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MTB news & racing round-up for April 24, 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

Cohutta 100 kicks off NUE Series

By Harlan Price

Jeff Schalk after winning the 2008 Cohutta 100
Photo ©: New Leaf Adventures
(Click for larger image)
In its fourth edition, the Cohutta 100 will introduce the American 100-miler racing season. As the first race of the National Ultra Endurance Series (NUE), the Cohutta will test the legs of many of the contenders. This year, a strong roster of riders will compete over 100 miles through the mountains of southeastern Tennessee.

Last year's Cohutta and NUE Series winner Jeff Schalk (Trek Racing) will be back to defend a title he earned last year after dominating every NUE race he completed. His seemingly unfailing power climbing will be a good fit for the mostly gravel road course in the southern Appalachian mountains.

Schalk's defense of his title might have a major roadblock in the shape of his former teammate and last year's US Marathon National Champion, Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale / MonaVie). Bishop has ventured into the 100-mile format several times over the years, and most notably has held course records for the Wilderness 101 and his hometown race, the Shendandoah Mountain 100. Both of those records were shattered by Schalk.

Chris Eatough (Trek Racing), the 2007 NUE Series winner, is also on board for the opening men's race. A second contending Chris, Chris Beck of the Subaru Gary Fisher team, has gained strength and experience enough over the past few years to be another threat. Gary Fisher 29er crew rider Samuel Koerber has been riding strong for the early season as proven by his new course records for the Snake Creek Gap Time Trial and SERC race. Series veteran Christian Tanguy (Team Fraser) has more than enough 100 milers in his legs to stay in the top five and should always be considered a threat.

In the women's category, Daniel Musto (Kenda / Tomac / Hayes) is back to reclaim her 2007 victory. Not ready to relinquish the top spot is perennial second place finisher Carey Lowery of the Outdoor Store. With 19 women pre-registered, the chances for a dark horse to step onto the podium will be high.

A few podium faces are missing from the singlespeed division, but the 2008 second place finisher Tim Dougherty will be there to make a go for the title of top dog. After a sixth place overall finish in a nine-day stage race in India in March, Tim will be in good form. He'll have to contend with Chris McGill (Cannondale Factory Racing), who's no slouch on the singlespeed. The x-factor will be Gerald Pflug (Speedgoat/SPK/Salsa), who was seventh overall last year in the men's geared division.

Gould and Sauser overcome heat to win Sea Otter

Plaxton and Gould top ProXCT standings

By Sue George

The pro men's field
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

The Sea Otter Classic is known for its weather extremes, and this year was no exception. It was so hot and dry at the Monterey, California, venue that organizers shortened the men's and women's cross country races a few hours prior to the start on Sunday. Instead of the traditional, two 19-mile laps, the men raced one 19-mile lap and one 10-mile lap while the women finished after just one of the long laps. The change also brought the historically lengthy cross country race more in line with the conventional durations of UCI races.

World Champion Christoph Sauser (Specialized Factory Team) spent most of the day off the front alone on his way to winning the elite men's race. Todd Wells (Specialized Factory Team) occupied much of the day in second place until a flat tire took cost him a half dozen places on the second lap. Sid Taberlay and Max Plaxton (both Sho-Air / Specialized) rode strongly and steadily throughout the race and finished second and third.

Georgia Gould (Luna Women's Team) also won on her own in the women's race. Behind her Lene Byberg (Specialized) and Gould's teammate Catharine Pendrel attempted to drop each other throughout the second half of the race until Byberg finally pulled away on a climb not far from the finish. Pendrel crossed the line alone in third.

Sea Otter was the second stop on the US ProXCT Tour. USA Cycling released the following series standings after two of seven events.

US ProXCT Standings after two events


1 Max Plaxton (Can) Sho-air-Specialized                195 pts
2 Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (USA) Subaru - Gary Fisher    185
3 Sid Taberlay (Aus) Sho-air-Specialized               180
4 Sam Schultz (Subaru-Gary Fisher                      175
5 Jeremiah Bishop (USA) Monavie Cannondale             140
5 Todd Wells (USA) Specialized Factory Racing          140


1 Georgia Gould (USA) Luna                             210 pts
2 Catherine Pendrel (Can) Luna                         195
3 Willow Koerber (USA) Subaru-Gary Fisher              170
4 Kelli Emmett (USA) Giant                             165
4 Heather Irmiger (USA) Subaru-Gary Fisher             165

Team Leaders

Mixed Team Leader

1 Subaru Gary-Fisher 89                                   

Men's Team Leader

1 Sho-air/Specialized 91                                  

Women's Team Leader

1 Luna Pro Team 98                                        

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

Brentjens presents his own team

By Marcel Slagman

The Trek-Brentjens team
Photo ©: Trek-Brentjens Team
(Click for larger image)

After deciding not to retire from racing at the end of last season, Bart Brentjens adopted a new role within cycling. Brentjens, the first Olympic mountain bike champion, is running his own team, Trek-Brentjens, with his wife Petra.

Brentjens recently presented his team for 2009, including stars Chris Jongewaard from Australia and the Tim Wijnants from Belgium. Jongewaard is targeting a strong performance at the World Championships when it happens in his home nation in September while Wijnants is gunning for the European Championships in Zoetermeer (the Netherlands) and the World Championships in Canberra.

In addition to Brentjens, two other Dutchmen, Frank Beemer and Jelmer Pietersma, will race for the team. Beemer ended up eighth at last year's World Championships in the Under 23 category. Pietersma has already won a race in Nieuwkuijk, and he is hoping to hang in with the contenders on the World Cup level.

Näf and Kalentieva win German World Cup warm up

Ralf Naef (Multivan Merida Biking Team) wins
Photo ©: Armin M. Küstenbrück
(Click for larger image)

Ralph Näf and Irina Kalentieva won the 23rd Mountain Bike Spring Classic in Münsingen, Germany, last Sunday.

The German season opener in Münsingen, one week before the Offenburg World Cup, drew a top field and a big crowd. Both the men's and women's winner of the previous weekend's World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, were on hand.

A four-man lead group formed when Marco Aurelio Fontana had a crash in the first lap and Jose Antonio Hermida also found himself at the back and in trouble. Ralph Näf (Multivan-Merida), Martin Gujan (Cannondale), Moritz Milatz (Multivan-Merida) and his teammate Jochen Käss got away.

Fontana was in fourth when he crashed near the finish line on the opening lap. "I jumped over a rock section and crashed in the landing. My bar was turned up because I landed on the right bar end. In the next laps, I realized it must have broken and it came totally loose on lap six, and I could not finish the race. That's bad luck because my legs were really good."

Näf, after skipping the World Cup due to illness, was the strongest and Gujan overdid it by trying to follow him. Gujan suffered cramps and Milatz and Käss passed him to create an all-Merida team break.

Irina Kalentieva (Topeak / Ergon)
Photo ©: Armin M. Küstenbrück
(Click for larger image)

"My team trusted me after being sick and this is my thank you to them," Näf said after what was his second win in Münsingen. He also won this race in 2007. Milatz took second while Käss finished third.

The women's competition was not decided until the last lap. Irina Kalentieva (Topeak-Ergon) and Elisabeth Osl (central GHOST Pro Team) stayed off the front for much of the race together. On the last climb, Kalentieva attacked and took her first win at German spring classics.

"Finally I got the victory after some second and third places here. It's something special to win here," said Kalentieva after her win despite a crash in the first lap.

World cup winner Osl was okay with her second place. "I knew she would come. But I'm very optimistic for Offenburg World Cup next Sunday," Osl said.

Osl's teammate Sabine Spitz showed an improvement in her performance and took third place. "The result and also how I'm feeling is making me more confident for Offenburg," said Spitz, whose form has been slow in coming this season.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of this round of the Bundesliga.

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage of the upcoming UCI cross country World Cup in Offenburg, Germany.

Killeen coming back after injury

By Sue George

Liam Killeen (Trek World Racing)
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)
Great Britain's Liam Killeen straddled his bike on a hot, sunny start line at the World Cup opener, sandwiched between 133 other anxious, fit men, waiting for the starter to say "go".  It wasn't just another race for the Olympic-level athlete.  After working to overcome a severe back injury, Killeen was about to begin his first top-level, international competition in seven months.

Throughout the South African cross country race, Killeen rode in the top 20 and for a time, he was as high as 16th, although he lost a few positions on the last lap to finish the mid-April race in 20th.

"It's a muscular type of injury," said Trek World Racing Team Manager Martin Whiteley, who added the injury had been likely caused by repetitive strain.

In an effort to heal the injury, the 27-year-old Killeen has been doing a mix of physical therapy and taking time off to rest.

When asked when Killeen would return to full form, Whiteley said, "It's hard to say definitively, but hopefully, he'll be back fully by Madrid."  The Madrid round of the World Cup is scheduled for May 23-24.

Last year, Killeen finished seventh at the Olympic Games cross country race, despite a crash early in the race.  He'll take to the starting line next in Offenburg, Germany, at round two of the World Cup.

Vogel gains confidence with Swiss Cup win

The 27-year-old Florian Vogel (Scott-Swisspower MTB Racing) improved his finish from a second place in the Lugano round of the Swiss Racer Bikes Cup to first in Tesserte. He defeated Lukas Flückiger (Trek World Racing) and the Italian Giuseppe Lamastra (Hard Rock / FRW). Swiss champion Kathrin Leumann (goldwurst-power / Sputnik) won the women's race ahead of four foreigners.

"That was the coolest course I've done in the series," said Vogel, who collected his second win of the season. Unhappy with his 12th place after an early crash at last weekend's World Cup in South Africa, Vogel was out to show his form is good on Sunday.

On the technically demanding circuit in the forests of Tesserete, Vogel led starting on the first of the six laps. "The onset of rain made the course especially difficult," said Vogel.

"Sooner or later, there will probably come a time when I can beat Flo," said Flückiger, who is two years younger. Flückiger was happy with his race.

Leumann won herself the women's race on the second last lap, when she closed a 10-second gap on Frenchwoman Caroline Mani (BikePark.ch) and converted it into an advantage. Leumann won with a margin of 21 seconds. Cécile Ravanel (Lapierre International) was third.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of this Racer Bikes Cup round.

European Downhill Championships opens doors to non-Europeans

With seven weeks left before the 2009 Hit Mountain Bike Downhill European Championships in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, organizers added open categories to attract the riders from other continents. The championships will take place June 12-14, one week after the fourth round of the downhill and four cross World Cup in Fort William, Scotland, and one week before the fifth round in Maribor, Slovenia.

Junior men and women and elite men and women from national federations that are not members of European Cycling Union (UEC), will be able to make the stop in Kranjska Gora and take part in European Championships.

European junior and elite races will only be able to register for the Championships event through their national federations; however masters and open riders will be able to register directly.

For more information, visit www.dhvitranc.eu/ Visit http://www.dhvitranc.eu.

South African marathon series resumes battle in Oudtshoorn

Yolande de Villiers is the favorite for the next race in the South African marathon series
Photo ©: MTN National Marathon Series
(Click for larger image)
The MTN South African National Marathon Mountain Bike Series got off to an early start with the first round in Barberton at the end of January. Now, after a three-month break, the prestigious seven-event series resumes with round two at the Chandelier Marathon in Oudtshoorn on Saturday. The 126km Ultra-marathon will be a ruthless test of physical, mental and mechanical endurance. The hot, dry Karoo conditions are expected to wear down even the most prepared riders.

Favourites include South African marathon champion Kevin Evans (MTN Energade) and Namibian legend Mannie Heymans (adidas Garmin). Both relish endurance events and will welcome the longer distance, although Heymans may still be hampered by a wrist injury he sustained at the recent World Cup event in Pietermaritzburg.

The race will take place at the luxurious Chandelier Game Lodge, which is just more than an hour's drive from Evans's home in Knysna and he'll be motivated to return to the top of a big-race podium. His last major victory was at the Subaru Sani2C in late February and his last MTN Series win was last year's edition of the Chandelier event, held in October. Evans will be supported by teammates David George and Matthys Beukes.

Heymans has had a solid season with some podium success, but is yet to claim a major win and will have solid backing from his compatriot and teammate, Marc Bassinghthwaighte, who won two rounds of the national series in 2007, but has been winless in the series since.

Others likely to be in the podium mix include Renay Goustra, Arno Viljoen and Erik Kleynhans (all GT Bicycles), Jacques Rossouw (Schwinn), and Johnny Kritzinger, who recently moved to the DCM Chrome team.

Max Knox, winner of round one in Barberton will be conspicuous by his absence. The DCM Chrome rider competed in the Sea Otter Classic in California last weekend and will not have sufficient preparation time for the event when he returns to South Africa. Along with teammate Brandon Stewart, he has opted to skip the event.

Yolande de Villiers (Cycle Lab Supercycling Toyota), who lives in nearby Oudtshoorn and is comfortable with the terrain and conditions, is the favorite for the 83km women's race. She had a disappointing Abas Cape Epic, uncharacteristically finishing off the podium, but will be motivated to add a second series win to her name after having been the dominant winner at the first round in Barberton.

The only rider likely to challenge an in form De Villiers is Yolande Speedy (IMC Momentum), but her participation on Saturday isn't confirmed. Others expected to be in the mix for the women's prize money are Heletjie van Staden (Schwinn), Caitlin de Wet (Mr Price SCOTT), Ischen Stopforth and Mariske Strauss (MTN Energade).

In addition to the 126km and 83km events, there will be a 47km MiWay Half-marathon and a 21km fun race.

Greenbriar Challenge to get East Coast season rolling

Now in its sixth year, Maryland's Greenbrier Challenge has become a race of special significance on the cross country racing scene. Typically one of the first major races on America's Eastern Seaboard, last year's races saw starters from 19 states, the District of Columbia and the Canadian province of Quebec.

This year, the Greenbrier Challenge, will be held on April 26 and will feature a US$10,000 prize list, a 25 percent increase from last year. As usual, the race is part of USA Cycling's AMBC series as well as the official Maryland State Championships. More importantly, it is a US National Calendar event and serves as one of the few east-coast qualifiers for the US National Championships in Colorado in July.

The Greenbrier Challenge continues to be part of the Alison Dunlop Junior Olympic Mountain Bike Series, an initiative to develop young, American cycling. The top five junior finishers of the race will be invited to one of USA Cycling's Regional Development Camps, which serve as feeders for the National Team.

Juniors comprise a small, though important, part of the massive Greenbrier program. In total, 51 classes will compete for 99 podiums in endurance and cross country disciplines.

"Greenbrier is a 'race for the racers.' We made it a National Calendar event this year so that the racers get narrower categories where they can achieve more against those in their own age group, many more USA Cycling points for each placing, and $2000 more in prizes," said Jim Carlson, Race Director from the Potomac Velo Club. "We don't make much money on the race. We try to balance it so that almost everything goes back to the racers. We've also designed it to be a competition stepping stone between the local race series and the national and world level for our Mid-Atlantic racers."

For more information, visit www.potomacvelo.com.

Mike Broderick & Mary McConneloug diary: Exploring South Africa

Mary enjoys seeing a giraffe
Photo ©: Mary McConneloug & Mike Broderick
(Click for larger image)

Mary and I were a little uncomfortable when the steward on the South African airlines flight announced that he was going to introduce a "non toxic spray" throughout the cabin and then immediately proceeded to irrigate the passenger area with a thick mist through the plane's ventilation system. The crew carried on as if it were nothing more than a morning dew, but we were pretty creeped out. The smell and irritation stayed with us throughout the painfully long disembarkation, seemingly aimed at making sure we had gotten the full effects of the "EPA-approved" spray.

As soon as we cleared out of the clotted, hazy Johannesburg, we realized that South frica was one of those places where we were going to want to do more than just build the bikes up for a typical week of World Cup venue-specific bike riding and racing. Even with our senses dulled by the long hours of lunesta-induced airline stupor, we could sense this country might be a place capable of changing our perspective on what an amazing place to live is all about.

Cathereral Peak
Photo ©: Mary McConneloug & Mike Broderick
(Click for larger image)

Leafing through our first round of ratty tourist brochures, it was pretty clear that South Africa is full of controversy and has a history of awful secrets that haunt the country to this day. On the positive side, it is also a place with incredible outdoor recreation opportunity, vast mountains, beaches and wide open places that beckoned our internal need for active adventures for an unfathomable investment of time.

We turned off on the meandering back roads in the Northern Drakensburg area onto a rugged, red clay, dirt drive; giant aloes and thorny bush rose up on all sides while an evening thunderstorm stabbed the ground with violent forks of lightning from the black clouds hanging overhead. Mary and I shared a queasy feeling - partly from the travel and lack of sleep and partly from the experience that was unfolding; this was yet another place that would threaten to alter our lives, draw us further from what we know and entice us deeper into expatriotism.

Read the complete diary entry.

Tipping Point completes double premier

The Tipping Point, a new movie by Clay Porter, made its American premiere on US soil last weekend in conjunction with the Sea Otter Classic, in Monterey, California. It had opened on the world stage in in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, along with the UCI World Cup opener.

On opening night in South Africa, the cinema was sold out, with standing room only, as many fans crowded to see their local hero Greg Minnaar introduce Clay Porter and the new movie. In fact, demand was so high that a second screening was added for those who wanted to see the documentary-style movie of the 2008 UCI World Cup Downhill season.

"It's pretty amazing to be premiering a movie in South Africa," said Porter. "I remember at school choosing to do a project on sport in South Africa, focusing at the time on my main heros in South African sport, Greg Minnaar and Andrew Neethling. Here I am years later premiering a movie in front of Greg and Andrew, their families, friends and fans. It's pretty exciting, and a huge relief to get the movie done. I so stoked on it."

For more information on the movie, including regional premieres, visit www.TheTippingPointFilm.com.

N-Duro events backs new Kiwi team

Rotorua-based event company N-Duro events has joined forces with the well known Cabin Racing team of Mark "Cabin" Leishman and Nic Leary to form the N-Duro / Cabin Racing team to contest events throughout New Zealand and the world. Cabin is the reigning Karapoti Classic Champion and Leary is the number-two ranked elite female cross country racer.

With Leishman wearing the hats of coach, manager, and mechanic, the team is initially focusing on a "winter" Northern Hemisphere campaign, the world championships in Canberra in September, the Whaka 100 in October and the XTERRA World Championship.

N-Duro events director Marcus Diprose says the partnership is a natural fit. "Cabin and Nic have been long term participants at our events over the years, and more importantly, great ambassadors for the sport of mountain biking throughout New Zealand. It is great to be able to help them out to realise their goals over the next year."

The Raetihi-based couple couldn't be happier. "Real support is never easy to come by," said Leishman. "Finding sponsors is hard enough. Finding ones who share you views, philosophies, and goals is just magic!"

While the team for 2009 is just the Raetihi couple, they do have expansion plans. "We are looking at this as step one in a longer term plan. We want Team N-Duro/Cabin Racing to be a grassroots team to represent and support those everyday Kiwis who just love to ride and race their mountain bikes.

"We see this as a long term investment in Team Cabin Racing and we are really excited about the prospects for the future as the team looks at expanding," said Diprose.

Plattekill Bike Park offers its own 2009 economic stimulus package

To keep racing affordable, Plattekill Bike Park, in New York state, has come up with a "stimulus package", in which it reduces all downhill entry fees for 2009 and guarantees cash payouts in pro and all category one classes regardless of the number of racers in a given class.

All race fees have been reduced to US$70 for pros and $60 for category ones. Category two and three racers will pay $45. Paybacks will be $20 per pro racer and $10 per category one racer, with each payout split 55/30/15 over the top three places. Other categories will receive donated prizes and medals.

Regardless of how many racers attend, NEMA is sponsoring a minimum cash payout of $50/25/15 for pros and $25/15/10 for the other categories if racers wear a NEMA product and list the company as a sponsor on their race entries.

The Bike Park will also host two cross country events.

A pre-season volunteer working and riding weekend will be held on April 18-19 to dial the park's trails into shape and preview the trails ahead of the season of racing.

2009 Plattekill USAC New York State Downhill and Dual Slalom Championship Series
May 2-3: Race #1 - DH
June 13-14: Race #2 - DH & DS
July 25-26: Race #3 - DH & DS
September 5-6: Race #4 - DH & DS, Double Points
September 19-20: Race #5 - DH & DS
October 10-11: Race #6 - DH & DS, Gravity East Series Finals Race #11
October 24-25: Race #7 - Series Finals, Double Points

2009 Plattekilll Cross Country races
May 30 - New York State 6-hour cross country endurance race
October 18 - Catskill MTB Series cross country championships, Series Finals

BikeRadar Live: Minnaar to race dual slalom

By BikeRadar

Cruz control: Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate)
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)
Three-time World Cup downhill champion Greg Minnaar has confirmed he will be riding in the Mountain Biking UK Eliminator at BikeRadar Live.

The South African is no stranger to dual slalom racing and rode to victory at the 2008 Sea Otter Classic festival, Crankworx festival in Whistler and Jeep 48STRAIGHT contest in Utah.

The Santa Cruz Syndicate rider's "big air" style is inspirational and he always takes the time out to speak to his fans. He has been a firm favourite in the UK since earning his stripes on the national downhill circuit with Team Animal Orange at the turn of the decade.

Since then, Minnaar has gone on to become one of the most consistent and successful riders in the world, winning his first World Cup in 2001 and then the World Championships in 2003, followed by two more World Cup titles to date.

"I really have fun racing slalom, so to add another one to our calendar makes me pretty happy," said Minnaar.

Be there on May 30-31 to see him go head-to-head with the world's best in a bid to become MBUK's Eliminator champion.

Track designers Will Longden and Dave Wardell will begin construction later this week and are looking forward to the biggest names in mountain biking heading for Donington Park in May.

"It's going to be a fantastic event and to have Greg along doing battle with Gee and Dan Atherton and all the other guys is going to make it a unique spectacle not to be missed," said Longden.

BikeRadar Live is the biggest ever mass-participation cycling event to hit the UK, and will take place at Donington Park in Leicestershire. The weekend will be packed full of races and challenges, with something for everyone, whether you want to compete, watch your friends and family or just check out some of the world's best riders.

For more information on BikeRadar Live, visit http://live.bikeradar.com.

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