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MTB news & racing round-up for March 5, 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

Fullana and Mantecon win muddy Spanish series opener

Margarita Fullana (Massi)
Photo ©: Sergio Suarez
(Click for larger image)
The Asturian town of Avilés opened the Spanish national mountain bike calendar with the first Superprestigio Massi cross country event. It rained on Sunday morning before the race, and the elite women, masters and juniors started in wet conditions that would turn into mud for the rest of the day.

World champion Marga Fullana won the elite women's race convincingly. "I did not know how I would be physically, but I went better than expected," she said after the race.

"The Avilés circuit is always tough, but today it was even more so. I knew I might run into mechanical trouble by changing gears, so once my position was well established in the lead, I tried to take no risks."

Over the first few kilometers, Fullana distanced herself from her rivals and opened a gap of more than one minute over teammate Anna Villar, who finished a comfortable second place. After the second lap, Villar suffered a mechanical that would force her to drop to fourth place. Sandra Santanyes (Cemelorca-Trek) finished second while Cristina Mascarreras (Conor- La Siesta) was third.

In the men's race, a group of six riders formed the lead group after the first two laps. Sergio Mantecon (Cemelorca-Trek) attacked this bunch and rode his own rhythm to a win. Carlos Coloma (MSC Bikes) and Iñaki Lejarreta (Orbea) completed the podium.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Superprestigio Massi series opener.

Lechner and Fontana win first Maremma Cup

Marco Aurelio Fontana (Cannondale Factory Racing) on his way to a win
Photo ©: Maremma Cup
(Click for larger image)
The first-ever Maremma Cup in Massa Marittima in Tuscany, Italy, saw two azzurri, Eva Lechner (Colnago Arreghini Esercito) and Marco Aurelio Fontana (Cannodale Factory Racing) win in the rain on Sunday.

In the men's race, Fontana executed a perfect race, with a fast start that saw him break away early from the lead group. Throughout the race, he continually increased his advantage. Behind him, Belgian Roel Paulissen (Cannodale Factory Racing) took second while German Moritz Milatz (Multivan Merida Biking Team) finished third.

In the women's race, Lechner put in a strong performance. She defeated two Swiss athletes, Marielle Saner Guinchard (Team Bikerpark) and Nathalie Schneitter (Colnago Cap Arreghini).

The rain made for challenging conditions for the 440 racers, many of whom will return for one more round next weekend.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Maremma Cup.

Lindgren sweeps Afxentia stages

While cross country stars in Italy and Spain were getting muddy, Swede Emil Lindgren was warm and dry in Cyprus where he won the second round of the Cyprus Sunshine Cup, the Afxentia stage race. His win followed on from his first victory of the season in round one.

Lindgren took all three stages of the Afxentia, including a time trial, a point-to-point cross country race and a multi-lap cross country.

He will remain in Cyprus to contest the next round of the Sunshine Cup this coming weekend.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Afxentia stage race.

Norris continues winning streak

Lachlan Norris is looking the goods
Photo ©: Evan Jeffery
(Click for larger image)
Lachlan Norris captured his fourth consecutive Under 23 win in Hobart, Tasmania, at the final round of the Australian National Mountain Bike Series. The win gave him the overall series title after competing in just three of the five events.

Prior to the race, Norris had spent two weeks working with his Discover Tasmania Team in preparation for the coming World Cup events. He was pleased with how the first week of testing went, but thought his chances of doing well in the final National Series event were blown when he got sick in the first week.

"I came down with a pretty nasty cold on the Friday night and missed out on quality training from Sunday through to Tuesday, not to mention I felt like death warmed up for a few days," said Norris from his hotel room while ill. He was feeling better by the following Wednesday and managed a 150km road bike ride down to Hobart with the team, and by Friday, just before the race, was ready to race.

The combined elite and under 23 men's race started a little differently than the last few as the ever-dominant Chris Jongewaard suffered two flats in the first lap and fell behind by about two minutes. Dylan Cooper shot out and set the pace out the front for the first two laps that was so blistering he had to pull out before the midway point. Daniel McConnell, the eventual elite men's winner, slipped away from Norris as the storming Jongewaard chased hard from behind.

"Mac was forging a good gap. He was slipping away. I felt a charging Chris Jongewaard nearing after recovering from a flat tyre. He caught and passed me like I was standing still." Norris finished third in the combined elite and under 23 race.

Norris returned home to Victoria for some more training and planning for the upcoming international season.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the downhill, cross country and 4X at round five of the Australian National Mountain Bike Series.

RoadCraft teammates triumph at inaugural New Zealand stage race

Team RoadCraft's Kashi Leuchs (left) and Marcus Roy pick a trail alongside the Rangitata River on their way to winning the inaugural Skins Alpine Epic in a time of 13:27.47.
Photo ©: www.derekmorrison.co.nz
(Click for larger image)
Two of New Zealand's elite cross country riders, Marcus Roy, of Invercargill, and Kashi Leuchs, of Dunedin, won the inaugural Alpine Epic with a commanding performance. Played out over four days, five stages and 241km of backcountry between Mt Somers and Lake Tekapo, the South Canterbury event was dominated by Team RoadCraft's Roy and Leuchs with the pair winning four out of the five stages in a time of 13:27:47.

Team RoadCraft finished 12:27 ahead of their nearest rival, the Team Giant R&R Sport duo of Scott Wilder and Mark Williams. The final stage was won by Team Giant R&R Sport after a 74km-long battle with the riders of the third-placed Alpinexus team, Nic Smith and Neil Sutherland.

Sixty teams of two took on the challenge with riders from throughout New Zealand and international competitors from the UK, Czech Republic, Switzerland and America. In the end, Roy and Leuchs, both international cross country racing specialists, adapted quickly to the longer and more gruelling race format of New Zealand's first multi-day adventure mountain bike race.

"It feels great to win the inaugural event, but for me the highlight was the people who came along: the riders, the volunteers and the crew. We get to spend day after day with each other and get to know each other and it's like a big family by the end," three-time Olympian Leuchs said.

"I've never done team stage racing before," Roy said. "It's quite a different dynamic, and I wasn't used to that. You couldn't just sneak away from the other teams when you had a chance. You had to work as a team and it was a lot more obvious if you made a break. I found that challenge to be a lot of fun."

On the final stage Mark Williams of Team Giant R&R Sport is chased through a dry riverbed
Photo ©: www.derekmorrison.co.nz
(Click for larger image)

With several high-country passes nearing 1500m in altitude, the terrain was also a standout feature of this race, albeit mostly shrouded by alpine mist for all four days of the event.

"The isolation is the unique factor in this race. You had this feeling of remoteness with just a couple of sheep tracks as guidance and knowing full well that the only people to venture up here were the musterers and us," Leuchs said. "That, coupled with the misty, thick clouds made it quite spooky. You could race for an hour without seeing anyone and when you did see someone again you were pretty excited."

"The navigation side was exciting, too. We didn't always know where to go next, so it was a challenge to make good decisions," Roy said.

"We really wanted to win this race and we knew so many things could go wrong in a long race, so we didn't want to risk anything. It's a very tough race," Leuchs said.

The winners will head next to race the 50km Motatapu Icebreaker starting at Glendhu Bay, Wanaka on March 14 and finishing in Arrowtown.

Next year, organizers plan to increase the number of teams from 60 to 100.

Taberlay plays team tactics for win

Kenda's Andy Schultz drives it at the front.
Photo ©: US Cup - Kenda Cup West
(Click for larger image)

Clear skies, an all-new cross country course, temperatures in the 80s and a record 680+ racers were the elements of a perfect script for Bonelli Park, which hosted the opening round of the US Kenda Cup West on Sunday. The men's elite cross country race was nothing short of a barn burner as a field of 40 pro men lined up. In the end, Sid Tablerlay rode solo to a win after breaking away with help from teammate Sam Jurekovic (Sho-Air/Specialized) and Andy Schultz (Kenda/Tomac/Hayes).

Immediately at the start of the four-lap event, KHS/Cytomax rider Chuck Jenkins put the power down at the front as he began the first climb. Jenkins held the tempo just until the top when Jurekovic took over. That lead was short-lived as national series regular Schultz (Kenda/Tomac/Hayes) went to the front before the first major downhill and applied the pressure. Schultz's aggressive riding quickly separated the men from the boys and the field was down to four with Schultz, Jurekovic, Taberlay and Mexico's Emmanuel Valencia in tow.

The group of four remained intact into the second lap until the first climb, where Taberlay tested the field for the first time. Only Team Turbo's Valencia was able to respond, and Schultz and Jurekovic slipped behind. Taberlay, knowing he had the numbers, decided to sit up and wait for teammate Jurekovic to bridge up. However, that didn't last long as Schultz again turned the screws as soon as he made contact with Taberlay and Valencia and then proceeded off the front.

"After I settled in, I made an initial attack to test the guys because Valencia was climbing really well today," said Taberlay.

Schultz drove the pace at the front with Jurekovic, Taberlay, Valencia in tow. Taberlay and Jurekovic responded, however Valencia's first effort to match Taberlay's acceleration put him in difficulty. Now on the back section of the 7.5-mile loop, it was down to three riders. With an obvious mismatch – with two Sho-Air/Specialized riders in the group – the five-time Australian National Champion Taberlay decided he had had enough and made a go off the front.

"Once Andy and Sammy J got back on, Andy punched it again. But once we brought that back and got rid of Valencia, I thought I should take another go," said Taberlay.

Taberlay absconded off the front leaving Schultz as the odd man out. He had to drag around former U23 National Champion Jurekovic, who was playing perfect team tactics. Going through the feed zone climb starting lap three, Taberlay had opened up over 1:15 lead ahead of Schultz and Jurekovic. Off the back of that duo came Valencia, dangling 35 seconds further back.

Melanie McQuaid (Sho-Air/Specialized)
Photo ©: US Cup - Kenda Cup West
(Click for larger image)

Once out front, Taberlay cooled the afterburners as he came through the feed zone with heavy traffic on the fourth and final lap. A minute later, Jurekovic appeared all alone as he had dislodged Schultz and was all alone in second. Forty five seconds later, Schultz appeared alone in third.

"From there on out, my manager was giving me time checks so I could manage my effort," said Taberlay.

At the finish line, Taberlay won, beating Jurekovic by 16 seconds. Schultz was one minute back.

"This course was definitely fast, so team tactics really came into play," said Schultz. "Unfortunately my other teammates weren't here, so I ended up on the short end of the stick once it was down to the three of us, but hey that's racing. That said, I feel like my training is coming along nicely and I should have some more horsepower at the Pro XCT race in Fontana when my teammates arrive."

In the women's race, American Krista Park won with a time of 1:40:41. She defeated Canadian Melanie McQuaid (Sho-Air/Specialized) by 1:31. Natasha Hernday (Amgen) was third.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the US Cup West opener.

Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa diary: Grand days at home

A pregnant Gunn Rita Dahle Flesjaa
Photo ©: Tony Fetch
(Click for larger image)

Week by week my belly keeps growing, and I adjust my level of physical activity accordingly. I only have one more month of the pregnancy, and I aim to enjoy it to the fullest. So far, being pregnant has been a fantastic experience, and we're looking so much forward to saying hello to the little fellow in a few weeks from now.

It's Sunday here in our home, and we're sitting in our easy chairs, leaned well back, with our legs high, news and sports on the television, and the newspapers in our laps. I've been out for a hike while Kenneth has done a long distance bike ride alone. As always, the little fellow in my belly is active the moment I sit down. It seems like he doesn't like to be inactive for long. As long as I'm on the spinning-bike, going for a walk, or swimming, he dozes off and sleeps peacefully without so much as a nudge.

Read the complete diary entry.

Bishop becomes a dad

US National short track and marathon champion Jeremiah Bishop became a father on February 25 when he and his wife welcomed son Conrad into the world. Mom and baby are doing well. Conrad's arrival has meant a few changes to Bishop's usual pre-season plans.

"I not in South Carolina training this winter, but I am sticking closer to home for pre-season training and racing," said Bishop to Cyclingnews. He is looking forward to starting his competitive season at some local, Virginia off-road races this month.

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