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MTB News & Racing Round-up, Monday, April 25, 2011

Date published:
April 25, 2011, 1:00 BST
  • Graves fresh off Sea Otter double victory

    Former world champion Jared Graves takes gold
    Article published:
    April 21, 2011, 18:20 BST
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    In lead-up to first World Cup, Graves wins dual slalom, downhill

    Heading into the 2011 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, starting with four cross qualifying today, Jared Graves (Yeti) is one of the favorites for the four cross competition. Graves was the 2010 UCI Mountain Bike four cross champion and is a former four cross world champion.

    One week before the opening World Cup, Graves logged back-to-back victories in the dual slalom and the downhill at the Sea Otter Classic.

    "The Sea Otter weekend was everything I'd hoped," said Graves to Cyclingnews after the downhill. "I get straight on a plane from here and head to South Africa. Four cross World Cups are my main gig this year, but I'll do a few downhill World Cups too."

    Graves was especially excited to win the dual slalom. "I rode nice and smooth all day, and it went well," he said. "I've been wanting to win this one for a lot of years, and I'm really happy." It was Graves' first Sea Otter dual slalom win.

    "I've been on the podium a lot, but I've never won in six or seven times."

    The morning after the dual slalom, Graves descended to victory in the Sea Otter downhill, on a track that required a lot of fitness and pedalling. That form could come in handy in South Africa as the downhill course is also expected to require a high degree of fitness for success.

    "My (downhill) run was good. I tried to keep it smooth and pace myself from top to bottom," he said. "I was pacing myself and there were some places I could sit up and afford to lose a bit of time and get some rest."

    "I felt...

  • Under 23 racer Ettinger now mixing it up with the pros

    Stephen Ettinger (BMC) has been one of the top riders all season
    Article published:
    April 21, 2011, 22:13 BST
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    BMC Development Team racer consistently placing in US Pro XCT top 10

    Stephen Ettinger has found himself consistently mixing it up with North America's top cross country and short track racers this season. At the Sea Otter Classic this past weekend, he finished seventh in both the short track and cross country, and it's easy to forget that Ettinger is still an Under 23 racer.

    "It's been cool to be racing with these guys," said Ettinger to Cyclingnews after competing with the likes of Max Plaxton, Todd Wells, Jeremiah Bishop, Sam Schultz, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and Adam Craig this past weekend.

    "I've had their posters on my walls growing up. It's what I've been working toward for a long time and it's coming together. It feels good and it's motivating. I love it," he said.

    Ettinger, who is riding for the new BMC Development Team this season, turned heads earlier this season at the first two US Pro XCT rounds. In Bonelli Park, he finished 10th in the cross country and sixth in the short track. In Fontana, he placed 12th in the cross country and third in the short track.

    "The new team is good - it's very supportive and it takes a lot of stress off of us to have a good group of people around us and take care of us. It feels good to be part of a good program."

    It's the first season Ettinger is fast enough to routinely mix it up with the elites. "It's better than I ever thought it could be," said Ettinger, who is 21 and will turn 22 this year. It's his last year as an under-23.

    At the Sea Otter cross country, Ettinger was racing...

  • English and Douglas aim to defend 24-hour solo national titles at Mt. Stromlo

    Jason English on his way to winning the Australian Marathon Championships
    Article published:
    April 22, 2011, 13:02 BST
    By:
    Cycling News

    Australian 24-hour Solo Championships happening this weekend

    Australia's most grueling solo mountain bike race will take off this Saturday at Stromlo Forest Park, Canberra, bringing together the nation's best endurance riders for the Australian 24-Hour Solo Mountain Bike National Championships.

    All eyes will be on world champions Jason English of Port Macquarie and Victorian Jessica Douglas as they attempt to claim their third consecutive Australian Solo 24-Hour titles after back-to-back victories in 2009 and 2010.

    As one of the major Australian qualifying events for the 24-hour Solo World Championships in October, more than 200 competitors will take to the start line of the 11km circuit renowned for its technical rocky climbs and fast descents.

    This weekend's racing promises to be challenging and filled with adrenalin.

    In addition to English, top men's contenders include last year's bronze medallist Scott Chancellor and last year's fourth place finisher Brett Bellchambers.

    In the women's race, Douglas will be challenged by last year's silver medallist Claire Graydon and Joanna Wall, who will be riding this championship event for the first time.

    The Australian 24-Hour Solo Mountain Bike Championships will kick off on Saturday, April 23 at noon.

    For more information, visit www.solo24hour.com.au.

  • Gilbert hungry for win at Liège-Bastogne-Liège

    Fléche Wallonne winner Philippe Gilbert on the podium.
    Article published:
    April 22, 2011, 19:37 BST
    By:
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Belgian rider is the favorite after recent string of successes

    After racking up three wins in a row in the last two weeks, Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) is the top favourite for the win in cycling's fourth Monument of the season, Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

    On Friday afternoon, a relaxed Gilbert talked with the international press in the team's hotel in Maastricht, The Netherlands. Gilbert said he wouldn't mind trading all of his earlier wins for a first win in Liège.

    "It's the most important race of the season and of my career. If I don't win, I will not be happy. It's the highest achievable goal for me. It was the race I dreamed of ever since I was a junior. It's a big thing to be the favourite at the start. If I can win, it will be amazing. I'll exchange it for all my other victories. I really want to win Liège," Gilbert said.

    Twelve years ago, the late Frank Vandenbroucke was the last Belgian to battle for the win in Liège. Vandenbroucke had then claimed he would win Liège-Bastogne-Liège and specified that it would happen with an attack on the Côte de Saint-Nicolas.

    "I will not say that I will win like VDB," said Gilbert. "I will not talk like that because I'm not sure to win. I will never say that I'll win on Sunday."

    During his previous attempts for glory on home soil, Gilbert fell short on the demanding course. On Friday, he expressed his hope that this year would be different.

    A key point in the race is the climb of the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons. "I lost the race two times there, so I hope to have a different race this year. Now I have a strong team. I can let the team work and ride more on reserves than last year," Gilbert said.

    Due to his win in the

  • Lopes still giving the younger pros a run for their money

    Brian Lopes (Oakley) takes the silver medal
    Article published:
    April 22, 2011, 20:22 BST
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Former world champion races short track, dual slalom at Sea Otter

    Former World Champion and mountain bike legend Brian Lopes made it to the finals in the dual slalom at the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California, this past Saturday. Then he met his match in 2010 four cross World Cup winner Jared Graves, who ended up winning the event, but Lopes was the only man in the dual slalom race that had also raced the elite short track the previous day.

    Lopes is a four-time mountain bike world champion with 20 years of experience as a pro cyclist. He has won nine national titles, six World Cup championships and four world championships, and according to his website, he has more UCI World Cup career wins than any other male mountain biker in the history of the sport. Prior to racing as a mountain biker, he had a BMX career.

    "I didn't have much left in the tank coming down to the finals," said Lopes, who employed a tactical approach of planning his runs by whether he was on the faster or slower track of the dual slalom course.

    "My goal was always to try to win on the slow side and then I could relax on the faster side and still go on to the next round and kind of get almost a rest round. Going into the finals with Graves, I was on the slow side again and he had a little lead going into the last straight, which is really slow on the red, so I figured I'd just recoup and give it everything I had on the last run. It was too little too late against someone too strong." It was the voice of experience.

    The mostly retired Lopes isn't afraid to come out and race with much younger competition - even in the very intense discipline of short track. "I've...

  • Davis, West Virginia drops plans to host US Collegiate MTB Nationals

    Rotem Ishay (Fort Lewis College) en route to a collegiate cross country national championships
    Article published:
    April 22, 2011, 23:45 BST
    By:
    Cycling News

    USA Cycling seeking alternate 2011 venue

    USA Cycling announced last week that it is seeking a new venue for its 2011 Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships, scheduled for October 28-30.

    The original host for the event, the Timberline Resort in Davis, West Virginia, was forced to step down due to some unanticipated, off-season changes to the would-be venue.

    USA Cycling said it is confident that it will soon secure a new, top-notch venue capable of hosting cross country, short track, downhill, and either four cross or dual slalom events.

    Race organizers interested in promoting the event over the weekend of October 28-30 can see the Request for Proposal (RFP).

    The 2010 Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships were held in at Northstar-at-Tahoe, California. Fort Lewis College and Brevard College won the division one and two categories respectively.

  • Gwin ends downhill World Cup win drought for United States

    Tracy Moseley and Aaron Gwin, World Cup leaders
    Article published:
    April 25, 2011, 20:20 BST
    By:
    Cycling News

    Moseley's victory adds to Trek World Racing's perfect day

    Aaron Gwin and Tracy Moseley led the Trek World Racing team to a double victory in the opening downhill UCI Mountain Bike World Cup on Sunday in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.

    In addition, Gwin brought the United States its first downhill World Cup win since 1999. His achievement marked the end of a long drought which had followed a period of American excellence in the early days of competitive mountain biking.

    "I'm pretty speechless actually. It's a dream," said Gwin.

    For Moseley, it was her first World Cup win in the coveted rainbow jersey of the world champion.

    In qualifying, Gwin placed seventh. He spent much of the remaining time working with his team's mechanics to find the ideal set-up for what was going to be a much faster and drier race.

    It was Gwin's eighth World Cup podium finish, but his first win, especially important as it came in his first major race with his new team. Gwin made the jump from Yeti with the start of the new season.

    "In the first sector [of my final run] I made a little mistake, hitting some trees with my shoulder, but then I just regrouped and put as much power down as I could in the middle sector," said Gwin.

    "By the end, the legs were really feeling it, and then it was a pretty nerve wracking waiting in the hot seat. The whole time here in South Africa with the team has been so great."

    Moseley had done the same thing in 2009 - won the Pietermaritzburg opening World Cup in her first race for the team. This year's 2011 victory was her 13th career World Cup win and her third for Trek World Racing.  Moseley was probably the only downhiller racing the World Cup who had competed in the Cape Epic mountain bike stage race just a few weeks ago.  She said the fitness she attained...

  • Schurter wins latest battle with Absalon

    Nino Schurter (Scott Swisspower) showed himself to be the best technical rider on Sunday as he was the fastest consistently through the rock gardens
    Article published:
    April 25, 2011, 21:55 BST
    By:
    Cycling News

    Familiar result for Schurter in World Cup cross country opener

    The end of Saturday's opening cross country World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, seemed familiar. By about the halfway point of the race, only two men remained at the front: 2010 overall World Cup winner Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower) and former Olympic and World Champion Julien Absalon (Orbea).

    The pair seemed evenly matched and the race was reminiscent of the opening World Cup in 2010 in Dalby, where Schurter outsprinted Absalon at the end of the race. Schurter had also battled and outsprinted Absalon the end of the 2009 World Championships.

    "Today, Julien and I were riding at the same high level," said Schurter.

    Although the lead duo was constantly pursued by Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized), world champion Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida) and Marco Fontana (Cannondale), it ended up being a case of last year's World Cup winner Schurter, a former junior and under 23 world champion, vs. Absalon, the most winning cross country athlete of all time.

    Lap after lap, Absalon seemed to be the stronger climber and Schurter seemed to be the better technical descender. The two traded turns at the front depending on where they were on the course.

    Each lap, Schurter looked a bit smoother on a downhill, technical rock garden about 1km from the end of the lap. With just over one lap to go, Schurter perfectly executed a smart tactical move that played to his strength. He pushed the pace on the downhill and he got a small gap on Absalon when the Frenchman made a mistake on the rough terrain.

    Schurter gained about 10 seconds, which proved to be the key to the race victory.

    "The only...