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MTB news & racing round-up for February 21, 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

Others target the Bulls at Cyprus Sunshine Cup opener

And they're off...
Photo ©: Armin M. KĂĽstenbrĂĽck
(Click for larger image)
The European cross country season will kick off Sunday with the opening round of the Cyprus Sunshine Cup from Tochni to Kalavasos. In men's race, four Team Bulls riders will be hunting for the win while defending champion Petra Henzi is the favorite in the women's category.

Returning Bulls' racers Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm and their new teammates Thomas Dietsch and Tim Böhme will have the numbers to play multiple cards as part of a master strategy. It could be difficult for Austrian rider Karl Markt (SRM-Stevens) and his new teammate Daniel Federspiel or ISD Cycling Team's Christoph Bischof and Mirko Pirazzoli to top them. Central Ghost's Nicola Rohrbach and Swedish racers Magnus Darvell, Calle Friberg, Alexander Wetterhall and Mathias Nilsson will also be on hand trying to deliver a surprise to the favorites.

Looking back at last year's opener, Belgian Maike Polspoel finished second an impressive second and Alexandra Engen also did well after Petra Henzi suffered two flat tires in the women's race. Henzi wasn't slowed for long as she took two wins in other Cyprus Sunshine Cup events on her way to claiming the overall. Two other women's favorites in the mix will be 2007 silver medalist from the European Marathon Championships Arielle van Meurs and Githa Michiels.

The course, with 1,787m of climbing, will travel one 48.3km loop and pass the Kalavasos dam and cross the Akapnou forest.

Fredrik Kessiakoff, who recently switched to road racing, won this event last year, beating world marathon champion Roel Paulissen in an exciting finish. Heather Irmiger won the women's event in 2008 after a move on the Kalavasos dam.

Rocky Mountain and Maxxis USA join forces behind new World Cup team

Marie-Helene Premont will keep racing with Rocky Mountain
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)
Building on a long-term working relationship, Rocky Mountain Bicycles and Maxxis USA have partnered to field the new Maxxis-Rocky Mountain UCI MTB Trade Team for 2009. The agreement was initially the result of Rocky Mountain looking to fill the hole left by the expected retirement of Marie-Helene Premont, the 2008 UCI World Cup Overall champion and Canadian National champion.

However, Premont's later announcement that she would continue racing in 2009 was music to the ears of both Maxxis and Rocky Mountain. Staying on with Rocky Mountain as part of the new team, she will be joined by cross country racers Geoff Kabush, Lea Davison and Raphael Gagne and by downhillers Sabrina Jonnier, Luke Strobel and Cameon Cole.

"Last year, Rocky Mountain athletes raced more days in more countries than any other professional mountain bike team, winning all along the way," said Peter Vallance of the former Rocky Mountain Team. "This new team takes our racing to yet another level with the new riders, staff and sponsors."

Kabush, coming off a banner year in 2008 in which he won the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) cross country title, reached the World Cup podium several times and captured fourth overall in the series, is optimistic about his new team.

"The new team has really got me excited about the upcoming year.  It is a great opportunity for me to work with a company so close to home and everyone at Maxxis is excited about the future of the team," said Kabush. "Rocky Mountain has recently been pushing hard on the development of their race bikes, and I look forward to pushing them hard on the race course. I can't wait to get out racing again in 2009."

New to the team is rising American cross country star, Lea Davison, who was without sponsorship after the Trek / Volkswagen team was disbanded at the end of 2008. Davison had a breakout year in 2008, with stage wins at Sea Otter Classic, several NMBS podiums, and her first World Cup top-10 in Bromont.

Rounding out the cross country team is Canadian Raphael Gagne. Gagne, still an espoir, dominated the Canada Cup series, winning the elite men's overall title. He capped off his season with a seventh at the U23 World Championships.

The Maxxis-Rocky Mountain team signals a return to World Cup downhill competition for Rocky Mountain. "We couldn't be happier to be back in downhill racing. To have a two-time World Champion like Sabrina Jonnier on our bikes is huge. Having Sabrina, Cameron Cole, and Luke Strobel on the Flatline next year means worldwide exposure for the bike and they will certainly be key in product development."

The team will hold its training camp in Bootleg Canyon, Nevada, on March 20-24 and will first be in action at the opening US Cup round in Fontana, California, the following weekend. Premont will begin her season at the opening World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, on April 11.

The Maxxis- Rocky Mountain team will focus on the UCI World Cup series, but will also contest the ProXCT, the Canada Cup, and select stage races.

2009 Maxxis-Rocky Mountain Team Roster
Cross country: Geoff Kabush (Can), Marie-Helene Prémont (Can), Lea Davison (USA), Raphael Gagné (Can)
Downhill: Sabrina Jonnier (Fra), Luke Strobel (USA), Cameron Cole (NZl)
Team Manager: Gary Wolff (GBr)
Team Mechanic: Adam McGrath (USA)

Topeak Ergon bolsters its international roster

Austrian cyclist Alban Lakata
Photo ©: AFP Photo
(Click for larger image)
Team Topeak Ergon added three new riders to its international roster: Austrian Alban Lakata, Brit Sally Bigham and German Robert Mennen.

Lakata, current Austrian National Champion and former winner of the European Marathon Championships, will concentrate on endurance events such as stage, marathon and selected cross-country races. He is expected to race the Cape Epic in South Africa with Rotwild's Thomas Nicke. He'll also target the TransAlp challenge.

British Marathon Champion Bigham will race mostly in the United Kingdom, but will target select international marathon and endurance events. The 23-year-old Mennen will compete in the elite category of German cross country races while dabbling in the international scene.

Returning members of the international team include former World Champion Irina Kalentieva of Russia and Wolfram Kurschat of Germany. German Kim Tofaute and Belgian Benjamin Brochhagen will also race regional and national events.

Topeak previously announced its North American roster.

Kessiakoff excels on Genting climb

Fredrik Kessiakoff
Photo ©: Armin M. KĂĽstenbrĂĽck
(Click for larger image)
Sweden's Fredrik Kessiakoff proved his transition from professional mountain biker to professional road racer is on track at stage five of the Tour of Langkawi last week, when he logged a fourth place performance in the race's 102km queen stage.

On the 25km hors de categorie (HC) climb up the Genting Highlands, Kessiakoff showed he had the legs to stay with the race's best climbers. As he climbed, he picked up speed, overcoming several riders in the final kilometers.

The only men he did not catch were the stage's winner and new race leader José Serpa (Diquigiovanni), Australia's Jai Crawford and Venezuelan Jackson RodrĂ­guez. Kessiakoff almost overtook Rodriguez, but he didn't have a strong enough sprint.

Kessiakoff's performance was good enough to put him into fourth place overall for the duration of the race.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Tour of Langkawi.

Coenen faces surgery for brain tumor

Belgian mountain biker Davy Coenen was scheduled undergo surgery this week for a malignant brain tumor. The surgery was set for February 19, and will be followed by several days in intensive care.

The 28-year-old faces a long rehabilitation, in which he must relearn to keep his balance.

"It is a serious operation, but the surgery doesn't scare me," he told sporza.be. "After the operation, I will fight even harder to reach my goal: the Olympic Games in London 2012."

Coenen rides as an elite without contract. In 2008, he won the GP Roel Paulissen and in 2007, he was third in the Belgian Championships.

Mountain bike trail master Thomson passes away

Brent Thomson died from complications after quadruple bypass surgery
Photo ©: Steve Boehmke
(Click for larger image)

Brent Thomson, mountain bike industry legend and Trail Master of Bootleg Canyon, has lost his battle with complications from the quadruple bypass surgery he underwent in January.

The surgery went well and Thomson was coherent and talking after recovery. But a series of post-operative strokes took him back to the Intensive Care Unit where he eventually succumbed to complications from the surgery.

Thomson's son Barret was at his side with relatives as his condition worsened. "Brent appreciated and was aware of all of the love and support that the mountain bike industry has shown through this difficult time" said Barret. "There's been an outpouring of emotion and support from all of his friends and the industry, and we're making plans for a memorial event to be held at Bootleg Canyon over St. Patrick's Day Weekend (March 14-15.)"

To support the family, a PayPal account has been set up.

USA Cycling Calendars open in Texas and Nevada

Races in Texas and Nevada kicked off two of the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Calendars last weekend.

In the ultra-endurance calendar opener, the Mas O Menos 100km marathon in Terlingua, Texas, Bryan Fawley (Park Place Lexus) and Rebecca Rusch (Specialized-Red Bull) earned wins in the elite men's and women's races.

Action at the Mob N Mojave in Boulder City, Nevada, jump started the gravity calendar, with Brit Dan Atherton and American Jacqueline Harmony winning.

The winners of both events are leading the standings.

USAC MTB National Gravity Calendar Standings
1 Bryan Fawley (USA)                60
2 J.T. Cody (USA)                   40 
3 Sean Sindt (USA)                  30
4 Rick Wetherald (USA)              25 
5 David Hanes (USA)                 20


1 Rebecca Rusch (USA)               60
2 Alice Pennington (USA)            40
3 Claire McKenna (USA)              30
4 Melanie Etherton (USA)            25
5 Danielle Musto (USA)              20 

USAC MTB National Gravity Calendar Standings
1 Dan Atherton (GBr)                30 
2 Gee Atherton (GBr)                20 
3 David Klaassen Van Oorschot (USA) 15 
4 Espen Johnsen (Nor)               12 
5 Kevin Aiello (USA)                10 
1 Jacqueline Harmony (USA)          30 
2 Lisa Myklak (USA)                 20 
3 Darian Harvey (USA)               15 
4 Miranda Miller (Can)              12 
5 Joy Martin (USA)                  10      

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Mas o Menos and the Mob N Mojave.

Canadian stage races add solo categories

Wendy Simms and Norm Thibault at the TransRockies
Photo ©: Dan Hudson
(Click for larger image)
Two popular Canadian multi-day stage races are taking different approaches to introducing solo racing to their historically team-only events. The TransRockies is creating a three-day solo event in conjunction with the beginning of its full event while the BC Bike Race is allowing solo racers to go the full distance alone over seven days.

The TransRockies' new three-day solo category is called the TR3 to its eight edition. The solo event will run concurrently with the first three days of the TransRockies. The new category is suited for those unable to commit to a full week of riding and to first-timers looking for a stepping stone to participating in the full epic.

Though shorter in length, the TR3 will run from Panorama Mountain Village to Nipika Mountain Resort during the first two days and finish with a time-trial loop around the Nipika trail system on day three. Riders will cover between 150 and 200km over the three days with a stiff dose of climbing guaranteed by traversing major passes in and out of the mighty Columbia River Valley. Three categories - open men, open women and master 40+men - will be tallied.

"Every year, we are asked about solo riders and shorter versions of the race, and this year we felt like we had a great opportunity to bring something new to the event," said Event Director Aaron McConnell. "The TR3 should add a highly competitive solo component to our event without compromising the spirit of teamwork and co-operation which is fundamental to the TransRockies experience."

Going into its third year, the BC Bike race will score its solo participants in the same three categories as the TransRockies. The BC Bike Race will journey from Vancouver to Whistler through the legendary singletrack of British Columbia

"With this move to include solos in a traditionally team-dominated discipline, we will be stepping into unknown territory. We felt that many people were having difficulty locating team partners, especially those not from a large cycling center. We are addressing this problem by adding the solo categories and wish to make sure that everybody can participate in our event," said BC Bike Race Racer Relations Manager Kathy Lilyholm.

The BC Bike race will begin on June 28, and the TransRockies will start on August 9.

Record field enters Anaconda Odyssey MTB Marathon

The Anaconda Odyssey Mountain Bike Marathon, formerly called the Otway Odyssey, has sold out with a record field of 1,750 riders. The race consists of three events, all beginning on February 21.

The premier Anaconda Odyssey event will see 1,000 riders tackle 100km of narrow and twisting trails between Apollo Bay and Forrest for a tough day in the saddle. Second to that, 500 riders will take on a more direct 50km "Anaconda Shorty" route between the two townships while the 15km "Anaconda Pioneer" race will give kids the opportunity to get into the action with a fun course around Forrest itself.

The men's field will see some tough competition between riders from all over the country with last years' winner Chris Jongewaard from South Australia returning to defend his title against challengers like 2007 winner Murray Spink from Victoria, Beijing Mountain Bike Olympian Dan McConnell, reigning Solo World 24-hour Champion James Williamson and Tour De France rider Phil Anderson.

The women's field is just as loaded with last year's champion Jennifer Hopkinson-Smith, up against Australian National Series leader Katherine O'Shea, 2007 Australian Champion Tory Thomas and Commonwealth Games representative Emma Colson.

For more information, visit www.anacondaodyssey.com.

Park to lead free race clinics at US Cup

Pro racer Krista Park will be leading free racing clinics for amateur riders at select events of the East and West US Cup series. The first clinic is scheduled for Sunday, March 1 at Bonelli Park at 1:15 pm. Beginner through intermediate riders are targeted, but riders of all levels are welcome.

In 2008, Park finished inside the top fifteen overall for the women's National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) pro cross country and short track series standings while riding for the Kenda Titus Hayes team. As a way to give back to the sport and riders alike, she is offering her knowledge and experience to any racer or rider interested in learning more about the fundamentals of racing and proper preparation.

Clinic topics will include details on the following: training and recovery nutrition, race strategy, pre-ride preparation, warm-up, race skills and execution and bike preparation.

A relaxed, off the bike Q & A session will provide some insight for riders or racers new to the sport of mountain biking. Those interested in attending should RSVP by email to kristaparkmtb@yahoo.com or visit her website at www.KristaPark.com.

Queensland's capital city considers lifting ban on mountain biking

The Brisbane City Council is reviewing outdoor recreation uses in bushland reserves with the possibility of overturning the ban on mountain biking. Currently there is overwhelming support for overturning the ban on mountain biking in bushland reserves, and the council can no longer ignore the growing demand.

Mountain bikers are asked to complete an online survey to answer questions about where riders would like access, how often they ride and their motivations.

Access the survey at www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/BCC:BASE:1631453223:pc=PC_2133. Then go to Outdoor recreation/mountain bike riding and click on the online survey.

Sand Creek Series returns to Pikes Peak Region

Colorado's Pikes Peak Region will host the seven-race Carmichael Training Systems Sand Creek Series beginning on Sunday, May 10 at Bear Creek Terrace in Colorado Springs, Colorado. One highlight of the series will be the Sand Creek International Classic at Cheyenne Mountain State Park on June 13. Run on a new 8.8km course in the shadow of Cheyenne Mountain, home to NORAD, the race will double as a stop on the US ProXCT series and the final in the US Cup West.

Also including four Wednesday races, the Sand Creek Series will conclude on August 1 at the US Air Force Academy on the Falcon Trail as the State Games of America mountain bike race.

Sand Creek Series 2009
May 10: Bear Creek Park
June 3: Bear Creek Park
June 13: Sand Creek International Classic (UCI cat. 3)
June 24: Bear Creek Park
July 1: Bear Creek Park
July 8: Bear Creek Park
August 1: US Air Force Academy
September 19: Cheyenne Mountain State Park (not a series race)

For more information, visit www.sandcreeksports.com.

Original Bicycle Festival

The Original Bicycle Festival, Scotland's Homecoming cycling festival is set for Dumfries and Galloway from May 9 to 24. The 16-day festival will celebrate the region's two-wheeled triumphs of all shapes and sizes, from the world renowned 7stanes mountain bike trails and annual host of road cycling's Tour of Britain to its status as the birthplace of the pedal cycle, invented by Kirkpatrick "Pate" Macmillan (1813-78). The event will complement the World Mountain Bike Conference on Sustainability (WMBCS), which will take place at Crighton Hall, Dumfries, from May 12 to 15.

Highlights of the Original Bicycle Festival programme include the Enduro Avalanche (May 9-10), the Junior Original Bicycle Festival Challenge (May 10), Cycling Film Festival (May 14-17), Women on Wheels (May 17), Scottish Cycling Criteriums (May 17), Kirkpatrick Macmillan Rally (May 24).

NorCal League series to start in Fort Ord

Five hundred high school mountain bikers from 35 schools across northern California are eagerly awaiting the opening round of the 2009 Northern California High School Mountain Bike Racing Series, which begins March 1 with the Central Coast Invitational at East Garrison at Fort Ord, near Monterey.

The opener will be held on a course featuring lots of singletrack over rolling hills on a six-mile lap.

"Once again we are seeing an increase in the participation of students, schools and coaches, and as usual, I am excited to see the new crop of riders at the start line. The teamwork, camaraderie and star coaching quality, which have defined our League thus far, create a unique racing atmosphere," said NorCal League Founder and Director, Matt Fritzinger.

"The Fort Ord venue has a lot of history for our League. It makes the perfect opening race for both new racers and spectators alike."

2009 Northern California High School Mountain Bike Racing League Series
March 1: Central Coast Invitational 1, East Garrison, Fort Ord, Monterey
March 15: Granite Bay Invitational, Folsom Lake, Folsom
April 5: Mountain Goat Challenge, Pilarcitos Canyon, Fort Ord, Monterey
April 26: To be announced
May 17: State Championship, Bogg's Mountain, Cobb

For more information, visit norcalmtb.org/race/index.htm.

No chains needed for Coronet Peak race

The Vertigo Chainless Downhill is returning for its second year to Coronet Peak Bike Park on Saturday, February 21. The park's season-ending race will consist of a run on each the downhill and cross country tracks, with a combined time total score.

"This event ran for the first time last year and made for a really good day for all ages. The emphasis is on getting up here and taking part; it's not too serious. Spectators have a great time, with plenty of on-track antics to watch," said Hamish McCrostie, Coronet Peak Ski Area Manager.

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