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- Article published:
- October 4, 2012, 23:28
- Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor
Young squad expands for 2013
The Bear Development Team will be expanding to include an elite women's development mountain bike squad in 2013. Five young women will make up the new ladies' team, which is being run by Julia Violich.
Stu Bone started Bear Development, which had its first season, with only male racers, in 2012. "The genesis of the team was an accident. I never set out to create a junior biking team," said Bone to Cyclingnews. "I just knew a lot of kids from Santa Cruz. They were winning races regionally and deserved to be at national caliber races, but didn't know how to get to them."
"As soon as we had a guys' program, I felt like we needed to have a women's program. [Pro road racer] Evelyn Stevens is a friend of mine. She talks about how she discovered the sport late in life and how she wished she'd had an opportunity to get into the sport earlier in life. That's part of why I thought it was a good reason to have a women's development team. Hearing a story like hers, I realized it was important to provide same opportunities as for the guys."
In 2012, the team supported 10 male racers who competed in road and mountain bike. The team had a lot of success off-road, fielding three of the seven racers selected by USA Cycling to do a European MTB racing program. Tobin Ortinblad and Bryan Duke were also among the team's most successful racers at junior nationals.
Bone knew he needed help with a growing team, so he brought onboard Violich in preparation for 2013. "Part of the reason why Julia is so great for our program is that I don't have a lot of experience with mountain biking. For some of our kids, that's the entirety of their program," said Bone, who also appreciates her experience with young, female athletes.
"I've been doing junior development for about 12 years and have focused on women in the last five years," said Violich. "I've been very successful in creating a couple of national champions. I'm excited to work with this team. It's like a breath of fresh air."
"Women develop at different rates than men. In men's cycling, if you're not a U23 hottie, you don't make it. You're out. It's different with the women. USAC doesn't even look at women riders before they are 25 or 26. The women don't reach the upper echelons until they are in their 30s. That's true on the road and mountain. Look at riders like Georgia Gould or Kristin Armstrong."
In 2013, Bear Development will support five young women. Four have been named and one slot is still in process of being filled: Victoria Yoham (U23); Josie Nordrum (17-18); Maddie Ortenblad (15-16) and Avery Morin (15-16). Violich says she prefers quality over quantity. She has coached two of the women for a few years and is bringing onboard the two new 15-16 junior women.
Violich's approach is to start working with the women while they are still quite young. She begins with them when they are "close to the ground and more apt to take chances and are less risk adverse. I can teach them the technical skills and the love of speed while they are young. That will stick with them, even if they take a break from the sport for a few years, which is common."
"I'm grabbing the women in high school - like freshman and sophomore year in high school. Once they leave my program, they go to college and I'll keep working with them. All of my girls go to college and are good in school. I then also want to work with them once they graduate from college and get them onto elite teams."
Hang around juniors and watch them grow up long enough and you'll quickly realize that many don't stick with the sport. That doesn't faze Violich, who realizes she will lose some. "If they don't go onto racing, I want them to be well rounded women who are ready to go out into the world."
She usually starts with women who are mountain bikers, but she likes to expose them to other disciplines, even if they don't race them.
Violich limits her riders to those from California. This approach keeps her close to her athletes, as they grow up on and off the bike. "It's not just about riding and racing - it's about making good choices for school and jobs. It's more than just racing and training. I lose my ability to do that if the athletes are outside of California."
Look for the Bear Development women to race the US Pro XCTs and races like Sea Otter and US Mountain Bike Nationals in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. She is also hoping to get a few of her athletes selected to do trips to Europe with USA Cycling, something that has happened in previous years, when she has worked with the Whole Athlete/Specialized team.
Violich expects that some of her women will race some road and track in addition to mountain biking. "I don't want to make them do anything they're not comfortable with, but if I see potential, I will try to get them out with some of the local pros and get some more exposure."
- Article published:
- October 5, 2012, 16:06
- Cycling News
South African MTB stage race draws international field
In keeping with the continued international growth of marathons and stage races, the decision to place more emphasis on quality over quantity has led to an almost 40 per cent increase in entries for the 2012 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek mountain bike stage race, which takes place from October 14-20 in South Africa's Western Cape Province.
Not surprisingly, the majority of the field for the fourth edition of the seven-day stage race is composed of South Africans, with a growing international contingent eager to join in.
Eighteen per cent of the total entrants will compete in the increasingly popular solo category and the remainder in two-rider teams. Many of the more established high profile mountain bike stage races only offer a two-rider team option.
The international entries make up 25 per cent of the total field, with Switzerland boasting almost half of the international representation and the second biggest nation entry after South Africa. The remaining nations represented are The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, United Kingdom, Australia, Namibia and Austria.
"We're very excited about the growing numbers, both in total and the international segment," said Henco Rademeyer of Dryland Events, the organisers. "Our decision to tighten up the stages in terms of overall distance and difficulty is likely to ensure even bigger numbers in 2013, since the experience should be more memorable and attractive."
The difficulty of the race has been increasing each year, and the 2011 six-day event had a total of 659 kilometres with 12,670 metres of vertical ascent - a significant challenge, even for the professionals. But the organisers decided to take a new approach and focus instead on quality, not quantity. So the 2012 edition will take place over seven days with a total of 534km and 11,516m of vertical ascent.
"With the abundance of brutal terrain at our disposal, it's simple to make a race ridiculously hard. But there comes a tipping point where it starts to put the riders off. We decided less is more when it comes to the Cape Pioneer Trek and have revamped it to be more a race than a survival test," said Rademeyer.
There's still a quantity element in the race with stage 2 offering a serious challenge and a substantial reward. The event's signature stage invites riders to climb a massive 2,760 metres in just 85 kilometres. The first team to the mountain top finish on the peaks of the Swartberg Pass will pocket R100000 (US $12000), the biggest stage win prize money for a mountain bike stage race anywhere in the world.
In addition to the solo category, there is also a masters category within the team division. This is for riders that are aged 50 and over, which is quite rare in stage racing.
"It requires a greater effort from a support perspective to offer a solo category because as the race organisers, we need to keep track of the individual racers and ensure they're safe throughout each stage. With two-rider teams, each rider is aware of the safety of his/her partner, which makes it a lot easier for the organisers," said Carel Herholdt of Dryland Events.
"A masters category is a must-have. It's really tough for riders in their 50s and 60s to compete against riders in their early 40s. It's important to give this age group recognition and a reason to be more competitive. Through our new title sponsor, Bridge, this is now possible," said Herholdt.
This is the first year of a five-year sponsorship by Bridge, a financial solutions company. The corporate backing from Bridge, along with a R100,000 (US $12,000) contribution from headline sponsor, Wilde Juices, has helped enable the organisers to increase the prize money across all categories, with a total prize purse of R300,000 (US $37,000). The duo categories are: open men, open women, open mixed, veteran (40-49 years) and master (50 years and over). There are also categories for solo men and solo women.
- Article published:
- October 5, 2012, 20:25
- Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor
Utah mountain bike event happening this weekend
The future of the 24 Hours of Moab was in doubt after last year's edition of the race. Low turnout led the promoter Laird Knight to question whether the interest was still sufficient to make running the race a financially viable project.
In response to subsequent racer input, Granny Gear Productions decided to carry on and is again hosting the 24 Hours of Moab in Utah in 2012. This year's edition is happening this weekend, October 6-7, just one weekend after the US 24-hour national championships was run in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The 24 hours of Moab has at times doubled as the US national championship event.
"In 17 years time this race has become one of the single greatest mountain bike races in the history of the sport. Each year, thousands of racers, support crew, and spectators have made the pilgrimage to Moab to enjoy this amazing event," read a statement on the race website.
"A precipitous drop in attendance in 2011 put the continuation of the event in question but the results of a recent, comprehensive survey and numerous communications from racers indicates that the enthusiasm for the return of this amazing, life-changing event is at an all-time high."
There are 28 men and 2 women pre-registered to contest the solo open categories plus a few singlespeeders. The race also supports numerous two, four and five-person team categories.
2008 and 2009 race winner Josh Tostado is one of the favorites among the men who will be competing for the $3,000 in prize money with $1,500 going to first place.
The race will begin at noon on Saturday and end at noon on Sunday. For more information on the 24 hours of Moab, visit grannygear.com/Races/Moab/index.shtml.
- Article published:
- October 5, 2012, 23:15
- Cycling News
Scenes from last year's race remind us of what's to come
The 18th annual Crocodile Trophy will start on October 20, 2012 in Cairns in Far North Queensland. Participants from five continents are aiming to make the finish in Cooktown on October 28 after nine gruelling days and more than 1,000km through the Australian Outback.
With a reputation as one of the hardest mountain bike stage races in the world, the race traverses the Outback and rainforests in Queensland.
Race organizers shared this teaser video below to get racers and fans alike in the mood for the upcoming edition.
Last year's race was won by Dutchman Jeroen Boelen (Milka-Trek) and Australian Jessica Douglas. The 2012 edition is expected to be shorter and include more technical terrain.
- Article published:
- October 12, 2012, 06:32
- Alex Malone
Race being used as preparation for Crocodile Trophy
Stromlo Forest will once again play host to the Scott 24 Hours Australian Mountain Bike Championships. The event kicks off on Saturday 13 October at midday and wraps-up the next day at noon. Stromlo Forest was the same location used to hold the 2009 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships and will also hold the WEMBO World Solo 24 Hour Championships in October 2013.
The purpose-built park will play host this weekend to over 2000 cyclists competing in solo and teams categories with 2012 Australian 24-hour solo and world solo champion Jason English ready to defend his title. The Port Macquarie Physical Education high school teacher has been a dominant force at the Scott 24.
English has won the Male Solo category for the past five years but says that despite preparing well for the race during the school holidays, he’s unsure of how this weekend’s race will unfold given the high level of local and international competition.
"The regulars and getting faster. Throw [Canadian national solo 24 hour champion] Cory Wallace and [UK national solo 24 hour champion] Matt Paged into the mix and I think it’s going to be an interesting race," English told Cyclingnews.
Working full-time isn’t too much of a hindrance for English who uses his time wisely to ensure his endurance it topped-up to a level capable of riding non-stop for 24 hours at a time.
"In the school holidays I just go nuts. I’ve just come off two weeks of school holidays and I’ll do a 1,000km a week. Last week was just under 40 hours of training. So I just try and cram in as much as possible in the school holidays and work on intensity during the school term," he said.
This year’s race sees the return of the two-lap course; the red (12km) and a blue (14km) which means less rider congestion and a more fluid course. The figure-eight design brings the riders back to the transition zone at the end of their respective laps before handing over to a teammate to complete the other or continuing through to the next course.
"You are still going to see the track plenty of times. I think I’ll do about 430-440km. That’s pretty standard. The winner will likely do 450km. I think there will be quite a few people on the same lap by the end," English said.
London Olympian Dan McConnell will be racing the event in a six-person mixed team with his Anytime Fitness - Trek Mixed Bag squad while Rockstar Racing will look to post a serious challenge in the same category.
Team Elite GU lines up in the four-man category with former Garmin-Transitions rider Trent Lowe, who stepped away from the professional scene in 2010 and will be joined by former national cross country champion Sid Taberlay, this year’s Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro overall champion Andy Blair with under-19 national XC champion Ben Bradley filling the final spot.
A total of $100,000 in cash and prizes is up for grabs across the various categories. Winners of the Solo Male and Solo Female title will also receive an economy air ticket to the value of $2,500 if they enter the WEMBO World Solo 24 Hour MTB Championships in October of 2013. Next year’s World Solo 24 is consequently being held in Stromlo.
Discovering the Crocodile Trophy
English added that while he would love to add another Scott 24 Hour title to his long list of results, it was the upcoming Crocodile Trophy that was his next big target. The demanding nine-day race will be the first time English has lined up in the event which begins in Cairns. The grueling 933km journey will finish up in the finishing stage in Cooktown.
"Matt, Corey and myself are also backing to do the Crocodile Trophy. It will be a matter of working out how hard to go at this 24-hour and hopefully recover for start the following weekend."
"I haven’t done it before so I’m not exactly sure what it entails, just lots of kilometres and backing up each day. It’s pretty full on from what I’ve heard," he told Cyclingnews.
- Article published:
- October 12, 2012, 07:00
- Zoon Cronje
South African ready to race Crater Cruise
Watch out for Ben-Melt Swanepoel (Merida/Squirt Lube) at the MTN Ride Crater Cruise marathon in Parys, South Africa, on Saturday, October 13. A study of the results of the Ride Crater Cruise reveals that Swanepoel has a unique record. Apparently there is something about even numbers that brings out the best in him.
In the inaugural Ride Crater Cruise in 2004, he finished second and in 2006 and 2008, he went one better and won the race. The only blemish on his record was in 2010 when he missed a podium finish by a mere eight seconds to finish fourth.
This year's race will mark the return of the "prodigal son" of South African mountain biking.
Swanepoel missed most of this season's national MTN marathons because he was racing in the United States.
He was certainly not there just to make up the numbers. He won three stages in the Breck Epic in Colorado and finished fourth in the gruelling Breckenridge 100-miler.
Another highlight was when he finished second in the National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Series Final at Fools Gold. American Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale), was the only rider who was able to catch up with and pass the South African.
Swanepoel mostly competed in 100-mile mountain-bike races. Each race lasted from seven to nine hours. According to him, the 100-milers make for quite intense racing because they are usually contested on challenging singletrack sections.
The experience gained by Swanepoel while racing in the USA, will certainly count in his favour during the Ride Crater Cruise race. Apart from the high mileage that he has done, there is something else that might count in his favour.
Max Knox (Specialized), Kevin Evans and David George (Nedbank360Life) and Nico Bell (Westvaal Columbia) all competed at the UCI World Marathon Championship in France last Sunday.
They are four of the major role players in the series but they will probably only arrive back in South Africa during the week leading up to the event. Come race day they might still suffer from jet lag.
Swanepoel said the MTN Ride Crater Cruise is a totally unique race. "Offhand I cannot think of any international race that can be compared with the Ride Crater Cruise. It is a strange race in which you definitely need a bit of luck. Teamwork certainly also plays a major role, and so does endurance.
"One place where the race can be won or lost is at the koppie, just after the last water point. Another is on the singletrack section where you have to bounce over tufts of grass all the time."
- Article published:
- October 12, 2012, 14:31
- Zoon Cronje
South Africans do the Crater Cruise - Cape Pioneer Trek double
Kevin Evans and David George (Nedbank360Life) will give new meaning to the words "rush job" on Saturday, October 13 when they are competing in the 106km MTN Ride Crater Cruise National MTB marathon in and around Parys, South Africa.
Actually the words of one of the songs from the classic musicals, My Fair Lady, come to mind - "Get me to the church on time" But in their case, the big rush has nothing to do with a wedding. Barely 24 hours after finishing the Ride Crater Cruise, Evans and George will start the prologue of the Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek Mountain Bike Tour just outside Oudtshoorn.
That is why this weekend is going to be a race against the clock in more ways than one.
To ease matters somewhat, Evans convinced a friend of his to fly them down to Plettenberg Bay on Saturday afternoon in his Cesna210.
"We will be saving a lot of time flying down in a private plane. Hopefully we will be in time to attend the Cape Pioneer Trek's dinner on Saturday night."
Some might argue why go through all this trouble and rush? Would it not have been easier to compete in just one of these events?
"The MTN Ride Crater Cruise is one of my absolute favourite events on the local calendar as is the Cape Pioneer Trek that is why I am prepared to go the proverbial extra mile to support both races."
Evans has a proud history when it comes to racing the MTN Ride Crater Cruise. He became the first rider last year to win it three years in succession. He can also boast with a second and third place. When asked whether if he feels under pressure to make it four in a row, Evans answer was an emphatic no.
"Last year I had to pressure to win it a third time, but not now. "All that matters is that the title stays within the Nedbank360Life team. So if David or James (Reid) wins I will still be happy."
Evans is not too worried about the fact that George and he competed over the past weekend at the UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships in Ornans, France. "The world championship was tough but was not physically that demanding as it could have been. "The important thing is just to get over the travelling and to settle down."
Max Knox (Specialized) who insured with his victory at the MTN Hilton Dirt Festival that he is the overall winner of the MTN series opted not to race in Parys.
How does this affect the race? "It certainly changes our racing strategy completely but I don't want to take anything away from the other riders. "The biggest mistake anybody can make is to write one's rivals off.
"It is going to be a hard race. As far as I am concerned, Ben-Melt Swanepoel (Merida/Squirt), Nico Bell and Gawie Combrink (Westvaal Columbia) and Brandon Stewart (Fedgroup-Itec) are all capable of winning."
"The Ride Crater Cruise is a deceivingly hard race. A lot of riders make the mistake to kind of underestimate it. You then land up racing the route and not your rivals. It is a given that you are going to take some strain during the race that is why it helps having teammates.
"As Nedbank360Life we got the advantage that anyone of us can go out and make the racing hard while one of us saves his legs for when it matters."
- Article published:
- October 13, 2012, 17:16
- Cycling News
Nove Mesto, La Bresse and Fort William take top honors
One month after the crowning of the 2012 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup winners, organizers from the best venues were recognized for their efforts. As is the tradition, racers, UCI Mountain Bike Teams, media, sponsors, and UCI officials voted for the top events for each of the three World Cup disciplines: cross country, downhill and eliminator.
Olympic cross country: Two in a row for Nove Mesto Na Morave
Nove Mesto Na Morave made it two for two. 2012 was the second time the Czech town hosted a World Cup cross country event and it was the second time it was voted best event.
Voters were seduced by the course and the start-finish area in a biathlon stadium which next year will host the 2013 Biathlon World Championships. The grandstands in the stadium allowed spectators to make the most of the event, while television spectators benefited from high quality production from Czech National Television.
La Bresse, France and Pietermaritzburg, South Africa were voted second and third best events respectively. In 2013, Pietermaritzburg will host the world championships while La Bresse will not be a part of the World Cup.
Cross country eliminator: La Bresse first winner
The eliminator discipline was introduced into the World Cup this year, and La Bresse, France immediately came up trumps. The course through the town provided lots of action that delighted the crowds that had turned out in mass to encourage the riders.
La Bresse added this latest trophy to those won in 2009 and 2011 for its downhill events. It headed off Nove Mesto Na Morave in second and Houffalize, Belgium in third.
Downhill: Fort William returns to the top
A long time venue on the World Cup circuit, Fort William hosted its 11th edition in 2012 (counting also the world championships in 2007). the Scottish town is well known for its excellent organisation and its large and enthusiastic public. Even the rain this year did not deter the fans from turning out in force.
Already voted best event on two occasions, Fort William was beaten last year by La Bresse. It is back on top this year, no doubt helped in part by the work and investment by the organisers on a new section of the course and the largest screen in Europe that relayed images to the spectators.
New to the World Cup calendar this year, Hafjel, Norway was voted the second best downhill event, followed by Val di Sole, Italy.