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MTB news & racing round-up for June 12, 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

US Cup ProXCT heads to the Rocky Mountains

By Dave McElwaine in Colorado Springs

Sid Taberlay (Sho-Air/Specialized)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

The US Cup ProXCT Series resumes Friday at the Carmichael Training Systems Sand Creek International Classic in Colorado Springs. Nearly all of the top North American professional racers are expected to be on hand to compete in short track and cross country racing at Cheyenne Mountain State Park.

At this fourth stop on the ProXCT circuit, Max Plaxton (Team Sho-Air/Specialized) leads the series by a mere five points over his teammate Sid Taberlay. While Plaxton has not won a race this season, he has been the most consistent rider on the podium.

Similarly, Georgia Gould (Luna Women's MTB) leads her teammate Catherine Pendrel by ten points. Gould took wins in Fontana and Sea Otter, while Pendrel won the most recent outing in Alabama. Pendrel is currently the number one ranked rider in the world based on UCI points.

Georgia Gould (Luna Women's MTB)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

The course at Cheyenne Mountain State Park appears to be quite different than the racers have seen this year. The five- mile laps have 1,070 feet of climbing. Basically the racers ride uphill for 2.5 miles, then downhill the same distance. The starting elevation is 6,070 feet, making it the first race at elevation for much of the professional field. The average grade is 7.7% but there are up to a half dozen short climbs of 15%, and one around 30% according to the course profile.

Conditions at the moment are fast and dry. The course is a mix of fire roads and singletrack, with a couple of rock gardens thrown in for fun. Still, it will rate on the low on the scale as far as technical difficulty for the professionals. The racers may find the thin air more of an obstacle than the rocks on the course.

Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Gary Fisher/Subaru)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Geoff Kabush (Team Rocky Mountain/Maxxis), the defending series champion, had an uncharacteristically poor race in Alabama where he failed to make the podium. At the time, Kabush said he was planning to do a little "homework" to sort out his difficulties. There is little doubt he will try to bring his A-Game to Colorado Springs.

Sid Taberlay (Team Sho-Air/Specialized) has been the most dominating North American mountain biker this season, taking several Kenda Cup and Pro-XCT wins. He has now proven that he can compete with Kabush and the other North Americans who race the World Cup circuit.

"The course is like riding on ball bearings - very unpredictable cornering, you actually pick up speed when braking!" said Taberlay.

Coming up on

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Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Gary Fisher/Subaru) proved in Alabama that he was coming onto form, narrowly losing the race in a sprint finish. A Boulder, Colorado, resident, JHK won last weekend's Teva Games in Vail. He has been tailoring his season to peak for the US National Championships. They too will be held at altitude in Granby, Colorado. Todd Wells (Specialzied), a Durango Colorado resident, is also ferociously competitive in Colorado races. There is little doubt he will be at the front mixing it up with the leaders. United States National Champion Adam Craig (Giant) is winless this season, as is former champion Ryan Trebon (Kona). Both will be looking to have break-out races. Trebon has proven in the past that he can win high altitude races as he did last season in Deer Valley, Utah.

US Cyclo-cross & Short Track Champion Katie Compton (Spike/Shooter)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

A dark horse in the men's race will surely be Jeremiah Bishop (Mona Vie/Cannondale) who has largely turned his attention to endurance racing, but who won the Kenda Cup race in Virginia last weekend. In fact, he won the Mohican 100 and Dirt Sweat n' Gears races before that.

United States cyclo-cross Champion Katie Compton (Spike / Shooter) has thrown a monkey wrench into the Luna dominance of women's racing. When she was forced out of the ProXCT in Alabama due to an asthma attack, she was riding comfortably in a group of three at the front of the race. She came back this past weekend to beat Georgia Gould and Heather Irmiger convincingly at the Teva Games in Vail. Compton and Kelli Emmett (Giant) live in Colorado Springs and may have a home course advantage. They often train together, which has been described by Emmett as quite challenging.

It is yet to be seen whether the Colorado Springs race will favor power riders like Compton and Gould, climbers like Pendrel and Irmiger, or descenders like Emmett. Other women expected to be in the mix this weekend are Pua Sawicki (Ellsworth) and Willow Koerber (Gary Fisher/Specialized).

"I think the course sounds good- different than what we've raced on so far," said Gould. "One thing I love about racing mountain bikes is that to be successful you have to be good on all types of courses."

"It sounds like there is a lot of climbing which will be decisive…," she said. "The elevation could play into it, but I don't think that it's high enough to make-or-break anyone's race."

Read the complete preview.

Tour Divide kicking off

By Sue George

The Tour Divide starts
Photo ©: Tour Divide
(Click for larger image)
The annual Tour Divide race along the North American Continental Divide will begin on Friday, June 12 in Canada and run for several weeks, heading south over 2,745 miles. This year's event has attracted its largest-ever field with 37 participants.

The Tour Divide is the first of two races this year along the Continental Divide. The Great Divide Race will begin in Roosville, Montana, on June 19, starting in Montana and covering only the American portion of the trail.

Among those racing the Tour Divide are John Nobile, last year's Great Divide Race winner and the current course recordholder. Joe Meiser, this year's Trans Iowa winner will be there to challenge him along with Kurt Refsnider, the winner of the Arizona Trail 300 in April. Organizer Matt Lee may also be racing.

"Like previous years, the race will include both the Canadian and the American portions of the trail," said Lee to Cyclingnews. "But we've created a new course through Canada's endangered flat lands which the American Cycling Association will be adopting as part of the official Trail route coming in fall."

New for 2009 is a tandem category. Jay Petervary, who won the Great Divide Race in 2007, and his wife Tracey will give it go on a 29er tandem rig.

Peat & Atherton head star field at European Downhill Champs in Slovenia

Steve Peat (Santa Cruz Syndicate), World Cup leader,
Photo ©: Gary Perkin
(Click for larger image)
Slovenia is the place to be for gravity racers in the next two weeks. On Friday, June 12, the European Downhill Championships will kick off in Kranjska Gora, and next weekend on June 20-21.

An impressive turnout is expected, including 367 elite and junior riders from 27 nations. The team that stands out as the favorite is Great Britain with current World Cup leader Steve Peat and reigning World Champion Gee Atherton.

Brendan Fairclough, Mark Beaumont, Josh Bryceland and, of course, Tracy Moseley will also join them. Moseley will take on a strong French contingent including World Cup leader Sabrina Jonnier, Emmeline Ragot, Floriane Pugin and Myriam Nicole.

Riders from outside of Europe are permitted to compete and some from Australia and New Zealand are expected.

The championships will be an opportunity for Slovenian riders to race in front of the home fans and against world's best. The Slovenians have a good cross country team, but are still working on developing an international downhill star. Those to watch this weekend are Nejc Rutar, Jan Cestnik, Luka Novak and Sasa Merljak.

The action kicks off Friday with a seeding run for the 76 masters racers, opening ceremonies and a party. Elites and juniors will do their seeding on Saturday, and finals wrap up the action on Sunday.

Mountain Bike Australia assumes full management of national series

Chris Jongewaard racing at an Australian National Series event in January 2009.Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA) is assuming full management responsibilities for the Australian National Series for the upcoming 2009-2010 series. MTBA was previously only involved at a race level; it will now look after all details that turn a race into an event.

"The National Series is the premier race circuit for Australia's aspiring international riders to come and test themselves against Australia's best. While the racing in the previous series was widely acclaimed as the best yet, the glitz that surrounds the series needs to reflect the importance of National-level racing with a consistent 'look and feel'," said Tony Scott, MTBA's Executive Director.

"Our aim in this shift in delivery for the National Series is to bring all the shiny things that add to everyone's experience at the race - the things that turn a race into an event - to each and every round in a consistent fashion. MTBA is in the best position to do this while still offering a financial incentive to the hosting venue."

MTBA is also adding an enduro series to the program while re-focusing on the Olympic cross country for the elite, under 23 and under 19 riders and fostering participation in the under 17s.

"Downhill, which has been the jewel of Australian mountain bike racing, will largely remain the same with some small changes being planned - but nothing too radical," said Scott.

"While there will still be a focus on venues that can provide for both cross country and downhill (and four cross), the new look series will allow for single cross country or downhill."

The MTBA Management Committee approved the change at a meeting last weekend. It will soon issue documents for potential event hosts to indicate their interest in participating in the series. It will also be looking to fill the role of Event Manager to ensure the delivery of the new look and feel of the series.

New stage race planned for Pisgah, North Carolina

Mountain bike stage racing is coming to the popular riding destination of the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. Blue Ridge Adventures will host the inaugural Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race on October 15-18 in Brevard. The event will feature a prologue followed by three days of racing and over US$15,000 in prize money.

Racers will be treated to 145 miles, 38,000 feet of climbing and legendary singletrack. All stages will start and finish at the event headquarters within the town of Brevard.

With entries limited to 150 racers, some of the best riders in the US are already lining up. Jeremiah Bishop, the US National Champion in marathon and short track, is one professional rider who looks forward to competing in the event. "When I dream of an awesome mountain bike adventure, I think of trails like those being used in the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race. I can't wait to get down there and ride," he said. "No matter how your race is going, you'll still have a fun time riding. It's spectacular, rugged backcountry mountain biking at its best."

Race Director Todd Branham is proud that his event will be "a true mountain bike race" loaded with singletrack. For riders not familiar with Pisgah, the gnarly trails are sure to be an eye opener, though Branham said, "It's a course made for everybody. We're not out to demoralize people. The fireroad comes when you want it. We've had a lot of feedback on the course."

Each stage will include three fully stocked aid stations with food, water, mechanical and medical assistance. The event will kick off with an Industry Expo.

Branham also promotes the Off Road Assault on Mount Mitchell and the Swank 65. For more information, visit www.BlueRidgeAdventures.net.

Gravity East Series heads to Pennsylvania

Just one week after its most recent round at the Chumba Capital City Cup in Maryland, Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania will host the third stop of the Gravity East Series on June 12-14. The weekend marks the first time the resort has hosted the popular Gravity East Series, although it has previously been the venue for three elite mountain bike national championships, two collegiate mountain bike national championships and the 24-hour Champion Challenge, now in its tenth year.

Downhillers will race a newly designed course by former four cross world champion Eric Carter.

The weekend-long event will consist of races for 17 categories. For more information, visit www.7springs.com.

DCM racers ready for Induna marathon

Brandon Stewart and Max Knox (DCM Chrome)
Photo ©: Sportzpics
(Click for larger image)
"No rider can race week-end after week-end and continue to win. Therefore, I am going to start rotating my riders to make sure that they get enough time off to recover." This is what Ian van der Walt, owner of the DCM Chrome team, said after the MTN South African cross country event in Pretoria.

Van der Walt's statement was not mere rhetoric. The fact that Max Knox and Johnny Kritzinger will be the only two riders from DCM Chrome who will compete in the 125km Induna Ultra race in Hazyview this weekend, is proof that he keeps his promises.

A look at Knox's racing CV for the year, shows that he is definitely one of the in-form riders at the moment. Not only had he won the Barberton Ultra race as well as the Sabie Marathon race, but during the past weekend he also won the two-day Rooiberg Eco Ride.

There is a good reason why Knox is dominating the ultra races in the Lowveld. He is a born and bred Lowvelder who grew up in Sabie. One could say that he had learned his trade on the slopes of the Drakensberg.

"I know what to expect during these races," is how Knox explains his victories. He denies that there is more pressure on him to win when he is racing in the Lowveld.

"Yes, the Lowveld is my home, and people do expect me to win, but the only real pressure there is on me, is the pressure I put on myself because of my own determination to win."

One of the highlights of the Induna race could be the battle between Knox and Kevin Evans (MTN). During the first stage of the Rooiberg Eco Ride, Evans managed to beat Knox by a mere second. Unfortunately an untimely puncture during the second stage sabotaged Knox's chances of challenging Evans again in the final sprint.

What counts in Knox's favour is the fact that he is a tenacious little rider who can climb with the best on a good day and who can sprint as well when necessary. Knox realizes that if he wants to complete his hat trick of three consecutive wins in the Lowveld he will have to be wide awake.

"Racing against a team such as MTN which has the numbers, means that I will have to watch their riders carefully. However, it will be important not to get carried away by what the MTN riders are doing or not doing.

"The course is also going to play an important part in the outcome of the race. It has several short and steep little climbs which will be draining my energy level all the time. It will also be important to have confidence in my own judgment and wait for the right moment to attack."

Kritzinger is also expected to achieve a good result, because he finished fourth in last year's Induna race. He predicts that on Saturday the racing will only really start during the second lap because that is where the serious climbing begins. But he is not too worried.

"I think the fact that the race is over hundred kilometres may count in my favour. Usually I get stronger as the race gets longer. Hopefully Induna will be no exception."

When pressured to predict who would be the winner, Kritzinger tipped his teammate, Max Knox.

The other contenders for the number one position on the winner's podium will, in all probability, be David George (MTN), Mannie Heymans and Marc Bassingthwaighte (Garmin/Adidas).

The Induna will be the last serious preparation for Knox and Kritzinger before they leave for Canada where they will compete in the BC Bike race, a seven-day stage race in July in Canada. Knox and Brandon Stewart will be teaming up while Rourke Croeser will be Kritzinger's teammate.

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