack by Total Rush teammates Fenner and Bach resulted in a comfortable 35-minute lead over the KOM team of Warren Burgess and Zoe King. King, one of Australia's top elite women, described the final climb as "the toughest climb I have ever done!"

The first stage proved harder than many of the riders expected even though it was not the longest of the seven stages. The altitude and courses reminded many of riding overseas.

After stage one ended and the tyre discussion followed the riders prepared for the second stage. Stage two between Falls Creek and Dinner Plains ran 102km. Some smoke from a nearby back burning created an eerie backdrop as the TORQ Allstars started with vengeance. After beginning with a 34-minute deficit, the TORQ Allstars went straight on the attack.

The Total Rush team let them go, but by the first feed station, they had regained any lost ground. This was the catalyst for a second attack by the TORQ Allstars which Total Rush were again able to reign in before the TORQ team put in a one and a half minute gap between them and Total Rush by the second feed station. They extended the gap to seven minutes by the end of the stage.

Another favourite team containing Troy Bailey and Joel Donney was further back in the field after Bailey suffered from a virus during the first stage. The BMC team are currently one hour and 30 minutes off the leaders' pace but are expected to move up over the next few stages. Five stages remain.

Dirt Sweat & Gears

Dirt Sweat & Gears, the next and fourth stop on the USA Cycling Ultra Endurance Series calendar, will take place as a 12-hour race on May 9. Current US national short track and marathon champion Jeremiah Bishop will be among those testing their endurance racing skills.

"Since I have never done a 12-hour race, it puts me into uncharted territory so it is going to be an adventure," said Bishop. Returning 2008 DSG champion and MonaVie Cannondale teammate Tinker Juarez promises to give Bishop a solid run for the money. And with the likes of Josh Tostado, Harlan Price and Brandon Draugelis the men's solo race will be a battle royale.

An event record US$11,000 will go as prizes to the pros with $1,500 each for the winners of the men's, women's and singlespeed open categories.

In 2008, DSG hosted 300 racers from 31 states. For more information, visit www.dirtsweatandgears.com.

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