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MTB news & racing round-up for May 8, 2008

Date published:
May 08, 2008, 1:00 BST
  • Pro Bike: Todd Wells

    The bike that may carry Todd Wells to the Olympic Games
    Article published:
    May 08, 2008, 0:00 BST
    By:
    Cycling News

    By Luke Webber in Offenburg, Germany To most onlookers at the opening UCI World Cup in Houffalize...

    By Luke Webber in Offenburg, Germany

    To most onlookers at the opening UCI World Cup in Houffalize the GT factory team camp was operating as a well oiled machine, powering US Olympic hopeful Todd Wells to a career-best eleventh place finish on a brand-new GT Zaskar Carbon. However, for both Wells and his teammate, Burry Stander, these bikes were anything but part of the race day plan.

    Both riders were originally supposed to race on their familiar aluminum bikes from late 2007 while the new carbon frames waited in the team van until time allowed for a proper build and shake-out period later in the season. However, Saturday morning brought an unpleasant surprise for the GT, Multivan Merida, Scott, and Hope crews as a rash of overnight thefts left many without bikes and other key equipment. Fortunately for GT those new carbon frames were left inexplicably untouched (others were not so lucky) and a manic building process ensued to salvage the weekend. Helped by some friends who had come to spectate for the weekend, team mechanic Mark Maurrisen set forth on a frantic mission sourcing parts from across the expo area.

    Both bikes were ready to go by the evening but they were still something of an unknown quantity having never been ridden before. As any mechanic will tell you, this was far from an ideal scenario as cables stretch and new components bed in.

    Nevertheless, the team's spirits were lifted just 18 hours later as both riders were racing in the top 20 and Wells later gushed that the untested bike rode "like a dream."

    Read the complete Pro Bike Feature.

  • Keith Bontrager diary: Warming up

    Another tough training ride…
    Article published:
    May 08, 2008, 0:00 BST
    By:
    Cycling News

    It's been a hectic winter and spring but I finally got on a bike with more than a test ride in mind...

    It's been a hectic winter and spring but I finally got on a bike with more than a test ride in mind a few weeks ago.

    First things first – my friend Bruce Muhlfeld got hurt last year, pretty badly. You might remember me talking about him – he is 50 and still racing pro. He is on the way back now. Check it out and give him some encouragement (www.racingat50.blogspot.com).

    Second - thanks to everyone who straightened me out about the deer skull mystery. Antlers. Guess you can tell I am not a seasoned hunter, other than fungal prey of course.

    Onward. A few weeks ago the Sea Otter came to town and my friend Dror came over from Israel to race. Dror showed me Israel last spring and we rode all over the place there, so this was a chance to return the favor.

    He'd had a rough spring too with surgery in the middle of training, but he seemed to be in good shape and was very happy to be racing again. We rode together on the road for the week before the event. He was just recovering from the flight and tapering for the race or I would never have really been close to him on the road. And, of course, if he dropped me he didn't know the way back...

    I cooked for him too, which was a challenge. His step mother is an amazing chef - she prepared one of the best meals I've ever had with his family when I was there. He's a pro, and pros eat carefully so they don't have to haul too much baggage up hills. And they eat a lot. I don't cook entirely with fueling athletic performance in mind though I am not that heavy handed with the butter and cream of course. Making sure he was happy pushed me a bit farther though and it worked out well. I've always wanted to see Chef Willi – the chef who worked for the Postal and Disco teams in action to see how this is done. Maybe this year.

    Read the complete diary entry.

  • MBNC Cross Country standings

    Article published:
    May 08, 2008, 0:00 BST
    By:
    Cycling News

    After seven events, including the most recent Idyllwild Spring Challenge, Josh Kelley and Georgia...

    After seven events, including the most recent Idyllwild Spring Challenge, Josh Kelley and Georgia Gould lead the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Calendar (MBNC) for cross country events. Trevor Walton and Carolyn Popovic won the elite men's and women's pro categories at the Idyllwild in California. See full results for the Idyllwild Spring Challenge and check out the MBNC cross country standings.

  • MBNC Gravity standings

    Article published:
    May 08, 2008, 0:00 BST
    By:
    Cycling News

    The second event on the USA Cycling Gravity Mountain Bike National Calendar (MBNC) happened at the...

    The second event on the USA Cycling Gravity Mountain Bike National Calendar (MBNC) happened at the Chalk Creek Stampede in Nathrop, Colorado this past weekend. Aaron Gwin and Joanna Petterson won the dual slalom while Petr Hanak and Petterson won the 4X race. In the non-gravity events, Jay Henry and Jennifer Smith won both the short track and the cross country races. See full results for all four disciplines at the Chalk Creek Stampede or check out full standings (briefs posted below) for the USAC National Gravity calendar.

  • Juarez and Sawicki win Dirt Sweat & Gears

    Article published:
    May 08, 2008, 0:00 BST
    By:
    Luke Webber in Offenburg, Germany

    By Ron Sawicki in Fayetteville, Tennessee The third round of the USA Cycling Ultra Endurance...

    By Ron Sawicki in Fayetteville, Tennessee

    The third round of the USA Cycling Ultra Endurance Mountain Bike National Calendar (MBNC) drew some of the most talented male and female competition for the second consecutive year to Fayetteville, Tennessee, for the Dirt Sweat & Gears 12 hour race.

    The weather forecast called for rain the night before and continuing into the morning and that is exactly what the racers experienced. As soon as they hit the singletrack into the woods, the mud-fest began. Bikes clogged up, derailleurs and chains broke for many during the first 20 minutes of what would prove to be a very long lap for most.

    Tinker Juarez won the men's race with 11 laps. Brandon Draugelis finished second with the same number of laps while Josh Tostado completed 10 laps for third place. In the women's race, Pua Sawicki defeated Rebecca Rusch for the win although both racers had nine laps. Carey Lowery finished in third with eight laps. Dejay Birtch won the men's singlespeed elite race ahead of John Mylne and Greg Martin.

    Juarez only brought one bike and it was a hardtail. Before the race, he thought this might not be a wise choice due to the rocky and bumpy course, but it would ultimately pay off given the muddy conditions. While others were messing with there bikes in the mud during the race, Juarez was way out front and able to keep pedaling. Singlespeed racers such as Dejay Birch and John "Fuzzy" Mylne also had an advantage over the geared racers. Less was definitely more and they were able to pedal their way through the muck and get out front, too.

    Juarez kept himself out front and held on to his lead until the end. Draugelis was just six minutes back while Tostado made an impressive comeback after mechanicals and a huge deficit to round out the top three.

    Sawicki opted for the suspension as most did and she also got caught in the muck, with stops required to remove the mud just to keep on pedaling....

  • Ghost picks up healthy sponsorship

    Sabine Spitz (Central Ghost Pro Team) gets the hole shot
    Article published:
    May 08, 2008, 0:00 BST
    By:
    Cycling News

    By Bjorn Haake in Offenburg, Germany Central health insurance, based in Cologne, Germany is the main...

    By Bjorn Haake in Offenburg, Germany

    Central health insurance, based in Cologne, Germany is the main sponsor for the 2008 Ghost Team. Marketing manager Oliver Suhre told Cyclingnews that multiple reasons were weighed in the decision to sign the new sponsor, including "the health aspect of sports and having an athlete like Sabine [Spitz], who stands for a clean sport."

    The health insurance company, founded in 1913, is concerned about the current trend toward people being overweight, even children. Suhre cited causes like "a lack of exercise and bad nutrition habits". So he is hoping that supporting a mountain bike team will encourage people to become more active. The motto of the insurer ­ "Health moves us" ­ expresses this concern about health issues as well as emphasizes the commitment to getting people moving.

    Suhre sees one of the problems as a lack of information and intends the widespread sponsorship campaign to reach more people. "People need role models," he said, explaining that average sedentary people may draw motivation from seeing their heros in action.

    The team's most famous rider is the 36 year-old Spitz, but she sees no end in sight for her career as she works into peak form for the upcoming Olympic Games in August. "I don't set myself a limit; as long as I am having fun I will continue."

    But the team is also looking ahead to a future time when she does retire. Besides Spitz, there are currently U23 riders Anja Gradl and Nicola Rohrbach, who hails from Switzerland, as part of the formation, but the team is aiming to grow to nine riders in the future. Spitz could evolve her role into becoming a mentor and coach for the young riders over time.

    Central has committed through 2010, but the team is hoping for a long term investment to build the next generation of elite mountain bikers.

  • Kenda and Tomac launch new downhill team

    Filip Polc
    Article published:
    May 08, 2008, 0:00 BST
    By:
    Bjorn Haake in Offenburg, Germany

    Tire manufacturer Kenda and bicycle manufacturer Tomac have teamed up to sponsor the new Kenda Tomac...

    Tire manufacturer Kenda and bicycle manufacturer Tomac have teamed up to sponsor the new Kenda Tomac Mountain Bike Racing squad, an international downhill and four cross team featuring Filip Polc (Slovakia) and Mitch Delfs (Australia).

    "To have Filip Polc and Mitch Delfs in our squad is a perfect mix," said Team Manager Peter Siulczynski. Polc is a proven talent while Delfs is working his way up and will have a chance to learn from the more experienced Polc.

    "I'm happy to join the Kenda Tomac team. New season, new bike and new team-mate… I can say it's going to be a great year. I am focusing especially on downhill where I want to step up and show what is in me!" said Polc enthusiastically.

    Delfs is looking forward to his first chance to do a full World Cup season. "I can concentrate on racing and achieving my goals of making an impact at a World Cup level. Its awesome opportunity to ride with Filip who has such a good experience at racing. I am looking forward to hitting the season hard."

    The racers will be crewed by Peter Siulczynski (Team Manager), Michal Kozak (Assistant Team Manager), Jean-Philippe Simard (Team Mechanic), Gary Perkin (Team Photographer) and John Lawlor (Team Videographer).

    The team has a busy race schedule planned including all the World Cups, the World Championships and several major European and American events.

  • Premont and Dahle do battle in Madrid

    Gunn Rita Dahle-Flesjaa (Multivan Merida) is elated with her first major victory
    Article published:
    May 08, 2008, 0:00 BST
    By:
    Luke Webber in Madrid, Spain

    By Luke Webber in Madrid, Spain Just three races since returning to competition, Gunn Rita Dahle...

    By Luke Webber in Madrid, Spain

    Just three races since returning to competition, Gunn Rita Dahle Flesjå underlined why she is still considered the best female mountain biker in the world by coming to Madrid and winning under less than perfect circumstances. The Norwegian former World Champion outsprinted Canadian Marie-Helene Premont in a near photo finish to take victory with at time of 1:48:14. Marga Fullana, racing in her home country, finished third at 1:13. Sabine Spitz and Georgia Gould rounded out the top five.

    Just one year ago Dahle Flesjå was forced to stop riding after a long period of over racing and training led to a virus breaking her body down. It was only in Houffalize, Belgium, at the opening round of the cross country World Cup three weeks ago that Dahle Flesjå could return to racing at the top level. Then one week later in Offenburg, she withdrew from the race due to ill health. Nobody expected the result - least of all Dahle Flesjå herself.

    Her husband and coach, Kenneth Flesjå was equally shocked, but said after his wife's win, "Here we had a diamond and you can never crack one of those. Gunn Rita was scratched and now we have polished that diamond back into shape."

    Dahle Flesjå escaped with Premont, who's had a strong World Cup Season so far with a second and a third in the previous weeks. The Canadian was probably the favorite based on performances this year, but Dahle Flesjå could draw from plenty of experience and a strong motivation upon her return to the front of the peloton, and it was Dahle Flesjå who won out in an almost-sprint finish.

    "During the first few laps, I was riding at my very limit, but I managed to keep my position in the leading group," said the Norwegian winner. "In the end, it came down to just Premont and me, so I told myself: Now I can win. This...

  • Three in a row for Absalon

    Julien Absalon (Orbea) got away
    Article published:
    May 08, 2008, 0:00 BST
    By:
    Luke Webber in Madrid, Spain

    By Luke Webber in Madrid, Spain In Madrid last weekend, Julien Absalon captured his third World Cup...

    By Luke Webber in Madrid, Spain

    In Madrid last weekend, Julien Absalon captured his third World Cup in succession - all in three consecutive weeks. The Frenchman finished in 2:12:30 and beat Spaniard José Antonio Hermida by 12 seconds and compatriot Jean-Christophe Peraud by 52 seconds.

    His win was far more of a challenge than in either Houffalize, Belgium, or Offenburg, Germany, thanks to a fast course. A lead group split and reformed during the early laps. In the initial stages, American Todd Wells even led it out - his first experience and one he will not forget.

    At one point, the lead group consisted of 20-30 riders, but as some made attempts at getting away, Absalon was aware that this move would not be successful. "With groups so big, never would one man or even a pair be able to ride to the win. It would be impossible," the savvy winner said after the race.

    Absalon ended up duelling with José Antonio Hermida by the end. The latter's wheel washed out on the descent just as Absalon made a decisive attack that would stick until the end of the race. "On the steep climb, I knew I had the speed over Jose, so I entered the descent first and attacked hard in the final two kilometres," said Absalon. "Once you had a small gap, there was not enough time in the closing stages to make it back."

    Commenting on the race after brief stint at the front, Wells said, "The course in Madrid hasn't changed much since the first time I raced here back in 2002. It's fast with short one-minute climbs, super hard pack with ball bearing type pebbles on top which make for slick corners. There are also tons of spectators packed on the course's six main climbs. Last weekend in Offenburg the race was only 35kms–this weekend we did about 56kms, so that gives you an idea of how fast this course is."

    See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the...

  • Dahle Flesjå back to the beginning

    Gunn Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida)
    Article published:
    May 08, 2008, 0:00 BST
    By:
    Luke Webber

    By Luke Webber One year ago the most dominant woman in cross country was sidelined with a virus that...

    By Luke Webber

    One year ago the most dominant woman in cross country was sidelined with a virus that kept her out of competition for the rest of the 2007 season. Through a mix of complacency, urgency and a passion to ride came her biggest downfall. Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå talked to Cyclingnews after the Offenburg, Germany World Cup as she orchestrated her slow, but steady comeback. Little did she know at the time of the interview that she'd win the third round of the World Cup in Madrid just days later.

    If you were to ask any mountain bike afficionado the odds of Gunn-Rita Dahle pulling out of a World Cup held in the home country of title sponsor Merida, at a time when she was at the head of the race after only two laps without any mechanical difficulty, everyone would have deemed it impossible.

    A dominance stretching over four years and an ability to race and win even when not in peak condition had led to a previously unseen level of respect from other athletes. A tireless schedule of racing, training and media work never detracted from her results, but in May 2007 that all changed.

    "I should definitely not have raced - that's why I say to everyone on the team now, 'Don't make the same mistake that I did'," said Dahle Flesjå. "When we arrived here in Offenburg last year I had already been sick for three weeks, but I was in such good shape because I was in a peak. So I felt like I could compete and do OK."

    What followed was the onset of a virus that would ravage cross country's premier rider of any energy and deny her chances of racing for another rainbow jersey last September. Even before the race it was evident that this was more than a small illness, but Dahle Flesjå admits that both she and her husband/trainer, Kenneth, got carried away in the moment.

    "Looking back in the last five and a half years, we have...