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MTB News & Racing Round-up, Friday, September 21, 2012

Date published:
September 21, 2012, 20:00

Edited by Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

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.

  • Team TX Active-Bianchi signs Gehbauer

    Felice Gimondi and his new TX Active Bianchi signee Alex Gehbauer
    Article published:
    September 18, 2012, 19:25
    By:
    Cycling News

    22-year-old Austrian mountain biker on a two-year contract

    Austrian Alexander Gehbauer, 22, will join the TX Active-Bianchi team beginning in 2013 after signing a two-year agreement with the team's President, Felice Gimondi.

    "This team's management knows how to bring young riders to the top, they already did it in the past with [Julien] Absalon and [Jose] Hermida," said Gehbauer. "For 20 years, TX Active Bianchi is one of the leading teams in the cross country. There's a very friendly mood in the team, while working in a very ambitious and professional way: this helps the riders to develop all their potential."

    Gehbauer said his friendship with rival and soon-to-be teammate Gerhard Kerschbaumer also played a role in his decision.

    "Gehbauer's signing is in line with our goal to launch young talents and aim definitely at 2016 Olympics in Rio," said Gimondi. "I have got a good feeling by him: he's a clever and eager guy, I also appreciated he already started to learn Italian... We'll line up Gehbauer, Kerschbaumer and a further élite rider in the 2013 World Cup, with [Tony] Longo and [Leonardo Hector] Paez mostly focused on marathon races."

    2012 was a successful year for the Austrian rider, who captured 10 victories (including two World Cup rounds in Pietermaritzburg and La Bresse) and took ninth at London Olympic Games, where Gehbauer was the best under 23 ahead of Kerschbaumer. Gehbauer placed fourth at world championships in Saalfelden after a puncture during the race.

    The Austrian rider was born in Bensheim (Hesse, Germany) and is ready to make his contribution to the team in 2013. "Alexander looks forward to starting this new experience," said Alexander Gehbauer's father Andreas Gehbauer.

    Wearing TX Active-Bianchi's jersey, Gehbauer will have at his disposal the full Methanol 26" and 29" range of bikes, with the SL2, 29SL and 29FS.

  • No pressure for Knox at Hilton marathon

    Max Knox leads David George through some thicket
    Article published:
    September 19, 2012, 14:01
    By:
    Cycling News

    Specialized rider has South African series effectively won

    It rarely occurs that Max Knox (Specialized) has the luxury of going into a race with absolutely no pressure on him to win. When he lines up to start the MTN Hilton Marathon in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa on September 23, he will be in that privileged position.

    With his dominant performance at the MTN Gravel Travel and South African Marathon National Championship, which enabled him to finish nearly 12 minutes ahead of David George (Nedbank360Life) and 23 minutes ahead of Kevin Evans (Nedbank360Life), Knox had basically secured an overall victory in the MTN South African Marathon National Series.

    George was last year's overall winner, and Evans has won it on numerous previous occasions.

    One of the key aspects of the series is that every minute counts. In other words, the larger the time gap between opponents, the more points it counts for an overall victory.

    Ryan Gould, MTN SA General Manager: Brand and Communications said, "It is these commendable performances that unearth riders such as Knox that keeps MTN involved and excited about cycling in South Africa."

    Knox has been the most consistent rider so far in the series. Apart from winning the MTN Gravel Travel, he was victorious at MTN Clarens, finished second at MTN Sabie, as well as second at MTN Mabalingwe.

    If Knox should finish among the top five in the MTN Hilton marathon, it would mean that the series would be done and dusted.

    This race could be the most exciting of the series because it will be the last race of importance before the marathon world championships takes place in France on October 7.

    It is almost certain that the ‘who's who' of South African mountain biking will be competing.

    Tim Fair, race organizer for Advendurance, describes the race as "challenging, but also fun".

    "This is a must-do ride for riders from Gauteng because they will experience typical KwaZulu-Natal racing.

    "They will race through indigenous thorn veld, pine forests, and the Midlands sugar cane plantations, as well as a game reserve where there will be an excellent chance that some of the animals might come out to inspect the 'funny creatures' on two wheels.

    "The marathon will offer some never-before-ridden areas with fast descents, challenging climbs and exciting sections of singletrack." After last year's race the riders were full of praise for the singletrack sections, calling it one big adrenaline rush from beginning to end.

  • UCI awards 2015 MTB marathon Worlds to Italy

    Marathon World Champion Christoph Sauser (Specialized)
    Article published:
    September 19, 2012, 19:30
    By:
    Cycling News

    Val Gardena named as host city

    The UCI Management Committee awarded the 2015 UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships to Italy after meeting yesterday and today on the occasion of the UCI Road World Championships 2012 in Limburg, the Netherlands. Val Gardena, Italy will host the 2015 edition of marathon Worlds.

    Italy last hosted marathon Worlds in 2011 in Montello and the cross country Worlds in 2008 in Val di Sole.

    The announcement comes just a few weeks before the 2012 Marathon World Championships in Ornans, France on October 7. Kirchberg, Austria will host in 2013 and Pietermartizburg, South Africa will host in 2014.

  • Ride to Vegas celebrates NICA

    Ride to Vegas participants get ready to depart Utah
    Article published:
    September 19, 2012, 20:39
    By:
    Cycling News

    New NICA executive director Doug Selee is guest of honor

    The Ride to Vegas, Specialized's annual two-wheeled pilgrimage to Interbike, concluded on Tuesday. This year's ride started at the Specialized distribution center in Salt Lake City, and rode through the Utah landscape, past glowing red canyons and sparse dusty towns, before rolling up to the bright lights of the Vegas strip, six days, 30,000 feet of climbing, and 660 miles later.

    Specialized is the Founding National Sponsor of NICA, the national organizing body of US high school mountain bike leagues gaining popularity and support across the country. This year's Guest of Honor on the ride was NICA Executive Director Doug Selee.

    The 2012 ride centered on raising awareness for NICA's seven active state leagues - two in California, and one in each of Washington, Texas, Minnesota, Colorado, and Utah - that are providing a way for thousands of high school level youth to discover recreational cycling.

    The effort has huge implications. The choice of these youth to ride mountain bikes is making it far more likely that they'll continue to be active their entire lives. By doing so, they're also exposing their parents and siblings to cycling, which surprisingly is a new thing for many of the families. That added exposure is creating a culture of cycling with American families, today and into the future.

    The corporate world has been a strong supporter of NICA, with SRAM, Easton and Trek also sponsoring at the platinum level, and major consumer brands like Jeep also coming on board. Dealers across the country have supported teams in their communities, like Glenn Fant of Norcal Bike Sport who participated in this year's Ride to Vegas:

    "Being involved in helping someone discover a sport that will stay with them for a lifetime, that's hugely rewarding for us, sure for our business, but also for our sense of contribution to this sport," said Fant.

    The core of the group included a handful of top Specialized dealers including Brian Gierke of Gerk's Ski & Cycle, Dan Hughes of Sunflower Bike Shop, David Guettler of River City Bicycles, John Brown of Family Cycling Center, Doug Emerson of University Bicycles, Emily Samstag of Bicycle Habitat, Glenn Fant of Norcal Bike Sport, Joseph Howard of Richardson Bike Mart, Kyle Davenport of Sugar Cycles, Matthew Neugebauer of Brandywine Cyclery, and Nate Rex of Cycle Center of Stamford. Also riding strong were Specialized employees and the media.

    A new documentary film about NICA called Singletrack High will launch in January 2013. The film profiles the lives of a diverse set of mountain biking youth, and should help more dealers discover the potential for getting involved. Specialized underwrote the film, driven by its founder Mike Sinyard, who envisions every bike shop across America tied in with a NICA team - supporting, coaching and even starting teams of their own:

    "The independent bike shops are the foundation of our industry and the hub of cycling in our communities. There is huge potential for shops to influence local cycling culture and help more kids discover our sport. Our dealers are already seeing the benefits of associating with NICA and we hope more shops will continue to come on board," said Sinyard.

    In many communities, cycling is giving kids an outlet, somewhere to be after school, and that's helped keep them away from gangs and drugs. In a rough neighborhood of Sacramento, California, the police department has taken it upon themselves to get involved, acting as mentors and coaches for the local high school students, even securing equipment and funding so they can participate. Doug Selee, who has spent more than 20 years in the non-profit world, more than 14 of which as a VP with the American Cancer Society, is excited to sink his teeth in to the NICA world:

    "This movement of organized high school mountain biking has the potential to change the lives of so many kids across this country. That's very exciting for me," said Selee. "The most common thing I hear when we tell new groups about what's happening is: 'I wish they had that when I was young.'

    "Well there's not much we can do about that, but our goal is to make sure there isn't a young person of this generation that will be able to say that in 10 years."

    Selee will announce the location of three new NICA leagues on Thursday at Interbike. Rumor has it they will be in the Southwest and the East. The NICA booth will also be previewing the documentary Singletrack High.

    Tags:
    NICA
  • Gallery: Minnaar off to a good start in rainbow jersey

    Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) in his new rainbow striped jersey
    Article published:
    September 20, 2012, 16:00
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    South African finishes off stellar 2012 season

    Just two weeks after winning the downhill world championships, Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) got the chance to show off his brand new rainbow-striped jersey at the final downhill World Cup round of the season in Hafjell, Norway.

    Minnaar proved that the rainbow jersey is not always a curse as he rode to third place at the weekend. It was the first time had Hafjell hosted a World Cup and riders loved the track, which had a mixture of flow, jumps, roots, berms, gnarly rock gardens, and old school open, grassy off-camber sections.

    "This was Greg's first race in his rainbow jersey and it looked fitting on him. The rain made it muddy but washing the mud off the stripes was a pleasure!" said Santa Cruz Syndicate Team Manager Kathy Sessler. "Greg's result proved that he won't be a victim of the curse of the rainbow jersey, and I suspect 2013 will bode well for him as he wears the stripes all season."

    Minnaar's season-long consistency also paid off as he finished second overall in the World Cup series, just behind World Cup winner Aaron Gwin (Trek World Racing).

    "My goal was to maintain second overall so I'm stoked to have done that even though to me second and third is the same. But reflecting back, I want to thank everyone who helped me this year, we had a great year. Finishing off with second in the World Cup and world champion... It can only get a tiny bit better then this."

    Minnaar departed Norway for Las Vegas, Nevada, where he is attending Interbike this week.

  • Bresset happy with perfect season

    Julie Bresset (France) flies toward victory
    Article published:
    September 20, 2012, 20:02
    By:
    Cycling News

    Olympic and Worlds victories still sinking in

    For French woman Julie Bresset (BH - SR Suntour - Peisey Vallandry), 2012 has been a good year. The 23-year-old won both the Olympic Games and the world championship in elite women's mountain biking, something only done once before, by Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa in 2004.

    "August 11, 2012. This was a magical day. I became Olympic champion in cross country mountain biking in London," said Bresset.

    "It was an incredible race, and I had a lot of fun on the course. I did not think I would be able to win my first Olympics ... and it's hard to get over it! Everything was beautiful that day: the venue, the public, the weather, my kit, my bike ... a dream!"

    Becoming Olympic champion does have some downsides. She noted the many obligatory invitations, receptions, travel and interviews that followed, but it's a small price to pay for her success. "I take everything that happens to me," she said.

    Three weeks after the Olympics, Bresset was at the mountain bike Worlds in Saalfelden, Austria. "How do I approach these championships after my Olympic adventure? Where am I physically?" were questions that ran through Bresset's mind.

    It was a complicated balance between preparation and and hoping for a good result without feeling too much pressure.

    "I was happy to be there and to do the team relay with the French team." Her team finished second.

    Speaking of the world championship cross country race later that same weekend, she said, "The race turned in my favor with technical errors made by my competitors from the first lap onward. I wanted to take control of the race. In each technical section, I gained 10 seconds. Awesome! I kept my head straight and held on until the end. Now I am the world champion among the elite women."

    Her success has clearly not totally sunk in yet. "I cannot believe all my performances," she said. "I am very happy and excited for all this upheaval in my life. Thanks to my partners, my team, my coach, the French team staff, my family and my friends. All these people have contributed to my success. I'm delighted to be with them and hope that this adventure continues."

    Given her success and  young age, mountain biking may be seeing its next dominant female racer as Juli Furtado, Paola Pezzo and Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa have been in previous periods.

  • Women protest to keep equal points in World Cup team standings

    There was a campaign for keeping equal men's and women's points for calculating team results and standings at the UCI Downhill World Cup.
    Article published:
    September 21, 2012, 16:19
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Downhillers send message in Hafjell

    The rules for calculating team results and rankings in the UCI Downhill World Cup may be changing for 2013. Presently, equal points are used for men's and women's placings, both of which count toward team results and rankings. The possibility of reducing the scale of the women's points has upset female downhillers, who met and protested at the final UCI Downhill World Cup in Hafjell, Norway, last weekend.

    The women and some men wore blue armbands during the competition in support of keeping equal points.

    There are already some differences between men's and women's downhill in World Cups. For example, 80 men qualify to race the finals while 20 women qualify to race the finals. In a typical World Cup, there are many more men than women in the qualifying round. For example, the recent Hafjell round qualifying results listed 148 men and 29 women.

    Unlike in cross country World Cups, in which men's and women's team results and standings are calculated separately, downhill World Cups combine the results of men and women into a single team result for each round. Likewise, downhill World Cup standings also comprise combined men's and women's results.

    Upon the request of the UCI, the International Mountain Bike Trade Teams, Technical Support and Race Organisers (IMTTO) recently collected input on the current team points system, and its members were largely in favor of making changes to the team points system.

    At the time of this posting, the UCI had not yet responded to Cyclingnews' questions about the proposal to reduce women's points toward downhill World Cup team results or on its plans, if any, to incorporate such proposed changes into the rules for 2013.

    A recent post on the GirlMTNbiker Facebook site explained the reaction of some of the women on the circuit: "The UCI wants to reduce the scale of points awarded to girls in the classification of the World Cup. But this poses a problem: if fewer points are distributed to girls, teams will have less interest to engage in girls, whereas today they can earn valuable points for the team standings. Eventually, more and more girls could find themselves without support and without a contract, if the importance of their participation in team rankings was reduced."

    "To remedy this problem, a meeting was organized by the women on Thursday night.The girls have decided to protest during this round of Hafjell, wearing blue armbands to show their disagreement. The revolt was unanimous, all the girls wore this cuff today, also picked up by a number of boys who want to also support their teammates and keep a good proportion of girls among the participants of the World Cups."

    Women's Hafjell World Cup winner Rachel Atherton was among those sporting the blue armband. She won the downhill individual World Cup overall, and her team GT Factory Racing also won the World Cup overall for 2012.

  • NICA announces new leagues in Arizona, New York and Tennessee

    Doug Selee (executive director, NICA), Jason Cairo (director, New York), Mike Perry (director, Arizona), Rick Spittler (president, NICA), Speed Baranco (president, Tennessee).
    Article published:
    September 21, 2012, 18:12
    By:
    Cycling News

    High school cycling programs now in nine states

    The National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), a youth development organization governing high school mountain biking in the United States, announced Arizona, New York and Tennessee as the three newest states in its high school cycling program at a press conference during the annual Interbike trade show in Las Vegas on Thursday.

    Doug Selee, executive director of NICA, said, "We are pleased to welcome the Arizona, New York and Tennessee leagues into the flourishing NICA community. The three new league directors bring with them a great passion for mountain biking and youth development. Moving forward, our national NICA team will provide training and support as they prepare for their inaugural seasons in 2013."

    These new leagues represent a major step toward NICA's mission of bringing high school mountain biking coast to coast by 2020.

    The Arizona league adds to the NICA activity in southwestern USA, while the Tennessee and New York leagues create substantial east coast footprints and will help develop future leagues in their respective regions.

    Mike Perry, director of the Arizona league, said, "We look forward to working with NICA to bring organized high school mountain bike racing to Arizona. Our state affords diverse venue opportunities, from Sonoran desert landscapes to forested regions, all with ample infrastructure to support racing."

    Jason Cairo, director of the New York league, said, "I am passionate about getting kids on bikes, so the opportunity to partner with NICA is huge for us in New York. The journey is already beginning for our coaches and we will be on fire and ready for our spring 2013 races."

    Katherine Williams, director of the Tennessee league, said, "When living in California, some of my favorite memories are coaching with the NorCal league. After moving back to Tennessee to open a bicycle shop, I was thrilled to learn that Tennessee could have a program just like NorCal and that others here had a similar goal. High school cycling is truly becoming a National movement!"

    Tags:
    NICA