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MTB News & Racing Round-up, January 22, 2010

Date published:
January 22, 2010, 0:00 GMT
  • New Zealand mountain bike series heads to Nelson

    Sabrina Jonnier (Team Maxxis- Rocky Mountain) races to victory.
    Article published:
    January 21, 2010, 14:56 GMT
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Tougher cross country, downhill competition for South Island final

    The RaboPlus 2010 New Zealand Mountain Bike Cup continues this weekend in Nelson with the final South Island stop. Nelson continues its strong and enduring pedigree of hosting national-level mountain bike events. The Brook and Maitai Valley race courses are tried and tested, having previously being used for National and Oceania Championship contests over recent years.

    In the elite cross country races on Saturday, two athletes are going for three-peats in the South Island portion of the series. Brendon Sharratt and Amy Laird have won their respective races at the first two New Zealand Cup rounds, but may face some stiffer competiton this weekend.

    Sharratt will race current New Zealand Champion Stu Houltham in his first national outing this summer, as well as two Under 23s with the potential to push hard at the front of the field: Carl Jones and Alex McGregor. McGregor has recently returned to mountain bike racing after several years racing on the road, but he had some mechanical issues in his Dunedin race start that took him out of contention.

    Laird continues to impress in the elite women's cross country field, having switched disciplines from downhill to cross country last year. Under 23 National Champion Katherine O'Neill joins the New Zealand Cup this weekend to bolster the combined elite and under 23 women's race. She will have been following Laird's impressive wins with interest.

    Sunday's downhill race continues what has been a high energy and exciting start to the New Zealand Mountain Bike Cup at previous rounds in Christchurch and Dunedin. The elite men's field is one of the strongest seen this early in the season, with Trek World Racing professional Justin Leov having the measure on his rivals, but only just!

    Several racers have been only fractions of a second from upsetting the form card and besting Leov - in this sport only the slightest mistake or missed line can be the difference between the top step of the...

  • Dean Racing Development / Tomac announces 2010 team

    New Zealander Kieran Bennett won the downhill
    Article published:
    January 21, 2010, 17:38 GMT
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Bennett leads new squad focused on American gravity racing

    Industry veteran Dylan Dean is behind the creation of a new professional mountain bike team, Dean Racing Development (DRD). The program is aiming to help top athletes while guiding younger talent toward future careers. The new team will include pro racer Kieran Bennett of New Zealand and three Americans: Robin Baloochi, John Keep and junior Brad King.

    "It's a well balanced team," said Dean. "We have experienced riders, whom I have had the privilege of working with in the past, and a couple of young talents who can be developed in the perfect environment."

    "Our focus will be here in North America, primarily the Pro Gravity Tour, where I am confident that we can perform extremely well. I look forward towards this inaugural season and working with our new sponsors!"

    Bennett offers the team a competitive force and riding style which are highly visible on and off the track. As former New Zealand and Oceania Champion, Bennett will be a force to reckon with on the GRT circuit.

    Baloochi returns to competitive mountain bike racing after a small hiatus to further his schooling. He brings a wealth of knowledge in downhill and four cross, having been competitive on both the national and World Cup circuit.

    Keep and King are two young riders who will benefit from the experience of their teammates. Keep is a highly regarded downhill racer, having already accomplished his goal of winning the California State championship in his first year as a professional. With great success at a variety of nationally recognized events, King will be acontender in the junior category and make a strong bid for the US National junior downhill team.

    Official team sponsors and supporters will be announced at a later date; however, Tomac Mountain Bikes will be providing the team with its frames.

    "I am a big fan of gravity racing, but there are so few programs that we want to be involved in," said Tomac's Joel Smith. "Dylan's team is...

  • Bishop, Juarez strengthen Cannondale Factory Racing team

    Jeremiah Bishop at the end of the stage.
    Article published:
    January 22, 2010, 9:40 GMT
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    2010 squad expands its American mountain bike presence

    With the signing of American racers Tinker Juarez and Jeremiah Bishop, the Cannondale Factory Racing team is expanding its reach into the US. Both riders have made the move from the MonaVie Cannonale team.

    They will join the other team members - all Europeans - including World Marathon Champion and 10-time Belgian champion Roel Paulissen, who will serve as team leader, and Italian Marco Aurelio Fontana and Swiss Martin Gujan.

    Juarez is a two-time US Olympian who primarily races endurance events such as marathons, stage races and 24-hour events. Bishop is a former US national short track and marathon champion who's been excelling the past few years in endurance events such as stage races.

    "I think that joining the Cannondale Factory Racing team is an incredible honor. If you look at the group of athletes on the team, it's great to part of this team," said Bishop to Cyclingnews. "Having increased support this year will make a difference in the races I'm set to tackle."

    "I still plan to focus on specific endurance races and some cross country races. I'll probably mix more cross country races back into the season," said Bishop. "It's all come together quickly for me, and I can't wait to get started on the racing season."

    Previous Cannondale sponsored international-level mountain bike teams have included Volvo-Cannondale and MonaVie-Cannondale. The company has also supported regional teams such as the Bear Naked / Cannondale team and the SoBe / Cannondale team.

    "As we look to the future and how Cannondale will continue to support mountain bike racing and its elite athletes, we recognize the opportunity to create a global mountain bike platform, the Cannondale Factory Racing (CFR) team," said Rory Mason, director of sports marketing for Cycling Sports Group.

    "Cannondale is committed to push the boundaries of innovation and technology in order to give athletes the bikes they expect for world class...

  • USA Cycling sets 2010 American Mountain Bike Challenge calendar

    Australian Sid Taberlay (Sho-Air) was the winner of the AMBC's Idyllwild Spring Challenge in 2009. He's shown here racing at Santa Ynez.
    Article published:
    January 22, 2010, 11:52 GMT
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    21 events in 16 states

    USA Cycling announced on Friday the dates and venues for its 2010 American Mountain Bike Challenge (AMBC). All AMBC events will serve as qualifiers for the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships on July 15-18 in Granby, Colorado.

    Entering its 14th year in 2010, the 21-race AMBC series will visit 16 states over a period of seven months. Action will kick off with the South Eastern Regional Championship Series (SERC) opener in Gainesville, Florida, on March 14, and will conclude with the Piney Hills Classic in Ruston, Louisiana, on October 24.

    The series has picked up two new events: the 17th Annual Barking Spider Bash in Boise, Idaho, on April 10 and the Bear Creek Challenge in Macungie, Pennsylvania, on August 1.

    Each stop on the series offers cross country events, and several stops offer short tracks, downhill, time trials, or super D competitions, too.

    The top ten finishers in each respective age group and ability category at an AMBC event will qualify to compete at the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships. Visit the AMBC webpage to learn more about the nation-wide calendar.

    2010 American Mountain Bike Classic Calendar
    March 14: Southeastern Regional Championship Series #1 - Gainesville, Florida
    March 28: Chickasaw Trace Classic - Columbia, Tennessee
    April 10: 17th Annual Barking Spider Bash - Boise, Idaho
    April 11: Southeastern Regional Championship Series #3 - Bryson City, North Carolina
    April 25: Southeastern Regional Championship Series #4 - Winder, Georgia
    April 25: Greenbrier Challenge - Hagerstown, Maryland
    May 1-2: The Idyllwild Spring Challenge - Idyllwild, California
    May 2: Southeastern Regional Championship Series #5 - Huntsville, Alabama
    May 2: Stump Jump - Spartanburg, South Carolina
    May 16: Southeastern Regional Championship Series #6 - Ducktown, Tennessee
    June 12-13: Southeastern Regional Championship Series #7 -...

  • Montoya back to winning ways after injury

    Paolo Montoya (GT Bronello Pro MTB Team) racing in Costa Rica
    Article published:
    January 22, 2010, 13:46 GMT
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    GT-Brondello Pro Team rider recovered from broken collarbone

    Paolo Montoya (GT Brondello Pro Team) is back to racing after six months off the circuit due to injury, and he started 2010 on a good note with his first win at the Clasica de Palmarin last weekend in Costa Rica, where he defeated multi-time La Ruta de los Conquistadores winner Federico Ramirez.

    "Today was one of the hardest performances of my entire career. I'm very satisfied with the result. Hot temperatures and tough slopes characterized the race," said Costa Rica's Montoya, happy that his win had quelled his doubts about his form following his comeback.

    "There were two hard uphill sections and one quick, technical downhill.  It was mentally a hard race."

    Ramirez led the race until the first uphill while Montoya marked his rival. Upon reaching the second uphill, Montoya made his move, pushing the pace to grow the small advantage he'd earned on the preceding downhill.

    Montoya broke his collarbone last season and underwent surgery a few days later.

  • Batty joins Trek World Racing

    Emily Batty is riding for Trek World Racing in 2010.
    Article published:
    January 22, 2010, 18:49 GMT
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Rising Canadian cross country star completes team roster

    Emily Batty signed with Trek World Racing for the 2010 season. The addition of the talented, young cross country star complete the team's 2010 roster. Like the team, the Canadian Batty will focus on World Cup racing.

    "I'm so excited to be taking this next step in my racing career," said Batty. "I can't wait to get out there and continue to improve as an athlete."

    For the past two years, Batty has raced for Trek Store Toronto. Though she will turn only 22 in June and remains in the Under 23 category, she's impressed many with finishes like a top-10 at the Offenburg World Cup in Germany.

    "I have been so well supported by Trek Store Toronto and without them I wouldn't have been in the position to make this progression," said Batty of her former team. "With Trek World Racing there is a continuation of the equipment I love, and a lot of experience with the other riders and staff."

    Batty will race primiarly in World Cups and the World Championships, which will take place on home soil in September at Mont-Sainte-Anne in Quebec. She will commence her season with US Pro XCT races in Fontana and at Sea Otter, both in California. She'll also race the Swiss Bike Trophy Race in Bern in late June and various Canadian Cups and the Canadian National Championships.

    Batty joins Swiss brothers Mathias and Lukas Flueckiger to bring the cross country roster up to three riders in addition to the team's four downhillers.

    "I've gotten to know the Flu Brothers over the past season, and they seem like really great guys, very dedicated, and I'm honored to be riding the World Cup weekends with them."

    "Emily is such a talent. She impressed me greatly with her ride in Offenburg last year and has endeared herself to fans and media alike all over the world," said Team Director Martin Whiteley.

    "It's not often in women's cross country that relatively young riders show their potential so early in an elite field, but Emily has...

  • Leadville winner Rusch takes on Trans Andes with Smith

    Rebecca Rusch rides toward a Leadville 100 win.
    Article published:
    January 22, 2010, 19:36 GMT
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    First-time teammates looks forward to mountain bike stage race

    Jennifer Smith and Rebecca Rusch are teaming up to race the Trans Andes mountain bike stage race, which kicks off on Monday, January 25 and runs through January 30.

    Smith, 36 hails from Westport, New Zealand, but has called Gunnison, Colorado, home for the past 10 years. The 41-year-old Rusch, winner of last year's Leadville 100, resides in Ketchum, Idaho.

    The pair will race under the team name La Diosas, which means "The Goddesses". Rusch explained the team's name, "I am not one to regularly call myself a goddess, but this is what all the locals were calling my mostly female Eco Challenge team in 1999 when we raced to a historic fourth place finish amongst mostly male teams. This is the first time I will be returning to the Lakes district of Patagonia since that race."

    Fondly recalling her experiences of Patagonia, Rusch said, "It is one of my all time favorite places in the world, so I wanted to honor the name I was given so many years ago by the locals. Also, Jenny and I agree that no matter what bike we're riding, our collective goal is to encourage and inspire women in all parts of the world to ride, race and explore on a bicycle."

    The race will give Smith her first opportunity to travel to South America, but that doesn't mean she's lacking travel or stage race experience. She raced the Cape Epic with then Trek/VW teammate Sue Haywood in 2008, and also raced the short-lived American Classic Mountain Bike Race in Utah that same year.

    Smith jokes that she might be able to get in shape by chasing Rusch around, but Rusch points out that Smith beat her previously in both the Cape Epic and the American Classic Mountain Bike Race. The pair should be well-matched, and Rusch's multi-day adventure racing background will serve them both. "Adventure races are similar to stage races in terms of preparation, team racing and planning," said Rusch.

    Smith is excited to race with Rusch - for the first time...

  • Leov aims for back-to-back wins

    Justin Leov (Trek World Racing)
    Article published:
    January 22, 2010, 22:30 GMT
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Fresh of Dunedin victory, New Zealander looks to Nelson

    Trek World Racing's Justin Leov took his first win of the 2010 downhill season last weekend in the second round of the New Zealand Mountain Bike Cup, which was held in Dunedin, a city Leov has recently made his new home. The New Zealander is looking forward to another win this weekend at round three Nelson.

    After Sam Blenkinsop (Lapierre) took the round one win, he had to sit out round two with a suspected broken wrist. That left the door open for Leov and others.

    In qualifying, reigning Junior World Champion Brook MacDonald set the fastest time, one second quicker than Leov, with 2006 Junior World Champion Cameron Cole in third.

    "I was unhappy with my riding in the seeding run," said Leov. "I didn't feel like I pushed myself hard enough, so after a re-think I got myself in the right mindset for the race run."

    With his head in the right place, Leov faced unusual conditions on the technical track. The start house and the top third of the course were shrouded in thick fog and misty drizzle. On the way down, as if crossing a magic line, riders were then suddenly under clear skies and warm sunshine on a dry course.

    Times were a lot faster in the final with Cole going into the hotseat with a time five seconds faster than his qualifying. Leov was the next to appear, lopping a massive seven seconds off his qualifying, and two seconds faster than Cole, giving him the hotseat.

    "My run felt like the one I was hoping for; really smooth up top and in the rock garden I was fully committed and I got through it the best I had all week. After getting through that section so cleanly, it set the tone for the rest of my run," said Leov.

    "Taking the hotseat I just waited to see if Brook could better it, which he didn't and came in third. I was not so concerned with the race result. At this point in time I'm more looking at how my riding is going in race runs. I'm happy with this one for sure."

    Leov will get to race...