Kona's Kris Sneddon last raced the Trans-Sylvania Epic mountain bike stage race three years ago. This year, he's back and he's been keeping the action interesting with several attacks including during stage 2 on Monday and stage 4 on Wednesday.
"The Trans-Sylvania Epic is one of the more technical stage races I've ever done, maybe the most technical," said Sneddon, who has done stage races around the globe. "The biking here is as good as anywhere else in the world."
On Monday, Sneddon launched an attack to help his teammate Spencer Paxson, a GC contender.
"Monday was more of a planned tactic," said Sneddon. "Race leader Jeremiah Bishop is pretty clearly the strongest guy here, but I think I can beat up on him a little bit in the singletrack. I thought maybe I could get him fired up and he'd make a mistake or at least that Spencer could sit on him."
Sneddon was eventually reeled in and Bishop still leads the overall, but Bishop admitted after the stage that he felt the pressure.
Speaking of today, when Sneddon went off the front twice, he said, "I just wanted to ride the trail sections fast and the downhills fast because they play to my strengths. I couldn't deal with the pack mentality when they slowed down." Stage 4 is the only stage in the Trans-Sylvania Epic with significant road sections, although there are still some technical singletrack sections mixed in.
"I wanted to be first into the first singletrack. I went a little hard from the gun and no one wanted to pull early. I rode the first singletrack pretty hard, but I didn't think I'd get a big gap, but on the first enduro section, I came out with a good gap. They didn't catch me until just before the first feedzone. Then the group slowed down later, and I thought I would ride down the hill at an easy pace, but I was able to get a good gap going into the Fisherman's Path."
Cole Oberman (Rare Disease Cycling) became the second under 25 rider to win a stage at the Trans-Sylvania Epic mountain bike stage race on Thursday during stage 5 at R.B. Winter State Park. He launched an attack with 10 miles to go in the 31-mile stage and stayed off the front to take the victory.
It wasn't the first time he had made such a solo attempt. In yesterday's stage 4, he also attacked near the end but was caught by the general classification contenders.
"It's always the plan to wait until later in the race and try to attack then," said the 23-year-old Oberman, who lives in Philadelphia.
"But it worked out this time. I was kind of dangling off the back all day and was having some brake issues which made it tricky to stay with the pack on the downhills," said Oberman. "I was still just barely hanging on in one rocky section, then I rolled to the front, rolled off and got a gap. They were all looking at each other, so I drilled it."
When asked why his attack worked in stage 5, but not stage 4, he said, "I went a little earlier today so I got more of a leash. I had better legs today, too."
It was a long 11 miles for Oberman, who had missed his bottle hand-up at the checkpoint mid-way through the race.
"I had been without water since the checkpoint. I kept waiting to hit the wall, but I just kept telling myself to keep breathe, breathe, breathe, and I got it done."
Oberman took second or "first loser" as he jokingly called it at the singlespeed 'cross Worlds in Philly last December. He also races cyclo-cross and does some road racing.
"I have a bias toward mountain biking, but 'cross is also a big focus because it's so big around here and it's fun," he said. "I dabble in some road racing. I'm still working to...
Cannondale has released a new hardtail cross country mountain bike - the F-Si - and has also made a video about it. The video features a certain Slovak rider - wheelie-pulling roadie, Peter Sagan.
It's well worth a watch for Sagan's bike-handling talents alone - his bunnyhopping stunt up a flight of steps is classily executed.
Longer before he became a household name (if that household was into cycling) for winning two green jerseys at the Tour de France, Sagan started out as a successful mountain biker. In fact he got his first nickname as a dirt rider, Terminator, because of his tendency to break frames through sheer strength.
Riding unfamiliar trails on the fly is like sight reading music
Despite being an Olympian and World Cup athlete, Mary McConneloug (Kenda/NoTubes) still learned a lot last week at the Trans-Sylvania Epic mountain bike stage race.
"It's been a tough week with a lots of ups and down. There's been a lot of learning," she said. "There's so much that goes into the right equipment, the right tires, knowing the trails, etc. It's so difficult."
McConneloug has previously raced the TransAndes Challenge mountain bike stage race in South American, but said the experience was totally different. She raced that event as a duo team with her partner Mike Broderick, and the trails were much less rocky.
"It's different to do a stage race as an individual. When I raced TransAndes with Mike, I had a draft always, and we're working together. It's easier to slip into your dark, negative zone on your own. I'm learning so much about the mind and attitude this week. Everything is different."
On day six of seven, McConneloug said, "It's not fun to race a stage race. I'll love it after the fact, but right now we're suffering and we're working so hard to be there every day. I took two naps already today and I can't stop eating."
"What I'm seeing is how important a support network is for stage racing. You can't do anything but get on your bike and pedal. I'm struggling to cook meals for us. For an hour and a half race, you can cook for yourself, but it's harder for a stage race."
McConneloug ended up fourth overall in the general classification. One of her favorite parts of the week was reading the trails onsite.
"To be the best, you need to know the courses, study them and go in with a good game plan. I feel like I'm just kind of being here sight reading the whole thing. I don't know where any of the turns are. It's awesome though - I love it," she said.
"It's like sight reading music. One of my favorite...
Shimano have announced details of a new Di2 electronic version of its top-tier XTR mountain bike groupset.
Rumours, as well as leaked images of the group, have been floating around the net for some time, but now everything is official we can give you the full run-down.
XTR Di2 in a nutshell
XTR M9050 marks the first migration of electronic shifting technology into the world of mountain bikes. The system will use one battery and remain wired, using already proven parts from Shimano’s Ultegra and Dura-Ace road Di2 groups.
So what are the advantages? Shimano claims that XTR Di2 will offer faster and more accurate shifting. Also, with no cables to stretch, it’s said to offer shifting consistency that a mechanical transmission cannot match. Whether that's true remains to be seen, but one part of XTR Di2 that we really should be taking notice of is Syncro Shift – for those who are running double or triple set-ups it could be a game changer.
Syncro Shift allows the rider to control both front and rear derailleurs with one shifter. Simply shift up or down and the transmission will follow a pre-programmed (and customisable) shifting map, moving both derailleurs when necessary to find the next ratio while maintaining a good chain line. So, that’s less clutter at the bar and more time to worry about things other than gear selection.
XTR Di2 shares its crank, cassette and chain with Shimano’s recently announced mechanical XTR M9000 groupset, so that means Di2 options for single, double and triple transmissions.
The race for the women’s title at the UCI Marathon World Championships has been thrown wide open with the confirmation that current world champ Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida) will not be on the start line to try and repeat the crown she won in Austria last year. Dahle has taken the bold move to forgo the defence of her marathon title to focus on her cross country riding ahead of those world championships in her home country later this year.
The reigning marathon world champion rode to an impressive second place at the cross country World Cup held in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa in April and following the confirmation of her absence at the upcoming marathon worlds it means that the rainbow jersey is back up for grabs.
It has been a good season so far for the 41-year-old, who has claimed a number of favourable results throughout the season with a second at Albstadt and a third at Nové Mesto but she missed out on the second leg of the World Cup in Australia.
Dahle would have been competing for her sixth marathon world title.
With the withdrawal of the defending champion, it is a question of who can step up into the shoes of the Norwegian veteran and there are a number of names that come to mind when discussing a potential winner.
The second placed finisher at the world championships in 2013, Sally Bigham must be a contender for the title and she believes that she is on track to claim her maiden title to go with her British Marathon champs title that she currently holds.
The final place on the 2013 podium was occupied by Ester Süss, who is another rider that has confirmed that she will be taking part in the marathon spectacle that will be starting at the...
High altitude, big money races draws some top pros
The cross country mountain bike race at the 13th edition of the GoPro Mountain Games (formerly Teva Games) promises to be one of the most hotly contested events of the year. American race promoters have found that large cash prizes bring out the biggest names in the sport.
With the suspension of UCI rule 1.2.019, several UCI license holders will be allowed to compete in the GoPro Games - which is not UCI sanctioned - for considerable cash prizes. The first three finishers will earn $3000, $2000, and $1000 respectively, and the pro women's purse will be identical to the men's.
At this writing, the exact mountain bike course has not been laid out due to higher than average snow cover on the mountain. Generally the riders can count on climbing a large portion of the steep mountain at Vail, but this year’s course could feature an abbreviated lap.
On the men's side, former Olympian and USA Champion Todd Wells (Specialized) has to be considered the favorite. However, he should be concerned about his own teammate Howard Grotts. Grotts not only won the 2013 edition of the race, but on Sunday also finished third in the under 23 World Cup at Albstadt, Germany. His specialty is steep climbing, and Vail generally provides plenty of that.
Wells told Cyclingnews, "I am looking forward to returning to the GoPro Games. I have only raced it once before as the Teva Games. Racing between 8,500-9,500 ft is tough. There is great prize money and strong field so it will be a hard race. I'll be trying to keep an eye on my teammate and last year's winner, Howard Grotts, among the other guys."
The race course starts at an elevation of 8,200 feet and generally rises up to about 9,500 feet. Alex Grant (Sho-Air/Cannondale), who finished second last year, said, "It is always a shock to race that high for the first time. Last year Howard Grotts climbed away from me and made it look easy."
Minnaar's illustrious downhill racing career has dubbed him as one of the most consistent riders on the world circuit. This feat goes without saying, as Minnaar's accolades include three world championship titles, 16 downhill World Cup victories and 61 downhill World Cup podiums from 99 starts in his 14-year career. Minnaar has nine downhill World Champion medals in total - 3 x gold, 3 x silver and 3 x bronze.
Fort William has always felt like Minnaar's home away from home over the years. Since he began his professional career in the United Kingdom, it is somewhat fitting that his 100th World Cup event is taking place at the Fort.
"The only venue that could be more special racing my 100th World Cup would be Pietermaritzburg. So yes, I'm excited for it," said Minnaar.
When asked about his most memorable World Cup race in his career, Minnaar said, "That's a hard one to answer, but I would have to go with my first World Cup win at home in Pietermaritzburg in 2009. There is no better feeling than winning at home."
Not only have the downhill courses become more technical and creative over the years, but so too has the equipment. "Technology has progressed a lot!" said Minnaar. "It's gotten more professional over the years and we have been pushing the boundaries. It's kinda cool to see the directions technology was going, then making a drastic turn and going a completely different direction."