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MTB News & Racing Round-up, Friday, August 30, 2013

Date published:
August 30, 2013, 1:00 BST
  • Wallace returns to Mongolia Bike Challenge to defend title

    The peloton at the Mongolia Bike Challenge
    Article published:
    August 27, 2013, 22:49 BST
    Cycling News

    Strong line-up for Mongolian stage race kicking off on September 1

    The 2013 Mongolia Bike Challenge (MBC) has attracted a strong field of endurance mountain bike racers from 23 countries to compete in its fourth edition this September 1st to 7th in Mongolia.


    Leading the list of names taking part in the MBC this year is returning champion, Canadian Cory Wallace (Kona Factory Team). After a second place finish at the race in 2011, Wallace returned in 2012 with his Kona teammates and brought the MBC title to North America for the first time. Wallace, a former Canadian 24-hour and Trans Rockies Champion, also placed second at the 24-hour World Championships in 2010. Wallace knows what it takes to win in Mongolia, and riders will have to be on form if they want to dethrone the champ.

    Others making the flight across the Pacific include Jason Sager and Thomas Turner of Team Jamis. The American duo won the BC Bike Race together in 2012. Sager has a long list of wins and stage racing experience while Turner is the reigning masters 30-34 cyclo-cross world champion. In addition, Team MBC's Carter Hovey of Canada is back for his second MBC, having finished fifth last year with one stage win.

    There is a notable European contingent with talent and experience as deep as the Atlantic heading to Mongolia at the end of the month. Topping the list of challengers has to be Ondrej Fojtik (X-sports Cannondale Koma/Crocodile Trophy), who just won Iron Bike in Italy for the fifth time. He won the Crocodile Trophy in 2008 and came second in 2012 - ahead of Wallace. Wallace has clearly stated that Fojtik will be the man to beat this year in Mongolia.

    A rider that both Wallace and Fojtik know to keep their eye on is the young, fast Wolfgang Krenn (Zwillingscraft/Sc Knauf Liezen) of Austria. He finished second at the Crocodile Trophy in 2011 and third in 2012 - behind Fojtik and ahead of Wallace. Krenn is a smart, tactical rider and is sure to be in the mix over the seven-day race.

  • Gallery: Mountain Bike Worlds comes to Africa for the first time

    Jose Hermida (Spain) on a climb
    Article published:
    August 28, 2013, 2:18 BST
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Cross country riders and downhillers find their lines during pre-rides

    The racing at the 2013 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa will begin on Wednesday with the team relay cross country, with four riders from each nation taking a turn on the cross country course. On Tuesday, the cross country courses opened for training for all categories while the junior gravity riders also got their first crack at the downhill course.

    Cyclingnews took a walk around the venue checking out both courses and the venue as racers arrived from around the globe and started to find their lines.

    "It's really a world championship [cross country] course. There is a little bit of everything for everybody. There are some flats, some steep uphills, some steep downhills. It's pretty good," said former cross country world champion Jose Hermida (Spain) to Cyclingnews.

    The eliminator course will not be set up until later in the week since part of it is used in the cross country races held through Saturday; however, a walk-through of the intended course revealed that all of it will be on dirt through the main part of the venue; unlike last year's eliminator Worlds course, which was on pavement and concrete through a downtown area.

    After successfully running UCI Mountain Bike World Cup events in recent years and the UCI Masters Mountain Bike World Championships last week, Pietermaritzburg is hosting the world championships for the first time.  It is also the first time the MTB Worlds has ever been run in Africa.

    Click here to check out the gallery.

  • World championship cross country course a hit with most riders

    US cross country national champion Stephen Ettinger (USA)
    Article published:
    August 28, 2013, 19:00 BST
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Downhill course not as popular

    Racers got their first taste of the courses for the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa yesterday with competition slated to start today.

    The cross country course seemed to be a hit with most riders.

    "It's really a world championships course - there is a little bit of everything for everybody. There are some flats, some steep uphills, some steep downhills. It's good," former world champion Jose Hermida (Spain) said to Cyclingnews.

    "Pietermaritzburg always puts some novelty into their courses, and they are the inventors of the rock garden. We have a few rock gardens that are the same as last year, and there are also a couple of good technical parts."

    South African team rider James Reid explained to Cyclingnews how the course has evolved. "The course is slightly shorter than the World Cup last year. They cut out a couple of the longer sections that didn't have much in them - a bit out of the first half and a bit out of the second half." Organizers are targeting a lap length that will let the elite men race seven laps.

    "Compared to the World Cup, the Worlds is at a different time of year - four months later. When we race here in March, it's normally late summer with more heat and humidity. Now it will be hot in the middle of the day, but afternoons and mornings will be nice. Now the course is super powdery. I'm hoping for a bit of wet beforehand to pack it down."

    Defending champion Nino Schurter (Switzerland) noticed few differences from last year to this year. "It is an awesome course, but it is really slippery at the moment because it is so dry," Schurter said. "I have ridden the course a couple times before, and it hasn't changed a lot since I rode it last, a couple minor changes with rock gardens and drop offs but otherwise it is pretty much the same."


  • Ngubane becomes first black downhiller on South African Worlds team racer Theo Ngubane will be the first black downhiller on the South African Mountain Bike Worlds team in Pietermaritzburg
    Article published:
    August 28, 2013, 23:24 BST
    Cycling News

    Young rider ready to race in Pietermaritzburg

    A wide-eyed Theo Ngubane first walked through the pit area of an international-level mountain bike race at the 2011 Pietermaritzburg World Cup. He was in awe. The world's mountain bike superstars were tinkering on their bikes and prepping for their races. Ngubane drooled over their impressive machines and eagerly sought out his downhill heroes to sign his T-shirt.

    Now, two years later, the 18-year-old from Kayamandi township, outside Stellenbosch, is lining up amongst them, representing his country, South Africa at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships. When Ngubane takes to the intimidating track at the junior men's downhill world championship finals on Friday, he will make history. He becomes the first black South African to race in a world championship in the downhill discipline.

    It's been an incredible journey to Pietermaritzburg for the Grade 10 downhill rider, who celebrates his 18th birthday this week. Ngubane attends high school at Helderberg College and is the product of BMX and cross country sports development initiative was set up in 2008 by Christoph Sauser, Swiss multiple-time world champion mountain biker and Cape Epic winner, and Songo Fipaza, community leader and athlete from Kayamandi township, near Stellenbosch, South Africa.

    When asked about this historic opportunity, an excited Ngubane said, "Two years ago, I never thought I'd get a bike of my own to do any riding. Nevermind world champs! Even now, when Bobby [Behan, Managing Director of Specialized Bikes in South Africa] told me I was going to world champs, I couldn't believe it. It still hasn't sunk in yet - that someone like me, from where I come from, could do stuff like this and go to world champs. It's quite cool."

    What is more remarkable is that Ngubane has excelled in the...

  • Fontana warms up at Worlds with team relay gold Markus Schulte-Luenzum of Germany leads Marco Fontana leads into Rapid Rocks on the first lap of the Cross Country Team Relay
    Article published:
    August 29, 2013, 13:20 BST
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Italian full of praise for the course in Pietermaritzburg

    Part of the winning team relay squad on Wednesday afternoon in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, Marco Fontana helped Italy bring home the gold and defend its world championship title from the previous year. While some elite riders chose to sit out the team relay and save their legs for the cross country, Fontana considers the team relay a valuable chance to get in a hot lap of the course under some positive pressure.

    "To do a hot lap shows you some things that you don't realize when you are riding the course at training speed," said Fontana after winning the team relay gold medal. "The course is amazing. I think it's one of the best looking and riding courses we ever had."

    The Italian national champion arrived on Sunday to South Africa. "We landed on Sunday. First day of training was on Monday, but course was closed. So our first day on course was Tuesday. We didn't have much time to do hot laps and figure it out. I wasn't sure how fast it would go. I was guessing my lap would be something below 15 minutes."

    Fontana's team relay lap stopped the clock at 13:39, not the fastest time of the day, but only seven seconds off the pace of Maxime Marotte (France) and Manuel Fumic (Germany), who were, in fact, the day's quickest.

    "I didn't expect the course to be quite that fast; it just seems to be getting faster. We'll see how many laps we have to do on Friday. I hope it's not too many," he joked.

    "On race day, the pace will be a little lower because of the heat and we'll have to drink a lot. For sure, the rocks are pretty smooth, not that bad, so the risk of having a flat tire is not that high, but still you'll have to ride smoothly."


  • High school cycling produces world class athletes

    Five of the seven current or former NICA athletes representing the US at mountain bike Worlds in South Africa
    Article published:
    August 29, 2013, 21:45 BST
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Seven NICA athletes and alumni represent US at mountain bike Worlds

    The National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) is well represented at the 2013 UCI Mountain Bike Worlds in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Seven young men and women, who are current or former NICA student-athletes are members of the US National Team. They include Sean Bennett, Lucas Newcomb and Neilson Powless (junior men cross country); Kaylee Blevins and Kate Courtney (junior women cross country); Shayna Powless (U23 women cross country) and Cole Picchiottino (junior men cross country)

    Some of the riders were mountain bikers before their high school racing days while others were not.

    Courtney, a junior women's World Cup winner, who is 17 (racing age 18) said, "My experience in NICA was really important. I didn't even start mountain bike racing until my first NorCal race in my freshman year. That was my first race, and I was kind of just doing it as cross training for cross country running, and after that race, I was hooked."

    Recently graduated from high school, Courtney explained how her NICA experience both motivated her and helped her when it came to non-NICA races.

    "At the time I was racing under NICA, a lot of the top girls in the country were actually in my league, so I got to watch the varsity girls and see that they were competitive on the national level and were having cool opportunities racing internationally. One of my best friends, who was a junior when I was a freshman, made it to Worlds that year and then I kind of set that goal."

    Another NICA alumna Shayna Powless agreed with Courtney. "Racing in the high school league is a good stepping stone to get to this world championship kind of level. It helps you prepare to make that jump."

    "I think the competition in NICA was good. A good amount of people showed up. The past few years I did it, we got more people out than in previous years. It was...

  • Monkeys give McConnell a scare in Pietermaritzburg

    Dan McConnell wins the men's race in Albstadt
    Article published:
    August 30, 2013, 4:34 BST
    Cycling News

    Australian confident despite minor injury

    A tribe of monkeys gave reason for Australian for Australian Daniel McConnell to ask serious questions about his UCI Mountain Bike World Championship campaign, but the World Cup winner will be ready to compete come Saturday.

    A training ride near the Pietermaritzburg came to an abrupt halt last week when the eager locals forced McConnell to crash. The 28-year-old was left with considerable grazing on both hands, and a bruised shoulder.

    "For a while I didn't think I would start, but now I am, I am going to give it everything," McConnell said who will be ready for the elite men's cross-country race.

    McConnell made history earlier in the season, the first Australian since Cadel Evans in 2000 to win a round of the World Cup when he took out the opening round in Albstadt, Germany. His current position of third overall in the World Cup rankings was cemented when he finished fifth in Mont-Sainte-Anne this month.

    "It has been a bit of a dream season, the World Cup win in Albstadt was unexpected, I had only had the one top twenty finish coming into the season and have now been on the podium twice and a sixth place too, so the consistency is there," he explained.

    "I would love to think winning is a possibility here, but it hasn't been the smoothest lead into the race, but on the other side, I have also had some really good training leading in."

    McConnell had a few days of rest following his accident and is ready to race, both mentally and physically.

    "The body is okay on the course, I have a fair bit of skin off, but I have got a few laps in now and am starting to feel very confident on the course."

    Should McConnell's stellar season continue, it's no surprise that he lists...

  • Schurter renews contract ahead of world title defence

    Nino Schurter poses in front of a massive poster of him at Jowett's Cycles, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Schurter will attempt to successfully defend his Elite men's cross country World Championship title on Saturday.
    Article published:
    August 30, 2013, 9:27 BST
    Cycling News

    Scott Swisspower rider quietly confident ahead of Saturday's championship

    In the days leading up to the elite men's cross country race at the 2013 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, Nino Schurter announced that he was renewing his contract with his Scott Swisspower team.

    "I have raced with Scott-Swisspower since 2003, and I feel great in the team and in all its surroundings," Schurter said.

    Schurter celebrated his most successful season in 2012. He won 11 out of 15 races, became world champion, won an Olympic silver medal and the overall World Cup. In 2013, he is ruling the World Cup again with a comfortable lead. He also just won the overall classification of the prestigious BMC Cup last weekend and is feeling good for Saturday`s world championship race in South Africa.

    "The technical course suits me really well, plus I have good memories as I won last year's World Cup kickoff here," said Schurter.

    With Pietermaritzburg on the short term agenda and the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro as a long term focus, Schurter has a clear vision going forward. "My big goal is Rio 2016, but first I will try to defend my world champion's jersey on Saturday in South Africa."

    Schurter is quietly confident ahead of the big day. Speaking at a Scott Sports World Championships welcome dinner at Jowett's Cycles, Pietermaritzburg, Schurter confirmed that he is in peak form and that he is looking forward to racing on one of his favourite tracks.

    "I have had very good preparation for the world championships. I am expecting a hard race but knowing that I am well prepared gives me a good level of confidence. I have had good results on this track at the three World Cups that I have raced here and it suits my style," said the 27-year-old Swiss rider,...