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MTB News & Racing Round-up, Friday, June 29, 2012

Date published:
June 29, 2012, 1:00 BST
  • Canada enjoys strong Olympic mountain bike prospects

    Canada's 2012 Olympic MTB Team and Coach Dan Proulx
    Article published:
    June 24, 2012, 3:37 BST
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Four years of development pays off for national squad

    Canadian National Team Coach Dan Proulx is excited about the prospects for his mountain team at the 2012 Olympic Games. For the past four years since the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the Canadians have been steadily building their mountain bike program, and they head to London with a strong men's and women's squad and solid medal winning chances. The four-person Olympic mountain bike team was announced earlier this week.

    "When we finished Beijing, we did a complete revamp of the program and our development program is very strong now," said Proulx of the Canadian Cycling Federation's efforts.

    "In Beijing, I remember having a conversation in which we predicted that when we get to London, we'll have six or eight riders who can win," he said.

    Of those potential Canadian Cycling winners, several are mountain bikers. Current world champion Catharine Pendrel will race with Emily Batty in the elite women's race. Max Plaxton and Geoff Kabush will compete in the men's race.

    Canada is the number one ranked mountain bike program for the women, and in fact, had to make some tough decisions to select the two women to go to London when three women - Pendrel, Batty and Marie-Helene Premont - were worthy candidates.

    Pendrel was a sure selection, but it was a tight battle between Batty and previous Olympian Premont for the second spot.

    "It's always a tough decision when you have great champions like this. The only thing we were wishing was that we had three spots," said Proulx. "Ultimately it came down to the best potential for Olympic performance for this Olympics."

    "Marie-Helene is a great rider and our current success is in part due to her efforts."

    With top-10 World Cup finishers in both the men's and women's teams, the Canadians have a real chance of...

  • McConnell, Henderson selected for Australian Olympic mountain bike team

    Dan McConnell holding the line through the tight corners in the point to point race.
    Article published:
    June 25, 2012, 4:21 BST
    By:
    Cycling News

    Jongewaard misses out on London Games

    Daniel McConnell and Rebecca Henderson have been named as Australia's mountain bike representatives for the London Olympic Games. It will be McConnell's second Olympic campaign while it will be Henderson's debut with the 20-year-old having the longer-term goal of competing in Rio in 2016.

    "I have always wanted to be an Olympian but I never really thought I would be in the 2012 Games," Henderson said.

    "The Aussie riders were always a few too many steps ahead of me when I was younger. Last year I stepped up a level, racing the World Cups, but I think it was only this year I was really considered a threat to other riders for the Olympic spot."

    Henderson, from Canberra, landed her first podium finish in April with a bronze medal in the under 23 ranks at the second round of the World Cup in Houffalize, Belgium. But a 13th place finish at the next World Cup threatened to derail her Olympic campaign.

    "I found it difficult to keep my head up after such disappointment," Henderson said.

    "I was so motivated leading into the third round and knew I had only one chance left to prove my worthiness for a ride in London."

    The fourth World Cup round in La Bresse, France provided Australia's contenders with a final chance to put their hands up for selection. Henderson rode her heart out to finish second on the under 23 podium.

    "Crossing the finish line in second in the World Cup is a huge achievement for me, and so far from what I was expecting to get out of that race. Standing on the podium in a World Cup for the second time this season, the feeling is indescribable!" she said.

    "These results have come as a huge surprise and have given me confidence to race against girls I thought were out of my league."

    McConnell, who coaches Henderson with the pair travelling the World Cup circuit, is Australia's top ranked rider in the men's elite cross country...

  • Hermida back on the World Cup podium

    Nino Schurter (Scott Swisspower) looks over at his sprint rival Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida)
    Article published:
    June 25, 2012, 17:50 BST
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Spaniard ready to play Olympic lottery for fourth time

    Jose Antonio Hermida (Multivan Merida) put a tough first part of the season behind him this weekend when he returned to the Mountain Bike World Cup podium at Mont-Sainte-Anne in Quebec, Canada.

    "I'm happy. After a hard season and struggling the first part with physical problems, it's a good feeling to be back, especially in a race like this fighting with Nino [Schurter]," said Hermida. "Right now, he's the best guy in mountain biking, so sprinting with him is not so easy. I tried my best in the end with him."

    The race came down to a two-up sprint between Schurter and Hermida, something not many were expecting on a very technical course, especially after rain began near the end of the race.

    Mont-Sainte-Anne is a special place for Hermida, who won his first and only cross country world championship there in 2010. "I have great memories of Mont-Sainte-Anne - both the days and the nights," he said referring to both the racing and the famous parties thrown each year at the venue.

    This weekend's race was reminiscent of the 2010 Worlds. With two laps to go, Schurter had a flat tire and Hermida passed him. Unlike in 2010, Schurter only had one flat tire this year and was able to regain contact with Hermida.

    "I thought maybe I could make my pace alone in front for the last lap, but it was impossible," said Hermida.

    "Mont-Sainte-Anne is like my garden after winning Worlds in 2010. The first time I was here was in 1997. I know the tempo of the course. I know if I have a bad start, where I have to push and where to recover. Luck was a little on my side because Nino flatted.

    "Coming into this World Cup was a little like jumping on a train that was running all season, and I just got on...

  • Kabush readies for third Olympic Games

    Geoff Kabush (Scott -3 Rox Racing)
    Article published:
    June 25, 2012, 22:07 BST
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Canadian mountain biker brings experience to London

    Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Roxracing) is one of four mountain bikers named to the Canadian Olympic team last week. Kabush and Max Plaxton will be competing in the elite men's cross country race on August 12 at the London Olympic Games.

    "The Olympics is a special event in the sporting world. It's my third Olympics. Having experience behind me, I feel like I'm heading back for the performance," said the 35-year-old Kabush.

    For Kabush, heading across the pond is a sort of homecoming. "I lived in England for a year when I was younger and spent several weeks there last summer. We know what we're going into over there. It will be calmer mentally, and the [Canadian] national team has done a fantastic job with the planning."

    Kabush finished 20th at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and ninth in Sydney in 2000. Having this Olympics in a place that is more familiar should be an advantage.

    "Beijing had a lot of challenges with the travel and other concerns. We got to check out the venue [in London] twice now. The venues have become more compact in the past few years. They built this course from scratch. It's not so natural and more manufactured, but it's definitely challenging. It will showcase the sport well and will be a good competition and a great race to watch."

    Kabush raced to 16th at the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup this weekend. It wasn't his best day. "It was rough off the start. I had a couple of brake checks early on and looked up after the first couple of corners and was in 30th or 40th," he said. "I really dug hard on the start loop and first singletrack to get...

  • South African Reid mixes it up with the rest of the world

    South Africa's James Reid put in his best effort ever to claim fourth position in the under 23 men's cross country race
    Article published:
    June 27, 2012, 18:23 BST
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    U23 mountain biker pleased to step it up a level in 2012

    James Reid made the trek from South Africa to Quebec to compete in the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup in Canada this weekend. He is one of several young riders trying to follow in the footsteps of established South African pro Burry Stander (Specialized). But it's not easy traveling from so far away to where most of the World Cup races are held.

    "Coming from South Africa, it's hard to gauge where you are," Reid told Cyclingnews after finishing fifth in the U23 men's cross country race. "I follow these guys and track them and to race with them is exciting. I don't get to race with them often."

    Reid noted that there is good elite-level marathon and stage racing in South Africa, but not so much cross country racing.

    "There's two sides to being in South Africa. If I stay there, we have high quality racing and we have some of the best marathon racing in the world. You stay fresh and you're not caught in gloomy Europe. You have access to people you know and training you know. You can tap into mentors and guidance easier than in Europe." The flip side is that he rarely gets to race the world's best riders, many of whom are based in and racing in Europe and occasionally in North America.

    Reid rode to a podium finish at Mont-Sainte-Anne, and he's optimistic for next weekend's World Cup in Windham, New York.

    "To come out and travel and race and to know that I'm good in a back-to-back weekend is exciting," said Reid. "I did Houffalize, but I was sick in the build up to it and was 26th - one spot off points. It was good but not the season I was looking for. I got into a training rut and took off the third and fourth World Cup. Thankfully I feel better now."

    Reid surprised himself at the World Cup opener this season in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. "The South...

  • Video: Gwin continues to dominate downhill World Cup

    Aaron Gwin (Trek World racing) in action
    Article published:
    June 28, 2012, 15:21 BST
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Rivals still trying to figure out how to beat the American

    Aaron Gwin is the man to beat this year on the downhill World Cup circuit. Last year's World Cup champion won his third World Cup of the year this weekend in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec, Canada. He also won in Val di Sole, Italy and Fort William, United Kingdom, and he was second at the Pietermaritzburg round.

    "This place is fun," said Gwin of his time in Mont-Sainte-Anne. "From the first practice run on Thursday, I came down with a big smile on my face. The rain made the track pretty much perfect for the finals."

    In the last 11 World Cups (seven in 2011 and four so far this year), there have only been two winners, Gwin with eight and Minnaar with three. Historically, Gwin now holds the record for the best percentage winning streak having won eight of 11 consecutive races. The previous best was Nicolas Vouilloz with seven out of 10 in a row..

    Minnaar and Gwin renewed their rivalry in Mont-Sainte-Anne. Last year both crashed in their final runs, but Gwin's was less costly in time. This year, a couple of small errors saw Gwin's opening lead of 2.9 seconds whittled down to 1.3 seconds at the finish line.

    "It's a man's track if I can say that. I remember coming here in 2008 in my first year. I had a good result and it was tough. It's tough each year. I get faster and more fit but I'm always breathing just as hard when I cross the line.

    The American is pleased with his World Cup season. "It's been good. You never know what can happen, but I'm just putting in the work and having fun on my bike. For me, it's about focusing on myself and what I've got going and the track."

    His biggest challenge often comes from within. "My biggest adversary is myself. I'd like to think I tamed the beast today. These tracks are so hard you have to just focus on yourself because I...

  • Coloma celebrates best race ever

    Carlos Coloma Nicolas (Wildwolf - Trek Pro Racing)
    Article published:
    June 28, 2012, 15:30 BST
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Spanish mountain biker enjoys time on World Cup podium

    Carlos Coloma (WildWolf-Trek) had his best-ever race at the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup this past weekend in Quebec, Canada. The Spaniard raced to fourth place, making the podium in the elite men's race.

    "I have not felt like this in my life. It was the best race I've ever done," said Coloma. "I was riding so easily that it was strange to see myself up there with the best in the world and with margin to increase the pace."

    Sitting at the presscon with the other podium finishers, he said, "For me, Mont-Sainte-Anne is the best race in the World Cup for the past two years. I was sixth at Worlds [here in 2010]. I'm happy to be sitting here with three world champions - Nino [Schurter], [Jose] Hermida and [Jaroslav] Kulhavy."

    Coloma was in the front group right from the start. He rode as part of the quartet fighting for third to sixth.

    "[Jaroslav] Kulhavy opened a small gap and after a few minutes, I have decided to attack [Florian] Vogel and [Marco] Fontana. I was feeling good. I went away from them, rolling in fourth position, and I think I would have been able to contact the Czech rider."

    But after opening a gap with these two riders, Coloma crashed. "I hit hard. I was dizzy and the Swiss and the Italian passed me again. It hurt, but after a minute completely unfocused I felt ok and then I passed them again. Still, the chance to fight for third place with Kulhavy was gone".

    Coloma is in Windham, New York for the next World Cup this weekend. "I want to fight again for the podium and show the consistency I've always had as a rider."

  • Sheppard celebrates first World Cup win

    Samara Sheppard (iXS Wheeler) on her way to a win
    Article published:
    June 29, 2012, 0:36 BST
    By:
    Cycling News

    New Zealander's European programme pays off

    New Zealand mountain biker Samara Sheppard rode the perfect race to win the UCI under-23 cross country World Cup last weekend in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec, Canada.

    Sheppard, who rides for the Swiss Wheeler IXS team, pushed hard from the start to dominate the race, winning by nearly two minutes on arguably the toughest track on the World Cup circuit.

    It presented an early birthday gift for the Rotorua-based Wellington rider, who turned 22 on Sunday.

    "It means everything," Sheppard said. "Wow, my first World Cup win is pretty awesome but I was so, so exhausted I couldn't even open my bottle of bubbles on the podium."

    Sheppard said she wanted to stamp her dominance on the race. "The rain came through just before we started which made the course super slippery. I tried to find a rhythm and ride smart or what wasn't possible to ride, get off and run. I got out in front and rode my own race."

    She beat a talented field including World Cup leader Yana Belomoyna, a two-time winner this year, her teammate Jolanda Neff, who won in the Czech Republic and Australian Rebecca Henderson, who recorded her third podium of the season.

    "Definitely, it was a tough field as all the World Cup races are. But I always love coming here. It is a really tough track and I think everyone loves it, to be honest. It's got everything. It is so physical. You can't let up or you will crash."

    Sheppard believes the win will prove to be a turning point for her. "To come here and do it on my favourite track is great. It shows I've been training really well. We've got a good programme going into worlds and everything is coming together nicely. Basing myself in Europe and with the Wheeler ISC team support, I am really happy with how things are going.

    "Once I got on the podium at the last round then I started to believe in myself more, and now I know I can go out...