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MTB news & racing round-up for January 17, 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

Craig enjoys a post-Olympic, off-season break

By Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

Adam Craig racing in Beijing at the Olympic Games
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

US Olympian Adam Craig, who renewed his contract with Team Giant through 2010, has been busy cross training and planning how to squeeze as much fun into the 2009 season as possible. Craig finished the 2008 season ranked sixth, as the top American, in the World Cup cross country.

"I rode until about December 15 since we had a super long fall. Since then, I've been skiing and riding dirt bikes and getting away from it all," said Craig to Cyclingnews from his home in Bend, Oregon, after returning from a session of backcountry skiing in the rain.

Life has been a blur since the Olympic Games in Beijing. "I'm not sure what's been going through my head. The last three or four months have flown by even though I was not racing 'cross."

2008 was a pressure-filled year devoted to making the US team for the Olympic Games, at which Craig ended up finishing 29th. On the other hand, 2009 will offer not only plenty of racing, but also more opportunities to participate in different kinds of events.

"My goal is to have a good time," said Craig," and to skip a World Cup for the first time in six years." That doesn't mean he's forgotten the need to chase UCI points for subsequent Olympics. Per current rules and unlike the last pre-Olympic cycle, nations will score UCI ranking points during the full four pre-Olympic years to qualify their teams for the next Games in London in 2012.

As for missing that World Cup, Craig has his sights set on sitting out the round in Madrid. "I think I'll come back and race in Ashland, Oregon," he said of his alternate plans.

In addition to some World Cups, Craig will attend "whatever US Cups work out" according to his schedule. "I'm the US National Champion, so I'd like to do some racing in the US."

Craig will defend his stars and stripes jersey at US Nationals in Colorado. "I'm excited to go try and win at altitude," he said. The past three editions of the US National Championships have been held closer to sea level, at Mount Snow, Vermont.

Mountain bike nationals are just one of the national championships that Craig will attend. Although he sat out the 2008 cyclo-cross season, he'll be back for 2009. "Cyclo-cross nationals will be a mile and a half from my house," said Craig, explaining his motivation.

He is also hoping to race the Cape Epic with teammate Carl Decker, another rider who has renewed with Giant for 2009. "It's not set in stone, but Carl and I want to make it happen. We're also hoping to squeeze the BC Bike (stage race) in."

His list doesn't stop there. "I went and rode in Downieville, California, a few weeks ago before it started snowing. Then I realized I have to go race there."

There's so much riding to be done, don't look for Craig on his bike for another few weeks. "I'm still trying to not ride until the first nice day in February. I'm skiing and doing other stuff. I might do some Nordic ski racing."

MTN expands mountain bike sponsorship in South Africa

A field of more than 300 of South Africa's top cross-country racers at the MTN series opener
Photo ©: Gary Perkin
(Click for larger image)

African cellular network giant MTN expanded its sponsorship of mountain bike racing in South Africa by taking over as the title sponsor of the country's National Mountain Bike Series for 2009 and 2010.

In 2008 MTN had joined Mazda as a co-sponsor of the 12-event series, which had been sponsored solely by Mazda for six years since its inception.

"MTN is proud to build upon its commitment to cycling in South Africa and the sport of mountain biking through the acquisition of the full title rights for the Mazda MTN National Mountain Bike Series," said Senior Manager Anthony Garstang, who hopes to grow the number of participants in the series.

"Mazda has been a strong supporter of mountain biking in South Africa and has contributed a great deal to the development of the discipline. MTN is appreciative of the time and resources that Mazda dedicated to the series over the past seven years and will endeavor to build upon the foundation it created as we take the MTN National MTB Series forward."

For the next two years, the National Mountain Bike Series will be known as the MTN National Mountain Bike Series. It comprises a five-event National Cup Series of cross-country and downhill events, including the national championships, and a seven-event National Marathon Series, including the national championships. With more than 9,000 participants, it is the largest and most prestigious mountain bike series in Africa.

All the events in the National Cup Series are UCI categorized, which means the top finishers will earn important international rankings points.

"It is exciting to see a huge corporation like MTN investing in our sport and seeing the potential," said Fritz Pienaar MTN National Mountain Bike Series Director. "I believe that their increased commitment will grow mountain biking in general and the series in particular."

2009 South African MTN National Cup Series
January 10-11: Round 1 - Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch, Western Cape (XCO/DHI)
February 7-8: Round 2 - Mankele, Mombela, Mpumalanga (XCO/DHI)
March 14-15: Round 3 - South African National Championships, George, Western Cape (XCO/DHI)
April 4-5: Round 4 - Cascades, Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal (XCO/DHI)
May 23-24: Round 5 - Fountains, Pretoria, Gauteng (XCO/DHI)

2009 South African MTN National Marathon Series
January 24: Round 1 - Barberton, Mpumalanga (XCM)
April 26: Round 2 - Chandelier, Oudtshoorn, Western Cape
June 13: Round 3 - Induna, Hazyview, Mpumalanga
August 8: Round 4 - National Championships, N3TC Dirty Harry, Harrismith, Free State
August 30: Round 5 - Blockhouse, Walkerville, Gauteng
October 3: Round 6 - Clarens, Free State
November 7: Round 7 - Fifty Miler, Hilton, KwaZulu-Natal

For more information on the MTN National Mountain Bike Series, visit www.cyclesport.co.za

Rotorua and Wellington next stops for New Zealand MTB Cup

The RaboPlus New Zealand MTB Cup continues this weekend on January 17-18 in Rotorua and Wellington. Rotorua will host round two of the North Island Downhill Cup in the Whakarewarewa Forest, while cross country racers will head to Wellington for the third and final round of the North Island Cross Country Cup.

Sam Blenkinsop will make his return to domestic racing at Saturday's downhill race. He hasn't raced since winning the final round of the 2008 UCI World Cup in Austria in September, opting instead to enjoy a rest period in his hometown. His return to competition is not only eagerly anticipated, but welcomed by a high quality elite field.

Round one winner Ben Cathro, seasoned local charger James Dodds, 2007 World Championship bronze medallist Matt Scoles and junior phenoms Aari Barrett and Brook MacDonald will be looking to best Blenkinsop on the challenging and technical Whakarewarewa downhill course. Harriett Harper will make her first appearance of the New Zealand Cup and will square off against another local Gabby Molloy in the elite women's race.

Sunday's cross country race in Wellington will roll on the Mt. Victoria circuit. Clinton Avery suffered a nasty knock to the thigh in Rotorua two weeks ago, but should be well this weekend to challenge current National Champion Stu Houltham. Local advantage may play into Gavin McCarthy's hands, while first-time elite racer Edwin Crossling could provide that "dark horse" component in the men's race.

Jeanette Gerrie and Nic Leary will make their first Cup appearances, adding real depth to the elite women's field in which Monique Avery will look to extend her advantage into North Island series win. Samara Sheppard will be racing on her home turf and will compete with what will no doubt be a large and vocal Wellington crowd, while aiming to reverse the result from last week's Auckland race in which Avery pedalled away from her in the closing stages to take the win.

The U19 racers will be on course along with the elites. Dirk Peters has been circulating at the elite pace in the previous two rounds but will have a bunch of other youngsters right on his heels.

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews' for coverage of the New Zealand MTB Cups.

Barrel plans ultimate Super D

Downhiller Fabien Barrel is the man behind what may be the ultimate Super D coming to Africa from February 2-9. The Frenchman and ten and nine others are the "pilots" racing the Urge Kenya as a benefit.

They will take three days to climb up to the start, at 4,985m just under Lenana Peak on Mount Kenya, while the trip back down is expected to take three hours. It will finish off at an elevation of 2,000m.

On the way up, riders will meet locals and learn words of the Swali language. Those who learn the most will get the best starting positions.

"Our goal is to set up the most spectacular super D event to support a human cause," said Barrel. "All benefits will go to support a help care association in the country." The event's target is 10,000 euros to go toward ACORD International, a non-governmental organization working for social justice and development in Africa.

The men joining Barrel include Mark Weir, Wade Simmons, Darren Berrecloth, Nicolas Vouilloz, Rene Wildhaber, Remy Absalon, Alexandre Balaud, Yvaral Villier, Sam Peridy.

Rosa firms deal with Giant Italia

Diego Rosa
Photo ©: Team Giant Italia
(Click for larger image)

Giant Italia officially signed a promising young talent, Diego Rosa, for three years. With the deal formalized, Rosa will compete beside the team's star, Spaniard Ivan Alvarez Gutierrez. Rosa, an U23 racer, will follow a similar calendar to that of Alvarez Gutierrez as he works to gain national and international racing experience.

"Diego Rosa is a talented cyclist, who has performed well in national and international races," said the team's Technical Manager Gianfranco Bechis of the racer based on his performances in 2008.

"I'm so proud of this agreement. I will take part in the most important races of this season," beamed Rosa.

Rosa will race the Internazionali d'Italia, World Cups, Cross National Championships, Bundesliga series and Coupe de France VTT events. He'll join the team for its first camp in Sicily from February 5 to 23.

Czech 4X race calendar packed

The Czech 4X scene is alive and well with the Czech 4X Cup, the Czech 4X League and the Moravian 4X League offering nearly two dozen four cross and dual slalom events for 2009. The schedule is listed below.

Czech 4X Cup 2009
May 31: Round #1 - Prague Polis.13
July 5: Round #2 - Sumperk
August 22: Round #3 - Tosovice
October 4: Round #4 -Litomerice

Czech 4X League 2009
May 16: Round #1 - Kraslice (DS)
May 17: Round #2 - Kraslice (4X)
May 30: Round #3 - Prague Polis.13 (4X)
June 6: Round #4 - Utery (DS)
June 7: Round #5 - Utery (4X)
July 18: Round #6 - Mlada Boleslav (DS)
July 19: Round #7 - Mlada Boleslav (4X)
August 1: Round #8 - As (DS)
August 2: Round #9 - As (4X)
August 8: Round #10 -Kraslice (DS)
August 9: Round #11 - Kraslice (4X)
September 28: Round #12 - Pec pod Snezkou (to be confirmed)

Moravian 4X League 2009
April 11: Round #1 - Mankovice
May 3: Round #2 - Moravka
June 13: Round #3 - Tosovice
June 20: Round #4 - Dolni Morava
July 4: Round #5 - Sumperk
August 8: Round #6 - Prerov
October 10: Round #7 - Znojmo

Other Czech events 2009
August 9: Grand Prix of Prerov, Prerov
August 23: Czech 4X National Championships, Tosovice (Czech licensed racers only)

Gunn Rita Dahle Flessja diary: Looking back and forward

Elvis makes an appearance
Photo ©: Gunn Rita Dahle Flesjaa
(Click for larger image)

The Christmas steak is finished and the presents have all been opened. It's been lovely for us to take part in a more "normal" form of Christmas celebration this year. Now we're looking forward to an exciting and action-packed New Year, both on and off our bikes.

We tend to spend the last days of the old year thinking through what 2008 has given us of both good and bad experiences, what it's taught us, and which challenges we've come up against. For me, I can summarize last year as an unforgettable year which gave me everything I had hoped for.

Read the complete diary entry.

Frischknecht launches Maremma Cup

Two cross country stars, Swiss champion Thomas Frischknecht and Italian Martino Fruet, helped launch the Maremma Cup to be held in the hilly landscape of Maremma's Metalliferous Hills in Tuscany, Italy over the first two weekends of March.

The Maremma Cup includes two UCI category two events. It will feature a cross country race starting from Massa Marittima, Grosseto, and going through the upper part of this municipality, along the paths and hills of the Poggio park and surrounding forests, with a 5km circular route and a height difference of 120 metres, lap after lap.

The technical and demanding track will give cyclists the opportunity to test their conditions at the beginning of the season among views of the Follonica Gulf, the island of Elba and old settlements, villages and castles and a rich century-old cultural heritage.

Olympic Champion Julien Absalon, Jose Antonio Hermida, Florian Vogel, Miguel Martinez, Nino Schurter, Ral Naef, Roel Paulissen, Emil Lindgren, Marco Fontana, Kaschi Leuchs, Blaza Klemencic and Eva Lechner are among those already committed to start.

The programme includes a demonstration race on Saturday, February 28 along a circular, 500m track through the medieval streets of Massa Marittima as well as workshops and a mountain bike school for young riders in between the race weekends.

For more information, visit www.maremmacup.com.

Moots Cycles partners with Dirt Sweat & Gears

Dirt Sweat & Gears (DSG), a 12-hour endurance race that is part of the USA Cycling 2009 Mountain Bike National Ultra-Endurance Calendar, got a sponsorship boost Wednesday when Moots Cycles signed a two-year commitment to back the event in Fayetteville, Tennessee. Moots crew members will travel 1,402 miles from their high altitude home in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, to the oxygen-rich race venue to partake both as partners and racers in the popular southeastern US mountain bike event.

"Moots' pledge allows us to enhance the overall event for 2009 and 2010," said Clay Higgins, DSG event promoter.

Last year's Dirt Sweat & Gears drew 300 racers from 31 states and Canada including Nat Ross, Tinker Juarez, Josh Tostado, Rebecca Rusch and Pua Sawicki. This year's event is scheduled for May 9.

Festivities will also include a bike-lovers film and a 20 inch wheel night time trial in the infield of the race course. The main event will see racers cover laps of a 10-mile course with 1,500 feet of elevation gain per lap.

Professional men, women and singlespeeders will race for US$11,000 in cash with equal payouts to the men and women. Proceeds will benefit the Southern Off Road Bicycle Alliance (SORBA) to help in their continuing efforts to provide trail accessibility for the Southeast US mountain biking community.

For more information, visit www.dirtsweatandgears.com.

Great Singapore Carnival returns

The Great Singapore Mountain Bike Carnival is returning to Tampines Bike Park for a weekend of fat tire action. Saturday, February 28 will feature an action-packed day, including short track, Super D qualifying and finals, and marathon events. Approximately 900 national and 100 foreign racers, including American Tinker Juarez, are expected to compete. For more information, visit.www.singaporemtbcarnival.com.

Fight Cancer, Win a Superfly Singlespeed

The winner's Superfly Singlespeed
Photo ©: Elden Nelson
(Click for larger image)

Singlespeeders have the chance to win one of the ultra-rare Gary Fisher Superfly singlespeeds by donating money to fight cancer. Elden Nelson, also known as "Fatty" of the popular FatCyclist.com blog, has a wife who is battling cancer, so he's making a point of joining in the fight.

Nelson, Gary Fisher Bicycles and SLC Bicycles have partnered to give away a complete Superfly frameset along with components to build it up.

All proceeds will go to the Lance Armstrong Foundation. To enter the raffle, donate to Elden's LiveStrong Challenge page. For every US$5.00 donated, a person is automatically awarded a virtual raffle ticket, with the raffle being held February 1. For more information or to enter, visit www.fatcyclist.com.

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