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MTB News & Racing Round-up, Monday, November 22, 2010

Date published:
November 22, 2010, 0:00 GMT
  • La Ruta newbie Schultz ready for the challenge

    XC winner Sam Schultz (Subaru-Trek) looked inspired again today.
    Article published:
    November 16, 2010, 23:05 GMT
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    American faces tropical heat, mud for the next four days

    A few days ago Sam Schultz (Subaru-Trek) was riding in snow near his Missoula, Montana, home. Today he was facing tropical heat and humidity in Costa Rica on the eve of the La Ruta de los Conquistadores, a four-day mountain bike stage race crossing the country.

    La Ruta will start on Wednesday morning, with a 3:00 am wake-up call for the athletes.

    The American, who is a regular on the World Cup circuit during the main part of the season, will be racing his first mountain bike stage race. He finished the 2010 season ranked fourth in the US Pro XCT after winning the Subaru Cup round in Wisconsin mid-season.

    "I figure the snow is similar to mud and the cold is miserable to ride in and so is the heat, so I'm getting used to it in that way," the 24-year-old Schultz joked with Cyclingnews. "Being here is kind of a shock to the system."

    "I'm hoping that when I get back to Missoula, I will have missed shoulder season and I'll come back to ski season. I've dropped my skis off at the shop and so they'll be all ready to go."

    In the meantime, Schultz will contend with heat and humidity and a lot of mud, having picked one of the races with the toughest reputations for his first stage race outing. "That's the only way to go. If you're going to go, go all out," he said as he embarks on his first time riding in Costa Rica.

    "I thought the race sounded pretty fun, and I said yes. It's always been one of those races I've just watched, usually from a cold place in the winter time and you're just thinking about skiing. I always read about the race and it looks really hard, but I think it could be fun, too."

    The closest Schultz has come to a race like La Ruta thus far is a weekend of Pro XCT-type stage racing "with a cross country and a short track and maybe a time trial". He's also dabbled in a few road stage races.

    Schultz had another reason for making the trip. "If I stay in one place too long I get kind of...

  • Australia's best mountain bikers about to start summer season

    Troy Brosnan (Australia)
    Article published:
    November 17, 2010, 4:58 GMT
    Cycling News

    National series starts this weekend You Yangs near Geelong

    After winning more gold than any other nation at the world championships in September this year, Australia's best mountain bike riders will return to put on a show on home soil during the 2010-11 Jayco Australian Mountain Bike Series, which kicks off this weekend on November 19-21 at the You Yangs near Geelong.

    Riders will not only be vying for the series title and bragging rights, but AUS$40,000 in prize money which will be up for grabs over the summer domestic series.

    After the opening round at the You Yangs this weekend, the series then moves to Glenorchy Park in Hobart from December 10 to 12, where all disciplines - cross country, four cross and downhill - will feature. This will be followed by two stints in the Victorian high country, where the downhillers will take on the challenging terrain at Mt Baw Baw from January 14 to 16 before joining the cross country riders at Mt Buller from February 4 to 6.

    Coinciding with a massive weekend of cycling action in Shepparton from March 18 to 20, the series will hit its crescendo for the final round in conjunction with the 2011 Oceania Mountain Bike Championships.

    The national series provides an opportunity for not only the established stars to shine but the young guns to impress selectors ahead of the 2011 UCI World Mountain Bike Championships which will be staged in Champery, Switzerland next year.

    Mountain Bike Australia Sporting Director Chris Clarke said that he was looking forward to a hard hitting contest this summer season. "Following our successful world championships campaign, I expect the standard of racing to be higher than ever before," Clarke said.

    "However we have also been working hard to develop our young riders to ensure this success continues and we remain a force on the world stage in years to come. Although this is difficult due to funding cuts, we recently held a junior development camp to focus the direction of our younger athletes by providing...

  • No more outside support levels playing field at La Ruta

    Rebecca Rusch (Specialized) racing on day 1 of the Red Centre MTB Enduro.
    Article published:
    November 17, 2010, 5:51 GMT
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Women still have to go with the flow in overtaking uncooperative men

    La Ruta de los Conquistadors, a four-day mountain bike stage race in Costa Rica, is famously known as one of the oldest and toughest off road stage races. Celebrating its 18th running this year, the race challenges everyone mentally, but for years, the Costa Ricans have tended to have more than the usual home field advantage - in the form of outside support from other locals throughout the race.

    Sometimes the Costa Rican racers were supported by friends and family riding along on motos. Or they received mechanical assistance en route or extra assistance following the course, which winds its way through remote, mountainous territory across the country from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea. But new for 2010, La Ruta will not permit any outside support for the top racers in each category. The move comes in an effort to level the playing field for Costa Ricans and foreigners.

    "At La Ruta, anything can happen. If you take a wrong turn or something goes wrong with your bike, you never know. I'm glad this year they are not allowing any outside support," said Louise Kobin to Cyclingnews.

    "In the past, they've allowed support, but coming from the US, I've never had it," said the 42-year-old Kobin. "It'll be nice if other people can't have motorcycles running next to them. I think it'll make it a little different."

    Although as a foreigner she hasn't benefitted from the local support, that hasn't stopped Kobin from excelling. She's won La Ruta four times, and this will be her seventh time participating. While Costa Ricans traditionally win the men'srace, the women's race is different - thanks to Kobin's consistency and standout rides from a few others, it's often still a foreigner who wins during the past decade.

    Kobin has slowed down a little this year, racing less frequently - "I haven't done any other mountain bike stage races this year. I did a couple of 100-milers and a race up in Alaska this winter," she...

  • Harlan takes on La Ruta

    Blake Harlan (Team Jamis).
    Article published:
    November 17, 2010, 9:43 GMT
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Jamis racer to start fourth major MTB stage race of the year

    Blake Harlan is in Costa Rica to race his first-ever La Ruta de los Conquistadores. The Team Jamis racer is wrapping up a full season of racing, including three other mountain bike stage races. He'll start La Ruta on Wednesday morning with over 200 other competitors.

    "I've heard so many stories about this race," said the 23-year-old Harlan to Cyclingnews. "I'll try to race hard and come out of each day with a good story."

    Harlan had thought he would race the Brasil Ride mountain bike stage race ongoing presently, but after visa problems, the American changed his plans to come to Costa Rica instead for what is his first visit to the Central American nation.

    "I've been to Mexico, Belize and Honduras, but I've never been this far south," he said.

    Harlan, who is relatively young compared to most mountain bike stage racers, also raced the Trans-Sylvania Epic, the Breck Epic and the BC Bike Race this year.

    "I got my pro upgrade, and I was unmotivated to go to the Pro XCTs and get waxed every day," said Harlan of the motives behind his focus on stage racing. "You get a lot more out of these races, too. If you have a bad day, you still have a couple of more days to go. I've learned so much doing stage racing."

    In fact, the young rider is still learning the ropes of racing day after day off road and is determined not to repeat previous errors. "I made the same mistake in each of the three stage races this year. I always do something stupid the first day and then pay for it."

    He also gave some insight into his La Ruta race strategy which is something along the lines of when in Costa Rica do as the Costa Ricans. Local knowledge of the extremely rugged and usually muddy and steep terrain plays a major role in La Ruta, and among the men, a Costa Rican typically wins.

    "I'm hoping to follow a bunch of Costa Ricans," he said. "If they get off their bikes for whatever reason, I'll get off my bike. ...

  • Walder, Zumstein, Frischknecht join Scott-Swisspower

    Dominic Zumstein
    Article published:
    November 17, 2010, 16:18 GMT
    Cycling News

    Mountain bike team roster complete for 2011

    Under 23 racer Roger Walder and junior racers Dominic Zumstein and Andri Frischknecht have signed with the Scott Swisspower team for the 2011 season. The mountain bike squad has finalized its roster for next season. Marcel Wildhaber, Florian Vogel and Nino Schurter will remain with the team

    All of the team's athletes are already focused fully on next season, with exception of Florian Vogel. "He recently became the proud father of Lina, who was born on October 23. At the moment, he's got other things to change than tires," said Team Manager Thomas Frischknecht.

    Former cross country world champion Schurter is also facing new challenges. Fresh from winning the Freeride Mega Avalanche in Flims in early October, when he beat Julien Absalon's brother Remy Absalon, he is hungry for more and wants to win the prestigious Mega Avalanche in La Réunion although he's just spent two weeks on vacation off his bike.

    Wildhaber has been busily representing the team at cyclo-cross races, including the World Cup, and he's still got another 20 races to go, with half of them in Belgium and Holland.

    "It's his first season he is focusing 100 percent on the sport and the progress is already impressive," said Frischknect of Wildhaber. "He won two races in Switzerland. In Steinmaur, he was in front of Christian Heule and Dielsdorf and ahead of Swiss champion Lukas Flückiger. His 12th place at the World Cup in Pilzen, Czech, was also a highlight of his season so far."

    According to Team Manager Thomas Frischknecht, there was no room for Matthias Rupp and U23 world championship bronze medal winner Patrik Gallati, who will race in different colors next season. "We wish them all the best for their future careers," said Frischknecht, who said the team is sticking with its strategy of developing young talents under the leadership of its top pros.

    Scott Swisspower for 2011
    Andri Frischknecht

  • La Ruta racers head to the volcanos for third stage

    Milton Ramos leads Sam Schultz.
    Article published:
    November 19, 2010, 3:42 GMT
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Steepest climbs ever for some racers on day two

    After a day of brutally steep climbing during stage two on Thursday, racers at the La Ruta de los Conquistadores in Costa Rica will head into volcanic territory for the penultimate stage on Friday. They'll cover 85km from Terramall to Turrialba.

    "These are the most stupidly steep climbs I've ever done in my life," said current race leader Ben Sonntag (Cannondale) of Thursday's stage. "But I knew that from last year. People had told me before I came the first time, but I think you have to see it and ride it before you believe it."  The German lives and trains in Durango, Colorado.

    "I've never gone up anything that steep in my life," said Sam Schultz (Subaru-Trek) in his first major mountain bike stage race. "The only way we could make it up was by riding up some crazy, crosshatched pavement. I can't even describe it. It was gnarly."

    "Now I understand why everyone before the race said I'd want a triple chainring," said Schultz, who was riding a 2 x 10 drivetrain with a 26 x 36 as his lowest gear. "I was reaching for my shifter a bunch of times, and it wasn't going any further."

    Spanish racer Ismael Ventura reported that his bike computer read a 30 percent gradient for two straight kilometres during stage two. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing."  Many racers had to walk portions of the uphills.

    Sonntag's teammate Alex Grant, who is in second overall after two stages, noted that the third day of last year's race provided a "shake-up". "A lot can happen tomorrow," he said.

    "You climb for two hours. The upper part is tons of road, then there is a super long downhill, really rough. A lot of guys had issues with that downhill last year. I went over the top fo the climb (up the Irazu volcano) in eighth last year, but moved up to second or third on the downhill."

    En route, riders will have to follow concrete tyre tracks on a steep part. "You're totally on the rivet and you have to try not to...

  • Schultz ponders the World Cup vs. La Ruta

    Sam Schultz (Subaru - Trek)
    Article published:
    November 19, 2010, 18:48 GMT
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    World Cup mountain biker's eyes opened in Costa Rica

    Racing his first-ever major mountain bike stage race and visiting Costa Rica for the first time, World Cup cross country mountain bike Sam Schultz (Subaru-Trek) has learned a lot with just 50 percent of the event completed.

    "This is hard," he said after stage 2. He was speaking both of La Ruta and mountain bike stage racing in general. "I have a lot of respect for these guys. I don't think I'm physically or mentally cut out for this. Those guys went right from the start today - it's super impressive. I couldn't go with them.

    "I've learned everything. I knew nothing coming into it. I have more respect for how crazy this race is. I entered it thinking it'd be hard and crazy, but maybe I was a little cocky coming in. I've been cut down to size."

    Despite flats and getting lost on course on stages 1 and 2 respectively, Schultz still sits ninth in the GC.

    "Today, I got lost. I was out there for awhile and thought, 'This can't be right.'" After not getting much help from some well meaning, but understandably clueless locals on his detour,I made it back on course and just rolled it in. Getting lost is part of the La Ruta experience. If you don't get lost, you're missing out on something."

    On stage 1, Schultz, who seems to be taking it all with good humor, suffered two flat tires, the latter of which cost him a place in the top four, the lead group with whom he'd been riding at the time of the final flat.

    There's been some other interesting sights for Schultz. "I saw a moto submerged two-thirds deep in a mud bog," he said.

    "Then, this one time I was going up the steepest climb I've ever gone up, and there was this huge semi- truck coming. I don't know how it got stopped, but somehow he did. His brakes were squealing."

    Despite wishing he'd listened to advice to use a triple instead of a double front chainring, which offers lower gearing for the incessant, steep climbs, Schultz said he's...

  • Carmichael celebrates 50th birthday with La Ruta finish

    Chris Carmichael after the finish of La Ruta
    Article published:
    November 22, 2010, 21:13 GMT
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Armstrong's coach completes gruelling mountain bike stage race in Costa Rica

    Chris Carmichael, Lance Armstrong's long-time coach, completed the La Ruta de los Conquistadores mountain bike stage race in Costa Rica on Saturday. The Colorado Springs resident decided to do the race to celebrate his 50th birthday, which was a few weeks ago.

    "I've never done anything like that. It was cool," Carmichael told Cyclingnews on the sandy Caribbean beach on which the race finished after stage 4. "Every stage threw something at you. I'd think I was through the hardest part, and then there was something else. It kept knocking you down."

    Like most racers, he headed straight for the warm sea to take a dip after a rainy and muddy stage.

    La Ruta is considered by some to be the toughest mountain bike stage race in the world given the incredibly steep climbs and often extremely muddy conditions.

    "Costa Rica is great," said Carmichael of his time in the Central American nation, "especially the people, and I loved it."

    Carmichael's most famous client, Armstrong, has never competed in the race though he has been invited to come do it. "If Lance asks me about the race," said Carmichael, "I'll tell him it's hard as hell."

    When asked if he thought that Armstrong might ever do the race, Carmichael replied, "I can't speak for him, but I think he likes this sort of stuff."

    Carmichael placed 70th overall on general classification and third in his age category. He was part of a large contingent doing the race under the guidance and support of his business, Carmichael Training Systems.