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MTB News & Racing Round-up, January 13, 2010

Date published:
January 13, 2010, 0:00 GMT
  • Mountain bikers excel at Swiss cyclo-cross nationals

    Lukas Flückiger got some practice running with his bike during the mountain bike season.
    Article published:
    January 11, 2010, 19:10 GMT
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Lukas Flueckiger wins his first Swiss title

    Trek World Racing's Lukas Flueckiger won his first elite Swiss national championship title by taking the victory at the Swiss Cyclo-cross National Championships on Sunday. Flueckiger was the most successful of several mountain bikers who contested the 'cross championships.

    Not considered a true favorite before the event and unsure about his level of preparation, the 25-year-old Flueckiger took a good look at the flat course before the race and gave himself a shot at possibly winning a medal. The course, run on frozen ground, was super icy in sections.

    Ralph Näf (Multivan Merida Biking Team), Florian Vogel (Scott-Swisspower MTB Racing), Marcel Wildhaber (Scott-Swisspower MTB Racing), and Martin Gujan (Cannondale Factory Racing) were some of the other international calibre mountain bikers on the start line in Rennaz-Noville. Many considered the short course, with a multitude of short climbs and tight corners, well suited for those crossing over from the fat-tire world, but the mountain bikers would face tough competition from Christian Heule, who is ranked number nine in the UCI Cyclo-cross World Rankings.

    "I had a good start and rode the first two laps in the lead. Later Heule and Vogel caught back up to me. We then rode the first six laps together," said Flueckiger. "From the beginning, this race was very, very fast and we had no chance for recovery!"

    "Three laps from the finish, Vogel and I attacked and Heule had a small crash. We got a 15-second lead. Then with two laps to go, Heule was still 15 seconds behind us and he punctured. This was the chance for Vogel and me."

    "I felt really good and tried to make one attack after the other against Florian. In the last lap, I attacked on a technical section and got a 15-second advantage on him."

    In the end, Flueckiger won by 10 seconds. Vogel was second, and Huele followed another 39 seconds later. Näf and Wildhaber brought home fourth and fifth for the...

  • Fontana surprises at Italian 'cross nationals

    Marco Aurelio Fontana (Cannondale) splashes to the win in Italy.
    Article published:
    January 11, 2010, 20:26 GMT
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Mountain biker upsets Franzoi for the title

    Mountain biker Marco Aurelio Fontana brought his Cannondale Factory Racing team its first victory of 2010 at the Italian Cyclo-cross National Championship near Milan. Fontana outplayed the favorite, Enrico Franzoi (BKCP Powerplus), and won his second 'cross title in three years.

    Fontana's win was unexpected as Franzoi had topped him in previous head-to-head races this season. However, he successfully countered Franzoi's early attacks and opened a gap of 30 seconds after Franzoi was slowed by a flat tire.  Fontana is the reigning Italian mountain bike national champion.

    "I felt very strong and the mud was not too bad, so I was able to keep my speed throughout the race," said Fontana, 25, who also suffered a puncture during the race. "Even when I got a flat tire during the last quarter of the race, I did not lose too much time to Franzoi."

    Fontana flatted right after the tech zone and had to ride it about two kilometres until he could change his bike, but Franzoi was already too far behind to rejoin. "Franzoi was strong during the last two laps and closed the gap a little bit, but in the end I was stronger," said the winner.

    Marco Bianco (L'Arcobaleno Carraro Team) was third in the championship race.

    Fontana is a regular on the international mountain bike circuit. He finished fifth at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and was a member of the winning team at the 2009 World Championships in Canberra, Australia.

  • South African national marathon series starting

    Kevin Evans leads Max Knox at the MTN Dirty Harry race.
    Article published:
    January 13, 2010, 12:56 GMT
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Attakwas Extreme Mountain Bike Challenge kicks off 2010 racing

    The 2010 MTN South African National Series will kick off this weekend with the Attakwas Extreme Mountain Bike Challenge on Saturday, January 16. The marathon will take racers from Oudtshoorn to Groot Brak on a point-to-point course over 135km.

    It will be the first time that the Attakwas Extreme Challenge is part of the MTN National Series. "For the past two years, the Attakwas has been voted South Africa's best mountain bike event," said Pienaar. "It makes sense to include it in the series. Our aim is to ensure that riders get the ultimate riding experience when they enter the series.

    Fritz Pienaar, organiser of the MTN National Series, warned riders that they will not have the option of riding in an 80-kilometre race. "It is the only event in the national series where there are only two races - 135km or 53km. This is a point-to-point race and logistically it will be almost impossible to include an 80km event as we will have to organise three different starts at three different venues.

    "As planned, I think the race will work out perfectly. You can have a family member or friend drop you off in Oudtshoorn for the 135 km race. He (or she) can then drive through to Groot Brak and, if they are mountain bikers, they can still be in time to compete in the 53km race as it starts three hours later."

    "Personally I don't foresee that riders will be discouraged by the longer distance. By mid-December, we have already received 700 entries in the ultra distance. I won't be surprised if more than 2000 riders enter."

    "It makes sense to start the series with a really long race. Most of the serious mountain bikers are busy with base training. This means that their main focus is on improving their stamina. They will only start working on improving their speed later on. I see the 135 kilometre race as the ideal training for the Cape Epic and Sani2Sea mountain bike tours."

    "Riders who usually only compete in our 80-kilometre races...

  • Lleida to host spring-time mountain bike stage race

    The Ara Lleida Volcat mountain bike stage race will take place over three days in Catalonia in April.
    Article published:
    January 13, 2010, 16:30 GMT
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Three-day event visits Catalonia

    The Ara Lleida Volcat mountain bike stage race will take place over three days from April 2-4 in the Lleida area of western Catalonia. The event will feature categories for elite, under 23 and under 21, master 30+ and veteran men and elite and under 23 women.

    This year the competition will start in the village of Solsona (Solsonès). Stage one will finish in Guissona (Segarra) after 50km. Day two will take racers over 70km on to Ager (Noguera), and the final stage - also the shortest at 45km and the most techincal - will conclude in Balaguer (Noguera).

    Riders can take part in all stages or just one or two stages.

    2010 Ara Lleida Volcat Mountain Bike Stage Race
    April 2: Solsona - Guissona, 50km
    April 3: Guissona - Ager, 70km
    April 4: Ager - Balaguer, 45km

  • Jonnier, Blenkinsop return for round two of New Zealand Mountain Bike Cup

    Sam Blenkinsop (LaPierre) on his way to winning the first round of the New Zealand downhill cup.
    Article published:
    January 13, 2010, 17:22 GMT
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Round two draws international cross country, downhill racers to Dunedin

    Round two of the RaboPlus New Zealand Mountain Bike Cup heads to Dunedin this weekend, January 16-17. Both cross country and downhill racers will get their turn again in the six-event national series. Racers will compete on the courses that will also be used later in March for the 2010 Oceania Mountain Bike Championships.

    Strong fields are anticipated in all age group categories and especially in the elite fields, with athletes seeking a preview of what they will be up for in March against Oceania's best.

    The cross country racing takes place at Forrester Park on Saturday, and the Downhill will happen at Signal Hill on Sunday.

    Downhill

    Sunday's downhill event will feature New Zealand's best gravity racers, with round one winner Sam Blenkinsop squaring off against Dunedin's Justin Leov, who will be racing on his home track. Both athletes are world-ranked top ten athletes and will be competing against a top notch elite New Zealand field including current Junior World Champion Brook MacDonald, former Junior World Champion Cameron Cole and former Junior World Championship bronze medalist Matt Scoles.

    Visiting internationals Fabien Pedemenaud (France), Tim Eaton (Australia), Sam Shucksmith (United Kingdom), David Reinhardt (Germany) and Eolo Fronco (Italy) will add flavour to the field this weekend, and they will all be looking to mix it up at the front after finding their pace in Christchurch last weekend.

    Cole's French teammate Sabrina Jonnier will be competing in the elite women's downhill again this weekend and brings a strong pedigree with her. Jonnier is the current World Cup champion and a former World Champion. The French downhill star showed her strength and pace in Christchurch last weekend to post a massive win in the elite women's race, and the more technical nature of the Dunedin course is sure to suit her even more. Last weekend, she also made an appearance in the cross country round,...

  • Buchanan to debut her rainbow stripes

    Caroline Buchanan (Australia) celebrates her four cross world title.
    Article published:
    January 13, 2010, 22:50 GMT
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Australian making first mountain bike race appearance since winning worlds

    Caroline Buchanan has been breaking new ground for Australian female cyclists. The 19-year-old is the current four cross World Champion and one of Australia's best hopes for a BMX gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics. But it will be at Eagle Mountain Bike Park, in Adelaide for the Australian Mountain Bike National Championships on Friday that she will get to race in the coveted rainbow jersey of World Champion for the first time.

    "I'm feeling pretty confident and excited for the race as I'm proud to be wearing the stripes (of World Champion)," Buchanan said.
    "The last time I was on my mountain bike was at the World Championships in Canberra last year. It was a fairytale weekend and the biggest highlight of my racing career so far."

    Buchanan will start as the top favourite in the race for the four cross national title, however the Canberra local believes Sarsha Huntington of Queensland will be biting at her heels. "Sarsha has put in a lot of training over the last few years. Every race she gets closer and closer, and I think the race will be between her and me."

    With a busy schedule that combines mountain bike and BMX racing, Buchanan has few opportunities to spend time at home and could be excused for being torn between the two disciplines of the sport.

    "With the Olympics coming up, BMX is going to be a major focus, but now that I also have the rainbow jersey for mountain biking, I still want to be doing that," she said of the constant juggling act she is currently managing.

    "Balancing the two sports is something I always have to work on by going to the races, in both sports, that count."

    As far as being a pioneer for her sport in Australia, Buchanan is quietly modest but hopes one day she will be remembered as one of the greats of Australian cycling.

    "There are not many other girls I can race against in Australia. Mum and Dad have been really supportive and have helped me get on the world circuit to...

  • US Pro XCT loses a round

    US ProXCT Series Final Podium (L to R): Katerina Nash (Luna Womens MTB) fourth, Georgia Gould (Luna Womens MTB) second, Catherina Pendrel (Luna Womens MTB) first, Heather Irmiger (Gary Fisher/Subaru) third, Pua Sawicki (Ellsworth) fifth
    Article published:
    January 13, 2010, 23:08 GMT
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Bump 'n Grind out of 2010 US national series

    Just when the US Pro XCT calendar seemed to be finalized, the six-race national-level series shrunk to a five-race series on Wednesday. The Bump 'n' Grind, in Birmingham, Alabama, which was to be round four on June 5, decided not to pursue UCI categorization, and because all US Pro XCT series events must be UCI-sanctioned, the race will no longer be part of the Pro XCT series in 2010.

    "It was a surprise to me. It's not the end of the world, though, as the calendar is really packed," said USA Cycling's Mountain Bike & Cyclo-cross Director for athletics, Marc Gullickson to Cyclingnews, referring to the compilation of six World Cups, five US Pro XCT races, three Triple Crown events and the US National Championships that many of America's top cross country pros will attend throughout the season.  "It's still going to be a great series."

    The US Pro XCT has undergone several evolutions in the past three months. Originally slated for six rounds, the 2010 series was headed into its second year under the guidance of then-organizers the US Cup, who had licensed the series from USA Cycling.

    In early December, the US Cup stepped down from its series organizing role, leaving USA Cycling with full responsibility for the series. Even with the two organizations seemingly headed in different directions, the US Cup agreed to maintain its UCI-categorized Fontana round as the season opener for what then became a four-round US Pro XCT.  At the same time, the US Cup announced a new three-round, non-UCI sanctioned  Triple Crown series designed to offer pros more prize money and additional opportunities to race.

    In early January, USA Cycling added two more events to the US Pro XCT - the Mellow Johnny's Classic and the Sea Otter Classic - taking the total briefly back to six rounds.

    USA Cycling's Mountain Bike & Cyclo-cross Events Director Kelli Lusk said that the Bump 'N Grind race is still going...