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- Article published:
- February 21, 2013, 20:45
- Cycling News
High school MTB hits the big screen, Old Pueblo representation and spring racing
The National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) develops high school mountain biking programs for student-athletes across the United States. Formed in 2009, NICA is coming into the 2013 year with robust numbers and broad support from within the bike industry. NICA's coaching license program has grown to nearly 1,000 strong, and NICA anticipates having over 2,500 student-athletes race in one of the nine NICA Leagues. With the addition of the New York League, NICA now has leagues on the west and east coast. The high school mountain biking movement is well under way.
NICA premieres feature documentary film: "Singletrack High"
At the age of 16, many American kids trade in two wheels for four. Trusty steeds that once gave them freedom to explore on weekends now collect dust in the garage. For a growing number of high school students in Northern California, however, two wheels don't get dusty, they get dirty. Their lives continue to revolve around weekend rides, but now those rides have a finish line. These are the student athletes of the NorCal High School Cycling League. This is "Singletrack High".
The film premiered to a sold out audience on February 6 in Mill Valley, California. Singletrack High will be screening all over the USA in 2013 and beyond. Screenings are being hosted by NICA, NICA leagues, NICA teams, and other bike organizations looking to spread the word about high school mountain biking.
For a current list of screenings, click here.
To preview the "Singletrack High" trailer, click here.
Rider camps held in three separate leagues
To get riders ready for the starting line, NICA leagues recently held a variety of rider camps. The NorCal and SoCal Leagues offered both a beginner and intermediate camp to prepare riders for the 2013 spring season. With over 150 participants, the camps were a huge success. The Utah League, to help riders stay fit during the off-season (their race season is not until next fall), hosted a Winter Skills and Riding Camp for 64 participants, 12 of which were parents.
Lori Harward, the Utah League's Director said, "I know we say it all the time, we value camaraderie over competition, but while other sports talk about it - we live it."
All camps are taught by NICA licensed coaches, and often joined by special guest including pro-riders, nutrition specialists and strength trainers. For many of NICA's student-athletes, these camps are the foundation to a successful season and to building a stronger understanding of the fundamentals to riding and bike maintenance.
Three Arizona high school girls ride for a very memorable 24 hours
Celebrating its 14th year of singletrack in the Sonoran Desert at Willow Springs Ranch near Oracle, Arizona, the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo presented by Tucson Medical Center enjoyed sunny skies and record attendance. With 1,857 participants and nearly 4,000 total population in "24 Hour Town", the event remained the largest 24-hour relay mountain bike event in the US.
Thanks to the Arizona High School Cycling League and Sho-Air/Cannondale professional mountain bike team, three lucky Arizona high school girls enjoyed an extra special weekend. Zoe Dunn, Hannah Madler and Daisy Ward were selected to be teammates with seven-time national champion Pua Mata of the Sho-Air/Cannondale team. To get on the team, the girls had to answer some questions: Why should you be selected? What got you into mountain biking? What does mountain biking mean to you?
In addition to her young teammates seeing up close what it takes to race at an elite level, Mata also helped the girls boost their skills, gave them nutrition advice and race prep clinic, and all sorts of merchandise. Huge props to Mata for dedicating her time and effort to youth cycling when she could be gunning for a podium spot for herself. It is an act of generosity that can inspire all ages. Even if her three young teammates never turn pro, Mata's presence at minimum strengthened their love for a healthy, life-long pursuit.
Spring leagues' season openers
Two of the largest NICA leagues will have their season openers Sunday, February 24. The NorCal League, in an effort to accommodate its growth, is splitting into two conferences: a North and a South, producing two races at two separate venues, on the same day. Combined, they are anticipated to reach 600-700 riders, with 53 teams collectively. The split will create smaller fields to allow more room out on the single track for the student-athletes to become comfortable with racing while also allowing for more staff to be trained on how to run an event.
The NorCal League has provided more financial scholarships to student-athletes in need than ever before in the history of the League, haven given close to $15K in scholarships so far this season. The have also added a new venue this season at the Folsom Prison Property in Folsom, California. Working with local race promoter, Brian Joder, riders will enjoy a beautiful course through the foothills that back up to the massive stonewalls of the prison.
NorCal's southern neighbor, the SoCal League, is expecting well over 300 student-athletes at its opening race, which would be the largest SoCal League race ever. SoCal has expanded from 26 teams in 2012 to 36 teams for 2013, and they are already getting interest from people looking to form teams for 2014. SoCal will bring two new venues to their series: Sycamore Canyon in Riverside where the US Cup has raced the last two years, and Lake Perris in Perris California State Park. Part of the course will cross a sandy beach and include cyclo-cross style twists and turns on the grass. Both will make for fantastic spectating and a slightly different style course than riders are used to. This is the season when SoCal will surpass 1,000 unique riders served. By the end of the 2013 season, it is likely over 1,100 riders will have raced in a in a SoCal League race since its first season in Spring of 2009.
NICA upcoming events
February 24: NorCal and SoCal Leagues' Season opener
March 10: Texas League's Season Opener; NorCal and SoCal Leagues' second race
March 16-17: Utah Leagues' Leader Summit
March 23-24: Arizona Leagues' first Leader Summit
March 24: Texas League's second race; NorCal and SoCal Leagues' third race.
For a list of all upcoming NICA events, click here.
- Article published:
- February 22, 2013, 02:01
- Cycling News
Mountain biker to skip European campaign
Olympian Karen Hanlen successfully defended her cross country national title at the New Zealand Mountain Bike National Championships in Rotorua last weekend. However, despite her victory and her proven ability abroad, the Whakatane rider is using this year to stay closer to home.
She will try some alternative events, although she still has a firm focus on next year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Hanlen, a mother of two, is not planning a prolonged riding stint in Europe this year. "I have decided to stay closer to home and race more of our long distance iconic events."
This includes the Oceania Championships in Tasmania in Australia next month, and she is also hoping to again compete in the national Xterra Championships in Rotorua in April.
"I plan to have another go at Xterra if I can get myself accustomed to swimming and running again."
She hopes to also contest the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships which are in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa in late August.
"While I won't be in Europe, there is still plenty to keep me busy. My big focus is on next year's Commonwealth games in Scotland and so 2013 is about having more time with family and saving hard to make it all possible."
- Article published:
- February 22, 2013, 21:23
- Cycling News
Kulhavy, Giger, Engen and Lechner among the favorites
The 2013 Cyprus Sunshine Cup will kick off in Voroklini on Saturday, February 23 with several top riders in attendance. Among the men are Olympic champion Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized), Fabian Giger (Giant Pro XC Team) and Manuel Fumic (Cannondale) while eliminator world champion Alexandra Engen, Eva Lechner, Katrin Leumann and Blaza Klemencic top the women's start list.
Kulhavy won the Voroklini race last year, and he is hoping to repeat the success, however, he cautioned that it will only be the first intense effort in his build-up toward the Cape Epic stage race in mid-March.
For most of the other contenders, it will also be their first test of the season. Giger, who was second in Voroklini last year and won the overall Sunshine Cup, will likely be Kulhavy's biggest challenger. Last year, only two seconds separated the two top riders.
German national champ Fumic hopes to be with the front guys again. "There are top guns at the start line, and I want to one of them. My training was very good and I'm looking forward to the race on the nice course at Voroklini." In 2012, he lost contact with the leaders after a crash and finished fourth, 30 seconds back.
Fumic's two young teammates are two other riders to watch. Anton Cooper is fresh off winning the New Zealand national title while Keegan Swenson of the US will be kicking off his season.
Other podium contenders include Swede Emil Lindgren (Giant Pro XC Team), his teammate Henk-Jaap Moorlag of the Netherlands and Karl Markt (Oetztal Scott), who won the overall Sunshine Cup in 2011.
The women's race may boil down to a battle between Alexandra Engen, her Ghost teammate Katrin Leumann, Blaza Klemencic (Calcit Bike) and Eva Lechner (Colnago-Südtirol).
On the paper, Lechner should be the favourite as the 2011 cross country world championship bronze medallist.
"I take these races as a preparation for the Cape Epic and also the warmth of Cyprus to do some long distance training. Intensity, I had a lot in the winter," said Lechner, who just finished up her cyclo-cross season. At the 'cross Worlds in Louisville, Kentucky, she was close to a medal, but finished on sixth place.
Engen had some bad luck in Voroklini last year when she injured her wrist by a crash, but she wasn't dwelling on that. "Why should I think about the last year? I am looking forward to my first race. I like the course at Voroklini, and I am excited about how I will do. Before the first race you never know, whether you are a small moped or a Ferrari," said Engen.
Leumann also did some cyclo-cross racing this winter, but not at a level as high as Lechner. The 2010 European champion and 2012 Olympian from Switzerland is a podium contender along with the Slovenian Klemencic, who was fourth at the race last year.
Finally, women's junior world champion Andrea Waldis (Colnago-Südtirol) will also be mixing it up with her elders.
Last year's Voroklini winner, Annika Langvad, will not be competing.
- Article published:
- February 23, 2013, 15:20
- Cycling News
Scott Swisspower's Frischknecht also to race after broken foot
Their short-term quest is to crush the five-minute barrier on the "Slangetjie" Strava segment in Stellenbosch South Africa; but the primary early 2013 goal of Nino Schurter and Florian Vogel of the Scott Swisspower professional mountain bike racing team, is to shine at the 2013 Absa Cape Epic.
With less than a month to go until the start of the Cape Epic, the world's most prestigious mountain bike stage race, current cross country world champion Schurter and his teammate, Swiss compatriot Vogel are putting in some quantity mileage in the heat of the South African summer.
Based in Stellenbosch, a sport-obsessed university town about a 45-minute drive from Cape Town, Schurter and Vogel have been focussing on almost the opposite of what they did this time last year. Last February, they were lining up Olympic Games success in their sights - Schurter was narrowly beaten to gold in London, while Vogel finished 25th.
But while they excel in short races lasting up to 90 minutes, few would back them to be contenders for the overall win at the 800km, eight-day stage race, which starts on March 17, expecting possibly a stage win and a top-10 final finish. But Vogel and Schurter are backing themselves for a shot at the overall podium in their second Cape Epic participation.
"We have not been training to win just a stage. We have been training and preparing to do well in the overall," said Vogel. "Yes, we are not stage race specialists, but then not many of our rivals are either. We think we have as good a chance as anyone else."
"It is very sad there will be no Burry Stander in the race. And we know that Christoph (Sauser) and Jaroslav (Kulhavy) will get great sentimental support as they race in his memory. But it is still a race and as professional mountain bikers, we are treating it like any other race. In an eight-day stage race a lot of things can happen. We will try our best to aim for the overall," said Schurter.
Schurter and Vogel won't be the only Scott Swisspower riders at the 2013 Cape Epic. Thomas Frischknecht, the Scott Swisspower team manager and his race partner, Urs Gerig, will also be on the start line.
The pair originally had high ambitions, but these were dealt a blow when Frischknecht sustained a serious injury last November. After finishing fifth in the masters category in 2011, they were not only aiming to win the 40-years-and-over division in 2013, but also planned to be a back-up team for Schurter and Vogel. But Frischnknecht's broken foot was in plaster until the end of January.
"I just got back on my mountain bike in mid-February, with only one month left to the start of the Cape Epic. The ambition now is more to finish than anything else. It's tough, I don't want to miss the 10th edition of the event, and I'm sure I will get better from day to day," said Frischknecht.
Frischknecht, who turned 43 on Sunday, February 17, is an international cycling legend who retired four years ago from a long professional racing career that included five world titles (two MTB marathon, one MTB cross country and two cyclo-cross). But he's remained active within the sport, managing the Scott Swisspower team, coaching his son, Andri, and test-riding bikes for Scott Sport.
The team has also been testing equipment on rocky, rutted, and rooty terrain similar to what they will encounter in the Cape Epic itself.
It's uncertain just yet which model bikes and wheel sizes they will settle on for the Cape Epic, but they've been experimenting during their training camp. The last two editions of the race have been won in convincing fashion on dual suspension 29ers. It's a fact that won't go unnoticed in their decision.
- Article published:
- February 23, 2013, 19:41
- Cycling News
Cink and Litscher pair up as second Multivan Merida squad
Jose Hermida and Rudi Van Houts (Multivan Merida) will be building some early season form while participating in the six-day Andalucia Bike Race in southern Spain starting on Sunday. The pair hopes to defend their victory of last year.
The racers will compete in six stages in Cordoba and Jaén. In the Cordoba region, the climbs are not that long. However, the fourth and fifth stages may be much more decisive since the mountains of the Jaén region provide long climbs and demanding descents.
"This region is really mountainous, and as some stages have already been ridden at this point of the race, stages 4, 5 and 6 are likely to decide the overall standings," Hermida predicted.
"Of course, I want to repeat that win with Rudi. But there is some serious competition. With Carlos Coloma and Sergio Mantecon (Trek Wildwolf), two fast riders from the cross country World Cup are competing as well, and there are a lot of strong marathon specialists, too."
Both Hermida and Van Houts are using the Spanish race as preparation for the Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, where they will also team up.
"This race is perfect to find one's racing rhythm before South Africa's Cape Epic stage race. Last year the World Cup started very early, but this year it's a different story," said Van Houts.
Multivan Merida will be represented by a second team in Andalucia: Thomas Litscher and Ondrej Cink. It will be the first time both young riders race in the colors of the Multivan Merida Team.
"I have been working hard on my endurance throughout the winter, so I feel ready even for those long stages that are waiting in the second half of this race," said Cink. "I want to go for a podium position in the overall classification, but that's not going to be easy as we are facing experienced specialists for long-distance races such as Alban Lakata."
Litscher thinks the race will help his form by providing good training. "On one or two stages, I would like to take a shot at a good result with Ondrej Cink as well. But the most important thing for me is to get used to the new equipment during the next week. I will also work closely with the team mechanics to get the bikes dialed-in exactly to my liking. And I'm not worried about six days of continuous racing: Last year I rode the four-day TransGermany race, and it was a blast."
- Article published:
- February 24, 2013, 17:45
- Cycling News
Czech rider teams up with defending champion Sauser
Olympic cross country gold medalist Jaroslav Kulhavy is looking forward to competing in his first-ever Cape Epic mountain bike stage race in mid-March.
Kulhavy will team up with defending champion Christoph Sauser for Team Specialized Racing. Sauser had planned to defend his title with Burry Stander, but the South African was killed in an accident while training on January 3, and instead Sauser will ride with Kulhavy in memory of Stander.
"I feel great at the moment, but I know the race will be very hard," said the 28-year-old Kulhavy. "I started training later this season than last year."
"I think Christoph and I'll be a good combination. We've competed in several races together, and we're both very strong. If we don't have any trouble, there is a big chance for us to win stages and finish on the podium overall. We need a lot of luck!"Â
Kulhavy and Sauser are not doing any pre-race training together. "We'll see each other at races," said Kulhavy. "I train long hours at the moment and I'm riding about 200km per day. I need to lose 2kg before the Cape Epic."
2013 is a post-Olympic year and this season is already shaping up differently than in 2012, when all the top riders were focused on getting gold in London.
"I thought I'd have some more free time this season, but with the Cape Epic, then Sea Otter, the World Cups and so on, I'm going to be busy. The season looks difficult, but I look forward to it!"Â
Kulhavy reckons that his advantage over other riders is his "good technical control and high standard of performance". He proved his is in good form on Saturday by winning the Cyprus Sunshine Cup opener in Voroklini.
In his free time, Kulhavy has been building a new house. "I like to build in my free time and relax with my girlfriend, family and friends. I'd really like to finish the house this year and then lead a more relaxing life."
Kulhavy has been racing as a pro since 1996. Besides winning last year's Summer Olympics in London, he placed third at the World Cup overall. In 2011, he was both the World and European Champion. He was the Czech National Marathon Champion as well as European Champion in 2010.
- Article published:
- February 24, 2013, 20:52
- Dave McElwaine
Racers enjoy early season vibe of MBAA racing
Todd Wells (Specialized), along with other well-known North American pros, headed down to Fort Hauchucha in Arizona yesterday to race in "The Foray at the Fort". As expected, Wells put on quite a show for the crowd by racing with the intensity he normally reserves for World Cups.
"I have to get used to suffering again and that was a great race and venue to do it at," he said after winning.
The race at Fort Hauchuca took place where the tall grassy plains met the snow-capped mountains at an elevation of 5,000 ft. Riders were challenged with steep climbs and descents along with changing course conditions. Early in the day, the ground was wet due to snow earlier in the week, but later the sun dried the course making some of the climbs more difficult on the small pea stones. The pro men raced five five-mile laps while the women raced four laps.
TJ Woodruff (Momentum Endurance) finished second, 9:21 behind Wells. He had raced in the 24 Hours of Old Pueblo last weekend and was obviously still recovering. First-time pro Ryan Petry finished in second place.
Petry said after the race, "I had the unique opportunity to race Todd Wells, a mountain bike national champion and 2012 Olympian. Not whom I was expecting to face in my first pro race, but it really pushed me to work hard to get on the podium!"
Krista Park (Cannondale-NoTubes) opted to race with the singlespeed men to get a better workout. "It's great to be a girl," said Park, "lots of categories to choose from for MBAA's race. Think I'll sleep in then race the open men's singlespeed class at noon. More laps than the girls' race, and it'll be warmer."
She finished fourth but found that her gearing was not ideal. "Five laps of ups and downs, I geared right for the steep rocky bits, but was way spun out in other sections. Singlespeed open raced at the same time as Cat. 1, I would get blown away by geared riders, then take half a lap to catch them back and pass just to do it again the next lap. Gears are faster (on this course) but singlespeed is more fun!"
Beth Utley (Oro Valey Bicycles) won the elite women's race in a time of 1:54:56. She was locked in a battle with Jaime Brede (Honey Stinger/Bontrager) for much of the race. Brede had to settle for second place. Kata Skaggs (Adventure Bike Company) finished third.
Many of the top mountain bikers in the country choose Tucson, Arizon for their winter training. Tucson enjoys 350 days of sunshine a year, has a vibrant racing community, and the MBAA (Mountain Biking Association of Arizona) offers early season racing in the Arizona State Championship Series. Trek Factory teammates Sam Schultz and Russell Finsterwald, Chloe Woodruff (Crank Brothers), and TJ Woodruff (Momentum Endurance) are among those who make Tucson their winter base.
Wells said, "I can drive to Tucson from Durango [where he lives] in eight hours. I went to college here, and it only usually rains one or two days in the two months I am here to train. The temperatures are usually in the 70s or 80s (degrees Fahrenheit), and there are a lot of places to ride." A couple years ago, Wells invested in a Tucson home to use for his off-season training.
Arizona racers will get to race another round, number four, of the MBAA series in Estrella on March 9.
Check out the gallery here.
- Article published:
- February 25, 2013, 02:25
- Cycling News
Fry switches focus back to mountain bike racing from the road
Tasmanian mountain bike couple Rowena Fry and Ben Mather have teamed up this year to ride for Avanti Bikes.
Fry is taking a year away from European competition and returning her focus to a majority mountain bike racing program. She will concentrate primarily on the Australian domestic scene, racing cross country, marathons and stage races.
The six-time national champion, with titles in short track, cross country and marathon, is also a former Oceania champion and has won major events including the Highland Fling, Wildside MTB and Tour de Timor.
Fry has battled with health issues over the past two years but feels like they are now behind her. Last year, she had a busy schedule racing for the women's GreenEdge road team and competing at the cross country and eliminator World Cups. She scored a podium result in the latter.
Although Fry's cross country world ranking has dropped from the top 20, she is looking forward to a year at home before embarking on a campaign to compete at the Commonwealth Games in 2014.
"I have definitely under-performed the last couple of years. I'm happy I've finally been able to string together a solid pre-season. I'm feeling good and really looking forward to competing in all the great Australian races I've missed out on the last few years."
Mather is better known to the marathon scene and won the Australian marathon national championship in 2010. In 2011, he won the Convict 100 and finished runner-up in the Ottway Odyssey, the James Williamson Enduro and the Highland Fling. Also in that year, he finished second overall in the hotly contested National Marathon Series.
A major road race accident resulted in him breaking his collarbone and patella and put a damper on his 2012 season.
"It was a tough year. Every time I tried to increase my training load, I had knee problems. It was hard to watch the other guys racing, but has made me hungrier for success. This year I'm really looking forward to a solid marathon season and will be focusing on the national marathon champs in Atherton in April."
The couple has just finished hosting their own two-day mountain bike event: The Blue Dragon MTB Challenge.
"It's the perfect way to showcase our favourite riding area and allows us to be on the other side of the race tape for a change," said Mather. He capped off the event presentations with a surprise marriage proposal to Fry that sent the crowd into a wild cheer. She said yes.
Mather raced last weekend's Ottway Odyssey, finishing a creditable fifth on the tough 100km course. This weekend, the couple has travelled to Canberra to compete in the Australian mountain bike national championships hosted at Mt Stromlo. Fry finished third in the women's cross country and Mather was ninth in the men's race.
The pair will race 2013 Avanti Competitor hardtail 29ers.