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MTB news & racing round-up for January 29, 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

Jongewaard and Fry collect titles Down Under

Defending national champion Chris Jongewaard rides consistently
Photo ©: Evan Jeffery
(Click for larger image)

Missing out on the Beijing Olympics was far from Chris Jongewaard's mind as he claimed his fourth Australian national cross country title in Canberra on Sunday. Jongewaard's win mades it his third consecutive title.

The Adelaide rider dominated from the start, and he posted an impressive finishing time of one hour and 57.08 seconds over the five-lap event. The 28-year-old annihilated his opposition from the start, and the race for second became a tussle between two Canberra riders Ben Henderson and Dylan Cooper. Henderson claimed second by five seconds over Cooper.

In the elite women's cross country, Launceston's Rowena Fry claimed her first national title. The 26-year-old faced stiff competition and was unable to break away from Bendigo's Jo Wall until the fourth and final lap.

"I'm really stoked," said a surprised Fry. "I was going to be happy with a top five. I've been dreaming about it for a year and a half now."

Rowena Fry celebrates her win
Photo ©: Evan Jeffery
(Click for larger image)

After recent return to training following a bout with chronic fatigue syndrome, Fry surprised herself with a national jersey in her first race back. "I haven't raced for quite a long time so I didn't know what to expect," she said. "I got a break a couple of times. In the last lap, I managed to get a break and hang onto it."

Wall finished just 35 seconds behind Fry to claim second. Brisbane's Jodie Willett placed third.

Monday brought more good news for both cross country national champions. Jongewaard and Fry won the short track titles, too.

National U23 Champion Norris transfers form from road to dirt

Lachlan Norris (TIS)
Photo ©: Dave Bateman Photography
(Click for larger image)

After a hectic start to his season racing the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic on the road in early January, Lachlan Norris proved that his talent persists off-road, too. He won the under 23 cross country at the Australian National Mountain Bike Championships this past weekend, not long after finishing sixth place in the Australian U23 National Road Championships.

Norris' success on the dirt came despite a nasty crash prior to his race. The crash left him feeling not at 100% on the big day, yet his persistence paid off.

"The last climb was brutal," said Norris. "But my coach, Chris Clarke, confirmed I was on track for my second National Title as I headed out for the last half lap, which helped me stay smooth and keep the throttle open all the way to the line."

He will shift his focus to preparing for the first World Cup round in April, where as national champion, he'll appear wearing the rings of green and gold on his jersey.

Hannah back on track

After an 18-month break from competition, Mick Hannah returned to racing in full style at the Australian National Mountain Bike championships. The 25-year-old Hannah, older brother of former junior world champion downhiller Tracey Hannah, won the national downhill title ahead of BMX Olympian Jared Graves.

Hannah was competing in Canberra as a way to check out the World Championship course for September's event. "Being the way I am, I can't go into a race without trying to win," said Hannah to the Cairns Post. "But I would not have been disappointed if I hadn't won. I came to see what time I could ride and what I would have to do in training for the World Championships."

The break was both necessary and good for Hannah. "I'd raced bikes for 17 years up until then. I didn't touch a bike for 10 months. But by the end of the year I was starting to watch race results and getting charged about it."

Hannah is already looking toward some other events. He'll race the next round of the national series in Mt. Bulla and the World Cup opener in South African in April.

New Zealanders show mixed results at Australian Nationals

New Zealand riders competing in the Australian national mountain bike Championships earned mixed results in Canberra last weekend. Eleven of New Zealand's most promising junior and two elite female cross country athletes competed at Stromlo Forest Park on the outskirts against Australia's best. All, who were part of the Mountain Bike New Zealand Athlete Development Programme, enjoyed the chance to race on the same course that will be used for the 2009 World Mountain Bike Championships in September.

In the Under 19 junior men's race, Adrian Retief raced to a solid plan within a group of four riders trying to chase down winner Michael Baker. He was rewarded for his efforts with third place, while Rotorua's Sam Shaw was two minutes back in fifth. But attrition struck two of NZ's brightest talents; Patrick Avery withdrew on his second lap due to a possible broken wrist after a nasty crash while challenging for the race lead and Dirk Peters gambled on a lightweight set of race tires which punctured on the first lap and again later on the third lap.

In the Under 19 junior women's race, Sarah-Kate McDonald got her first taste of international competition when she diced with Queensland's Gillian Burgess for her entire three-lap race, finishing in third mere seconds behind Burgess. Her teammate Jesse Loe wasn't as fortunate and withdrew after two laps following an unplanned excursion off-course.

Nic Leary produced the team's best performance in the elite women's race with a ninth place.

The athletes returned to New Zealand with plans to contest the South Island Cross Country Cup, which will kick off this Sunday, February 1 in Dunedin.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of Australian Mountain Bike Nationals.

Knox & De Villiers win tough season-opener

Max Knox conserved his energy early on,
Photo ©: MTN National Marathon Series
(Click for larger image)

Max Knox, 21, proved he's maturing into one of South Africa's new endurance sport stars when he won the tough first round of the MTN National Marathon Mountain Bike Series in Barberton on Saturday.

Clocking a time of five hours, 11 minutes and 28 seconds for the gruelling 120km race, which included almost 4,000 metres of ascent, Knox (DCM Chrome) led his team in a top-three sweep across the finish line with Jacques Janse van Rensburg finishing second and Brandon Stewart in third.

However, Stewart was later disqualified for an incident involving South African marathon champion Kevin Evans (MTN Energade) out on the course. Evans crossed the finish line fourth, but was promoted to third following Stewart's removal.

"It was a pretty brutal race today but a good one to win. We had quite a fast pace early on so it ended up being a matter of who had the most left at The end. My teammates were strong today. Any one of us could have won. I just happened to be the least tired at the end," said a typically modest Knox.

Yolande de Villiers had reason to smile
Photo ©: MTN National Marathon Series
(Click for larger image)

Knox, Stewart and Janse van Rensburg were in the small select lead group that formed early on along with defending champion Burry Stander (Mr Price Specialized) and 2007 winner, Evans. Stander, the current Under 23 World Cup cross-country champion, crashed in the muddy conditions just before halfway, sustaining a knee injury. For fear of aggravating the injury, Stander opted to withdraw, leaving Evans to contend with the DCM Chrome trio on his own.

In the women's 75km event, Yolande de Villiers (Cycle Lab Supercycling Toyota) made a triumphant return to racing following a disappointing 2008, most of which saw her sidelined by a lengthy recovery from shoulder surgery.

The 35-year-old former national marathon champion took an early lead and finished in a respectable time of three hours, 43 minutes and 20 seconds, almost 20 minutes ahead of runner-up Ischen Stopforth, who ran her bike across the finish line as a result of a mechanical problem late in the race. Chrissie Viljoen (MTN Energade) completed the top three.

"I was a bit apprehensive for the long, fast downhill so I pushed hard at the start to try and build up as much of a lead as I could. That way I could be a bit cautious on the downhill," said an elated De Villiers, who was virtually unchallenged throughout the race.

"There were a lot of river crossings late in the race and by the end, my arm and hand had gone numb. But it was a case of putting mind over matter since I was very motivated to defend my title. I am so happy to win my first big race back!"

The next event in the MTN National Marathon series, Chandelier, will take place in Oudtshoorn on Sunday, April 26.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Barberton round of the South African National Marathon Series.

Blenkinsop & Harper win North Island Cup downhill final

Brook McDonald
Photo ©: Bike NZ
(Click for larger image)

Levin hosted the third and final North Island downhill round of the Raboplus MTB Cups. World Cup round winner and world-ranked number seven Sam Blenkinsop won the elite men's race, making him the first New Zealander to be at the top of the podium during this series after Scottish rider Ben Cathro had won rounds one and two.

James Dodds made a welcome return to the podium in second with Edward Masters also ending a long dry spell by claiming third.

Cathro, who has been thoroughly enjoying a summer of high-quality racing in New Zealand, had an unfortunate crash in the top section of the course after being the top qualifier. Despite his crash, he said optimistically, "It was loose and the jumps were radical. I am looking forward to the South Island series." There is he expected to make more trips to the podium.

Harriet Harper headed the elite women's category with little competition. Her fellow racers were either injured or did not finish their run. North Island Downhill Cup leader and Frenchwoman Emmeline Ragot, who won rounds one and two, was not at Levin as she was racing in Canberra at the Australian National Championships this weekend.

The series will cross to the South Island for three downhill rounds in Dunedin, Queenstown and Blenheim and three cross country races in Dunedin, Queenstown and Timaru before the New Zealand National Championships wrap things up in Nelson February 26 to March 1.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of round three of the North Island Downhill Cup.

McConneloug and Broderick renew sponsorship for custom program

Mary McConneloug & Mike Broderick
Photo ©: Mary McConneloug
(Click for larger image)

US National Champion Mary McConneloug and teammate Michael Broderick will continue managing their custom-tailored 2009 race program racing under the name Team Kenda-Seven-NoTubes.

"Kenda Tires has stood with us through a vast transition from our pure grassroots to the program that we have come into today," said McConneloug, who represented the US at the Olympic Games in Beijing, China, last summer. "Mike and I are thrilled to be signing an unprecedented second four-year contract with Kenda that will see us through the 2012 season." The two have spent many years travelling the globe and racing at an elite level.

Kenda has also given its support to the US national mountain bike scene. It is backing the US Kenda Cup, a series of races on the East and West Coast throughout 2009.

While American bicycle manufacturer Seven Cycles is a familiar sponsor for the two Americans, No Tubes is new to the title sponsorship role. "We have a long history of working alongside NoTubes and it is a great honor to have them with us as a core supporter."

"We are happy to be able to develop a program with companies that are so well equipped to offer us the tools we need for ultimate race performance," said McConneloug. She and Broderick will focus on an international competition schedule including the World Cups, World Championships, Continental Championships and domestic races throughout Europe and other places abroad.

On the domestic side, the team will defend McConneloug's national title at the US National Championships as well as attend several races in the ProXCT and Kenda Cups.

Rocky Mountain Bicycles launches Factory XC-Epic Racing team

By BikeRadar

Rocky Mountain won the women's Cape Epic in 2008 with Pia Sundstedt and Alison Sydor
Photo ©: Karin Schermbrucker / SPORTZPICS
(Click for larger image)

Rocky Mountain Bicycles has announced its new Factory XC-Epic Racing Team, creating a team dedicated to non-World Cup events. The new squad will be attending epic stage races, all-mountain events, enduros and festivals.

Alison Sydor, Mountain Bike Hall of Fame member, three-time World Champion, and Olympic silver medalist is returning to the Rocky Mountain team in 2009. She had an extremely successful season in 2008, winning both the Cape Epic Challenge and the Trans Alp Challenge. In 2009, she will be looking for more stage racing domination with confirmed starts at Cape Epic, TransGermany and TransAlp.

Sydor is joined by Andreas Hestler, a Canadian Olympian and three-time winner of the Trans Rockies. Hestler had a successful 2008 season, winning a stage at both the BC Bike Race and the Trans Rockies. For 2009, he will be targeting various other races and epic single day events, such as the Downieville Classic and the Fruita Fat Tire Festival.

New to the factory team are Stefan Widmer and Marty Lazarski, formerly of the Rocky Mountain-Different Bikes squad. Both have several Canada Cup podium finishes to their credit and together finished third overall in the 2008 TransRockies stage race.

Rounding out the team is Evan Guthrie, the 2008 Canadian Junior cross country and cyclo-cross Champion. Still with a year left in the junior category, Evan is poised for another stellar season.

Cross-country star Marie-Hélène Prémont, a member of the team since 2004, took two gold medals at Fort William and Mont-Sainte-Anne, three silver and three bronze medals and claimed first place overall after eight of the nine races of the 2008 World Cup season. At the 2008 Beijing Games, she was forced to retire from the race due to hyperventilation, but she will continue racing the World Cup circuit in 2009.

Rocky Mountain Bicycles Factory XC-Epic Racing Team: Alison Sydor, Andreas Hestler, Stefan Widmer, Marty Lazarski, Evan Guthrie.

La Ruta delays big changes until 2010

Organizers of the La Ruta de los Conquistadores have decided to maintain the four-day format and all courses for this year's event, the 17th edition, to be held on November 11-14. A fifth day was to be added to the race in 2009, including some new courses; however, after a preliminary exploration, organizers determined that more coordination and resources would be necessary for such purpose.

"We have analyzed the current situation and our options, so we decided to stay on the same configuration for one more year," said Race Director Diego Viquez. "2009 will represent the opportunity for making the proper arrangements, designing the best race and having the necessary time for the staff and potential participants to prepare themselves for big changes that will be introduced for next year's La Ruta".

"We want to do it right and the current situation would not allow us to do it that way. We postponed these major changes until the 2010 event. Nevertheless, we still promise a great adventure and the coolest experience for this year's entrants," said Viquez.

Organizers are still planning to improve the lodging and services by using better hotels and by including mechanical care.

GT Bicycles recruiting for grassroots racing program

GT Bicycles is recruiting 35 mountain bike racers across the US for its new grassroots program: the GT Dirt Coalition. Each member will race and represent GT Bicycles and the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) at a minimum of six mountain bike races during the 2009 season.

"Amateurs are the unsung heroes of mountain bike racing," said Jenni Cathcart, Director of Marketing for GT Bicycles. "The GT Dirt Coalition rewards their competitive spirit and commitment to cycling."

Each GT Dirt Coalition member will receive a high-end race machine: GT's Zaskar Pro hardtail (US$3,499.99) with its signature triple triangle frame design or the Marathon Pro ($4299.99), GT's lightweight full suspension bike utilizing its Independent Drivetrain suspension system. Both models feature a monocoque carbon fiber frame and XT components. Members will also receive a 10x10 Dirt Coalition tent, two race kits and GT swag. The total sponsorship package is valued at $4,200-$5000.

Dirt Coalition members will be selected based upon their leadership in the cycling community, involvement in advocacy, local bike shop affiliations, proposed 2009 race schedule and past race results. Applications are being accepted between January 23 and February 5 at http://amgteams.activecm.net/Page66.aspx. Riders who are under 18, paid to race or hold a professional license are not eligible.

Memorial established for two young downhillers

After two rising stars of the UK Downhill Race Scene, Tom Rodgers and Ben Ineson, tragically lost their lives in a car crash on January 14, a memorial fund was started to honor their memory with the intention of sponsoring future events and up and coming riders. A Book of Condolences has also been established to pass messages on to the parents of both racers. To contribute to one or both, visit www.allterraincycles.co.uk.

Cyclingnews offers it condolences to friends and family members of Rodgers and Ineson.

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