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MTB news & racing round-up for March 11, 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 repeats while Alvarez clinches men's win in Spain

By Sue George

Margarita Fullana (Massi)
Photo ©: Sergio Suarez
(Click for larger image)

Cross country World Champion Marga Fullana (Massi) won her second Superprestigio Massi round in Sunday in Banyoles, Spain, just one week after she took victory in the opening round. In the men's race Ivan Alvarez Gutierrez (Giant Italia) came out ahead at the end of a two-man battle with Jose Antonio Hermida (Multivan Merida).

Fullana was the favorite going into the women's race, and within the first kilometer, she was at the front with Sandra Santanyes (Cemelorca-Trek), Rocío Gamonal (Caixanova-BH), Ana Villar (Massi) and the Cecile Ravanel (Chamonix VTT) and Sabrina Enaux (BH-Suntour).

In the end, Fullana won the three-lap event in a relatively short 1:09:29.

"I felt really good," said Fullana after her win.

The men were up next with a noon-time start. On hand were Frenchman Jean Christophe Peraud, making his Massi team debut, and stars like Gutierrez, several-time Spanish champion Hermida and two time Olympic Champion Julien Absalon.

A hot, sunny day set up some favorable conditions for eventual winner Gutierrez of Spain.

An initial lead group of Alvarez Gutierrez, Hermida, Sergio Mantecon (Cemelorca-Trek), and Absalon (Team Orbea) formed. On the second lap, Hermida and Alvarez Gutierrez were alone off the front, with Absalon a few second behind.

Julien Absalon (Orbea)
Photo ©: Team Orbea
(Click for larger image)

It wasn't until the final lap that the Alvarez Gutierrez/Hermida battle would be resolved. Both took turns attacking.

"I found a place where I was stronger than Hermida," said Alvarez Gutierrez. "I concentrated my attack on a steep climb which preceded a long series of curves. I had five to 10 meters of advantage at the end of it, and this was sufficient to carry me to the win."

Hermida finished second. With one to go, Absalon was at 1:30, a gap that would hold steady until the end.

"Julien felt good in his first race with elite competition this year," said Orbea Team Manager Joseba Arizaga. "Being third behind those who never stopped racing over the winter means he's doing fine."

"This kind of training will bear fruit later in the season," said Arizaga, considering also the performances of Absalon's teammates Ruben Ruzafa and Inaki Lejarreta.

The race attracted 650 competitors from 13 countries.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of round two of the Superprestigio Massi.

Many slowed by flats at Maremma Cup

By Sue George

Florian Vogel on his way to a win for his Scott-Swisspower MTB-Racing team.
Photo ©: Scott-Swisspower MTB-Racing
(Click for larger image)

Eva Lechner (Colnago Arreghini Esercito) and Swiss champion Florian Vogel (Scott-Swisspower MTB-Racing) escaped the punctures that slowed many of their competitors on the way to a win in the second of two rounds of the Maremma Cup cross country on Sunday in Italy.

The Swiss triumphed in the men's race with a first, second and third places. Vogel took the lead during the second lap and left his adversaries behind to finish first. Under 23 world champion Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower MTB-Racing) had problems with the chain during the initial lap but then he worked his way up from 30th to finish in second place.

Third place went to another Swiss rider after a hard-fought battle between Italian Marco Fontana who punctured during the last lap and Ralph Näf (Multivan Merida Biking Team), who had also punctured while in second place. Näf made a strong recovery after changing his wheel. It was good enough for third place and an all-Swiss podium.

Italian favorite Marco Aurelio Fontana (Cannondale Factory Racing) had to settle for the fourth place, while former world champion Miguel Martinez (Felt International MTB Team) ended in the fifth place.

Florian Vogel and Nino Schurter
Photo ©: Scott-Swisspower MTB-Racing
(Click for larger image)

In the women's race, Lechner defeated Evelin Staffler (Colnago Arreghini Esercito) and Blaza Klemencic (Felt International MTB Team) although both runners up suffered flats during the race. For a few laps, Swiss Nathalie Schneitter (Colnago Cap Arreghini) was second but then she, too, punctured and ended up in fourth.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of round two of the Maremma Cup.

Olympians try unusual downhill in the Netherlands

These riders made the most of an unusual "downhill" opportunity
Photo ©: Joerg Mitter (Global-Newsroom.com)
(Click for larger image)

One Czech and seven Dutch men met for some downhilling action in the otherwise flat Netherlands last weekend. They visited a rather unusual venue for racing, stairs in a ramshackle 11-story building in the heart of Amsterdam.

Led by Dutchman Rob van den Wildenberg, fifth at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the troupe of world-class BMX and mountain bikers stormed the former POST CS mail distribution centre to help with the demolition of the ramshackle building - much to the surprise of some labourers still working on the site.

The 400 metre 'course' comprised 11 floors, 324 stairs and no fewer than 50 vertical metres from top to bottom.

"In the morning, when we took the snap decision to hold a race here, I have to admit I had a funny feeling about it, but what are we supposed to do? We've got nowhere else to train. The steep, narrow stairways and the half-demolished floors were incredibly tough to ride: rather than jumping over tree stumps, branches, roots and other natural obstacles, we had to overcome broken windows, smashed-up filing cabinets and dangling cables," said Ivo van der Putten, laughing.

Not a lot of room to overtake your competitors here!
Photo ©: Joerg Mitter (Global-Newsroom.com)
(Click for larger image)

The 22-year-old fought his way to a narrow victory in the final, beating Bas de Beyer, Michal Prokop and Joost Wichman in the process as four riders descended on the course in the same time.

Czech rider Michal Prokop enjoyed his rollercoaster ride down the unique course. "When the guys asked me if I wanted to race in Amsterdam I thought they were joking. Now, to be honest, I am just happy to have got down the stairs in one piece - mind you, a few cuts and bruises are all part of it."

The bikers left the building as swiftly as they had entered, blending into the crowds along the iconic Grachten (canals) in the heart of the Dutch capital, a city famous for having the most bicycles per capita in the whole of Europe.

The POST CS building was inaugurated in 1968 by Prince Claus and served for 36 years as the Netherlands' principal mail distribution office. The current demolition process will be completed by the end of August, creating space for a modern office complex.

Results (including two races and a final)
1 Ivo van der Putten
2 Bas de Bever 
3 Michal Prokop 
4 Joost Wichman 
5 Rob van den Wildenberg 
6 Raymon van der Biezen 
7 Frank Heijne
8 Jurg Meijer 


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Joerg Mitter (Global-Newsroom.com)

US Cup serving downhillers too

US Cup organizers announced two measures that will support gravity racing in the US in 2009 and 2010.

First, the US Cup will run a gravity specific racing series within the US Cup for 2010. Details are still in the works, but gravity riders will have a comprehensive series to crown both pro and amateur champions in 2010, much like the US Cup series is offering cross country racers in 2009.

Second, the next US Cup stop in Fontana, California, will provide racing opportunities for gravity racers as well as cross country racers. The March 28-29 event will double as the second round of the Kenda Cup West and the opener of the US Pro Cross Country Tour (ProXCT).

The first 250 riders registered in each discipline will receive a complimentary rider swag bag with goodies provided by Kenda and other sponsors.

Gravity East expands dual slalom companion series

Gravity East's previously-announced dual slalom series, to be run in conjunction with some of the organization's popular downhill races, has been expanded to seven events for 2009 with the addition of the event at Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington, New York. The dual slalom events will comprise a parallel companion series to the Gravity East Downhill races with the dual slalom riders competing for their own separate points championships.

The events will typically be held the evening before the accompanying downhill, following the downhill practice/inspection runs. The schedule provides the opportunity for riders to take home extra prizes without any additional travel expenses. Perhaps more importantly, though, the dual slalom will help racers entertain their peers according to Gravity East Director Daniel McDonald,

"You have hundreds of people unwinding after a day of hard practice on the mountain. There's music and barbeque in the air, and lots of crashes. It's really a great environment, even to come out and just watch."

Gravity East's Dual Slalom Series will utilize the "Y" configuration popularized by the Jeep King of the Mountain contests for snowboarding, skiing and mountain bike. The "Y" configuration pits two riders on a downhill course where the top half of the course is a series of parallel side-by-side turns where the riders battle for the lead position before merging into a single route where the riders battle wheel-to-wheel to the finish.

The head-to-head program will feature a single elimination format, with the fastest riders having lane choice each round.

2009 Gravity East Dual Slalom Series Schedule
June 6: Wisp Resort, McHenry, Maryland
June 27: Windham Mountain, Windham, New York
July 11: Highland Mountain Bike Park, Northfield, New Hampshire
August 29: Whiteface 5K DH, Wilmington, New York
September 26 Blue Mountain Resort, Danielsville, Pennsylvania
October 3: Mount Snow, West Dover, Vermont
October 10: Finals, Plattekill Mountain, Roxbury, New York.

For more information on the Gravity East Dual Slalom and Downhill Series, visit www.GravityEastSeries.com.

Massi downhillers start season

Bernat Guardia (Team Massi)
Photo ©: Team Massi
(Click for larger image)

The Massi team's downhill squad kicked off its season in the Barcelonan locality of Sant Andreu de la Barca this past weekend. Members raced the 10th edition of the X Prize Marzzochi - Gran Premi Diputacio of Barcelona.

Bernat Guardia, a new member of the team, finished in fourth place. "I am happy with the result although I feel a little disappointed for not to have been able to make it to the podium. In any case, I was fighting until the end, and I am satisfied to make the top five, considering the great level of all the participants. I am doing well physically and still I have plenty of room to improve."

Teammate Iván Oulego, who finished seventh, said, "I felt good racing. I made some mistakes, but am happy with my results considering the level of the field - comparable to a World Cup."

The team is riding Toro DH bikes this season, equipped with the new Fulcrum Red Fire wheels.

USAC National Ultra-Endurance Calendar standings updated

USA Cycling announced standings after three events of its Mountain Bike National Ultra-Endurance Calendar. This past weekend's Spa City Extreme saw John Mylne (Niner-Ergon) and Rebecca Rusch (Specialized-Red Bull) earn wins in the elite men's and women's contests in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

With the three of eight events complete, the current standings are below. Bryan Fawley, Harlan Price, Ernesto Marenchin and John Mylne are tied for the men's lead while Rebecca Rusch leads the women.

Men's Standings
1 Bryan Fawley  60 
1 Harlan Price  60 
1 Ernesto Marenchin 60 
1 John Mylne  60 
5 Robert Lichtenwalner 40
5 J.T. Cody  40 
5 Jesus Martinez  40

Women's Standings
1 Rebecca Rusch  120 
2 Rita Borelli 60 
2 Danielle Musto  60 
4 Alice Pennington 40 
4 Sandra Tomlinson 40 

See Cyclingnews' full results of Spa City Extreme.

WBR-Siren Bicycles adds Wallenfels and Harris

Powerhouse duo of Dave Harris and Lynda Wallenfels
Photo ©: Dave Byers
(Click for larger image)

Team World Bicycle Relief-Siren Bicycles added two more endurance riders to its team for 2009 with Lynda Wallenfels and Dave Harris.

"Lynda and Dave represent what endurance mountain bike racing is all about," said Brendan Collier of Siren Bicycles. "Their accomplishments on the dirt are only eclipsed by their considerable support of the sport and its athletes. We are very excited to welcome them to the team."

"Coach Lynda" recently won the 24 Hours of the Old Pueblo, completing 16 laps on a singlespeed, a result that put her on equal laps with the fourth-placed solo man. Together with Harris, in 2008 they became the first-ever open mixed team to finish TransRockies on singlespeeds while riding to third place overall on the GC.

"I've been riding a Siren for about a year," Harris said, "so to be part of all this is pretty exciting. We've more or less taken the stance lately that we'd rather not actively pursue sponsorship because we just don't like to promote stuff we don't love."

When not racing, Wallenfels is coaching other endurance riders, and the pair is passionate about self-supported endurance events, promoting the annual 370-mile Trans-Utah and holding men's and women's current course records for both singlespeed and geared for the 142-mile Kokopelli Trail. Harris also holds the record for the 342-mile Grand Loop race (geared) and the Kaibab Monster Cross (both geared and singlespeed).

For 2009, the new team members will focus on the 24-Hour National Championships in Moab, Utah, in addition to several other geared and singlespeed races throughout the year.

The WBR-Siren Bicycles team is part of the organization's "Grassroots" campaign, in which athletes and teams support the organization's work providing bicycles for better healthcare, education and economic development.

Team World Bicycle Relief-Siren Bicycles for 2009: Lynda Wallenfels, Dave Harris, Dan Brennan, Todd Carpenter, Brad Majors, Chris Strout, Craig DeAmbrose and Stephen Janes.

California high schools kick off season

Clear blue skies and jubilant crowds greeted the historic first race of the SoCal High School Mountain Bike Racing Series - a four-race series that is an expansion of the NorCal High School Mountain Bike League.

"I couldn't be any happier right now," said SoCal League President Quintin Easton. "Parents, coaches and kids left the venue today with a real sense of how magical it is to have a league of their own. Many came and thanked me personally for bringing the NorCal formula into our region, and it was clear they want more. There was a great deal of talent out there on the course today. Some of the kids in Varsity really know how to ride, and many of them are already champing at the bit to race against the NorCal League!"

Close to 100 riders competing on 14 teams - representing 16 schools - heralded this dawn of a new era for mountain biking in Southern California. It was fitting, then, that the race was held at one of SoCal's finest mountain biking venues, the picturesque Vail Lake Mountain Resort.

A six-mile course wound through Temecula chaparral contained a little of everything, and was described by Sophomore Ricky Riedl, "This is the most fun course ever! There's great singletrack, lots of drops and technical descents, good climbs, it's really great." All other riders asked agreed with him.

The Newport Beach Composite team set the early pace for the series, ahead of Channel Islands High School and Hemet High School. With three races remaining, and the expectation that many more riders will come to this party, there is the sense that much could still change.

Meanwhile, the NorCal League opened its season the previous weekend on March 1. Starting the season with a burst of energy and enthusiasm, 415 high school mountain bikers from 33 schools were undeterred by grey skies and rain at the Central Coast Invitational, Fort Ord, Monterey.

As a testament to the surging popularity of high school mountain bike racing, the turnout for this race amounted to an increase of 15% over the 360 riders who showed up for Round One of the 2008 series.

With winter and pre-season training over, this was a great opportunity for some riders to find out how effective all that patient off-season training work had been. For most, it was a great opportunity to renew acquaintances and revel in the particular team spirit that makes mountain biking unique.

As the first waves of riders set off, the air was alive with the sound of cowbells as students, parents and coaches lining the course jangled and roared in support of the riders. "There were so many people. It was like being at a state championship soccer game, this was by far the most commotion we've ever had at a League race," said League director Matt Fritzinger.

"If we have a similar increase in numbers for next year's season, we might have to start using school busses to get people to this race. The parking lot looked just about full today," said Fritzinger.

Team Talk The all-important teams competition got off to a close start in Division I with the Drake Pirates edging the Salinas High School MTB Team by 3880 points to 3847. The 2008 Div.1 champions, San Rafael Bulldogs, occupied third spot with 3783 points. Coach Paul Sourre of the Drake team said, "We know it will be a difficult season, the philosophy of the Drake team has always been to teach the sport of mountain biking for the love of the sport, as opposed to winning for its own sake. It's a challenge to find a good program that provides for both the highly competitive riders as well as those that are doing good work a little deeper down in the field."

In Division II, the new composite Monterey Bay Kingfishers team, composed of several members of the former Calvary Christian team, took a 39 point lead with 1980 points over the San Marin High School Cycling Club with1941. For San Marin this was the best team result to date. The Marin Catholic MTB Club ended the day not far back with 1899 points. Mark Kintz, head coach of the Monterey Bay team explained the formation of the new team, "The Calvary Chapel team had evolved into a home-schooled group, so we weren't really attached to the school anymore. We picked a name that everybody liked. It's a six-person team with two sets of brothers and sisters."

2009 SoCal racing program
March 8: Vail Lake Challenge, Vail Lake Resort, Temecula, California
March 22: Warner Ranch Roundup, Warner Springs, California
April 5: Arrowhead Challenge, Lake Arrowhead, California
May 17: Cow Pie Invitational, Santa Ynez, California

2009 NorCal racing program
March 1: Central Coast Invitational, East Garrison at Fort Ord, Monterey, California
March 15: Granite Bay, Folsom Lake, California
April 5: Central Coast Invitational II, East Garrison at Fort Ord, Monterrey, California
April 26: Brown's Ravine, El Dorado Hills
May 17: State Championship, Boggs Mountain, Cobb, California

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