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MTB news & racing round-up for February 13, 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

24 hours of Old Pueblo celebrates 10 years and honors Wiens

By Sue George

Matthew Slaven will return to race with Team Kona
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

The 24 hours of Old Pueblo is set to draw a talented field of endurance racers for its tenth edition, titled "A Decade in the Desert" this weekend, February 14-15. The race will kick off using its usual course at Willow Springs Ranch, about 20 miles north of Tucson, Arizona, at noon on Saturday. This year's event honors Dave Wiens.

"We dedicate the race to someone every year," said organizer Todd Sadow of Epic Rides to Cyclingnews. "He's had an incredible last few years. I met him for the first time last year. I keep referring to him as the 'consummate good guy of mountain biking'. He's an easygoing dude; there is no ego in the dude, and we wanted to honor someone who has made such a good contribution to the industry."

Wiens won the past two editions of the Leadville 100, drawing plenty of media attention when he beat Floyd Landis in 2007 and Lance Armstrong in 2008. In fact, Wiens has won the Leadville race six consecutive times.

He raced professionally for 20 years, officially retiring from the pro circuit in 2004, and he has worked as a trail designer and is the founding director of the non-profit Gunnison Trails. He is married to mountain bike Olympic bronze medallist (1996) Susan DeMattei.

A dinner will be held honoring Wiens' on the evening before the racing action begins.

In this year's men's race, defending champion Kimo Seymour, an accomplished Ironman triathlete from Phoenix, Arizona, and 2006-2007 winner Tinker Juarez will have plenty of competition.

As the domestic season-opener of 24-hour races, Old Pueblo is drawing talent from abroad, too. Ian Leitch and Anthony White will make the trip over from the United Kingdom while Marco Copelli, a veteran racer of more than 34 24-hour solo races, is flying in from Italy.

One unknown is Erik Tonkin, who will be making his 24-hour solo racing debut. "He could either dominate because he's such a brawler or he could end up going out too hard with all these guys and pulling out at midnight," said Sadow, who is looking forward to following the battle.

"It will be a tough race - we probably will have a field of about 10 guys who could win." Steve Yore is another race to watch; he finished in the top five last year.

The women's race is setting up to be a showdown between Mary Metcalf and Sarah Kaufmann, who won in 2007, but did not finish in 2008.

Other big names will be attending the race in a slightly more anonymous capacity - as part of teams. Recent world cyclo-cross championship bronze medallist Katie Compton and mountain biker Kelli Emmet will team up with two others as part of a four-person team. Ryan Trebon, Barry Wicks, Kris Sneddon and Matt Slaven will race together as a team, and the Schultz brothers (Andy and Sam) will partner up with local Chris Suter and another rider for a four-person squad.

Australian mountain bike team to showcase Tasmania to the world

Rowena Fry during an interview at the Australian National Championships
Photo ©: Evan Jeffery
(Click for larger image)
Australia can boast a new UCI-registered cross country mountain bike team. Backed by the Tasmanian Goverment and based out of the Tasmanian Institute of Sport (TIS), the Cycling Australia discovertasmania.com team will promote Tasmania world-wide.

Six Australian cross country riders will compete under the guidance of Cycling Australia cross country coach Neil Ross: 2008 Under 19 national champion Charlton Durie, 2009 Under 23 national champion Gracie Elvin, 2009 national champion Rowena Fry, 2009 Under 23 national championship runner-up Nathan Haas, 2009 Under 23 national champion Lachlan Norris and 2008 Under 23 national champion Paul van der Ploeg.

"Cycling Australia discovertasmania.com has been designed to expose Australia's talented young mountain bikers to an intensive training and competition environment," said Ross. "They will be racing the World Cup circuit alongside the professional teams and that will give our athletes the experience and race results to gain professional contracts with the best teams in the world."

"The team is a big step on the path to the top level of the sport and if we can keep top athletes in the sport for longer we have a much greater chance of posting medal winning performances at future World Championships and Olympic Games."

The team evolved from the existing High Performance Program which last year involved three cyclists.

"The support we're receiving for the team means we have expanded to six athletes including Fry and Elvin, who were both identified by the 'Dirt Roads to London' National Talent Identification program," said Ross. "It is also the first year we'll be registered as a UCI MTB team and that ensures our riders will gain valuable exposure in international events.

"Australian cyclists have a reputation for being hard working and committed to their sport and one of the aims of the Cycling Australia discovertasmania.com team is to continue that reputation through our professionalism both on and off the bike."

The team will compete on the UCI World Cup circuit from April to September including racing in Europe and North America. Those selected as part of the Australian team will also line up at the UCI World Championships being staged at Canberra's Mt Stromlo Forest Park from September 1 to 6.

"We greatly appreciate the support and resources being put behind the team," said Ross. "It's a solid investment in our cycling future and I'm very excited to be involved with the team."

Under 23 racer Norris collects three wins in a row

Lachlan Norris (TIS)
Photo ©: Dave Bateman Photography
(Click for larger image)
Australian National Under 23 Champion Lachlan Norris is on a roll. While the fires were roaring in part of rural Victoria, Norris, who won his national title in late January, was roaring around his home course on the way to a win in the State Series race four in Castlemaine, just one week after his Under 23 win at the Mt. Buller National Series.

Norris declined to attribute his recent success, three wins in a row, to more training. "Well, honestly, I have been really busy with my studies at Melbourne Uni and have just been squeezing in rides on my new road and mountain bikes whenever I can. My Discovertasmania.com teammates and I will be traveling down to Tasmania in a week for a training camp."

Norris credited his parents for much of his success. "I have been fortunate enough to have fantastic and very supportive parents, some great coaches and I have recently picked up the help of some mentors in the 'off the bike' area of my career. This year I am stoked to be on the doscovertasmania.com team, and I am extremely grateful to the assistance and the support I get from the coaching staff."

He has noticed the effect of reduced funding of the national mountain bike team from the government, a post-Olympic year problem for many athletes. "It is going to make it difficult to train long and hard most days of the week and race in all the World Cup events, National/State Series events ... when there has is no living allowance or salary for the riders."

Yet, he remained optimistic about his future and has his eye on other sources of funding. "Hopefully, I will be able to secure some personal sponsorships so I can finish my studies and train as hard as I can to take on the world during the World Cup this year."

Diamondback sponsors Harrison

David Harrison (Reddrox/Tamarack) feeling the burn
Photo ©: Jamie Lau
(Click for larger image)
Diamondback is sponsoring Dave Harrison, a veteran pro mountain bike racer, for 2009. Harrison started racing in the 1991 UCI Grundig World Cup at the age of 23.

"Travelling with World Champion Mike Kloser to races in Italy and France," Harrison recollects, "was a huge advantage; I learned some tricks of the trade!" Soon Harrison was the top rookie on the NORBA circuit, and he's been racing ever since.

He has previously raced for Nukeproof and Cannondale. In 1993, riding for Cannondale, he became the first to race a full suspension in the European World Cup cross country circuit.

In those days, full suspension bikes weren't exactly light. "That Bike was a pig, and it cost me, but I still managed to get some top NORBA results and continued my string of qualifying for World Championships form Durango in 1990, Il Ciocco, Italy in 1991, and Bromont, Quebec in 1992 before being sidelined by an injury in 1994 just before Metabief, France."

In 2008, the 15-time Idaho State Champion won stages of the BC Bike Race and set the course record at the Whiteknob Challenge, the longest running mountain bike race in Idaho.

More recently, he finished sixth at the Winter Triathlon National Championships last month in Bend, Oregon, where he was mixing it up with some other mountain bike pros past and present, like Brian Smith (first), Mike Kloser (second), Carl Decker (third) and Ned Overend (fifth).

Harrison will race the US ProXCT including Sea Otter, Idyllwild, Downieville and the Cactus Cup.

RaboPlus New Zealand MTB Cup to Queenstown this weekend

Coronet Peak will host the next round, both downhill and cross country, of the South Island New Zealand Mountain Bike Cup on February 14-15 in Queenstown.

Saturday's downhill race will feature New Zealand's top downhillers as well as a handful of international visitors who have consistently bumped the New Zealanders off the podium this summer. It's the penultimate race in the nation's downhill series.

Christchurch's downhill pro Justin Leov is back on form after a summer of recuperation and will be looking for an incident-free run this weekend at the head of the field. However, Leov faces strong competition from Scottish podium raiders Ben Cathro, Gary Forest and Joe Barnes, and also from young Danny Hart of the United Kingdom. 2007 World Championship bronze medallist Matt Scoles, Brook MacDonald and any number of the elite men could mix it up in the results.

With former Junior World Champion Scarlett Hagen's recent retirement, the task of trying to keep France's Emmeline Ragot off the top of the elite women's downhill podium will fall again to Harriet Harper.

Sunday's cross country race will bring all the New Zealand Cup contenders together as the final of the six-race combined North and South Island series. An in-form Brendon Sharratt will race Mike Northcott for the first time this summer. Under 19 racer Dirk Peters will also have the opportunity to prove himself against his elders; he is keen to make an impression on the race.

MTBA assisting bush fire victims

Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA) has announced its support for those affected by the bush fires in Victoria. Beginning this weekend, February 14 -15, MTBA, on behalf of its members and clubs, will contribute AUS$10 for each of the first 1,000 participants in any MTBA-sanctioned activity anywhere in Australia.

The assistance will run through the end of March. All clubs or affiliated private promoters are requested to send MTBA the results list or participation list for their activity - competitive or social.

"We encourage our clubs and private promoters to also contribute to the Victorian Bush Fire Appeal being conducted by the Australian Red Cross," said Tony Scott, MTBA Executive Officer. "The recent bushfires have highlighted to all Australians the challenges of living in rural areas. Mountain bikers, having a connection to rural and bushland areas can empathize with those who have suffered so much."

"MTBA recognizes the massive loss of life, property and community as a result of these fires. Since we are closely associated with the regional areas affected we wish to join the rest of Australia in assisting."

Contact MTBA via its website, www.mtba.asn.au or contribute donations directly via the Australia Red Cross at https://www.redcross.org.au/Donations/onlineDonations.asp.

Trans Germany adds best climber classification

The Trans Germany is adding a best climber classification, to be marked with a green jersey, for this year's race on June 21-27. During the multi-day stage race from Erbach im Odenwald to the health resort of Seiffen, six mountain sprints will be scored to determine the winner of the classification.

In previous years, a green jersey was awarded to the fastest racers to the top of a single climb, the Doebraberg. This year, the Spessart, Fichtelberg, Dolmar, Kreuzberg and Rennsteig will also count toward the expanded ranking.

"We are proud to extend the battle of the Green Jersey and are looking forward to some enthralling duels for the 'king of mountain' crown," said project manager Christian Stephan. "The separate timing for the mountain sprints enables all participants to compete with the international pros in the additional category regardless of their placing in the starter field or over the full distance."

Times will be measured from the start to the finish of each climb in the classification with points awarded according to each rider's time in relation to the best time.

The race will also provide GPS-tracking of participants thanks to a new partnership with Garmin.

For more information on the Trans German, visit www.bike-transgermany.de.

US National Calendars crank up

The USA Cycling National Gravity and Ultra-Endurance Calendars will kick off this weekend in Nevada and Texas.

The fourth Annual Mob N Mojave Mountain Bike Race Festival will begin the gravity racing action in Boulder City, Nevada, on February 13-15. The event will offer three days of winter dual slalom, super D and downhill racing in the desert. Pro downhill racers will be vying for US$2,000 in cash. Saturday's action will begin with a dual slalom in the morning on a "Y" shaped course, on which racers will start in separate tracks, but merge for some exciting elbow-to-elbow racing. The super D race will be held Saturday afternoon on a challenging two-mile course. Sunday's main event will be the downhill race, over a 1.5-mile track featuring classic Bootleg Canyon Terrain. The race weekend will wrap up with the Downhill Chainless Open Race.

In addition, the Mas o Menos 100km marathon will start the Ultra-Endurance calendar in Texas.

US Open makes changes

The US Open has made a few changes for its 2009 event, to be held at the Diablo Freeride Park in Vernon, New Jersey, form May 22 to 24. Organizers have improved last year's downhill course and added a giant slalom race, featuring huge banked turns, jumps and rhythm sections. US$27,000 in cash prizes are up for grabs for the pros, and this juniors will also get their own categories in both the downhill and giant slalom disciplines.

Registration will open March 2 at 9:00 am local time. For more information, visit www.diablofreeridepark.com/usopen.html.

2009 WVMBA ultra series

Endurance types in and near West Virginia will have plenty of marathon-type racing options as part of the West Virginia Mountain Bike Association (WVMBA) Ultra Series. The series includes events in West Virginia and neighboring Ohio and Virginia.

June 7: Round #1: Massanutten Hoo-Ha!, Harrisonburg, Virginia
June 27: Round #2: Wayne Ultra, Wayne, Ohio
August 8: Round #3: Big Bear Ultra, Morgantown, West Virginia
September 26: Revenge of the Rattlesnake, Davis, West Virginia

For more information, visit http://www.wvmba.com.

2009 Oregon state series

The Oregon Mountain Bike Series schedule is listed below. It will kick off in late February and run through the July. En route, the Peak Sports Mudslinger will also double as the Oregon State Championships on May 3.

Oregon MTB Series
February 22: Echo Red to Red
April 5: Hornings Hustle
April 25: Bear Springs Short Track
April 26: Bear Springs Cross Country
May 3: Peak Sports Mudslinger (Oregon State Championships)
May 10: Web Cyclery Cascade Chainbreaker
May 16: Spring Thaw
May 30: Falls City Festival Cross Country
June 7: Picketts Charge
June 21: Test of Endurance 50
June 27: Return on the Jedi Short Track
June 28: Return on the Jedi Cross Country
July 4: 8 hrs of Independence

For more information about the series, visit www.breakawayconsulting.net/oregon_mtb_series.html.

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