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MTB news & racing round-up for February 11, 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

US 24-Hour national championships get a new host

By Sue George

The Moab landscape
Photo ©: Drew & Garrett Geer
(Click for larger image)

The US 24-Hour National Championships has found a new home. For 2009, Granny Gear Productions will host the nationals in conjunction with its 24 Hours of Moab on October 10-11 in Moab, Utah. Schedule and logistical conflicts forced the change in venue according to USA Cycling.

"It gives us the kind of course that will sort out a national champion. Moab's course has an ideal mix of both technical and high speed sections," said Granny Gear Productions' Laird Knight to Cyclingnews.

"It's definitely a fitness course, but it's also a course where you have to have good technical skills to make a good lap time. That's something I've always tried to do since I put on my first mountain bike race in 1993. To me, mountain biking is not just putting your nose to the bar and pedalling as hard as you can," said Knight.

"The response that I've had has been 100% positive. People are really excited about it," said Knight of his company's plans for the popular Moab event.

The 24 Hours of Moab, which attracts more than 4,000 racers, support members and spectators, will double as the finale in Granny Gear's National Points Series (NPS). The Granny Gear-organized series, reduced in scope for 2009, will kick off with the 24 Hours of Big Bear in West Virginia on June 13-14 and then head to the 24 Hours of Nine Mile in Wisconsin on July 25-26.

Granny Gear Productions will also host next year's USA Cycling 24-hour National Championships, but it will move to another venue – the 24 Hours of Big Bear – on June 12-13, 2010.

"Our West Virginia venue represents the roots of 24-hour racing and for the first time the 24-Hour National Championships will be held at an East-coast venue," said Knight. "Just as the Moab course represents the quintessential western course, Big Bear represents the ultimate east-coast course with mile after mile of wooded singletrack, moss-covered rock gardens, birch and hickory forests and beautiful mountain laurel just be coming into bloom."

Granny Gear recently bought the 24 Hours of Nine Mile, which hosted the 2007and 2008 24-Hour National Championship in Wisconsin. The company will be bidding to host it again at Nine Mile in 2011.

The 2009 Championships had been previously scheduled for Payson and then Phoenix, Arizona.

The national championship competition in Moab will be open to American riders only. The 24-Hours of Moab event, however, will offer more than 20 divisions open to various age groups, skill, levels, team sizes and nationalities.

Australian mountain bike clubs race for fire relief

Mountain bike clubs in the fire-ravaged Australian state of Victoria have banded together to run a fund-raising race day on Sunday, February 15 at the You Yangs Mountain Bike Park. All entry fees and donations from the six-hour enduro and Super D downhill will go to the Bush Fire Relief Fund.

In the last several days uncontrollable bushfires have destroyed entire towns in Victoria, leaving over 180 dead, 750 homes razed and causing thousands to be evacuated. The affected areas include some of Victoria's best riding and the Victorian mountain bike community has strong links with the people who live in the region.

A round of the Hard Day At The Office eight-hour series was scheduled for this weekend, but has been cancelled because of fire damage to the Eildon venue. The fund-raiser replaces that race and is a chance for riders to "give back to all the communities who have helped us run races," says Jodie Clausen of the Geelong Mountain bike Club.

As well as the Geelong club, the fund-raising race is being promoted by Victoria's Fat Tyre Flyers, Rocky Riders, Bendigo Mountain Bike Club, Team Mount Beauty, Beechworth Chain Gang, Dirt Riders and Club Mud.

For more information and entry details, see the Big Hill Events website.

Shoe problems pose an extra challenge for Stander in Mankele

Burry Stander crosses the finish line at Mankele to secure his second consecutive win
Photo ©: MTN National Series
(Click for larger image)

Not even an unexpected head-start helped his rivals as Burry Stander (Mr Price Specialized) overcame an unusual early setback to claim his second major win of 2009 at the second round of the MTN National Cup cross-country race held at Mankele in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa on Saturday.

The 2008 Under 23 World Cup champion, who convincingly won round one in Stellenbosch last month, broke the cleat on his left shoe when he hit a rock on the first of six laps. He rode the remainder of the lap with the damaged shoe and had to borrow a pair of shoes for the second lap. By the time he reached the Tech Zone for the start of his third lap, his spare shoes had been located and he was able to tackle the second half of the race without incident.

The setback saw Stander rejoin the race in seventh place, but by the end of lap four, he was already back in the lead with a 45-second advantage over his rivals and went on to clock a winning time of two hours and 18 minutes.

Second place went to current South African national cross-country champion Brandon Stewart with Max Knox (both DCM Chrome) rounding out the podium places.

Vicky Phillips on her way to victory
Photo ©: MTN National Series
(Click for larger image)

"I usually have my spare shoes in the Tech Zone, but had forgotten them today. Luckily one of the women who had just finished racing had Specialized shoes with Crank Brothers cleats so I rode a lap with her shoes to limit my losses while my dad rushed off to fetch my spare shoes," said Stander.

In the women's race, Stellenbosch winner Sara Muhl (Jeep) captured her second consecutive victory ahead of Under 23 rider, Heletjie van Staden (Schwinn) with Janneke Laesk taking third place. One of the pre-race favourites, Tania Raats (Bell Equipment) suffered mechanical problems when her rear derailleur broke, forcing her out of the race after just one lap.

Andrew Neethling (Trek) and Vicky Phillips (Fox) won the downhill. Neethling was the favorite going into the race, but Phillips saw the door open after the winner of round one, Rika Olivier, crashed in a practice session and had to sit out the racing action.

Round three of the MTN National Cup Series will take place in George on March 14-15, and it will double as the national championships.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the second round of the MTN National Cup.

Sharratt and Hamer win in Timaru

Brendon Sharratt and Cathy Hamer took top honors at round two of the New Zealand South Island Cup cross country in Timaru last weekend.

Sharratt put up a strong fight as the lead swapped several times throughout the race. Brad Tilby placed second, stepping up to the podium after his fourth place last week. After leading early on, Ash Hough faded slightly to finish third, keeping a fast-finishing Oliver Whalley at bay in fourth.

In the elite women's race, Cathy Hamer looked assertive from the start, taking a commanding lead early in the race. Erin Greene raced to second while Karen Collins placed third.

Young Anton Cooper, aged 14, proved that the previous week's performance of fifth overall was no coincidence, again crossing the finish line alongside the elite men. Cooper placed first in the Under 17 Men category and an astounding seventh overall.

Cooper races with Team PushBikes led by Richard Allin - PushBikes has two bike shops in Canterbury and supports promising local riders. The shop takes riders around the cross country race series, providing maintenance, coaching and covering costs. "It gives these up and coming riders a chance to excel, and it's great fun," said Allin.

The third and final round in the NZCT South Island Cross Country Cup will be held on Coronet Peak in Queenstown next weekend.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the second round of the South Island Cross Country Cup in Timaru.

Olympic champion Spitz confirmed for Sunshine Cup

A rider checks out the new course at Amathous
Photo ©: Bikin' Cyprus
(Click for larger image)

Olympic champion Sabine Spitz confirmed her participation in Cyprus Sunshine Cup. The German will lead a contingent of riders from nations such as Sweden, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. Spitz traditionally uses the Mediterranean island as a place for early-season preparations. Last year, she won two races as she readied for her eventual gold medal ride in Beijing, China, at the Olympic Games.

"We are used to having Sabine Spitz in our competitions, but we are not used to having the Olympic champion," said Sunshine Cup organizer Michalis Hadjioannou. "This puts us on a higher level. Spitz will race at least two races of the Sunshine Cup series."

She will be joined at the races by fellow German Olympian Adelheid Morath and Junior World Championship runner-up Barbara Benkó.

The German national team will again visit Cyprus as in previous years, and joining the already confirmed Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm at the races will be top riders from several countries: Tim Böhme, Thomas Dietsch, German U23 champion Andy Eyring, Christoph Bischof, Marco Pirrazoli, Alexander Wetterhall and Karl Markt.

Stewart cleared to race

Brandon Stewart will be able to defend his national elite men's cross country title
Photo ©: Gary Perkin
(Click for larger image)

National champion Brandown Stewart has been cleared to race by the South Africa Mountain Bike (SA-MTB), a division of Cycling South Africa, following an incident between Stewart and Kevin Evans.

Stewart, the South African national cross-country champion and Evans, the South African national marathon champion, became involved in a heated on-the-bike incident during the MTN National Marathon Series race in Barberton last month.

As a result, Evans, who races for the MTN Energade team, crashed during the race and then later lodged a complaint against Stewart, who races for the DCM Chrome team.

Stewart finished the race third with Evans in fourth. Stewart was subsequently disqualified from the race results and risked being given a lengthy suspension for bringing the sport into disrepute following post race comments made to media about the incident.

However, SA-MTB, under the chairmanship of Mike Bradley, made a decision calling for a public apology from Stewart and suspending his three-month sentence. Stewart can continue racing on a probationary status for the next three months, which will enable him to compete in, among other events, the South African cross-country championships and the Cape Epic stage race.

"What happened with Kevin was a racing incident which is usually the kind of thing that gets left behind once the race is over," said Stewart. "I reacted aggressively to a dangerous move made by Kevin. However, I now realise that it wasn't the right thing to do and apologise to Kevin and everyone else involved for my behaviour both during the race and afterwards."

Evans and Stewart were teammates in 2007, pairing up to win the high profile Subaru Sani2C stage race and then finishing seventh overall at that year's Cape Epic. They also became the first South Africans ever to win a stage at the TransAlp, Europe's most prestigious mountain bike stage race, where they finished third overall.

Coenen diagnosed with serious health problem

Team Saeco's Davy Coenen is suffering from a serious health condition. Coenen was diagnosed with a brain tumor after seeking medical attention for a continuous headache. A biopsy was performed, with results pending.

"There are three possible outcomes," said Ben Van Woinsel to MTB-live.com. "One, the tumor is benign and surgery is not needed, or it's not benign but surgery is needed to avoid pressure on the brain. Or in worst case scenario, the tumor is malignant. However, the tumor is discovered in an early stage so there is a good chance of success."

The team promised continued support its Belgian rider no matter what the outcome.

Chilean team wins TransAndes Challenge

A Chilean team including Javier Puschel and Carlos Cardemil (Scott que Pacho?) captured overall victory at the first TransAndes Challenge. Puschel and Cardemil won all six stages en route to the overall victory. Second place overall went to Team Cikla-Specialized's Daniel Espinoza and Galo Tamayo from Ecuador. The Fratelli team from Argentina, including Federico Mallo and Francisco Pérez, finished third overall.

Sixteen teams of racers from Argentina, Canada, South Africa, Mexico, Ecuador, and Germany travelled 480km over six days near Pucon in Southern Chile.

"It was a succesful race; we are focusing on Transandeschallenge 2010 edition," said race director Juan Pablo Santiagos. Next year's event will take place again in February.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the TransAndes Challenge.

Wildhaber wins Urge Kenya downhill

Rene Wildhaber was the fastest man at the Downhill Mount Kenya, run on February 9. After three days travelling up the African mountain, the race started at an altitude of 4,850 meters for a 24km run.

Wildhaber finished in 1:17:53, ahead of former World Champion Nicolas Vouilloz (1:24:08) and organizer Fabien Barrel (1:26:30). It was Vouilloz's first race after a one-year break while Barel was competing with a shoulder injury sustained during a recent photo shoot.

Marathon Challenge Offenburg nearly sold out

The World Class Marathon in Offenburg, Germany
Photo ©: Scheiderbauer Sports
(Click for larger image)

With 1,400 of the available 1,600 starting spots reserved for the World Class Mountain Bike Marathon Challenge in Offenburg on May 16-17, registration is almost full. Racers will have the option of 84km, 63km, 48km and 32km distances.

For more information, visit www.womc.de

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