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MTB news & racing round-up for January 30, 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

Leuchs and Roy embark on road trip seeking "true" mountain biking

Kashi Leuchs is rediscovering the joy of mountain biking
Photo ©: Focus Media Services
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Two of New Zealand's top riders, Kashi Leuchs, of Dunedin, and Marcus Roy, of Invercargill, have joined forces to create Team RoadCraft, which will embark on a heartland tour of some of New Zealand's most pristine adventure rides.

"The initiative came about through the drive to rediscover what 'true' mountain biking is all about," Leuchs said. "We spend all year with the pressure of the European-based World Cup circuit, and we always look forward to coming home to ride and have fun with family and friends."

The RoadCraft MTB tour will see Leuchs and Roy roadtrip around to some of New Zealand's best mountain bike endurance races.

Leuchs has represented New Zealand at the Olympics three times and hopes to use the tour as a build up to the World Cup circuit to which he'll be returning to in March with his new team, Felt International. He will be based out of Annecy, France.

"My idea was to get out there and into New Zealand's breathtaking landscapes and meet nice people in a relaxed atmosphere. This is a great opportunity to showcase the incredible scenery and races we have in our backyard. Then, at the same time, (I will) get fit for my international race season," Leuchs said.

Key events of the tour will include the 43km R&R Sports Otago Peninsula Challenge on February 1, the inaugural Alpine Epic 260km stage race from Mt Somers to Tekapo from February 25 to 28 and the 50km Motatapu Icebreaker starting at Glendhu Bay, Wanaka on March 14 and finishing in Arrowtown.

International-level field ready for South Island series openers

Justin Leov (Yeti Fox Shox Factory Racing).
Photo ©: Marek Lazarski
(Click for larger image)
As part of his domestic road trip, Olympian Kashi Leuchs will provide a significant challenge for New Zealand's top cross country riders this Sunday. The New Zealand Mountain Bike cup will kick off its South Island series of downhill and cross country events this weekend, January 31 and February 1, in Dunedin.

Signal Hill will host the downhill events while the Otago Peninsula will serve as the venue for the cross country. The latter is a 44km point to point race also known as the Otago Peninsula Challenge, a third-year event.

Leuchs is the favorite for Sunday's cross country, but he knows he'll have competition from teammate Marcus Roy and Jon Richardson, who specializes in point to point style events. The men's elite field also includes Brendon Sharratt and Tim Madgwick while the elite women's race will see both Sara MacDonald and Erin Greene competing on home turf, but challenged by race-it Samara Sheppard.

Justin Leov will make his return to domestic downhill racing on Saturday in the downhill. The highest-ever ranked New Zealander in the UCI's rankings, Leov has spent time since the close of last year's World Cup recharging and recovering from injury. James Dodds, Matt Scoles, Danny Hart, Ben Cathro, Gary Forest and Joe Barnes are his most likely competition while junior talents Aari Barrett and Brook MacDonald are expected to do well.

Former Junior World Champion Scarlett Hagen will return to national competition for the first time this summer and will face off against the Harriets - Harper and Ruecknagel - in the elite women's race.

Craig, Beckingsale & Rando lead Giant global squad

Oliver Beckingsale (Great Britain).
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

International cross-country stars Adam Craig and Oli Beckingsale will lead Giant's Global Mountain Bike Team in 2009. Veteran Australian downhill racer Jared Rando is also on the team.

Craig, 27, repeated as US National Cross Country Champion last season. He also collected his sixth consecutive National Super D title. Consistent international results earned him a spot on the US Olympic team at the 2008 Summer Games.

"Giant is behind me, and I'm behind them," said Craig. "Any team that has supported me through a six-year Super D national championship streak must be doing something right and I'm looking forward to keeping the fun rolling in 2009." This year, Craig will focus on the international World Cup series plus a handful of North American events such as the Downieville Classic in Downieville, California.

Beckingsale, a three-time Olympian, joins Craig as one of the top talents on the cross-country World Cup circuit. The 32-year-old has won the British National Championship five times (2001, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007) and is considered one of the world's most consistent cross-country racers over the past decade.

"It's shaping up to be a great year, and the bikes are better than ever," said Beckingsale. "It's a top team in terms of support and also team spirit. I'm looking forward to hitting the World Cup 100 percent and also having a crack at the marathon World Championships in Austria."

Craig and Beckingsale have played integral roles in developing Giant's most advanced cross-country race bikes, including the 2009 Giant Anthem X, which was unveiled last summer at the US National Championships in Mount Snow, Vermont, where he defended his title.

"It's great to be continuing into my seventh year with Giant so I can keep a close eye on all of the awesome new bike projects we have in the works right now," said Craig. "Every year I've ended up testing and racing something better and it's made riding and racing more entertaining."

On the gravity side, Rando plays a key role in product development, too. A veteran of international downhill and dual slalom racing, Rando is Giant's lead athlete for testing long-travel downhill bikes.

Beyond the three-man Giant Global team, Giant will also continue to support its North American squad consisting of cross-country riders Kelli Emmett and Carl Decker, as well as Canadian freeride talent Kurt Sorge and American Jeff Lenosky.

Giant Global Mountain Bike Team
Oli Beckingsale (GBr) (XCO, XCC)
Adam Craig (USA), (XCO, XCC, SuperD)
Jared Rando (Aus), (4X, DHI, DS)

Giant North American Mountain Bike Team
Carl Decker (USA), (XCO, XCC, SuperD)
Kelli Emmett (USA), (XCO, XCC, SuperD)

Giant North American Freeride Team
Kurt Sorge (Can), Freeride
Jeff Lenosky (USA), Freeride, Trials

MacLeod holds on to hope post-injury

After a serious crash in training that broke her neck and dislocated two vertebrae, top New Zealand downhiller Sheryl MacLeod wants to return to riding her bike; however, it's still too early for her to know whether her international racing career is over.

Following her early-January accident, MacLeod, 30, underwent an emergency operation in Christchurch to fuse the vertebrae with a bone graft from her hip. Surgeons also wired the broken bones within her neck.

"I'm still feeling positive and am not planning to give up," she said to the Otago Daily Times. "I still want to have fun on the pedals, but I might concentrate on less risky bikes on the road or in cross-country mountain biking."

Now wearing a neck brace and using crutches for balance on long walks, she had her sights set on the World Championships happening in Canberra, Australian in August. Only time will tell if she will need a second operation.

"If it (my neck) doesn't heal properly, I may need to have a plate and screw inserted through the front of the neck."

Rather than frustration, she expressed relief that she was not more seriously hurt and has been given a second chance. "I've beaten the odds and I'm still alive and able to walk. Someone up there was looking down on me and people were sending me good vibes."

Her family and that of her partner are assisting her as she recovers at home in Dunedin.

BC Bike race adds North Shore to its route

The BC Bike Race announced a new route for 2009. It will kick off with a ride over the Lions Gate Bridge - from downtown Vancouver to the legendary trails of the North Shore. Built in 1938, the landmark Lions Gate Bridge connects the city of Vancouver to the North Shore Mountains and communities and is the gateway to BC's famous singletrack.

"To be the best mountain bike race in the world we must include the North Shore," said Dean Payne, who originally brainstormed the BC Bike Race. Payne had always envisioned a stage on the trails of the North Shore but navigating the hoops and hurdles of big city bylaws without a track record was prohibitive in years one and two. With two successful years done, the North Shore trails will make their race debut.

A few preliminary phone calls to BC Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon and a few more to District of North Vancouver Mayor Richard Walton set the wheels in motion. Mayor Walton, known to some as the "mountain biking Mayor", immediately embraced the concept and shares Payne's overall vision of the future for both the BC Bike Race and Vancouver's North Shore.

The North Shore, considered one of mountain biking's birthplaces, has produced numerous professional riders, cultivated a range of riding styles and developed innovative trail building techniques that are currently in use the world over. The BC Bike Race will showcase some of the classic trails that have been staples since the earliest days of riding "The Shore".

The North Shore joins the BC Bike race venues such as Vancouver Island, Cumberland, the Sunshine Coast, Squamish and Whistler.

Other route changes include a new stage two and a variation on stage three, while the remainder of the race route remains the same. With these modifications, some longer fire road sections will be removed and more singletrack will be added. The changes will simplify logistics for participants.

Bootleg Canyon's Thomson survives Quad Bypass

Brent Thomson recovers
Photo ©: Steve Boehmke
(Click for larger image)

Brent Thomson, known as the Trail Master of Bootleg Canyon, suffered a heart attack a few weeks ago, and underwent Quad Bypass surgery last week. He is recovering at the hospital despite suffering a stroke after surgery.

"I went and visited him last Sunday at the hospital," said Steve Boehmke. "He had tubes down his throat to help him breath and eat, was all morphined out, couldn't speak and had limited movement on his left side. Despite that, he still showed classic 'Brent-ness' by his reaction when asked questions and his attempt to French-Kiss my girlfriend Courtney when she said 'hi!'"

On Monday, doctors removed the tubes, and Thomson is quickly becoming his old self. Now able to speak and move both sides of his body, he is anxious to get going on physical therapy and eventually get back to work.

"I've got trails to build!" said Thomson, who added,. "I want to thank everyone who sent their good wishes and support through this time. I've got a lot of work to do before I'll be 100%, but I'm already getting a lot of creative ideas on how to motivate my body. I can't wait to see all of my friends from the bike industry and get back to doing good work again."

Donations are being accepted on PayPal (visit https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=2485903) to support Thomson's recovery. Well wishes may be sent to St. Rose Dominican Hospital - San Martin ER c/o Brent Thomson, 8280 West Warm Springs Rd., Las Vegas, NV 89113, USA.

One month to go until the Cyprus Sunshine Cup

With less than one month to go until the opening round of the Cyprus Sunshine Cup, the race has attracted top riders for some sun and warm weather racing to help them find form prior to the World Cup season. Austrian Olympian Christoph Soukup (Czech Merida) and German Karl Platt and are among those who will compete for time on TV and increased prize money.

Last year, Soukup won the final race of the series. Platt will prepare for the season along with his new Team Bulls teammates Frenchman Thomas Dietsch and German Tim Böhme. Dietsch is one of the most successful marathon riders of the world and especially in the first stage he could be able to compete for the win.

Swiss Petra Henzi is returning to Cyprus as the women's favorite after winning two races and the overall Cyprus Cup in 2008.

Cyprus Tourism Organization increased the race's prize money with more than 10,000 euros given for all four stages, including three-day Afxentia stage race. In total, 26,000 euros are on offer for the UCI C1 and C2 events.

Last year's events saw wins by Fredrik Kessiakoff, Heather Irmiger, Roel Paulissen, Sabine Spitz, Jaroslav Kulhavy, Petra Henzi and Soukup.

Sunshine Cup 2008
February 22: Round 1 - Tochni-Kalavasos (XCO)(1)
February 27: Round 2 - March 1 - Afxentia Macheras Mountains (SR)(1)
March 8: Round 3 - Amathous-Agios-Tychon (XCO)(2)
March 15: Round 4 - Voroklini (XCO)(1)

Transandes Challenge starts next week

A single rider negotiates rocky terrain
Photo ©: TransAndes Challenge
(Click for larger image)

The TransAndes Challenge, the most challenging mountain bike race ever organized in Chile, will start on February 3 and cover 480km over six days, finishing on February 8. More than 100 racers from 15 countries will arrive in Pucon in southern Chile to race in two-person teams.

The race is structured like the TransRockies and TransAlp stage races and will travel around Volcan Villarica's slopes and on Lake Villarica's banks. Racers will cover approximately 70km per day with the fastest teams finishing in about four hours per stage.

"The course has been designed for racers to give their best physically as well as mentally - with technical paths, wide trails and virgin landscapes," said Juan Pablo Santiagos, TransAndes Challenge Director.

TransAndes Challenge 2009
February 3: Stage 1 - Pucón – Termas de Menetue, 85km
February 4: Stage 2 - Termas Menetue - Termas Menetue, 67.30km
February 5: Stage 3 - Termas de Menetue - Termas de Quimeyco, 54.90km
February 6: Stage 4 - Termas de Quimeyco - Villa Pehuenia (Argentina), 82.84km
February 7: Stage 5 - Villa Pehuenia ( Argentina ) - Termas de Quimeyco 93km
February 8: Stage 6 - Termas de Quimeyco- Pucón, 91.42km

Aussie national series heads next to Mt Buller

Just one week after the Australian National Championships in Canberra, Australia's best mountain bikers, including former World Champion downhiller Sam Hill, will be competing at Mt Buller this weekend, January 31-February 1, for the fourth round of the Australian National Series.

Cross country racers get their turn on a picturesque eight-kilometer course on Saturday. It starts in Mt. Buller Village, goes over to Corn Hill and Howqua Gap before returning to Mt. Buller. On Sunday, the northern slopes will host the short track and the downhill.

Giant signs Montoya

Paolo Montoya signs a contract
Photo ©: Giant Italia
(Click for larger image)

Second-year elite racer Paolo Montoya signed a one-year contract with the Giant Italia team. He joins riders like Spaniard Ivan Alvarez Gutierrez and the Italian U23 Diego Rosa.

The 23-year-old Montoya hails from Costa Rica. Last year, he won a silver medal at the Pan American cross country Championships in San Juan de los Morros, Venezuela. He was also a member of the team that won the Tour de France VTT.

The agreement has been decided thanks to the support of MTB Brondello, who has been previously one of the partners of Team Infotre Lee Cougan, who is going to define a Team in the territory of Cuneo.

"Because of some personal problems, I decided to come back in Costa Rica in 2009," said Montoya. "Anyway, only in Europe the most important MTB competitions will happen. In December, I came back to Italy, but my previous team, Infotre Lee Cougan, has already decided its roster. Thanks to the Giant Italia Team and MTB Brondello, I will compete for three months, taking part to the most important international races."

"It is an honour for me to compete besides some great and amazing athletes like Ivan Alvarez Gutierrez," he said.

Montoya will extend Giant Italia's reach to the American realm. "Paolo Montoya is a good athlete, who can improve technically," said the team's Technical Manager Gianfranco Bechis.

USA Cycling updates cross country national calendar

With the 2009 season just around the corner, USA Cycling announced a detailed schedule for its Mountain Bike National Cross Country Calendar. The series will kick off on March 28-29 with the US Cup - Fontana, which also doubles as part of the ProXCT series.

In fact, the cross country calendar includes all seven ProXCT events. Mixed in between are some other US Cup and popular regional events. It includes two UCI-category one events and five UCI-category three events.

The 15-event series will conclude with the Piney Hills Classic stage race on October 24-25.

2009 USA Cycling Mountain Bike National XC Calendar
March 28-29: US Cup - Fontana (California) (XCO)
April 16-19: US Cup - Sea Otter (California) (XCO)
April 26: Greenbriar Challenge (Maryland) (XCO)
May 2-3: Idyllwild Spring Challenge (California) (XCO)
May 31: Bump & Grind (Alabama) (XCO)
June 7: Massanutten Hoo Ha! (Virginia) (XCO)
June 13: Sand Creek International (Colorado) (XCO)
June 20-21: Subaru Cup (Wisconsin) (XCO, SR)
July 16-19: US National Championships (Colorado) (XCO, XCC)
August 8: US Cup - Mount Snow (Vermont) (XCO)
August 15-16: US Cup - Windham Mountain (New York) (XCO)
September 5-6: Laddies Loppet (Minnesota) (SR)
September 26-27: Cactus Cup (Nevada) (SR)
September 26: US Cup / ProXCT Finals (Nevada) (XCO)
October 24-25: Piney Hills Classic (Louisiana) (SR)

Terrapin Beer team ready for second year

Undergoing a metamorphosis over the winter following its first year, The Terrapin Beer mountain bike team will emerge in March with a stronger team and renewed passion. Two key riders, Maria Carrelli and Wild Bill Lanzilotta, will return to lead the squad while new to the team are Chris Janiszewski, Anna Kelso, Jeremy Edge, David Hall and Shey Linder.

Of the old guard, Carrelli is a two-time Georgia singlespeed state champion while Lanzilotta remains the senior member of the team and returns as the current Georgia State Champion (men's expert 40+).

Janiszewski, a native to the southeast, comes to the team from Gainesville Florida, and is a regular on the National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series while Kelso is making the move from the DCMTB after winning the Terror of Teaberry, finishing second at the Tour de Tykes and third in the Fool's Gold 50 miler. Edge is a local rider who impressed management at 24-hour event last season, and Hall is an established roadie who had collected two road race state championships (North Carolina), four criterium state championships (South Carolina) and two cyclo-cross titles (South Carolina and Georgia). Finally, former SoBe-Cannondale rider Linder is a veteran of the sport who runs the Cycleyouth Development and FFCC Development teams. He consistently finished in the top ten in the National Ultra-Endurance Series.

Former team member Rebecca Tomaszewski, who won the US 24 hour national championship in the duo pro co-ed category and two collegiate national titles, leaves the team for 2009.

NorCal League hosting Roubaix screenings

The Northern California High School Mountain Bike Racing League will be raising funds for its organization by screening the film The Road to Roubaix on February 12 – 21, in conjunction with the Tour of California.

The Road to Roubaix celebrates of cycling's most historically significant and charged one-day races, Paris - Roubaix, which has long gone by the nickname "Hell of the North". Directors David Deal and David Cooper present a montage of panoramic views, gripping race footage, and behind-the-scenes views and interviews.

Screening Schedule
February 12: Larkspur - Lark Theater - 8:00 pm
Feruary 13: Berkeley - Florence Schwimley Theater - 7:30 pm
February 15: Palo Alto – Campbell Center for the Performing Arts - 7:30 pm.
February 15: Santa Cruz – Rio Theater - 7:30 pm
February 20: Folsom - Jill Solberg Theater - 7:30 pm
February 21: Pasadena - Vosloh Forum Hall - 7:00 pm

Tickets will cost US$12. For more information, visit www.norcalmtb.org/events/roubaix/index.htm.

Mountain Mayhem back for 12th year

The Mountain Mayhem will return to Herefordshire in the United Kingdom for its twelfth year this June. Not for the faint-hearted, the 24-hour race will take over the grounds of Eastnor Castle, Deer Park in Ledbury, where 2,500 will compete on a nine-mile circuit. It will be part of a weekend of events that takes place from June 19 to 21, kicking off with the Dirt Demo, the largest mountain bike demo in the country.

"Since its beginning back in 1998, the event has grown and developed over the years to become the biggest 24-hour mountain bike endurance event worldwide. This year expect surprises, excitement and one of the best Mountain Mayhems to date," said Patrick Adams of Pacific Edge Events, organizers of the race.

For more information, visit www.osmountainmayhem.co.uk.

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