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MTB news & racing round-up for May 29, 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

NUE Series heads to Ohio with Mohican 100

By Barry Kunkle

Racers starting at last year's Mohican 100
Photo ©: Hollie Mcfadden
(Click for larger image)
Race number two of the National Ultra Endurance Series (NUE) rolls into the short and steep pastures of north central Ohio this weekend. Over 400 riders will leave from downtown Loudonville, in search of a finish line with over 100 miles and 11,000 feet of climbing in their way.

"The race connects both private and public lands [Mohican State Park] in a single loop offering entrants a one day experience, highlighting many of the most scenic areas in Mohican Country," said promoter Ryan O'Dell.

Coming up on

Cyclingnews will cover the 60th edition of the Dauphiné Libéré live as of stage 4 on Wednesday, June 10, at approximately 15:00 local Europe time (CEST)/ 23:00 Australian time (CDT)/ 9:00 (USA East).

WAP-enabled mobile devices: http://live.cyclingnews.com/wap/

As the race enters its seventh year, the support from the community has grown to create a festival-like atmosphere in downtown Loudonville. A mile-long bike path will connect the start in downtown with the finish at the Mohican Adventures Campground just outside of town. Sierra Nevada Brewing and Great Lake Brewing are making sure that each participant will have libations to fill their Mohican MTB 100 Pint glasses at the end of the day.

Women's field draws strength from numbers

Michelle Stoppard finished third last year
Photo ©: Trent Lundberg / Guru Graphix
(Click for larger image)
Besides the participants who are out to test their legs against the century mark as a personal challenge, the 100-mile format has drawn a group of internationally accomplished competitors. In the women's open field, returning champion Betsy Shogren (Cannondale Factory Team) from West Virginia is planning a return to defend her win from last year. She expects a better showing than her fifth place finish at the Cohutta 100, an accomplishment despite recovering from illness.

2009 Cohutta winner Carey Lowery (Outdoor Store) will be hot on Shogren's heels. Lowery got a new coach and renewed motivation to take back the series championship. The owner of that championship after last year's series win is Cheryl Sorenson (Trek Racing Co-Op), who missed the Cohutta due to work. Her 2009 legs have yet to be tested in the 100-mile format, and everyone is itching to see what she has to dish out.

Series newcomer Paula Burks officially took the gloves off at the Cohutta and announced her presence with a second place finish, while past series champion Danielle Musto (Kenda/Tomac/Hayes) will also be there to scrap for a podium spot. Musto's third place finish at Cohutta proves that she's back on form and ready to throw a BBQ in her own honor.

Men's open field on fire

Jeff Schalk and Chris Eatough
Photo ©: Trent Lundberg / Guru Graphix
(Click for larger image)
There is no doubt that last year's Mohican winner and series champion Jeff Schalk (Trek Racing Co-op) has redefined the limits of how hard one can go in a 100-mile point to point race. Currently he owns just about every 100-mile course record there is. His new definition is pulling competitors out of the woods as they come to question his dominance. Debater number one, Jeremiah Bishop (Monavie/Cannondale), went home after the Cohutta this year with a new appreciation of Schalk's strength. Like a true competitor, Bishop will be back in Ohio after having his fire lit.

Everyone has their eyes on taking down the mountain that is Schalk. Third place Cohutta finisher Chris Beck (Subaru 29er Crew) is beginning to understand what it takes and could be a surprise at the finish line. As usual the 2007 NUE Series Champion Chris Eatough (Trek Racing Co-op) will be in attendance and is known for getting stronger as the season progresses.

Rounding out the top five spots will be a hard-fought battle amongst seasoned vets with the likes of Michael Simonson (Gary Fisher/ 29er Crew), who was fifth at the Cohutta, Michiganite Christian Tanguy (Team Fraser) and 2006 NUE Series winner Harlan Price (Independent Fabrication/ IFracing Inc) who skipped the first series' race to recover from a stage race win in India.

Singlespeeders: "We don't sign up, we show up."

John "Fuzzy" Mylne
Photo ©: Trent Lundberg / Guru Graphix
(Click for larger image)
Those were the words of last year's series champion John Mylne (Niner Bikes/ Ergon) when asked why he wasn't on the start list. Apparently his teammate Dejay Birtch likes to fly under the radar, too, since both plan on making their first showing in the NUE series for 2009 at the Mohican.

Waiting for them with a hood and axe will be this year's Cohutta singlespeed winner, and newcomer to the one-geared class, Gerald Pflug (Speedgoat/SPK/Salsa). Mathew Ferrari (FreezeThaw Bikes) will have one eye on the podium and one on the kegs, and is likely to stand atop both before the night is through.

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage of the Mohican 100.

Fullana victorious at home while Absalon wins again

By Rob Jones in Madrid

Margarita Fullana (Massi) wins
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)
As usual, Madrid proved to be an exciting venue for the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup last weekend. Julien Absalon (Orbea) padded his already comfortable lead in the men's UCI World Cup series by taking his third consecutive win of the season in Madrid, Spain, while women's World Cup leader Marga Fullana (Massi) also extended her overall lead with a win on home turf.

Fullana beat runner-up and defending World Cup champion Marie-Helene Premont (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) by just four seconds. Lene Byberg (Specialized) was not much further back, in third at 15 seconds.

Fullana made her first testing attack, and only Premont and Byberg could respond. Later, Premont was getting concerned about being caught, and upped the pace, dropping Byberg with less than a lap and a half to go. The winning move came from Fullana on the final long climb, and Premont could not respond to immediately.

"It is a great honour to win in my home country; this was one of my big goals for the season," said Fullana.  "Of course, I was very concerned about Marie-Helene, because she is always strong, but I could see that I was better on the climbs, and I knew that I had to attack there in the final lap."

Julien Absalon (Orbea) takes his third consecutive win
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)
By the time the men were ready to start, the rain-soaked ground that made the women's race a muddy mess, had mostly dried up, making all sections rideable.

The only man who could challenge Absalon was Multivan Merida's Ralph Näf, who started fast. The duo ended up alone with a group of four chasing. By the fifth lap of six, Näf felt it was time to put some pressure on Absalon, and launched a powerful attack near the end of the lap, gaining 11 seconds as the pair began their final lap.  But move proved to be premature, as Absalon steadily reeled him in, and then dropped the tiring Swiss rider to solo in with a gap of over a minute.

"It was a bit of a tactical race with Ralph," said Absalon.  "He did a very good attack against me, and gained some seconds.  I wasn't able to keep his wheel when he went.  But I think maybe it was too much for him to keep going (like that), and I was able to get back up to him.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Madrid round of the cross country World Cup for the junior men, junior women, elite men and elite women, including current World Cup standings.

Trek overhauls cross country rocket ship

By James Huang

Trek's Top Fuel 9.9 SSL flagship racer
(Click for larger image)

Trek's impressive mountain bike lineup overhaul continues with their latest Top Fuel 9.9 SSL cross country full-suspension flagship. Cyclingnews heads out on both an early prototype and later a full-blown production model and finds something oh-so-close to perfection.

Trek's Top Fuel 9.9 SSL flagship hits the target of what a premium-level cross-country race bike should be squarely in its center yet it's also capable of more with a few component tweaks and in the hands of a skilled rider.

Actual frame weight is just 1950g (4.30lb) - with shock - thanks to a generous helping of Trek's top-shelf OCLV Red carbon fiber technology, full alloy pivot hardware and an all-carbon integrated bottom bracket assembly borrowed from the road-going Madone. In addition to the grams saved by eliminating the threaded metallic cups, the bottom bracket itself is now lighter as the two cartridge bearings are inserted directly into the precision molded shell along with a couple of seals and a plastic sleeve in between.

The premium build on our top-end 9.9 SSL test model keeps total weight at an impressive 9.81kg (21.63lb), too - well in keeping with the competition and lighter than most people's hardtails. Naturally, the low mass is a boon when ascending and anyone that believes dropping a kilo or two doesn't make much difference in the real world has probably never ridden anything so feathery.

On the contrary, that much weight is very noticeable especially on steeper and more technical climbs and any racer will quickly extol the virtues of cresting the opening climb with a few seconds' (or minutes') advantage over their rivals. Game on.

Read the complete review.

Peat collects Lisbon win number eight

Steve Peat
Photo ©: Kathy Sessler
(Click for larger image)

Santa Cruz Syndicate's Steve Peat is on a roll. After two back-to-back wins at the most recent downhill World Cups, he also won the Lisbon Downtown race last weekend. Peat winning is Lisbon was a familiar sight – it was his eighth consecutive victory at the event.

GT's Mick Hannah rode well to earn himself second place, and Peat's teammate Greg Minnaar rounded out the podium with a third place finish.

The race was nearly rained out when precipitation fell the night before and right before the first practice run, making the cobbles dangerously unrideable for a time.

Peat credited his bike for helping him to victory while Minnaar said, "I rode like a twat again. I felt I had a good qualifier and I wanted to do the same in the final, but with a bit more pace to the run. I tried to pedal too much, and I didn't go as fast, but I'm happy for Steve."

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Lisboa Downtown, including lots of photos.

Killeen tests his form

Trek World Racing rider Liam Killeen at the Madrid World Cup
Photo ©: Alvaro Astiz
(Click for larger image)
Trek World Racing's Liam Killeen returned to competition last weekend at round four of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Madrid. Killeen was recovering from a back injury that kept him out of the last two rounds of the World Cup.

According to team management, treatment for the injury has been steadily addressing the problem, but Killeen still has some way to go. The British cross country rider said he felt better in Madrid that he did at the World Cup in South Africa, but that his overall fitness was down due to the time lost on the bike in recent weeks.

Despite being held up by a crash on lap one that cost him 30 places, Killeen climbed steadily through the field to finished a solid 19th. Killeen plans to take another few weeks off from racing to focus on his fitness and training at home while he prepares for rounds five and six of the World Cup in Canada in July and August.

Sawicki chases new 24-hour Guinness World Record

Pua Sawicki (Ellsworth) was
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Pua Sawicki of Team Mata will attempt to become the first-ever female recordholder of the "Most miles ridden in 24 hours on a mountain bike" category according to husband Ron Sawicki. The Guinness Book of World Records will recognize this year's 24-hour US Solo National Championship male and female winners as the first such recordholders. The championships are being held in conjunction with the 24 hours of Moab, in Moab, Utah, on October 10-11.

Sawicki's current personal best was sent at her first 24-hour solo race in 2004, when she won the national title by riding 281.2 miles. Sawicki is a favorite for this year's race after winning three of the past four national championships.

"We are very excited about this, and we hope this will bring more attention to 24-hour mountain bike racing and mountain biking in general," said Ron Sawicki.

South Africa's DCM Chrome to England

Brandon Stewart and Max Knox (DCM Chrome) racing at the Cape Epic
Photo ©: Sportzpics
(Click for larger image)
There are rewards for racing hard and winning international competitions. DCM Chrome's riders who departed for England on Wednesday to compete in the British cross country series on Saturday and Sunday, are proof of that.

According to Jason Theunissen, media liaison officer for DCM Chrome, the good performances by Rourke Croeser, Adriaan Louw and Bryce Munro at the Sea Otter Classic in California, in April did not go unnoticed. Croeser and Munro won their races in their respective age group categories and Louw finished second in his.

After the event Ian van der Walt, team owner, was approached by a member of the UCI who told him that he was impressed by the performance of the DCM Chrome team. According to Theunissen, the UCI was also impressed with Van der Walt's system of identifying promising young riders and then helping them to develop into international stars by giving them the best possible opportunities.

"The UCI invited us to send a team of riders to compete in the British cross country series. They even paid our riders' entry fees. It was an offer that we could not refuse because it fits in perfectly with Ian's long-term vision for cycling in South Africa. We have therefore sent Brandon Stewart, Rourke Croeser, Travis Walker and Candice Neethling", Theunissen said.

"One mistake that is often made, is that young South African riders are sent to compete overseas when they have not the faintest idea of what awaits them. It is one thing to win races in South Africa and something totally different to compete internationally.

"Our vision for our young riders is to gradually expose them to international racing. We are, therefore, not going to send our young riders to compete abroad in the World Cup events this year. It will serve no purpose. Our riders are not ready yet to face the world's best and they will only return home totally despondent.

"The invitation to participate in England fits in perfectly with our development plans. The series will be a small step up the ladder compared with the local cross country series. It will be a challenge for our riders, but if they race hard and do not allow themselves to be intimidated, there is no reason why one or more of them might not finish in the top ten or even on the podium.

"I think Rourke Croeser's performance will be interesting to watch. In South Africa he is used to winning the junior races by two or more minutes. On Saturday and Sunday there will be more pressure on him.

"The same applies to Candice Neethling. She has won four races in the South African cross country series. In the World Cup in Pietermaritzburg she finished third, just two minutes behind Austria's Lisa Mitterbauer who is one of the world's best junior riders at the moment.

"Travis Walker can be considered to be the dark horse of our team. At the moment he is pure raw talent but he is improving with every race. As far as his participation in this week-end's racing is concerned, it is almost impossible to make a prediction. If it turns out to be one of his good days, he might just be the rider who causes the biggest upset."

Croeser is confident that he will achieve a good result in at least one of his two races. "I have raced against most of Britain's top junior riders at least once. I have beaten most of them, but I have also been beaten by them. If nothing goes wrong, I hope to achieve at least one good result. Actually, it is important for me to do well, because this might be my second last opportunity to participate as a junior internationally. The World Championship in Australia will be the last time."

"It will be my first opportunity to compete internationally, apart from the World Cup in Pietermaritzburg. I am sure that I will be nervous, but hopefully I will be able to control it," said Neethling.

Brandon Stewart is the 'old man' in the DCM Chrome team. He will be competing in the elite categories. Being experienced, he has done a bit of homework on what to expect.

"I have a friend who lives in London who told me that, as far as he could ascertain, the cross country course is not too technical. There is one tough climb on the route and a short technical section, but the rest of the course seems to be singletrack. Barring mechanical failures, the race will just require good, fast and hard cycling."

Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa diary: Our new life

Baby Bjørnar
Photo ©: Tony Fetch
(Click for larger image)

Our little prince, Bjørnar, is already two months old. Our new existence with a little baby in the house has provided us with experiences and joys on a completely different level than ever before, and cannot be compared with anything else. Careful planning and effectiveness have attained a new meaning.

As I write, Bjørnar is out for a trip in the pram with his grandmother (Kenneth's mother). We already have good babysitting routines in place for when we need to exercise or have massages. It would have been impossible to manage without the help of our very kind family.

It didn't take long before I was back on my feet again after giving birth, largely due to already being in good physical shape. I had quite a tough labour lasting 22 hours, but I reckon the toughest battle was fought by little Bjørnar, who finally had to be extracted with suction. These were some long and dramatic hours, luckily with a professional team of doctors assisting, before our little son finally came into the world. Everything turned out alright in the end though, and I haven't lost my nerve after what I went through on the maternity ward either.

Read the complete diary entry.

Record numbers to 10 Under the Ben

A record number of racers has signed up to compete in the Benromach 10 Under The Ben, the flagship event of the Benromach Three Tens Series on Saturday, May 30, one week before the World Cup cross country hits Fort William.

950 participants from all over the United Kingdom, riding solo or in relay teams of two, three or four, will do battle with Forestry Commission Scotland's Leanachan Forest, the Highland midge and whatever the west coast weather has in store.

The race, along with the 10 at Kirroughtree and the 10 More In Moray, are run on an endurance format to see who can complete the most laps of a 10-mile course in a grueling 10 hours.

The course will include some natural sections built for the 2007 World Championship cross country race. It will be run with views of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK.

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