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MTB News & Racing Round-up, Sunday, August 12, 2012

Date published:
August 12, 2012, 1:00 BST
  • South Africa mountain bike medal hopes lie with Stander

    Burry Stander (Specialized) celebrating his victory
    Article published:
    August 11, 2012, 3:15 BST
    Cycling News

    Buys and Neethling also to race cross country

    Burry Stander and Candice Neethling will represent South Africa at the Olympic Games cross country mountain bike races this weekend in London. Stander, who won the Windham round of the World Cup in June, is a medal contender.

    In preparation for the Olympics, Stander focused on cross country racing in 2012, following the advice of his new coach Dr. Jeroen Swart. He skipped participation in the marathon races he usually contends each season.

    "I want to be in the best possible condition I can for the Olympics," said Stander.

    Stander began mountain biking at age 10 with his dad and older brothers on their farm on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast. He steadily progressed through the ranks and won the first of his South African and African titles in 1999 in the U13 category.

    He made a big impression by winning races in the US national series in 2005 and was signed with the GT Factory Team in 2006. Stander went on to claim the 2008 U23 world Cup series title, finished second in the U23 world championships and finished 15th at the Beijing Olympic Games that year.

    Specialized Racing signed Stander onto its international squad in 2009, when he went on to win the U23 world championship title in Canberra.

    In 2010, Stander finished third in the elite world championships in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada and third in the marathon Worlds in St. Wendel, Germany.

    Last year and this year, he also won the Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, with his teammate Christoph Sauser.

    Stander will race with South African teammate Philip Buys on Sunday. Coach Swart said, "With the Olympics in focus, both Burry and Philip (Buys) are showing the greatest focus and their best training statistics to date - we are on track for a career best result for both of them come the Olympics."

    Candice Neethling will be...

  • Former Olympic champ Dahle Flesjå hopes to race again in Rio

    The Olympic dream of Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway) was over when she flatted
    Article published:
    August 11, 2012, 15:48 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Crash and flat tire spoil her chances in London

    Despite a disastrous race at the London Olympic Games, Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå (Norway) has indicated that she may compete in Rio in 2016. The 39-year-old mountain biker, and 2004 Olympic champion, crashed in the opening stages of today's race in Hadleigh Farm, Essex. After a brave performance to continue, a puncture later in the race effectively ended her medal chances and she soon abandoned.

    "I crashed on that first rocky section in the beginning, so that really destroyed the whole race in many ways. I never got back in my kind of working zone at all," she said after the race.

    "Stupid mistakes sometimes happen. The worst start that you could ever imagine happened, but that's the case, and then I struggled to get back. I'm in super shape, but kind of over paced myself a little bit because I wanted to catch up what I lost in the beginning. And then, when I punctured I just thought, 'Well this is just the day that everything goes the wrong way and nothing is with me.'"

    Dahle Flesjå is the only female mountain biker to compete at every Olympic Games since the disciple was included in 1996 in Atlanta.

    "There have been a lot of changes, of course, especially with the bikes. In Atlanta in 1996, the bikes were 12.5kg, in Athens it was 10.4kg, and now we have bigger bikes, but they are only 8.5kg. In the equipment, there is a huge difference, and in the level."

    "I know I'm one of the top contenders when it comes to shape right now, because I've been winning big races this season [Dahle Flesjå won two World Cups this season and the European championships. - Ed.]. I was not in there today because of shit happening in the beginning, but I think the level is not that much higher. There...

  • Bresset executes Olympic strategy perfectly

    Mountain biker Julie Bresset (France) on the podium with her Olympic gold medal.
    Article published:
    August 11, 2012, 17:32 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Mountain biker's focus pays off with gold medal

    Julie Bresset secured France's first cycling gold medal in the 2012 London Olympic Games with a dominant performance in the women's mountain bike race on Saturday.

    The 23-year-old matched the early pace setting from Annie Last (Great Britain) before taking command of the race after the first lap. Both Sabine Spitz (Germany) and Georgia Gould (United States) tried to match the French woman's pace but were unable to contend with the younger rider's strength.

    "I'm very happy. It's amazing to win today," Bresset said at the finish.

    "I hoped to win a medal and a gold medal is unbelievable. I started well, I took the front of the race and I managed it well. When I had a gap I told myself: 'Now, I should go.' I led until the finish and I'm very content."

    Bresset rode an aggressive but measured race throughout, allowing both Last and Spitz to set the pace during the early laps. However, in the second half she took control and although she managed to drop her opposition, she remained focused and conscious that the demanding course could cost her in the finale.

    "I managed well the technical passages of the course, I gained seconds and I didn't tire myself too much, fearing that I could pay the price later for leading all the time. I managed well my energies. I was really concentrated from the beginning to the end, I knew where to drink and where to refuel, I didn't make mistakes."

    "I didn't think I could win today. I didn't expect a podium. There were three favourites: Last, Pendrel who dominated this year's World Cup, and even Spitz. It's been a surprise for me."

    Like a number of her rivals, the BH - SR Suntour -...

  • Batty races Olympics despite cracked collarbone

    X-rays revealed that Emily Batty's collarbone was indeed broken.
    Article published:
    August 11, 2012, 19:04 BST
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Injured Canadian finishes mountain bike race

    Canada's Emily Batty had been eating, sleeping and breathing thoughts of the 2012 Olympic Games for years. She was in fine form, finishing fourth at the Val d'Isere World Cup two weekends ago. Then a crash during training on the course in the week leading up to the women's Olympic cross country race on Saturday almost cost her the chance to participate. However, she was determined to still compete, even with a newly broken collarbone.

    After finishing the race in 24th place, Batty was asked by TV reporters how she was doing. "I've definitely been much better. Obviously the Olympics was something I'd been preparing for for two years. I poured my heart into it every single day and every single night," she said.

    "We worked so hard to get here. I didn't want to give my dream up. I wanted to compete and do my best here. I felt strong enough. I didn't want to let my support network down. I didn't want to let this go."

    Batty crashed on a small rock table top on the fastest downhill part of the course on Tuesday. According to her partner and coach, Adam Morka, "She essentially came in with too much speed and the back wheel bucked her over the bars. She got launched over the handlebars at 40+kph."

    The Subaru-Trek team racer cracked her right collarbone, an injury that often sidelines racers, but her prognosis was not quite that bad.

    "The way it is broken, it is quite stable. It's bone against bone and has very little chance of displacing itself because they are both pushing on each other," said Morka.

    "She saw one of the best orthopedic doctors at the Olympic Village. He said, 'If I didn't see the X-ray, I would have gave you a pat on the back and told you to get...

  • Gould delighted with Olympic bronze medal

    Georgia Gould (USA) on her way to a bronze medal
    Article published:
    August 11, 2012, 20:30 BST
    Daniel Benson

    American battles it out with Spitz

    Georgia Gould (United States of America) overcame a slow start to win a bronze medal in the women's Olympic mountain bike race. Gould started on the second row of the race and despite having to overcome slow traffic and being as far back as 16th after the start loop, she was able to ride herself into medal contention by the third lap of the race.

    "At the beginning, I was kind of in the back. It took me a while to get up to the front as I had a really bad start, and then I finally caught up to that lead group. I was lucky that they were playing cat and mouse a little bit because it took me a while to move up."

    Gould, who races for the Luna team the rest of the season, formed a leading trio that included race winner Julie Bresset (France) and Sabine Spitz (Germany) and after Bresset distanced her rivals, Gould briefly found herself in silver medal position. However Spitz overcame a crash to secure second place, holding off the American all the way to the line.

    "I was riding in the top three. We were together then Sabine made a little mistake in one of the rock sections and she had to get off her bike, so I had to get off my bike and that was what allowed Julie to get that initial gap. Then we were back and forth a little bit, me and Sabine. She was a little bit stronger there in the end."

    "I was trying to be a little bit conservative, too. I didn't want to take too many risks. I've had some races this season when things were going really well then some bad luck or a little mistake cost me the race so I just tried to keep it together to the finish. I was just so glad I was able to."

    Gould's medal adds to the...

  • Absalon signs with BMC Mountain Bike Racing Team

    Elite men's podium at 2012 French National Championships: Stephane Tempier, Julien Absalon and Maxime Marotte
    Article published:
    August 11, 2012, 21:00 BST
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Two-time Olympic champion departs Orbea

    On the eve of the 2012 Olympic Games men's cross country mountain bike race, BMC Mountain Bike Racing Team announced the signing of Julien Absalon of France. The man who won the Olympic gold medal in 2004 and 2008 will race for two more years - 2013 and 2014 - after wrapping up this season's contract with Orbea.

    "For our team, born in 2011 under the leadership of Andy Rihs, we are proud to host such an athlete. This will allow us to have a real presence at the international level," said Team Manager David Chassot.

    BMC already supports elite rider Moritz Milatz of Germany, a development mountain bike team with riders such as Stephen Ettinger of the United States and Candice Neethling of South Africa. It also stepped up to become the title sponsor of the Swiss Cup for the 2012 season.

    Team partner and CEO of the BMC Group, Thomas Binggeli explained that with veteran racer Absalon on its roster, the BMC Mountain Bike Team would be following the development strategy of the company. He hopes Absalon's signing will influence future development at BMC.

    French national champion Absalon has been on the Orbea team since 2007. Previously, he raced for Bianchi.

  • Spitz unlikely to return to Olympics in Rio

    Sabine Spitz (Germany) has won a medal in all of the last three Olympics, one of each colour
    Article published:
    August 12, 2012, 4:05 BST
    Cycling News

    German completes her medal collection with silver in London

    Sabine Spitz has been a force within the women’s cross country mountain bike circuit since her first Olympic participation in Sydney during the 2000 Games. Spitz has participated in every Olympic cross country race since its inclusion in Sydney - where she finished in ninth place.

    The 40-year-old may have missed out on defending her Olympic gold medal from Beijing in 2008 but was pleased with her second place and silver medal to add to the now, complete collection.

    "Now I have my Olympic collection of three different medals, so it’s perfect. I always had a medal on my mind," Spitz told The Washington Post.

    Spitz won a bronze medal at the Athens Games in 2004 and has also won the world championships in 2003. She’s been a consistent front-runner in the major cross country events and rarely finishes outside the top-10 at the world championships.

    "I don’t have to go for all the World Cup races," she said. "I quit the overseas World Cup to concentrate on the Olympics, and I’m really focused."

    While Spitz may have just missed out on taking a second gold medal in the London Games, she is not planning on heading to Rio - at least not as a rider.

    "I don’t think so, maybe as a coach. I don’t have any immediate plans, my schedule was until today. And, you know, I have my collection of medals, so they would have to give me another color," she said.

    The world championships in Austria will be Spitz next goal in the coming weeks but she has yet to decide her schedule following that race. 

  • Early mechanical derails Absalon's Olympic hopes

    Julien Absalon (Orbea Racing Team)
    Article published:
    August 12, 2012, 16:28 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Flat tire ends his chances of defending his gold medal

    Julien Absalon (France) saw his Olympic dreams go up in smoke with a puncture in the opening stages of the men's mountain bike race. The two-time defending Olympic champion went into the race as one of the hot favourites but on the first lap, the Frenchman suffered a puncture. Trailing the leaders by over a minute by the end of the lap, he pulled out of the race.

    "The first lap was the worst thing that could happen to me, because I did hard work for four years to be 100 per cent today, and to have a mechanical problem is the worst luck, so I am very disappointed," the French national champion said. "I had a puncture at a bad moment. It's hard to finish my last Olympics like this. I was in good shape but, after one lap, I was in (27th) place, 55 seconds behind. I didn't have any chance to reach the podium."

    "For sure, I felt some [pressure], but my mind was tranquil. I was feeling OK and I came here with two medals. If I had won here today, it would have been a great finish. That's our sport, and it's a mechanical sport - and that's the risk."

    Absalon won gold in both Athens and Beijing, making him the most decorated male athlete in men's Olympic mountain biking but at 31, London possibly represents his final Games. He would not rule out competing in Rio in four years time but hinted that his Olympic career could well be over.

    "I cannot say that for sure, because I am disappointed, but I think so, yes."

    He recently signed with BMC for the 2013 and 2014 seasons.