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MTB News & Racing Round-up, Friday, September 6, 2013

Date published:
September 06, 2013, 1:00 BST
  • Burry Stander memorial garden dedicated at mountain bike Worlds

    This memorial stone commemorates Burry Stander.
    Article published:
    August 30, 2013, 13:53 BST
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    International cycling community celebrates South African's life

    Like it does every year at this time, the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships are happening, but this year, it is occurring without South African Burry Stander, who was ranked #2 in the world at the end of 2012. Stander was killed when he was hit by a taxi when training in January.

    The international mountain bike community gathered for the dedication of a memorial garden honouring Stander's life on Thursday evening at the Cascades Mountain Bike Park in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. The garden is the first thing you see when entering the world championships venue. It is a permanent installation and will remain after the Worlds is over.

    Stander was just 25 when he died, but he achieved more than many racers do in an entire career. He was the U23 World Champion in 2009 and won a bronze medal at both the elite cross country and marathon world championships. He finished fifth at the 2012 London Olympic Games cross country race.

    Friends and officials spoke in honour of Stander.

    "Today we gather to celebrate a lost life. Burry was a tireless champion and a shining example to all. He achieved so much in his short life. He touched so many with his friendly and approachable style," said Cycling South Africa's William Newman.

    "The cycling community is one big family. Today, we gather as one big international family."

    The ceremony was attended by many other racers, Stander's Specialized Racing team, and his family.

    Specialized's Bobby Behan, who used to manage the team back when it signed Stander, shared many fond memories of his former rider and good friend, leaving the audience simultaneously wanting to laugh and cry.

    "It's been a...

  • Spitz concerned about cross country course safety

    Sabine Spitz (Sabine Spitz Haibike)
    Article published:
    August 31, 2013, 12:11 BST
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Two injuries in one year for the German as courses become more extreme

    Vallnord cross country World Cup winner Sabine Spitz expressed concern about the safety of cross country courses, which she thinks are becoming increasingly more extreme each year. The German had travelled to Pietermaritzburg, South Africa for the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, but crashed during training, injured herself and had to pull out of the championships.

    "I think we've reached a point where yes, we want spectacular courses, but maybe we are at the edge where it is too dangerous," said Spitz to Cyclingnews. She planned to talk to athlete representative Georgia Gould about the issue.

    "I have a feeling that the organizers have all been pushing to have the most spectacular courses," said Spitz. "They keep pushing more and more, but in the end, the riders have to pay the bill with the injuries."

    Spitz spoke to Cyclingnews the day before she planned to head home to Germany for surgery on her injured shoulder. It's the second time this season that she has hurt her shoulder; she crashed in Albstadt, Germany during training for the World Cup opener and injured her other shoulder in exactly the same way. She had surgery to repair that earlier injury and missed the first half of the season.

    Remember her crash during training on the Worlds course, Spitz said, "It happened at Shaka's playground. It's a spot we knew from last year at the World Cup. Compared to last year, it was made more difficult. There was more soil last year. Some was removed this year so it's a bigger step to get over the logs."

    "Maybe I went in a bit too fast? The first couple of logs were ok, but the end of the logs, I hit one with the front wheel and it gave me a push and my rear wheel came up. I went into a nose wheelie and went over the handlebars from the last log until the bottom of the section - maybe a 3 or 4m fall. I crashed...

  • Absalon races mountain bike Worlds despite broken ribs

    Julien Absalon (France) finished a disappointing sixth in the elite men's cross country
    Article published:
    August 31, 2013, 20:50 BST
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Frenchman rides through the pain for top-10 finish

    Former world and Olympic champion Julien Absalon (France) raced to an impressive sixth place finish at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa on Saturday afternoon despite having three broken ribs from crashes sustained while training in the few days leading up to the championships.

    "I had two crashes," Absalon told Cyclingnews. "One on Tuesday when I broke one rib on one side and then again two days ago, I has another crash, a really big one, and I broke two other ribs on the other side."

    He also rolled up one leg of his shorts and showed off a mess of physio tape on his outer thigh - more crash damage.

    "My physio did a very good job. I was totally dead two days ago. It was a big challenge to get on my bike - I was happy to be on the start today. It was a challenge to ride, and it was hard during the race."

    The pain was excruciating, but Absalon kept going.

    "It was really hard to breathe. When I was breathing deeply, it was like someone was sticking a knife in my side. It was my hardest day," he said.

    But the determined Frenchman said, "By mid-race, I said, 'Ok, I have big pain, but if I pull out now, I've started for nothing', so I pushed hard and finished sixth which is not a bad race in this condition."

  • Bresset happy to keep rainbow stripes for another year

    Julie Bresset (France) on her way to victory
    Article published:
    August 31, 2013, 22:45 BST
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Cross country world champion pulls off repeat win after broken collarbone

    A beaming Julie Bresset (France) was all smiles after defending her elite women's cross country world championship title on Saturday afternoon in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.

    "It was amazing to have good legs today, and it was a pleasure to race this track," Bresset told Cyclingnews. She seemed to fly through all the steep, downhill and rocky sections where others sometimes struggled on the fast, challenging course.

    Bresset is well known for her skillful technical riding, and Saturday's race was a chance to put them to use. "I was very confident coming into this, and my skills were good in the technical sections," she said.

    It wasn't just a rocky race at times for Bresset, but it has also been a rocky season. The Frenchwoman finished off 2012 with a double victory in both the Olympics and the Worlds, taking her first such elite title in Austria as a then first-year elite rider.

    "For me, it was a pleasure to win the Olympics and Worlds. It was a dream, but this year was difficult because I had lots of obligations all winter. My motivation was ok in the spring, but then I had an accident and crashed and broke my collarbone."

    "I came back to mountain bike competition in June. It was very hard. I had no good feelings." Bresset struggled visibly in the following races, clearly not yet back to full fitness nor full confidence.

    "Then in July, I turned the corner, and I started to focus on the Worlds. I wanted to be fit for this."

    At the Mont-Sainte-Anne...

  • Schurter comfortable in rainbow stripes

    From left to right: Germany's Manuel Fumic (third), Switzerland's Nino Schurter (first) and José Hermida Ramos (second) enjoy the moment after finishing on the podium in the elite men's cross country
    Article published:
    September 01, 2013, 20:34 BST
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Winning against tougher rivals is more rewarding for Swiss champion

    Nino Schurter proved himself worthy of keeping the rainbow-striped jersey of the cross country world champion for another year when he won the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa on Saturday afternoon.

    "It's an awesome feeling. I'm used to it now, but it's great to wear the stripes," Schurter told Cyclingnews. He won his second elite world title last year after his first in 2009.

    "It's the same feeling to win again, but it was more difficult this year. Last year was quite special with Worlds after the Olympics. Everyone was focused on the Olympics, and I was able to prepare well for Worlds and have a great race again after the Olympics. From a performance standpoint, it was a better race."

    However, for Schurter, his wins this year have been just as rewarding as he's often faced tight battles with his rivals. He cited both his victories at the Nove Mesto World Cup and the Val di Sole World Cup as examples of tough contests that lasted the entirety of each race.

    "It's nice if you can win a close race, battling to the end. That makes it an awesome feeling," said the 27-year-old, who recently renewed his contract with the Scott-Swisspower MTB Team.

    "It's definitely much more stressful with so many rivals, but then it's nicer to win. If you just win one race after another, it's not as nice anymore. If you have to do your best in training and prepare as good as possible and then you can win just by a few seconds, it's the greatest feeling."

    After winning the 2012 cross country Worlds, Schurter seemed to suffer none of the curse of the rainbow jersey that plagues some world champions.

    "It's always difficult if...

  • Riders rave about more technical courses at mountain bike Worlds

    Irene Lizbeth FLores (Mexico) approaches a decision point - line A, B or C?
    Article published:
    September 01, 2013, 22:50 BST
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Cross country and eliminator course get thumbs up from most

    With the dust barely settling on the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, which wrapped up on Sunday in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, most cross country riders raved about both the cross country and the eliminator race courses.

    Fresh off his eliminator world championship win, Paul van der Ploeg (Australia) said of the eliminator track, "That course is a pure mountain bike course, but it still had passing opportunities. It made for exciting racing as everyone saw."

    Van der Ploeg noted the difference from last year's Worlds course in Austria, the first year the eliminator was a world championship event. He also appreciated the full spectrum of eliminator courses.

    "It's a good thing that eliminator course vary. Last year's Worlds were completely on the road and had stairs. This one was all dirt and had rock gardens. You have to be able to adapt to different courses. It keeps everyone guessing."

    Cross country

    The cross country course was a high speed track that featured super-smooth, hard-packed sections broken up by steep downhill or technical rocky sections.

    Finding a balance between a course that works for elite riders and one that works well for junior riders can be tricky.

    "We're trying to challenge the best guys and also have safe options for the categories that aren't as technically skilled as them," said UCI Technical Delegate Simon Burney, who oversaw the eliminator and cross country courses.

    "From my point of view, we always give riders a choice. We don't force them to take risks they don't feel comfortable doing," Burney told Cyclingnews. "We've always got B lines and on anything severe, we've got C lines as well. I'm conscious - as the guy checking the course - that I don't want to see riders breaking bones. I want to see them challenged. If you're giving them options,...

  • Paul Van der Ploeg: a man of many disciplines

    Paul van der Ploeg (Australia) wins the eliminator world championships in Pietermaritzburg
    Article published:
    September 02, 2013, 0:15 BST
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Australian road, 'cross and MTB racer wins eliminator Worlds

    Last week, Paul Van der Ploeg was racing in the Tour of Borneo, where he won a stage and even briefly held the yellow jersey. On Sunday, the Australian was standing atop the podium as the newly-crowned eliminator world champion at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.

    "To come here and win the world title hasn't sunk in yet. I can't wait to go talk to my family," said Van der Ploeg to Cyclingnews.

    In between Borneo and winning Worlds, he also dealt with some food poisoning.

    "I got food poisoning coming out of Borneo. I was lying on a medical bed in the Kuala Lumpur airport, then I was in South Africa. Luckily I had a week to recover and to look at the course and to pray that I could put it together. I was hoping the sprinting would be good preparation for this race."

    Van der Ploeg is a rider who races not only the road and mountain bike, but also cyclo-cross.

    "It's been unique for me this year riding with Giant Australia. They didn't mind where I chose to ride. I did the national mountain bike series, then did the Tour of Thailand on the road. I raced some of the Australian cyclo-cross series during the Australian winter. Mountain bike worlds has always been something I would do if it fit in. It's been an amazing year."

    Van der Ploeg last raced his mountain bike in March at the end of the Australian mountain bike national series. "But I always still ride mountain bikes because I love it, and it's just so much fun. I always go out training on my mountain bike which is a bit unorthodox for a road rider or part-time road rider."

    When asked the inevitable question of whether he would continue to race multiple disciplines or pick one, he said, "My coach has...

  • Hermida to continue career until 2016 Rio Olympics

    José Hermida Ramos (Spain) hung on to his third place in the elite men's cross country
    Article published:
    September 06, 2013, 18:10 BST
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Spaniard still winning medals at Worlds

    Always the joker, Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida) had the media and his fellow podium finishers laughing throughout the press conference following the elite men's cross country world championship race last weekend. Hermida had just won the bronze medal.

    The 35-year-old fielded the usual question from journalists about his age and how he could continue to compete with his younger rivals.

    "I enjoy being with these young guys. It keeps me young," said Hermida before joking, "I know it's not possible to win the world championships at 35, but maybe at 36!" His only elite world championship title so far came in 2010 at Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada.

    Hermida believes that he has one more Olympic Games in him. He was fourth at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney and won a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics. He also competed in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012.

    "My plan is to get qualification for Rio. I will turn 38 and probably be done then. I just have fun on my bike and go year by year."

    Hermida spent much of this year's cross country world championship pace chasing eventual winner Nino Schurter of Switzerland. "Nino took his chances and started fast at the beginning, so everyone had to suffer. I tried to keep his pace. I know I'm 35 and my chances to be world champion again are not many. I tried to stay on his wheel, but it was impossible. He killed me in the first lap."

    Hermida was passed by silver medallist Manny Fumic, but held on for the bronze. He crossed the line with one hand holding his heart and the other arm raised to the sky.

    "That gesture was for Burry Stander and Inaki Lejaretta and all the other cyclists who have been killed while riding on the roads...