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MTB news & racing round-up for April 30, 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

Absalon launches solo assault on World Cup race and overall

By Rob Jones in Offenburg, Germany

Julien Absalon (Orbea) wins the race
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)
Julien Absalon (Orbea) took his 18th World Cup victory in the elite men's cross country in Offenburg, Germany, on Sunday. The win, his third consecutive at the venue, moved him into the overall lead for the men's competition and preserved his perfect record at Offenburg; it also set a new record that beats the 17 total World Cup wins of the legendary Thomas Frischknecht.

The huge men's field of over 220 riders took over one minute to roll through under the banner after completing the start loop as it headed out for the first of seven laps.

By that time, the leaders were already starting to sort out their pecking order at the front of the race. A sizable group of heavy hitters was setting a hard pace and pulling away from the rest of the field. Among the group were Absalon, the World Cup leader Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida), World Champion Christoph Sauser (Specialized), Under 23 World Cup leader Burry Stander (Specialized), Florian Vogel (Scott-Swisspower), Lukas Fluckiger (Trek World Racing), Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower), Roel Paulissen (Cannondale) and Jean-Christophe Peraud (Massi). This group was further joined by Todd Wells (Specialized), Marco Fontana (Cannondale), Jaroslav Kulhavy (Rubena-Specialized) and Martin Gujan (Cannondale Factory Racing).

Absalon decided the numbers at the front were more than he was comfortable with, and he counterattacked a move by Schurter on the longest climb of the course on the third lap, quickly gaining 25 seconds on the disorganized chase behind. The Olympic champion, clad in the red, white and blue jersey of French National Champion, continued to pad his lead through the fourth lap, as the chase started to shed riders. Among the first to go was Hermida, who came to the race with a bad cold. Wells also dropped off after flatting, and eventually abandoned.

The men's start in Offenburg
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)
"It was a tactical move to go so early," said Absalon. "A big group is so difficult to control, and I was in a good position when Nino did his attack to follow and then attack again. My goal was to be in good shape coming into these European World Cups, so this was very good for me."

On lap five, Sauser decided it was time to shake things up in the chase and broke away from the rest of the group, taking only his teammate Stander with him. The duo quickly gained 20 seconds on the rest of the chasers, but were making no dent in Absalon's lead, and the effort failed after Sauser crashed hard in one of the technical sections and had to abandon with two broken brakes.

Stander continued on in second, but was steadily being reeled in by Wolfram Kursch at (Topeak Ergon) and Peraud. The pair caught and dropped Stander in the final kilometres to take second and third behind Absalon, with the South African holding on for fourth, and the top Under 23 result. Ralph Näf (Multivan Merida) capped an impressive ride up from midfield to take the final podium spot.

"It was a record day," said Absalon. "A record World Cup victory, my first win of the season and my third victory at Offenburg."

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the men's cross country World Cup in Offenburg, Germany, and the latest World Cup Standings.

Ren comes back for World Cup win

By Rob Jones in Offenburg, Germany

Chengyuan Ren (Chinese National Team) wins
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)
China's Chengyuan Ren demonstrated that her absence from the World Cup scene has not slowed her down. She won round two of the mountain bike World Cup in Offenburg, Germany, on Sunday, after a perfectly timed attack, while Austrian Elisabeth Osl (Central Ghost Pro Team) hung onto the women's World Cup overall lead by virtue of her fifth place result.

The weather conditions were perfect as the women rolled to the line for their six lap, 36 kilometre race held in Offenburg, Germany, before a crowd of 20,000.

After a short start loop, it was Swiss rider Katrin Leumann who led the 93 rider field out onto the main circuit. However, the top names in the pro field quickly moved to the forefront, with world champion Marga Fullana (Massi), Lene Byberg (Specialized) and Irina Kalentieva (Topeak Ergon) leading after the first lap. They were closely followed by Osl, American Willow Koerber (Subaru-Gary Fisher) and Catharine Pendrel (Luna Women's Team).

Pendrel had impressively worked her way up from 52nd on the start grid within one lap. Defending World Cup champion Marie-Helene Premont (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain), who started next to Pendrel, struggled more in the early laps, but moved into the mid-teens, and eventually finished 14th.

World Champion Margarita Fullana (Massi) leads
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)
Fullana then attacked the rest of the lead group, carving out a lead that approached a minute by the fourth lap. The chase had reshuffled, with Kalentieva, Byberg, Pendrel and Osl dropping Koerber and Lechner, but being joined by Ren, who had also moved up from a poor start position.

Fullana looked to be in control, but Ren launched a strong attack in the fifth lap, with only Pendrel able to follow. Pendrel couldn't maintain the pace of the former Under 23 world champion and dropped back to the chasers, while Ren continued to steadily reel in Fullana, catching and dropping her on the final lap.

"It was the same place that Ren attacked last year, on the climb," said Pendrel. "I was able to get on her wheel, but the pace she was going on the climb was too high, and I had to back off. I was feeling really good, but that first lap, having to chase up so hard definitely had an effect."

Fullana hung for second, with Byberg repeating her third place from round one, followed by Kalentieva, Osl and Pendrel. Canada's Emily Batty was the top Under 23 finisher in tenth place, with Julie Bresset (Breiz Mountain) retaining the overall Under 23 lead.

According to a Chinese journalist, Ren will only attend the Offenburg and Houffalize World Cups, before returning to China to prepare for the World Championships.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the women's cross country World Cup in Offenburg, Germany, and the latest World Cup Standings.

Schalk & Lowery win National Ultra Endurance series opener

By Barry Kunkle

Eventual winner Jeff Schalk
Photo ©: Bluebasinphoto.com
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The highest temperatures of the year for Tennessee welcomed the National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series racers to the start of a new season at the Ocoee White Water Center, home of the 1996 Olympic white water courses. Unfamiliar heat in the high 80s (degrees Fahrenheit) caught a lot of northern riders by surprise and turned the day into a tactical race from one water stop to the next.

Jeff Schalk (Trek Racing Co-Op) etched his name in stone as an international powerhouse by setting a blistering course record of 6:23:06, easily the fastest NUE 100 miler time on record. In the process, the world got to see the one-on-one match up for which they have been waiting - between Schalk and 2008 Marathon and Short Track National Champion Jeremiah Bishop (MonaVie Cannondale). In 2008, the two had set up for the anticipated duel twice, only to have mechanicals and crashes mar the final results.

This time a clean race from start to finish was won with strong legs and good tactics, with aid station transitions playing a major role in the success or demise of riders. At aid station two, Schalk made his traditional move of blowing through while the rest of the early front pack of Bishop, Chris Eatough (Trek Racing Co-Op), Chris Beck (Gary Fisher/ Subaru), Michael Simonson (Gary Fisher 29er Crew), Sam Koerber (Gary Fisher 29er Crew) and Christian Tanguy (Team Fraser) had to stop to refill. By carrying enough water to get to station three, Schalk was able to create a gap that only Bishop could bridge. The effort might have cost him later in the race when Schalk countered a mini-attack from Bishop on the last climb and immediately managed to put time on the Monavie Cannondale rider.

The favorites on the starting line
Photo ©: Bluebasinphoto.com
(Click for larger image)
"When I saw he (Bishop) wasn't able to respond, I just kept attacking, thinking he was maybe cramping, " said Schalk. "I thought that if Jeremiah got into the singletrack first, I'd be in trouble, so I attacked there." In the end, Schalk had a slim cushion of 2:20.

Coming in third was Subaru/ Gary Fisher rider Chris Beck, who had one of the best races of his career by edging out his training partner and friend Chris Eatough (Trek Racing Co-Op). Again aid stations played an important role in race tactics. After getting a slight gap on Eatough, Beck and Simonson blew through station three to maintain an advantage.

Still Eatough managed to catch the two riders at Station four as they were filling up bottles. The three rode together until aid station five where Eatough started cramping while Beck was able to blow through and eventually drop Simonson. In the end, Eatough recovered enough to take back fourth while Simonson held strong to keep a fifth place spot.

Lowery shakes the curse

Carey Lowery (Outdoor Store) shook the second place curse and kept the winner's trophy for the locals.

"It feels great after four years to win in my backyard!" she said. After two second place finishes, Lowery was finally able to stand on top of the podium at her local 100 miler. "This year was different than others since there were four of us together to about the 25-mile mark.

Past winner Daniel Musto (Kenda/Tomac/Hayes) made the first move of the day with a plan to stay in the front with the men's group for as long as possible. That move saw her into the singletrack first, and she was able to hold an early lead until the beginning of the climbing dual track sections. As the day heated up Musto's Michigan blood, she was caught by a pack of charging women, which included Lowery, Betsy Shogren (Cannondale Factory Racing) and Paula Burks (Vantaggio Specialized).

Women's podium
Photo ©: Bluebasinphoto.com
(Click for larger image)
From there, the women see-sawed from one aid station to another. Shogren would get away on the climbs while Lowery would lead the charge overtaking Musto and catching Shogren on the descents. Having a home course advantage gave Lowery a key advantage for bombing down the hills.

"It was so impressive watching Carey go downhill, while pedaling!" was Musto's reaction to the excellent riding of Lowery.

An early flat from Burks, another local, gave her the advantage of being able to ride her own race back into the top of the field, eventually taking the second place position. After she had caught Shogren, the two passed Musto at aid station four where her bike was in the stand with some mechanical issues. Musto managed to get back on pace and catch Shogren pretty quickly, but was never able to take back the void separating Burks from her front wheel. Despite some major cramping, Musto was able to hold on to third position for the day while fourth went to Shogren and Emily Brock (Faster Mustache) snagged fifth place.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Cohutta 100.

Taberlay breezes to US Cup victory, Carey comes from behind

By Dave McElwaine in Los Olivos, California

Sid Taberlay (Sho-Air/Specialized)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)
Sid Taberlay (Sho-Air/Specialized) made it look easy as he took another Kenda US Cup West victory in Santa Ynez, California, this weekend. Taberlay made a small attack on the first steep climb of the day and never looked back.

Road professional Aaron Olsen (Oakley/Sidi) was surprisingly strong and locked in a battle with Andy Schultz (Kenda/Tomac) for second place until Schultz flatted. However Schultz rode a half lap on a flat front tyre and finished third.

The weather was the big story on the Santa Ynez course. Unlike last year where racers suffered in 107 degrees, the temperature at this year's start was a brisk 62 degrees, with not a cloud in the sky.

"It was a bit cold at times with the wind," Taberlay said.

Organisers shortened the course this year to 8.7 miles, leaving both the professional men and women to do three laps. Each lap included three significant climbs, lots of off-camber riding, and long stretches on windy fire roads.

"There was a bit of a tussle to start with," said Taberlay. "When we got to the first steep climb I just went to the front to get out of the trouble and ended up with a gap. I just rode my own pace from then on and built up a bit of a lead."

Amanda Carey (Kenda/Tomac) got her first national level cross country victory after coming from behind on the third lap in the elite women's race. Carey's teammate Kathy Sherwin had led for over two laps and appeared to have the race locked up but Sherwin was passed on the final lap and finished second.

Amanda Carey (Kenda/Tomac) riding
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)
Alison Mann (Sho-Air/Specialized) rode a consistent race and finished third.

"My strength is endurance," said Carey. "It usually takes me about an hour and a half to start feeling good. On the third lap the other girls were in sight so I just kept it steady, kept it smart, and (rode) as fast as I could."

Some of the top level mountain bikers from North America were absent today due to the World Cup race in Offenburg, Germany. This included Adam Craig, Sam Schultz, Emily Batty, Georgia Gould, Catherine Pendrel and others.

The US Cup Pro XCT series will resume at the Bump'N'Grind race in Alabama on May 31. Most of the top professional racers are expected to attend.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the US Cup round in Santa Ynez, including Super D, dual slalom, downhill and cross country events.

Team Jamis adds two

Team Jamis welcomed two new riders to its ranks including former Devo standout rider Adam Snyder, 24, of Durango, Colorado, and seven-time Israeli champion, Rotem Ishay, 22, also of Durango.

Snyder, originally from Vermont, cut his teeth on the East Coast ski circuit before turning to the trails via the Devo mountain bike team while attending Fort Lewis College in Durango.

"Adam's results have been steadily improving, and his handling skills put us all to shame. I think he'll be the next Adam Craig," said Team Manager Jason Sager.

Ishay brings international results and experience to Team Jamis, highlighted with 15th at the 2008 Under 23 Worlds in Italy and ninth at the same edition of the Sea Otter Classic.

"Having a group of young riders to learn from, share, and test ourselves against on Team Jamis is going to be a unique experience. It's even better that we're all Colorado-based racers, especially having someone of Rotem's caliber right here in Durango." said Snyder of his new teammate.

When asked about his long term goals with Jamis and racing in the US, Ishay said, "I have set my home in Durango, Colorado for a real mountain bike lifestyle - here are the greatest trails, great training partners, and now with the opportunity to join a program like Team Jamis I'll have the resources to accomplish my racing goals."

The team officially opened its season at the Sea Otter Classic in mid-April

Team Jamis officially opened their season at the Sea Otter Classic in mid-April with top ten finishes in the short track and Super D. The team will head next to the Bump N Grind round of the US ProXCT series on May 31.

Australian marathon championships rescheduled

With the devastating bushfires in Victoria still fresh in the minds of many, Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA) announced that the previously postponed 2009 Marathon Championships have been rescheduled for Bendigo on September 20.

The Championships race will be hosted by the Bendigo Mountain Bike Club at the Golden Triangle, which gets its name from the rich gold rush heritage of the Bendigo region including Castlemaine, Daylesford and Bendigo.

"Tagging the Golden Triangle with the Australian MTB Marathon Championships will provide a boost to the local economy affected by the February fires and the economic downturn," said John Harvey, President of the Bendigo club. "To have a event of this significance in the region will be great opportunity to increase the exposure of mountain biking to the local and regional community and an opportunity to showcase some of the unique mountain bike riding opportunities within the area."

The Australian title will be awarded at the end of the 105km event. Entries will open online on July 1.

Snyder & Kraus win Greenbrier

In the first stand-alone event on the USA Cycling Mountian Bike National Cross Country Calendar, The Greenbrier Challenge, Aaron Snyder (Scott) earned the victory by more than two minutes over his closest competition in the elite men's cross country event. Johanna Kraus (Velo Bella) earned the win in the elite women's race.

See Cyclingnews' full results from the Greenbrier Challenge.

After three total events, including Fontana and Sea Otter, the current USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Cross Country Calendar standings are listed below.

USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Cross Country Calendar Standings

Men's Standings

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

Women's Standings

1. Georgia Gould (USA) Luna                       210
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

Michaux Endurance Series kicks off

The 2009 Michaux Endurance Series (MES) will kick off on Sunday, May 3 with the ninth edition of the Michaux Maximus. The long-running series consists of three events (the Maximus, Curse of Dark Hollow, Terror of Teaberry) located in Michaux State Forest, Pennsylvania, each with a unique course in a different section of the forest.

Michaux enjoys a near mythic reputation among riders for its extremely challenging and highly technical terrain over rocky, wooded singletrack. The races use single-lap courses that are kept secret and change spontaneously, features distances that are approximate and starts times which are unusual.

That's all part of the plan according to Race Director Rich Winkelmann. "These events aren't about pomp and circumstance. This is a blood sport. The venue is rustic, to say the least, and the program is decidedly unpolished. But Michaux isn't buff so why should we be?" said Winkelmann. "It's really about the technical challenge that Michaux presents to the riders, which we feel is the very heart of mountain biking. The gnarlier and more mysterious the better. Is there another way to do this?"

This year's Michaux Maximus will offer racers three loops of varying distances and difficulties: 10 miles for novices, 20 miles for intermediates, and 40 miles for elites over 5,000 feet of climbing. The elite course will include 24 miles of trails never previously used in the race..

Michaux regulars such as Chris Eatough (Trek Co-op), Harlan Price (Indpendent Fabrication), Jeff Schalk (Trek Co-Op), and Chris Beck (Gary Fisher/Subaru) should be in strong contention for the elite crown, while Jeremiah Bishop (MonaVie Cannondale) could provide additional depth and challenge, should he choose to return after a year hiatus. On the ladies side, the recent and undisputed Queen of Michaux, local Cheryl Sornson (Trek Co-op), will seek to retain her 2008 title and relegate the remainder of the field to runner-up status.

Price and Sornson (Trek Co-Op) were the 2008 series champions.

For more information, visit www.racemichaux.com or contact Gettysburg Bicycle & Fitness at (717) 334-7791.

Tanasi Challenge opens eastern US Cup

The US Cup heads east for the first round of the Kenda Cup East series at the Tanasi Challenge (SERC #5) in Ducktown, Tennessee, on Sunday, May 3. The event will start at the Ocoee White Water Center and run on the Tanasi Trail System.

"It's hard to believe it's our tenth anniversary of a SERC race on the Tanasi trails," said David Berger, the owner of Gone Riding, the organizing company.

The climb will begin from the start, with six miles until the summit. About halfway through the ten-mile course, racers will ride the Riverview Trail.

"Riverview really rolls and flows well, it's a beautiful ride." The entire last four miles of the loop are descent, including Thunderock Express, a two-mile downhill.

Athertons star in MBUK Eliminator slalom at BikeRadar Live

Britain's first family of gravity mountain bike racing, Gee, Dan and Rachel Atherton will be spending the weekend of May 30-31 at BikeRadar Live. You'll be able to catch them in action with the world's best downhill and four-cross racers at the MBUK Eliminator slalom.

Away from the racing, the famously approachable Athertons will be showing off their Commencal world championship bikes, and will be available to answer questions and pass on their unsurpassed knowledge of how to go downhill fast.

Two of the family became mountain biking's first brother and sister world champions last year when Rachel Atherton blew the doors off the women's downhill field and Gee followed up by grabbing the men's victory.

Dan is a World Cup four-cross winner whose victory in Andorra last year set the stage for the three siblings to sweep the gravity events at that round.

Slalom organiser Will Longden says that he's also talking to several Very Big Names that will give the Atherton's a run for their money and hopes to be able to announce them in the next couple of days.

"The riders I've talked to so far are stoked to be riding at a big UK show, slalom is popular with downhill and four-cross riders and it's looking like this will be the best dual slalom field outside of the World Cup."

Other top riders who've already signed up include the Chain Reaction team with Australian legend and downhill World Cup winner Chris Kovarik; 2007 junior world champ Ruaridh Cunningham and World Cup 4X rider Lucas Mechura.

British megastar and reigning UK four-cross champion Scott Beaumont (Rocky Mountain UK) will be flying the home flag, assisted by riders such as junior world silver medallist Dave Wardell and twice UK downhill champion Marc Beaumont (GT).

For more details and tickets see the BikeRadar Live site.

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