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MTB news & racing round-up for May 14, 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

Peaty ties World Cup downhill win record in La Bresse

Steve Peat
Photo ©: Kathy Sessler
(Click for larger image)
Veteran racer Steve Peat (Santa Cruz Syndicate) taught a master class in downhill racing last weekend when he smoked the competition at the UCI World Cup in La Bresse, France. The win, combined with his third place in the South African opener, put him into the World Cup leader's jersey in the series as well as tied Nicolas Vouilloz's record of 16 World Cup career wins.

After Peat won the qualifying, he was feeling strong and confident. He raced the finals in front of a French crowd of 15,000. The weather had been cooperating, but the rain arrived a half hour earlier than expected, dumping onto the course.

"I'm over the moon to win today," said Peaty after his victory. "I want to dedicate this win to my new baby, George. It feels great to win for both Jake and George. It's taken me awhile to get back on top of the pack, but it certainly feels the same as the last time."

"Race day was a bit unnerving due to the changing weather. We made three tire changes at the top before Steve's race run and we made the right choice," said Peaty's mechanic Ricky Bobby. "I'm stoked that Steve won! The track suited him down to the ground."

After the La Bresse round, Peat flew home to be with baby George and family. He will head to Andorra for the next World Cup this weekend.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Kathy Sessler

Jonnier wins on home soil

Sabrina Jonnier (Maxxis - Rocky Mountain) races to a win
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

After a four-week break following the season opener World Cup in South Africa, Frenchwoman Sabrina Jonnier (Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) rode a classic technical downhill track to victory at round two of the UCI World Cup in La Bresse, France.

Coming into the event, all attention was on Tracey Moseley (Trek World Racing), the winner of the first round, and local French favorites Emiline Ragot (Team Suspension Center) and Jonnier, who were second and third respectively in the previous round.

Qualifying confirmed the favorites were indeed the ones to watch, as Moseley qualified first with Jonnier only 1.7 seconds behind. Mio Suemasa and Ragot were significantly back at 11.2 and 11.4 seconds respectively.

Jonnier, who is known for not performing her best in qualifying, was optimistic about a victory on her home soil and she delivered on race day, clocking the fastest time with 2:28:57, 10 seconds faster than her qualifying time. Moseley was next fastest at 5.02 back, then newcomer Miriam Nicole (Franceat) was 6.2 seconds back.

Jonnier was ecstatic to be back on the podium. "I'm super happy to give Maxxis-Rocky Mountain its first World Cup win," said Jonnier. "I dedicated my race to my mum, whose dad just passed away."

"Even though Tracy won the qualifying, I was still very confident, and very happy to win in France," she said. "It was a very important win for me because it is my first win in a year, and I wanted to show that I am still one of the best downhillers."

The next stop for Jonnier is round three of the World Cup in Andorra, this weekend.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Team Maxxis - Rocky Mountain

Strait collects career-best downhill result

22-year-old Kyle Strait recorded a career-best 11th place and finished as the top American at the second round of the UCI World Cup downhill in La Bresse, France, last weekend after deciding last October to focus more on downhill racing for this season. His previous best was 12th in Fort William, Great Britain, in 2005.

After missing round one of the World Cup in South Africa, Strait was representing his new team, Specialized Team America at the second round, which was the beginning of his international racing tour.

"In qualifying, I just rode a steady race, aiming to get in the top 80, but I knew I didn't need to chase points, so it was a steady run," said Strait. "When I saw I was mid-field, it gave me confidence for a possible top 20, which was my goal for the final. The track was awesome and the crowd made you feel like it was a World Championship.

" I really stepped it up in the final, and even though I felt the rain beginning to come down, I knew the whole course wouldn't be instantly soaked, so I concentrated on putting all the sections together; the last 300m I was close to being out of control."

Despite his absence at round one, Strait moves into the top 40 of the overall World Cup. He will head to Andorra for round three this weekend.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the UCI World Cup downhill elite men's and elite women's rounds in La Bresse, France, including current World Cup standings for the men and women.

Graf positive for blood pressure medicine

Jurg Graf
Photo ©: Felt International Racing Team
(Click for larger image)
Swiss rider Jürg Graf tested positive after winning a race in Schann, Switzerland on April 5. He denied having used any doping product and requested that the B Sample be tested, which is scheduled for May 14.

The 25-year-old tested positive for Oxilofrin, which is used for low blood pressure. It is the first time in cycling that a rider has tested positive for this substance.

Graf said that he is unaware of any violation of the anti-doping regulations and cannot explain the positive A sample. Nor can he explain how the substance came to be in his body or his sample. He absolutely rejected the notion that he had purposely taken any sort of doping product.

Graf's father, Urs Graf, is the Swiss national mountain bike trainer for Elite and Under 23 cross country, marathon and cyclo-cross racing. On Wednesday, the Swiss Cycling Federation removed him from his post. Urs Graf also serves as the coach for his son.

The Swiss federation, Swiss Cycling, said that both it and Graf "are interested in an immediate and unconditional explanation" of the situation. It noted that the removal of Urs Graf was not an indication of fault finding and said it still considers the younger Graf innocent. The decision "has to do with protecting the personal rights of Urs Graf and Swiss Cycling's sporting ethics," the federation said in a statement.

For the upcoming World Cup in Madrid, Rolf Vollenweider, who serves as the national trainer for the elite and under 23 women, will fill the senior Graf's roll.

Bishop, Rusch win Dirt Sweat & Gears in worst conditions ever

By Dave McElwaine in Fayetteville, Tennessee

Jeremiah Bishop (Mona Vie/Cannondale)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Jeremiah Bishop (Mona Vie/Cannondale) claimed victory at this year's edition of Dirt, Sweat, and Gears. The rider described conditions at the event, which had a high rate of attrition, as "the worst conditions I have ever raced in".

The Fayetteville area received seven inches of rain in the week prior to the race and downpours began right at the starting gun. The resulting mud made riding nearly impossible. Harlan Price (Independent Fabrications), in a negotiated truce with Bishop, finished second while Andy Applegate was third.

"No strategy could prepare a man for what we underwent today," said Bishop. "It was hard to ride, even downhill. It was a test of survival, like an adventure race. I went out pretty quick early and paced with the duo teams, and that strategy worked out. I've done some really wicked 24 hour races, but this is really beyond explanation."

In the women's race Pua Sawicki led by a large margin for a couple laps, but dropped out due the muddy conditions and a crash. This opened the door for Rebecca Rusch to take the win, followed by Rebecca Tomaszewki in second place.

Rebecca Rusch lifts her bike for the last time
Photo ©: Judy Rusch
(Click for larger image)

"It's just not fun any more and not worth the torture, even on the equipment," said Sawicki. "This lap was 100 percent push and every two seconds you're trying to clean your bike. It's not about who can ride any more."

Rusch had been given some pre-race instructions by her coach. "Not to tank myself, keeping in mind that this is training for World's and not my peak race," she recalled. "Staying safe is a major priority."

"This is one of my favorite places to ride but right now it's really a little dangerous," she added. "Lots of exposed sideways roots and lots of places you can mess up."

All-time muddiest bike?
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)
The initial heavy rain thinned out the mud on the course, making the first lap times under one hour. But as the rains subsided, the mud thickened dramatically, and lap times increased to over two and a half hours, even for Bishop.

By the end of the day, most racers had dropped out of the race. Only about 20 percent of the 10 mile course was actually rideable. The thick mud collected on the bikes, increasing their weight to over 50 pounds, making it impossible for the wheels to turn. Racers had no choice but to carry their heavy bikes for miles at a time.

Despite the on and off rain, the race kept its good vibe with live music, multiple barbeque venders, freely flowing beer on tap, and lots of partying in the large tent city.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage, including lots of photos, from the Dirt Sweat & Gears race.

Two young hopefuls, Litscher and Klein, take first elite career wins Saalhausen

Thomas Litscher wins
Photo ©: Armin M. Küstenbrück
(Click for larger image)

Two young riders, Thomas Litscher of Switzerland and Hanna Klein of Germany, took surprising wins at the Saalhausen round of the German Bundesliga series.

Thomas Litscher (SKS-MiG), the junior world champion in 2007, just moved into the elite category. In Saalhausen, he took his first victory ahead of Robert Mennen (Topeak-Ergon) and Fabian Giger (SKS-MiG).

Litscher was in the lead together with Emil Lindgren (Felt International), when the Swede decided to leave the race. "There were too many problems with the team in recent weeks, plus there was the positive doping control of Jürg Graf," said Lindgren, who pulled out with three laps to go. "Mentally I was not able to continue. I can't be a superman. My body is good but mentally I couldn't keep going."

This decision left the door open for Litscher. "I'm really happy. In the middle of the race, I suffered and didn't think about winning. But when I caught Emil again, I felt better."

Litscher now leads the Bundesliga overall with 96 points over Ralph Näf (80) and Robert Mennen (76).

Hanna Klein celebrates
Photo ©: Armin M. Küstenbrück
(Click for larger image)

Hanna Klein (Rothaus-Cube) also took her first elite career victory. Klein, who was the runner-up at the junior world championships in 2005, took the lead from the first lap. "I was expecting Sabine (Spitz) to catch me," said Klein. "It was unbelievable to be at the front of a Bundesliga race. When I was in front after a downhill section I thought, 'okay go until they catch you', but I never thought I could hold on until the last lap."

Olympic champion Spitz (central GHOST Pro Team) had a weak start, but moved up from seventh to overtake Alexandra Engen (Merida) to finish second. "It was my fourth training day in a row. So I did not feel fresh," said Spitz. "In the third lap I felt better. These two weeks I have dedicated to the preparation of the Madrid World Cup." Spitz also offered her compliments to the 21-year-old winner.

Klein took the lead in the overall with 105 points ahead of Spitz (95) and Engen (78).

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Bundesliga round in Saalhausen.

Friedel & Pendrel win in Jelenia Gora

Catharine Pendrel (Luna) wins
Photo ©: Marek Tyniec
(Click for larger image)

Catharine Pendrel (Luna) and Jiri Friedl (Merida Biking Team) claimed the first edition of the Jelenia Gora Trophy – Maja Wloszczowska MTB Race. Maja Wloszczowska herself , the Polish silver medallist from the Olympic Games in Bejing, China, took the second place in the UCI category 2 event. Simultaneously, she played the role of host and patron of the event.

Canadian Pendrel, US National Champion Mary McConneloug (Kenda Seven Notubes) and former Olympic champion Miguel Martinez were the biggest names drawn to the event which was attended by some of the best Polish, Czech and Russian riders, too.

Pendrel ruled the women's race. Flying over the technical course at Paulinum Mountain, she took the advantage from the start and finished first despite a crash on the downhill. Wlosczowska, Anna Szafraniec (JBG-2 Professional MTB Team) and McConneloug battled for second place with Wlosczowska coming out on top.

Jiri Friedl (Merida Biking Team) tops the men's podium.
Photo ©: Marek Tyniec
(Click for larger image)
The elite men's race was unexpectedly dominated by Czech riders. Friedl and Filip Eberl (Scott Scania Team Kolin) started strongly, loosing Martinez, who couldn't keep their tempo on the uphills. The best Polish rider, Marek Galinski (JBG-2 Professional MTB Team) was slowed by technical problems and eventually finished ninth.

Friedl took the first place in the end with Eberl in second at two minutes and Martinez in third. Adrian Brzozka (JBG-2 Professional MTB Team) finished fourth as the top Polish rider of the day.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Jelenia Gora Trophy.

Mike & Mary diary: Racing and riding in Germany

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

Any flight stretching into the double digits is time spent suffering–but for sure an 11-hour flight without any time change is easier to recover from than an 11-hour flight across multiple time zones. This was handy as we arrived to Germany on a beautiful spring morning and were whisked off to Ingolstadt by our friend and RV rental company owner Michael Braun (www.rv-rental-germany.com). We built up the bikes and took advantage of a local network of the most well-engineered and maintained back roads that we have had the pleasure to ride on in months.

We were happy to have the opportunity to park out behind our friend's place for a few days to re-figure out which side of the road to drive on as well as soak in some local flavor. We opted for an impromptu evening touring the historic down town of Ingolstadt, including a visit to the real Dr. Frankenstein house and sampling a couple of Bavarian brews and weizen sausage in a nearby bier garten.

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

Spring in Germany was looking pretty nice indeed until the rain started. at this point we got re-acquainted with our stationary trainer and the inside of our bigger than ever (but by no means American-sized) rental RV. The cold wet weather continued for days but having access to our custom Seven Cycles Titanium hard tails built up with the prototype SRAM XX group was enough to get us out in almost anything. I have always had a special interest in building the most radical bikes and at this point, ours are just over the top. Mary and I had discussed taking a weekend off racing to get in some specific and longer rides to prep for the upcoming European world cups; however, we decided that racing in the rain was going to be more appealing than just riding in the rain

Read the complete diary entry.

McClendon and Burch win Yee-Ha!

Sean McClendon made the trip across the country to win the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Gravity Calendar's third event, the Massanutten Yee-Ha! near Harrisonburg, Virginia. McClendon finished less than one second ahead of 16-year old Neko Mulally (Specialized) in the downhill event. Allegra Burch (Velo Bella) came out on top of the elite women's race at Massanutten Resort. The race drew 244 racers from 23 states.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Massanutten Yee-Ha! Standings of the National Gravity Calendar after three events are below.

USA Cycling National Gravity Calendar standings after three events
Men's Standings
1 Curtis Keene (USA)                      75
2 Luck Strobel (USA) Maxxis               60
3 Ryan Condrashoff (USA) X-Fusion-Intense 50
4 Andrew Mitchell (Can)                   40
5 Dan Atherton (GBr)                      30
5 Sean McClendon (USA)                    30
5 Joey Schusler (USA) Yeti-Fox Shox       30

Women's Standings
1 Katie Holden (USA)                      75
2 Kathy Pruitt (USA) Jamis                60
3 Katrina Strand (Can)                    50
4 Darian Harvey (USA)                     45
5. Abagail Hippely (USA)                  40

La Ruta analyzes possible course changes and discounts entry

The organizers of La Ruta de los Conquistadores have been considering some changes to improve the race for 2009, which will be the race's 17th edition running November 11-14. They have decided not to add a fifth day and may also modify one or two of the current four stages.

However, Race Director Diego Víquez said he won't announce the course changes until one or two weeks prior to the event in order to guarantee that not even the local field, which historically benefits from a home court advantage, will know 100 per cent of the course in advance. The course changes will be designed to improve logistics such as upgrading hotels for racers and reducing shuttling.

The race follows the original path that the Spanish conquistadores crossed between 1540 and 1560 when they were in Costa Rica.

A 20 percent registration discount is available for those who sign up in May. For more information, visit www.adventurerace.com

TransAndes registration opens

Registration has opened for the TransAndes Challenge 2010, a stage race through the Andes Mountains in Patagonia in Chile and Argentina. The race will take place from January 25-30, 2010, and run from Pucón, Chile to San Martin de lo Andes, Argentina through plenty of singletrack.

The race is accepting up to 400 teams. For more information, visit www.transandeschallenge.com.

California school leagues meet at state championships

Another significant step in the development of American high school cycling will take place at Boggs Mountain, Cobb, California, Saturday, May 17 when the NorCal and SoCal Leagues meet for the first time at the California High School Mountain Bike Championships.

"The state championship is the highest attainable accomplishment in high school mountain biking, as with many school level sports, so to me it's a really big deal that we now have a true representative all-state championship," said Matt Fritzinger.

2009 has been a watershed year for high school mountain biking. First, the SoCal Interscholastic Cycling League was created with the backing of the Easton Sports Development Foundation II. On May 3, that league successfully completed its inaugural series of four races, which included more than 100 riders from 14 school teams.

The state championships have traditionally been the finale of the NorCal series. This year they will serve the dual function of culminating that series as well as crowning state champions from a field that spans the entire state of California, from Redding in the north, to San Diego in the south.

Up to 30 riders from the SoCal league are expected to travel to Cobb, 30 miles north of Santa Rosa, for this historic race, which may be the first time anywhere in the world when two separate high school mountain biking leagues have competed against each other.

In a nod to the talent pool that is entering the sport through the high school leagues, USA Cycling, the sport's national governing body, has determined that the state championships will count as a qualifying race for its national championships.

"I love the competition of racing against 40 other riders of my age. Even at Sea Otter you don't get a field that size, and there are good riders here," said junior varsity racer Evan Shorter of Oakmont High School.

The weekend is not just about the racing, but about the atmosphere surrounding the race. "Everyone camps, and the party begins the night before the race. I'm really looking forward to that part of it as well. A lot of families go there and it's a really great atmosphere," said varsity rider Will Curtis of San Rafael High School.

Race distances will range from 12 to 24 miles on a six-mile course through pine forest, with the action beginning at 10:00 am local time. For more information visit, www.norcalmtb.org.

Lopes in BikeRadar dual slalom action

Ibis Cycles rider and four-time four-cross world champion Brian Lopes has signed up to ride in the Mountain Biking UK Eliminator at BikeRadar Live at Donington Park in Leicestershire, United Kingdom, on May 30-31. The Californian racer will face a host of big name riders on the start line, including world downhill champion Greg Minnaar and fellow Santa Cruz Syndicate rider Josh Bryceland.

Other stars on the starters' list include Australian downhill legend Chris Kovarik, 2007 downhill junior world champ Ruaridh Cunningham, World Cup four-cross rider Lucas Mechura and UK downhill and 4X star Nigel Page.

Lopes was dual slalom world champion in 2001 and has won five World Cup dual slalom events, so he's a hot favourite to top the podium, and he can't wait to race at BikeRadar Live.

"I'm really looking forward to coming to England for this dual slalom," said Lopes. "With Will Longden building the course and the backing of the (Mountain Bike UK) MBUK guys, I have high expectations that it should be a great event. The crowds are always first notch in England and they always make it more enjoyable to race.

"Dual slalom has always been an event I've loved, even more than four-cross, so it's great that it's making a resurgence in one the top mountain bike countries. I'll try to bring some California sunshine with me. See you all soon!"

For more information on BikeRadar Live, the biggest ever mass-participation cycling event to hit the UK, or to sign up, visit http://live.bikeradar.com/. The weekend will be packed full of races and challenges, with something for everyone, whether you want to compete, watch your friends and family or just check out some of the world's best riders.

(Additional editorial assistance by Susan Westemeyer.)

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