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MTB news & racing round-up for January 22, 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

Stromlo Forest Park partners with Rando ahead of Aussie nats

Jared Rando and Neale Guthrie.
Photo ©: Territory and Municipal Services
(Click for larger image)

Stromlo Forest Park signed a sponsorship deal on Wednesday with Jared Rando, a multiple-time Australian national mountain bike champion, just in time for the 2009 Australian National Mountain Bike Championships coming up at the park this weekend.

"Territory Venues and Events is extremely excited about Jared Rando signing up with Stromlo Forest Park," said Neale Guthrie, General Manager of Territory Venues and Events. "Rando is very well known amongst fellow MTB champions ... both locally and internationally."

"The relationship with Stromlo Forest Park being home to several mountain bike championship events - including last year's SCOTT Australian 24-hour and the UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships to be held in September this year - also highlights the fact that this agreement is a perfect match," said Guthrie.

Stromlo Forest Park welcomes the Australian Mountain Bike National Championships, beginning on Thursday with a club team relay and showcasing the best off road talent in Australia across all disciplines including cross country, short track, downhill and 4X.

Coming up on

Cyclingnews will cover the 60th edition of the Dauphiné Libéré live as of stage 4 on Wednesday, June 10, at approximately 15:00 local Europe time (CEST)/ 23:00 Australian time (CDT)/ 9:00 (USA East).

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Rando began racing downhill when he was 15-years-old and was first selected for the Australian team for the World Championships when he was 16. He has competed for Australia as a junior for three years and finished third at the 1999 World Championships in Sweden.

His first year as a pro in the US was in 2000 and he finished seventh overall in the US national series for 2000. He won the Australian National Series during the 1999-2000 and the 2000-2001 seasons. In 2003, Rando signed a two-year deal with Giant, his team ever since.

"In signing the sponsorship agreement with Stromlo Forest Park, Jared will represent Canberra's world class venue on a world stage, also marking a new stage in the parks development. We're looking forward to the partnership and looking forward to working with Jared," said Guthrie.

Cathro upsets New Zealand downhill favorite Blenkinsop

Ragot tops women's podium again

Blenkinsop racing the World Cup in Austria last September
Photo ©: Luke Weber
(Click for larger image)

The crowd watched in anticipation as Yeti/Fox rider Sam Blenkinsop raced down the fast-paced track in the Whakarewarewa Forest at round two of the New Zealand North Island Downhill Cup last weekend.

It was Blenkinsop's first race since winning the final round of the 2008 UCI World Cup round in Austria in September last year. The New Zealander placed second in his seeding run and was hoping to knock off some time in his race run which he did, but, Ben Cathro of Scotland took the win in the elite men's category. Another Scottish rider, Joe Barnes, who is travelling around New Zealand for the NZ MTB Cups, earned third place.

Frenchwoman Emmeline Ragot kept her place at the top of the podium in the elite women's category with Harriet Harper in second and Rita Langley third. The senior women's category saw a growing field, with a noteworthy 12 women entering this round's competition. Madeline Taylor won the senior women's race, an impressive feat at age 15. She has been riding mountain bikes for just one year, having quickly become addicted to the sport.

"It's awesome to be riding with so many other girls. It makes us ride faster and more competitive. We all get along really well, but when it comes to the race, it's all on," said Taylor.

Race Organiser Dave Hamilton had a lot on his plate, with a huge race to run as well as both his sons entered and also racing himself. Hamilton placed first in the Masters 2 Men (over 40) whilst sons Louis won the Under 17 men and Connor placed fifth in the Under 15 men.

"It was amazing to see the top guys letting loose on the fast-paced summer course, with it being described as a wild roller coaster ride from top to bottom," said Hamilton.

This was the second race in the downhill series of three, with the final round being held in Levin this coming weekend. The action then moves to the South Island for three rounds before the New Zealand National Mountain Bike Championships in Nelson from February 26 to March 1.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the North Island Cup downhill round two and cross country round three from this past weekend.

Atherton injured in collision with vehicle

Downhill World Champion Rachel Atherton was injured
Photo ©: Sven Martin
(Click for larger image)

Downhill World Champion Rachel Atherton dislocated her shoulder and suffered cuts and bruises in a head-on collision with a pickup truck while training on the road on Sunday afternoon in California.

"I was head-down pedaling at the start of the ride, not more than a minute in when I looked up and saw a truck," Atherton said to the Mercury News. "Automatically (I) swerved to avoid it, but the driver swerved the same way and before I knew it we were too close to avoid each other, so I braced to take some of the impact."

Atherton, a 21-year-old from Britain, was riding with her two Animal Commencal teammates and brothers, Dan and men's downhill World Champion Gee. She reportedly drifted into the wrong lane after negotiating a corner and then hit the windshield of a 1999 Ford Ranger pickup.

"She was just lying there and ... because I saw the pickup, I was like, 'Mate, my sister's dead..." said Gee to BikeRadar. "I honestly thought I'd lost her at that point."

After the accident, Atherton was taken to San Jose Medical Center for initial evaluation and treatment and then was scheduled to see a specialist according to her team manager Dan Brown.

"I feel so lucky that I didn't come off any worse than I did," Atherton said to the Mercury News. "There was a lot of blood and cuts, but it is not too bad."

Atherton was riding without a helmet as she trained for the upcoming opening round of the UCI World Cup downhill is South Africa in April. She said she set out without her helmet after its clasp broke when she was putting it on after warm-up.

"I figured that, seeing as we were out there already, I would take the chance and ride without it on," Atherton said. "As Sod's Law (Murphy's law) would have it, the one time that I wasn't wearing my helmet was the one time that I needed it."

A member of the California High Patrol has indicated that Atherton was at fault in the incident, but would probably not be cited since she was the one injured and hurt.

"From now on I will never take the chance again, even if it means driving back and getting a different helmet," she said. "Obviously being a professional cyclist, I wear a helmet at all times and I urge, as this experience has taught me, that people wear a helmet no matter what, there is no excuse."

South Africa adds ultra marathon series

Top marathon and stage-racer Max Knox
Photo ©: MTN Barberton Classic
(Click for larger image)

Ultra marathon mountain bike racing is the newest challenge for endurance-oriented mountain bikers racing in South Africa. The MTN National Marathon Series will kick off with the Barberton Classic in Mpumalanga on January 24. Throughout the series, marathon events of a minimum of 70km will continue to be held; however, ultra marathon distances will be added to some events.

At the foot of the Mkhonjwa Mountains, the Barberton classic will be the first of seven events comprising the national series. A 75km marathon and a 45km half marathon route will be combined for a 120km ultra marathon event with almost 4,000m of climbing.

"I think it's fantastic!" said David George, a stage race specialist for the MTN Energade team, who finished third overall with Kevin Evans at the 2008 Cape Epic. "We have shown that this country has world class riders, now we'll have more world-class events to nurture those riders. With the longer distances, riders will have to be conditioned for endurance to succeed. You won't get cross country specialists winning so easily anymore."

"It's going to make a big impact on local racing," said Team DCM Chrome rider Max Knox, who along with Brandon Stewart, finished seventh overall at the 2008 Cape Epic. "It makes it possible to specialise in marathon races, and we'll see some different faces on the race podiums now. I'm looking forward to the bigger challenge."

Burry Stander (Mr. Price / Specialized)
Photo ©: MTN Barberton Classic
(Click for larger image)

Open to all riders who believe they'll manage the increased distance within the cut-off time of five hours at the 75km mark, the ultra marathons will only offer MTN National Series points to elite men.

"The top men take more than four hours to finish the marathon world championships, and we want our talented South African riders to be able to prepare for these international tests at home," said Fritz Pienaar, Series Director. "Some of the events may even qualify for International Cycling Union grading in future, which will encourage more international riders to compete in South Africa. It's all very positive and we're excited about it."

This year's opening round at Barberton is shaping up to be a duel between two men, Kevin Evans and Burry Stander. Evans (MTN Energade) is the current South African marathon champion while Stander (Mr. Price / Specialized) is the current national cross country champion. Last year, Stander outsprinted Evans by the narrowest of margins to capture the 75km race while in 2007, Evans finished just seconds ahead of Stander to claim the win.

"The extra kilometers at Barberton will change the race for sure," predicted Evans. "You'll see the difference between the guys who put in the big miles over December and those who didn't. I'm looking forward to the longer race. It suits me better."

Tania Raats (Bell Equipment)
Photo ©: MTN Barberton Classic
(Click for larger image)

Cross country specialist Stander, who won the U23 UCI World Cup overall, is relatively unfazed by the additional distance. "Obviously a shorter race suits me better, but I'm currently preparing for the Cape Epic which means a lot more endurance training. I'm looking forward to Barberton where I intend to do my best to defend the title. Every race I start I try and win."

Others to watch include Francois Theron (Garmin Adidas), who defeated Evans at the 126km Attakwas Extreme Challenge last Saturday. His teammates Mannie Heymans, Marc Bassingthwaighte and Philip Buys are also men to watch along with the DCM Chrome trio of Max Knox, Brandon Stewart and Ben-Melt Swanepoel and MTN Energade teammates David George and Mathy Buekes and Schwinn's Johnny Kritzinger.

In the women's 75km event, 35-year-old Yolande de Villiers (DCM Toyota), defending champion, is expected to make a strong return. She spent most of 2008 sidelined after shoulder surgery and was unable to compete last weekend due to a broken derailleur hanger. Other podium contenders will include Samantha Oosthuizen (Garmin adidas), Yolandi du Toit and reigning MTN Series champion, Tania Raats (Bell Equipment).

For more information or to enter online, visit www.cyclesport.co.za

Siren Bicycles & World Bicycle Relief partner to support endurance racing team

Siren Bicycles and World Bicycle Relief have partnered to support Team World Bicycle Relief-Siren and raise awareness of the World Bicycle Relief's programs and missions for the 2009 season.

"This is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the work of World Bicycle Relief," said Siren Bicycles founder Brendan Collier. "Siren is all about seeing the bicycle as a sustainable mode of transportation, and World Bicycle Relief is dedicated to providing bicycles in support of healthcare, education and economic opportunity."

Collier also announced the relocation of Siren Bicycles to Tucson, Arizona. The location in central Tucson offers space for design and fabrication of both production and custom and semi-custom mountain bike frames, in addition to an upcoming "city bike" project focused on an affordable and sustainable bike design for urban use. The team will race production softail Song SL bicycles.

"Teams like World Bicycle Relief-Siren are out there every day, on the roads and trails, raising awareness," said to Katie Bolling, head of the Grassroots program of the World Bicycle Relief. "Using our logo on their jersey and with our educational materials, individuals and teams can speak knowledgably about our work in underdeveloped regions of the world."

The team consists of professional endurance racers Dan Brennan, Todd Carpenter, Brad Majors and Chris Strout, and amateurs Craig DeAmbrose and Stephen Janes. Between them, the riders have scored several top results in recent seasons, including a podium and several top tens in the 24-hour US National Championships; national and regional wins in 12- and 24-hour events; and strong finishes in National Ultra-Endurance (NUE) races.

For 2009, the team will open its season at the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, near Tucson, and will go on to contest national and regional races including select NUE events and the 24 Hour National Points Series.

Benromach extends Three Tens series sponsorship

Benromach Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky has signed up to continue its role as title sponsor of The Three Tens endurance mountain bike series, run by Fort William-based No Fuss Events. The three cross country mountain bike endurance events have become popular fixtures on Britain's mountain biking calendar.

The first of the Benromach Three Tens Series events, 10 Under the Ben, the flagship of the series, will be held in Fort William on Saturday, May 30. More than 1,000 riders have experienced the course on trails within Forestry Commission Scotland's Leanachan Forest since the event began four years ago; with a record 925 riders competing in 2008. 10 at Kirroughtree will take place in Galloway on Saturday July 11, and 10 More in Moray will round off the series in Fochabers on the Saturday, August 22.

At the events, teams and individuals cycle a ten-mile circuit at each venue over a ten-hour time period. Opportunities will be available at each event to sample the Benromach Traditional Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky.

"Our involvement in 2008 provided us with a strong opportunity to target the type of consumer who is adventurous, challenges the norm and seeks to share experiences with likeminded people. We look forward to building our association with the Three Tens Series throughout 2009 and the opportunity to raise awareness of the Benromach brand with this segment of the market," said David Urquhart, Joint Managing Director of Gordon & MacPhail, proprietors of Benromach Distillery.

Benromach Three Tens Series 2009
10 Under The Ben - Saturday, May 30 - Forestry Commission Scotland's The Leanachan Forest, Fort William
10 At Kirroughtree - Saturday, July 11 - Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries and Galloway
10 More In Moray - Saturday, August 22 - The Ordequish Woods, Fochabers

For more information visit www.nofussevents.co.uk.

Salzkammergut Trophy changes for 2009

The Dachstein West ski resort, which hosts the Salzkammergut Trophy, is covered in places by more than two meters of snow, but the preparations for Austria's biggest mountain bike marathon on July 18 are already underway.

A course change will skip the Echern Valley after the long section along Lake Hallstatt. Instead the revised course will climb a narrow path with 13 serpentines - a former cart trail built in the mid 19th century leading to the oldest salt mines in the world. The trail passes the famous Hallstatt necropolis where archaeologists believe that there are more than 4,000 graves dating back to the Iron Age (800 - 400 B.C.). The vantage point will offer views of the lake and the surrounding mountain range. The steepest part of this trail passes directly the miners' refuge and has a 30 percent incline before heading back to Rossalm.

Besides the four well-established and popular courses of 209, 110, 53 and 27 kilometers there will be an additional distance of 36 kilometers. This course is designed especially for juniors who wish to race further than 27km, but who are not permitted to ride longer than two hours according to Austrian Cycling Federation regulations.

Registration for 2009 will be limited to 1,500 racers for both the 110km and the 53km distances.

For more information visit www.trophy.at.

Local riders Terra-fied

Local Rob Sullivan is planning to race
Photo ©: Finish Line Events
(Click for larger image)

Local Wangaratta racers Rob Sullivan and Phil Emslie have teamed up to tackle the Terra Australis Great Southern Land Mountain Bike Epic. The seven day, 556km epic race through Victoria's High Country has attracted a field of riders from all over Australia including some of Australia's elite men and women.

Sullivan and Emslie, riding as Team Rock and Road, have kicked off a vigorous training program in order to get themselves as fit and well prepared as they can be before the March 29th start date. "Fortunately we have access to some of the best off-road trails in the country and being able to get out there and ride some of the stages before the event is a huge bonus," said Emslie.

Sullivan, who is the proprietor of Rock and Road Cycles in Wangaratta and a passionate local rider, said, "I have always wanted to do one of these multi-day races and we were also looking for something to do to celebrate Phil's 50th birthday. It is great that an event of this magnitude is being hosted in North East Victoria. Events such as this in Europe and North America attract large international fields and being able to ride alongside elite riders will be a huge buzz. Our mountains will provide a great backdrop and a huge challenge for this race."

"I have been out and ridden a few of the stages and the course will be challenging but definitely achievable," said Sullivan.

The Terra Australis Great Southern Land Mountain Bike Epic will start in Falls Creek on Sunday, March 29 and conclude in Wangaratta on Saturday, April 4 with other stage finishes en route in Dinner Plain, Bright and Beechworth.

For more information, visit www.finishlineevents.com.au.

Apeldoorn to host Dutch National Youth Championships

Future Dutch stars on their way to becoming the next Bart Brentjens will converge on Apeldoorn, in The Netherlands, for a national youth championships this summer. Over 200 kids under the age of 13 will race on June 6. Held under the supervision of the Dutch National Federation, the KNWU, the Mountainbikeclub Bar End will organize the event. Bar End is the largest mountain bike club in the Netherlands with over 400 members.

Transmexican MTB race

The Transmexicana MTB stage race will cover 750km from February 21 to March 1. The race will run through southern Mexico from Huatulco on the Pacific Coast to Veracruz on the Mexican Gulf.

For more information, visit www.original-extreme.com.

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