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MTB News & Racing Round-up, Monday, February 13, 2012

Date published:
February 13, 2012, 18:00

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.

  • U23 MTB racers decide whether they will race elite World Cups

    National Champion Annie Last (Great Britain National Team) rode to her best World Cup result to date, cheered on by the home crowd
    Article published:
    February 8, 2012, 20:13
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Top-ranked young riders choose their category for 2012

    The UCI released the list of top ranked riders in the men's and women's under 23 categories and specified which riders will compete with the elite racers in the 2012 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup.

    Since the UCI separated the elite and U23 categories, it has allowed the top-ranked 10 men and five women in the U23 category to decide whether they will race with their fellow U23s throughout the World Cup or move up early into the elite category.  Either way, all U23 riders still have to race in their category at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships.  Racers make the decision prior to the first World Cup and then must stick to it all season until Worlds.

    Among the U23 men, only two racers elected to compete with the elites at the World Cups: Henk Jaap Moorlag of the Netherlands and Marek Konwa of Poland.  Top ranked Gerhard Kerschbaumer of Italy decided to stay among the U23s.

    A majority of the eligible U23 women have decided to race up, including top ranked Annie Last of Great Britain, Anne Terpstra of The Netherlands and Pauline Ferrand Prevot of France. 

    A complete list of U23 riders eligible to race with the elites is below.  Their UCI ranking and points are listed as of December 31, 2011.

    The U23 racers will compete in the first 2012 MTB World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, on March 16-18.

    U23 Racers eligible to compete in elite World Cups in 2012

    Men
    # Rider Name (Country) Team Result
    17 Gerhard Kerschbaumer (Ita) 955 (U23)  pts
    19 Henk Jaap Moorlag (Ned) 886 (Elite)  
    36 Marek Konwa (Pol) 598 (Elite)  
    49 Alexander Gehbauer (Aut) 480 (U23)  
    50 Matthias Stirnemann (Swi) 474 (U23)  
    60 Markus Schulte-Luenzum (Ger) 409 (U23)  
    68 Ruben Scheire (Bel) 326 (U23)  
    71 Michiel Van Der Heijden (Ned) 312 (U23)  
    83 Ondrej Cink (Cze) 294 (U23)  
    108 Dmytro Titarenko (Ukr) 231 (U23)  
    Women
    # Rider Name (Country) Team Result
    13 Annie Last (GBr) 1072 (Elite)  pts
    23 Yana Belomoyna (Ukr) 809 (U23)  
    27 Barbara Benko (Hun) 768 (U23)  
    32 Anne Terpstra (Ned) 693 (Elite)  
    35 Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Fra) 634 (Elite)  
  • Cooper and Neff to race Karapoti Classic

    Fiona Macdermid (Palmerston North) took out the pro women's race.
    Article published:
    February 9, 2012, 01:18
    By:
    Cycling News

    Top-ranked juniors are favorites for New Zealand event

    Top-ranked international-level riders Anton Cooper and Jolanda Neff are among 1000 starters lining up for this year's Merida Karapoti Classic on March 3-4.

    In 2011, Christchurch's Cooper created a slice of Kiwi mountain bike history when at age 16 he became the youngest winner of New Zealand's oldest mountain bike event, the Karapoti Classic. Cooper, who recently signed for Trek World Racing, returns to Wellington for the challenging 50km race in 2012, but so too does a Swiss rider who has been even more dominant than the Kiwi.

    Following the 2011 Karapoti Classic, the Christchurch school boy took the mountain bike world by storm, winning rounds of the prestigious World Cup Series in Italy and the Czech Republic and placing second in the world championships to finish the season as the number one ranked junior mountain biker in the world.

    As dominant as Cooper was, however, his female contemporary, Switzerland's Jolanda Neff, was even more so, winning her Swiss championship, the European championship and three rounds of the World Cup circuit. Illness at the world championship meant she finished fourth, but like Cooper she ended the season ranked number one among juniors worldwide.

    Cooper and Neff are the favourites to win overall honours when they line up for the slog around Upper Hutt's rugged Akatarawa Ranges.

    Neff is currently in Christchurch training through the New Zealand summer. She will tackle Karapoti for the first time, following in the footsteps of compatriot Nathalie Schneitter, who won the world junior title in 2004 and the Karapoti Classic in 2006.

    However, only New Zealand's Cooper and Australian Lisa Mathison, who was also a world junior champion, have won Karapoti while still juniors. Cooper, of course, won Karapoti in 2011 and Mathison won Karapoti in 2004, after winning the world junior title in 2003, and would actually finish second at Karapoti to Schneitter in 2006.

    So Neff could become just the third teenager to take out the Southern Hemisphere's longest running mountain bike event. But she'll face tough competition from the likes of defending champion Elina Ussher, 2009 and 2010 winner Fiona MacDermid and rising star Kim Hamer-Hurst, who could become the first Upper Hutt resident to win the race.

    While Cooper will be firm favourite among men, he will be pushed hard by the 2010 winner and runner-up, Tim Wilding and Brendon Sharratt, both of Wellington. Other contenders will include Upper Hutt's own Gavin McCarthy, who was third in 2006, and multi-sport world champion Richard Ussher, who was fifth in 2011.

    Race director Michael Jacques said Karapoti's iconic course could also turn the form book upside down. "The summer that never happened has left parts of the course very rough this year," said Jacques. "So I think the winners will be the rider who paces themselves and pay attention to tyre selection and tactics to avoid punctures and crashes."

    Established in 1986, the Karapoti Classic is limited to 1000 riders and typically sells out. Race director Jacques said entries have been slower to fill in 2012. "Normally we’d be sold out by now and starting a waiting list. But Christchurch's earthquake woes and the continuing recession are impacting events all over the country." He still expects the event to fill to its limit prior to race day.

    The 2012 Karapoti Classic features the usual 50km Classic, the 20km Challenge and the Kids 5km Klassic. This year, the event will also feature a novelty event, the Perverse Reverse, which will race the feature 50km course in reverse the day after the main event.

  • Top racers confirmed for 24-hour Solo Worlds

    Tinker Juarez (Cannondale)
    Article published:
    February 9, 2012, 18:39
    By:
    Cycling News

    Juarez, Wallace and Poidevin set for Canmore visit this weekend

    Many of the world's top elite male 24-hour racers are expected to battle for the 24-Hour Solo Mountain Bike World Championship title on September 14-16, 2012, when it returns to Canmore, Canada.

    Australia's Jason English (Merida Bikes) will be back to defend his title. He is also the current 24-hour solo Australian champion.

    Past 24-hour solo world champion Tinker Juarez (Cannondale Bikes) of the USA is also attending. He is a former 24-hour solo US champion.

    Current Canadian 24-hour solo champion Cory Wallace (Kona Bikes) was the runner-up in 2010 while Matt Page (Rocky Mountain Bikes) will be there for the UK as the current 24-hour solo UK champion. He's previously finished in the top 10.

    Others on the start line will include current 24-hour solo US Champion Josh Tostado (Trek Bikes), current 24-hour solo Czech champion Tomas Kozak (Focus Bikes) and Leighton Poidevin (Santa Cruz Bikes) of Canada. Poidevin has plenty of experience, including a previous fourth, seventh and eighth places at the 24-hour Solo Worlds.

    Finally, a previous runner-up at the 24-hour solo Worlds and the 24-hour solo US Nationals Kelly Magelky (Trek Bikes) will be there from the US.

    Athletes from 13 countries are already registered.

    During the weekend of February 10-12, three of the favorites - Juarez, Wallace and Poidevin - will travel to Canmore. They will participate in a "Community Dinner" on Friday evening, followed by a day of "Train with Tinker, Cory & Leighton" on Saturday morning. Later that day, Juarez will race Wallace in a "Dog Sled" race and then join in a meet and greet over beers (open to everyone) from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm.  For more information on this weekend's events, click here.

  • Australian All Mountain Cup heads to iconic Stromlo

    Chris Jongewaard descends a tricky part of the course as he heads towards another victory.
    Article published:
    February 9, 2012, 23:50
    By:
    Cycling News

    Jongewaard returns to action while King tops list of women's favorites

    After debuting in Perth and then surviving the heat in Mt Buller, the Real Insurance All Mountain Cup moves to Mt Stromlo this weekend, February 10-12, for round 3. The All Mountain Cup format, new for 2011-2012, encourages racers to compete in three different cross country formats over three days. Riders collect points from each race which go toward the overall general classification.

    Super D

    Friday afternoon will feature super D racing, a format that challenges the skills of riders with what is essentially a fast, long downhill course. With super D racing booming overseas, riders have been excited that the local season has followed the world trend.

    None may be happier about the presence of super D in the series than Joshua Carlson, who has won the elite men's super D in both rounds so far this season. Super D is racing is a focus for Carlson in 2012, and he has plans to spend significant time in the US racing the biggest races.

    In the women's field, overall season general classification leader Jenni King has been in white-hot form, winning both rounds, while 2011 national cross country Champion Katherine O'Shea was a close second in Mt Buller.

    Olympic cross country

    With the London 2012 Olympic Games looming, racing on Saturday is arguably even more important than usual, with riders racing lap-based racing in the traditional cross country Olympic format.

    While ultimately selection criteria is based on international performances, national-level performances are still important for riders to raise their profile and measure their form and preparation leading up to the international events.

    "It's an Olympic year, and that brings into focus the preparation of our top athletes," said Chris Clarke, Mountain Bike Australia's National Sporting Director, who due to the vagaries of Olympic methods couldn't confirm the number of positions available on the Australian team.

    "In terms of places, we have a guaranteed spot for the men, but for the women, we're relying on New Zealand.

    "They need to stay in the top 18 nations in the world for Australia to pick up the Oceania spot and thus be able to take a female rider to the games," Clarke said.

    In the men's field, racing has been fairly wide-open in cross country, with overall season general classification leader Andrew Blair the most consistent across the rounds, winning in Perth and placing third in Mt Buller.

    Also racing will be former national champion and 2008 Olympian Dan McConnell, who hit form in Mt Buller to take the win, and perennially fast ACT local Dylan Cooper. Missing from action will be another ACT local, Ben Henderson, who has been out of racing since early November due to an illness picked up while racing internationally.

    In addition to riders who have been performing well to date, the Stromlo round will mark the return of four-time cross country national champion and regular international racer Chris Jongewaard to the series. Jongewaard returns to racing after training over summer, and as always, he will be a massive favourite for any local race he enters.

    For the women's cross country, it’s again Jenni King who has the form in 2011-2012, she's yet to be defeated in any discipline this season at a national level.

    Rebecca Henderson will be one to watch with the 2011 Cycling Australia Elite Female Mountain Biker of the year owning an outstanding international season last year.

    While she hadn't been back from international commitments long enough to race the Perth round, Henderson had a strong second place in Mt Buller, and will be expected to put in a great performance on her home track.

    Point-to-point cross country

    Point-to-point racing takes place on Sunday. Riders will complete 25 kilometres of Stromlo Forest Park trails. With legs still tired from the days before, this race becomes a test of endurance in many ways. Sunday's winner can come from riders who prefer the longer distances, or sometimes even from a rider who has his or her Saturday race cut short by mechanical issues and arrives with fresh legs for the point to point.

    Canberra Off-Road Cyclists (CORC) will again be the hosts, and CORC is excited that the All Mountain Cup allows them to show riders the full scope of Stromlo Forest Park's trail network.

    Heading to the park brings up memories of the 2008 World Cup and the 2009 world championships. ACT Territory Venues and Events have been hard at work preparing the trails for racing after rain damage over Christmas.

    Super D action will take place on Friday at 4:00 pm. Cross country Olympic racing will happen on Saturday, with the elite women at 9:30 am and the elite men at noon. Sunday's point-to-point race will be a mass start at 9:00 am.

    Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for coverage of the Mt Stromlo round of the All Mountain Cup.

  • Fellows aims to defend title at Mountains to Beach

    Riders in the Mountains To Beach set out from the top of Australia
    Article published:
    February 10, 2012, 05:14
    By:
    Cycling News

    English and James among challengers expected at Australian MTB stage race

    The Mountains to the Beach mountain bike stage race will kick off in less than one month in Australia. The race will run from March 5-9, 2012.

    Queensland's Andy Fellows will return defend his title in 2012, while 2011 second place finisher Garry James will also be back and hot on his wheels to take this year's win. But both will be looking over their shoulder knowing the near 100-strong peloton also consists of 24-Hour Solo World Champion and 2010 winner Jason English and former Highland Fling champion Shaun Lewis.

    Over five days, riders will cover 400km from the roof of Australia to the surf beaches of the South Coast. The route entices both Australia's elite mountain bikers, as well as a field of everyday athletes keen to take in some of New South Wales' most stunning scenery, whilst pushing their physical and mental endurance.

    For the first time, the 2012 line-up includes a tandem mountain bike, with partially sighted rider John Domandl bringing his custom steed, piloted by race doctor Rob Watson.

    Riders will be transported by chairlift to the start line on the slopes of Mt Kosciuszko at Thredbo and over six timed race stages and five untimed cruise stages will cover all types of terrain. From challenging downhills in the rugged Alpine country; through lush rainforests, across rivers, creeks and sandbars, racers will eventually finish with a ride along the Australian coastline.

    "The route is looking cool and green after the damp conditions of recent month, but snorkels are optional," said event organizer Huw Kingston.

    For more information on the race, visit www.wildhorizons.com.au.  See last year's coverage of the Mountains to Beach.

  • USA Cycling Pro Gravity Tour (US Pro GRT) unveiled for 2012

    Jill Kintner (Transitions) on her way to winning US Pro GRT #3.
    Article published:
    February 10, 2012, 13:51
    By:
    Cycling News

    Six stops planned from April to August

    USA Cycling announced on Thursday the 2012 USA Cycling Professional Mountain Bike Gravity Tour (US Pro GRT) for 2012. In its fourth year, the series has expanded to six races and aims to provide a consistent stage of international-caliber events for elite gravity racers to showcase their downhill skills.

    The nation's top gravity racers will be looking to dethrone 2011 champions Cody Warren (DRD X-Fusion Intense) and Jill Kintner (Transition Racing) as the downhill-only series visits five states from April to August.

    The calendar will begin with a visit to Port Angeles, Washington, for the fourth consecutive year as the NW Cup will once again kick things off, this year on April 26-29. The Mountain Creek Bike Park will play host to the calendar's newest event, the Eastern States Cup in Mountain Creek, New Jersey, on May 20. The series will then head just up the road to Roxbury, New York, for Plattekill Mountain's stop on the Eastern States Cup on May 27.

    Things again heat up out west on June 9-10, when the Mountain States Cup - Chile Challenge offers riders a preview of the 2013-2014 USA Cycling Gravity National Championships venue in Angel Fire, New Mexico. The nation's top gravity riders will head back to New York the following weekend for the US Pro GRT’s fifth stop, the Whiteface Pro GRT 5K Downhill in Wilmington, New York. The only UCI category 2 event on this year's Pro GRT schedule, the Northstar Pro GRT will wrap things up in Truckee, California on August 3-5.

    Each of the six stops will offer series ranking points to top finishers, resulting in overall individual titles for professional men and women. The racers with the most points throughout the six-race series will be recognized as the best gravity athletes competing on American soil.

    The highest ranked Americans in the US Pro GRT overall rankings (provided he/she are in the top three) as of July 30, 2012, will also be an automatic selection to the United States' world championship team. In addition, Pro/Category 1 junior male athletes, racing age 17 or 18, with the fastest finishing time in each round of the USA Cycling Pro GRT Downhill series prior to July 30 will be placed into a world championship selection pool.

    For more information on the series, including current standings once the series gets underway, visit www.uacycling.org/progrt.

    2012 USA Cycling Pro Gravity Tour (US Pro GRT)
    April 26-29: NW Cup, Port Angeles, Washington (NE)
    May 20: Eastern States Cup - Mountain Creek, Mountain Creek, New Jersey (NE)
    May 27: Eastern States Cup - Plattekill, Roxbury, New York (NE)
    June 9-10: Mountain States Cup - Chile Challenge, Angel Fire, New Mexico (NE)
    June 16-17: Whiteface Pro GRT 5K Downhill, Wilmington, New York (NE)
    August 3-5: Northstar Pro GRT, Truckee, California (UCI Cat. 2)

  • Gallery: BH Suntour Peisey-Vallandry completes training camp

    The BH Suntour Peisey-Vallandry team at winter training camp
    Article published:
    February 10, 2012, 19:32
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    French team enjoys winter training to build fitness

    The BH Suntour Peisey-Vallandry team of 2011 cross country World Cup winner Julie Bresset held a winter training camp from January 14 to 21 at the CGH L'orée des Cimes résidence in Peisey-Vallandry, France.  Racers enjoyed some quality time spent together doing off-the-bike kinds of activities to prepare for the 2012 mountain bike race season.

    "It was good timing to break from long road training, but we continued to improve cardio-vascular and muscular functions with cross training in a great environment," said the team's Deputy Manager Pierre Lebreton to Cyclingnews. "Each year, when the riders return back home, they feel like they were on holiday although they trained a lot."

    The team enjoyed a stay in the mountain village, a good place for training in both the winter and summer. Activities included skiing, snowshoing and training in the onsite fitness room followed by recovery in the spa. In warmer weather, the team sometimes enjoys summer training at the same location given the wide range of trails and beautiful, nearby French road climbs (like the Col de l'Iseran and Cormet de Roselend).

    Two of the team's top racers, Maxime Marotte and Ruben Scheire, will start season in Cyprus at the Sunshine Cup.

    Bresset will start her season a bit later. "She gets in to shape quite quickly, and her objectives are far later," said Lebreton. "She will race around home and train hard."

    The entire team will make its collective start to the season in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Both the squad's cross country and marathon riders will be there. The first World Cup and the first French Cup in Saint Rapahël are among the first scheduled races of 2012 for the team.

  • Gallery: Multivan Merida Biking Team launched in Mallorca

    The seven rider Multivan Merida Biking Team
    Article published:
    February 13, 2012, 17:06
    By:
    Robin Wilmott

    Dahle Flesja and Hermida head perennially powerful squad

    North eastern Mallorca played host to the launch of the 2012 Multivan Merida Biking Team this weekend. An ever expanding annual event, a new location comfortably catered to over 300 assorted dealers, press and the wider Merida family. The snow which blighted the Tour of Mallorca was still visible in the hills, and a bitter northerly wind made the promotional hooded jacket an inspired choice, but at least the sun was shining.

    The Taiwanese manufacturer’s team is based in Germany, and manages to combine innovation, efficiency and a friendly atmosphere to great effect. With a seven-rider line up unchanged from the team that finished 2011 third in the UCI World Cup cross country rankings, one of this year’s aims is to reclaim top spot. But in Olympic year, many teams and riders are looking towards London in August, and Merida is no different.

    In Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja the team has a former Olympic and eight-time world champion, who after a maternity break in 2009 has again scaled the podium with wins at the European and national championships and sixth in the Worlds. At 38, she shows no sign of slowing down, and has another Olympic medal firmly in her sights. Two more World Cup event wins would make Gunn-Rita the most successful world cup rider ever.

    The 2010 world champion and team joker José Antonio Hermida enjoyed his custody of the rainbow bands last season. Showing strongly all year, his consistency brought fourth in the World Cup and world championships, and fifth in the UCI rankings, with his only victory being the Spanish title. After silver in the Athens Olympic games, Hermida is focussing this season on London, potentially his fourth Olympic Games. Although he hasn’t yet ridden the Hadleigh Farm course, there will be an opportunity in April after the Houffalize World Cup race, and will help to decide which of the three bikes at his disposal is most suited to the challenge. Having seen Julian Absalon’s crushing victory in last August’s test event, Hermida believes that he can still be a contender this year, and rates the Czech Republic’s current world champion Jaroslav Kulhavy as one of their biggest threats.

    Ralph Naef is hoping to banish memories of a disappointing 2011, when repeated back pains ruined the majority of his season. Wins at the Cape Epic and Andalusia Bike Race were as good as it got, but with the problem sorted, he hopes to represent Switzerland at the Olympic Games, and return to his winning ways.

    Long distance specialist Hannes Genze is one of Merida’s three-man marathon and stage racing team. Showing a remarkable jump up the marathon rankings of 158 places in 2011 to 17th, Genze still feels he can improve further.

    Jochen Kass is another strong all rounder, who has become equally adept at both cross country and marathon racing. Maintaining his place in the top 10 of the UCI Marathon world rankings despite few victories in 2011 shows Kass’s consistency.

    The final member of Merida’s long distance team is Swiss rider Andreas Kugler, who teams up with his German compatriots for certain stage races, and is hoping for more luck in 2012 after a 2011 season blighted by misfortune in critical races.

    Dutch 2011 mountain biker of the year Rudi Van Houts is aiming squarely at the Olympics in 2012, tailoring his race schedule accordingly. With improving results in World Cup races and the Dutch championship last year, Van Houts appears to be approaching his prime as a cross country racer.

    If everything falls in to place at its respective Olympic selection races, Multivan Merida could possibly boast up to five of their seven riders on the start line in London, which shows the strength in depth the possesses. The long term view taken by the team and team manager Andreas Rottler has created a stable atmosphere, within which its talented riders have flourished, and whose continued input has helped develop their range of hardtail and full suspension race proven bikes.

    Displayed alongside the trusty but rapid O.Nine 26” and Big.Nine 29” wheeled hardtails, and the Ninety-Nine 26” full suspension bikes was the new Big.Ninety-Nine 29” full suspension machine, which offers a new dimension for the cross country racer and endurance rider. Full details of this prototype bike will be announced were announced later in the weekend, and we’ll bring you a report including a test ride, and even a 2013 bike via our sister site Bikeradar.com.