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MTB News & Racing Round-up, Sunday, February 9, 2014

Date published:
February 9, 15:00

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.

  • Kulhavy sidelined by knee injury

    Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized Racing XC) leading Nino  Schurter (Scott Swisspower MTB Racing Team) and Marco Aurelio Fontana  (Cannondale Factory Racing)
    Article published:
    February 4, 17:05
    By:
    Cycling News

    Olympic champion forced to delay start of 2014 season

    Olympic cross country champion Jaroslav Kulhavy injured himself after falling on a patch of ice on Sunday. Doctors diagnosed a fractured kneecap, which means the Czech star will have to delay the start of his season. Kulhavy was not on his bike at the time of the accident, but was walking to his car.

    The Specialized rider is expected to have to keep his knee immobilized for four weeks. Then he will face at least two more weeks of rehabilitation before he can resume any kind of training.

    "It was such an innocent slip on a patch of ice," Kulhavy told cyklonovinky.cz. "The impact, however, was too hard on my knee. It's frustrating - after a super winter of training. Now I have to wait during what will be a few difficult weeks. I'll do everything I can to get back to 100% soon - I just can't say at that time when it will be."

    Kulhavy had completed training programs in Mallorca in December and January and was reportedly in excellent condition prior to his fall.  He was coming off winning the final round of the 2013 World Cup in Hafjell, Norway, site of this year's world championships.

    He will have to skip the Cyprus Sunshine Cup, and it's too early to confirm whether he will be on the start line for the spring UCI Mountain Bike World Cups, which begin in April with rounds in South Africa and Australia.

  • Decisions on controversial UCI Rule 1.2.019 delayed until 2015

    A rider in the enduro stage of the Trans-Sylvania Epic
    Article published:
    February 4, 21:33
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    UCI extends derogation of rule relating to forbidden races

    The UCI has delayed any potential changes to how it has been handling its controversial Rule 1.2.019 for another year, which means licensed racers will be able to continue to compete in "forbidden races" in 2014 without fear of punishment. The news came after the UCI's moratorium on enforcing UCI Rule 1.2.019 was set to expire on January 1, 2014.

    When contacted last month after the deadline had passed with no further word, the UCI had said it was still reviewing the rule and would likely make a decision at the next round of UCI Management Committee meetings, ahead of the UCI Cyclo-cross Worlds. Today, the UCI issued its decision for this year, buying the organization more time to determine its long term approach to racers competing in such "forbidden races".

    "Regarding Article 1.2.019 of the UCI Regulations related to the forbidden races, the Management Committee considered that the derogation to Article 1.2.019 will be maintained until the end of year 2014 in order to review the different possible solutions," Louis Chenaille, Press Officer of the UCI told Cyclingnews.

    Speaking of options being considered by the UCI, Chenaille said, "One of them would be to limit this rule to certain disciplines and to certain categories of riders [Elite and Professional level]."

    USA Cycling positively responded to the news of the delayed decision, which would affect many of its racers as currently written and interpreted. "Although we would have liked to see a concrete resolution regarding Rule 1.2.019, we are nonetheless encouraged that there will be continuing dialogue regarding the worldwide ramifications of the rule in the coming year," said USA Cycling President & CEO Steve Johnson. "In the meantime, we are pleased that enforcement of the rule will be suspended for another year."

    Background

    UCI general regulations include a section called "Forbidden Races". Within it, Rule 1.2.019 states, "No licence holder may participate in an event that has not been included on a national, continental or world calendar or that has not been recognised by a national federation, a continental confederation or the UCI." Related rules 1.2.020 and 1.2.021 provide additional details, including specifying punishment via fine or suspension for all UCI licence holders who violate the rule.

    The rules are not new - they have been around for years; but the mandate on how to interpret and enforce them had changed early in 2013. Then, with more potential riders affected by the rules and its enforcement, many riders protested.  The UCI decided to postpone enforcement of the rules until 2014.

    The rules were applied to all disciplines and levels of cycling, but were opposed loudly by many mountain bikers in the US, who have historically competed in races not sanctioned by their national governing body. Some road and 'cross racers were also affected.

    The rules were technically an issue for high school racers, local amateurs and regional racers as well as pros, many of whom like to compete at their local grassroots events and big-money races, including certain enduros, cross country races, stage races and the well known Whiskey 50, which are run independently of USA Cycling.

    A review of the rule is one of the promises Brian Cookson made in 2013 during his ultimately successful campaign to become UCI President.

  • Defending Cape Epic champ Sauser teams up with roadie Rabon

    Urs Huber of Team Bulls chases with Jose Hermida and Rudi van Houts of Multivan Merida during stage 4 of the 2013 Cape Epic
    Article published:
    February 5, 19:06
    By:
    Cycling News

    Partnerships are key at the Cape Epic

    Four-time Cape Epic winner Christoph Sauser will take on the 2014 edition of the race with Frantisek Rabon, a former roadie who has switched to mountain bike racing. In recent years, Sauser has won the race with the late Burry Stander and Jaroslav Kulhavy, but the Czech rider broke his knee and will have to sit out the 2014 Cape Epic.

    Sauser, who has won marathon and cross country mountain bike world titles, will race as part of team Meerendal-Songo-Specialized. Although 2014's new partnership with Rabon is untested, the same could be said of him and teammate Kulhavy before they dominated the 2013 event.

    "I'm delighted that I've found a very strong partner in Rabon. He has a great character and personality," said Sauser. "He's also committed to win the 2014 Cape Epic. However, many unexpected scenarios can happen, which we're very aware of."

    Rabon said, "It's such an honour to ride with Christoph. He's such a legend and we've become really good teammates, so I feel really good about us riding together."

    Schurter pairs up with Buys

    Cross country world champion Nino Schurter and Philip Buys will be competing as team Scott-Odlo Racing. Schurter is a specialist when it comes to cross country races lasting about 90 minutes. As a world champion, there is little doubt that his immense physiology and skill will carry him to an elusive stage win and perhaps a podium spot overall.

    "We're racing together for the first time and I'm really looking forward to it," said Schurter. "Philip has great experience with stage races in the African heat, and I've got experience in cross country races. This will make us super strong."

    In turn, local lad Buys demonstrated he is up to this monumental task when he dueled José Hermida and Rudi van Houts to the finish line in Lourensford last year.

    Buys said, "I feel honoured to ride with the fastest rider on the planet. Although slightly nervous, my excitement overpowers it."

    Other partnerships

    Mixed category champion Ariane Kleinhans will be riding in the women's category for the first time with Annika Langvad. No doubt that all eyes will also be on Karl Platt, another favourite who won the Cape Epic four times, when he partners again with Urs Huber as the old "tried and tested" team.

    Kleinhans has foregone her partnership with husband Erik to participate this year with Langvad, who might be seen as a newbie, but the two-time marathon world champion, Danish cross country and time trial champion is a good match.

    "Annika and I previously participated in a stage race where we won every stage as well as the overall," said Kleinhans. "It was a very good test for our new partnership. We made a really good team both on and off the bike. We're very motivated to go for the overall win."

    Langvad said, "Even though we're two very different riders with two completely different histories, somehow everything just fits together."

    Platt and Huber will ride together for the second time as the Bulls. The Swiss/German team proved last year that they never give up fighting.

    "I think we had a very successful partnership last year and we're looking forward to this year's event," said Platt.

    Huber said, "Our second place in the 2013 Cape Epic was a sign that we're a good team. Our goal is to win, which means we have to be focused and concentrate during the whole week, without making any mistakes."

    The 2014 Cape Epic will cover 718km with 14,850m of climbing starting on March 23. It will visit the towns of Robertson, Greyton and Elgin, and finishing eight days later at Lourensford Wine Estate.

  • Näf and Flückiger plan on racing Sunshine Cup to prep for Cape Epic

    Manuel Fumic will race the Afxentia stage race in Cyprus starting in late February
    Article published:
    February 6, 18:12
    By:
    Cycling News

    BMC, Cannondale and Scott Odlo send riders to Cyprus

    Three elite mountain bike teams - BMC, Cannondale and Scott-Odlo - are sending riders to the Cyprus Sunshine Cup, which kicks off on February 27 with the Afxentia stage race. Among them are Ralph Näf and Lukas Flückiger (both BMC), Manuel Fumic and Marco Fontana (both Cannondale) and Florian Vogel (Scott-Odlo Team).

    Näf and Flückiger will be making the trip from Switzerland to Cyprus. Flückiger earned the silver medal at cross country Worlds in 2012 while Näf was world champion in the eliminator that same year. He's previously also won marathon Worlds and finished as high as second at cross country Worlds.

    While Flückiger has already some experience in racing the Cyprus Sunshine Cup, Näf will be on the Mediterranean island for the first time. Together, the duo will be preparing to race the Cape Epic mountain bike stage race in South Africa later in March.

    "We want to have race ahead of the Cape Epic, because it would be too hard for the body otherwise. The other reason to race the Afxentia is to check out our new bikes and the setup before using it in South Africa under race conditions," said Näf.

    Although the BMC riders claim to just be testing their bodies and equipment, they are real contenders for overall victory in Afxentia.

    "I am excited to open my season on Cyprus for the very first time. Finally it worked out for me," said Näf.

    Fumic has previously raced a few times at the Cyprus Sunshine Cup, but this year he will bring along his 2012 Olympic bronze medallist and teammate Fontana, who will be racing in Cyprus for the first time.

    Vogel, who has previously medalled at the European championships and the Worlds, is a two-time Olympian and will be using the racing in Cyprus to prepare for another high level season.

    The extension of the Afxentia stage race by one day to four days total seems to be a factor in attracting more elite riders.

    José Antonio Hermida and Rudi van Houts of Multivan Merida have already committed to the race - also as preparation for the Cape Epic. Olympic champion Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized) had planned to compete, too, but was recently sidelined from competition upon breaking his knee.

  • Opening round of KMC MTB-Bundesliga International cancelled

    Wolfram Kurschat (Germany)
    Article published:
    February 7, 16:36
    By:
    Cycling News

    German national series shrinks to five rounds

    The opening round of the KMC MTB-Bundesliga International has been cancelled. The race in Neustadt/W. was called off after the organizing club RSC Neustadt/W. cited organizational reasons. They hope to bring it back as part of the German mountain bike national series for 2015.

    The race was supposed to happen during the first weekend of April, and organizers were working to secure the race, but with two months to go, they decided to cancel the event so teams would still have enough time to make plans to attend other races instead.

    "With more time to prepare, we want to try again for next year," said club member Wolfram Kurschat. The Topeak Ergon team pro racer is one of the main forces behind the club's idea to be part of the KMC MTB-Bundesliga International.

    The KMC MTB-Bundesliga will kick off instead on on May 11 in Saalhausen. On the day prior, the German eliminator national championships will be held at the same venue. It will conclude with round 5 in mid-September at Bad Salzdetfurth.

    2014 KMC MTB Bundesliga International 2014
    May 11-12: Saalhausen (no Bundesliga points for the eliminator)
    May 17-18: Heubach
    July 12-13: Schopp
    July 19-20: Bad Säckingen (Cross Country National Championships, no Bundesliga points)
    September 13-14: Bad Salzdetfurth (double points)

  • Big money cross country racing returns to US at US Cup Pro Series

    Baghouse has designed and fabricated the trophies for top riders at each round of the 2014 USA Cycling US Cup Pro Series presented by Sho-Air Cycling Group
    Article published:
    February 8, 12:40
    By:
    Cycling News

    Sho-Air Cycling Group, USA Cycling reveal world's richest payout for new MTB race series

    Big money cross country mountain bike racing is back in the US. The all-new USA Cycling US Cup Pro Series presented by Sho-Air Cycling Group will provide not only the UCI-mandated $31,000 prize purse for its four-race series, but both USA Cycling and Sho-Air Cycling Group will contribute a combined $50,000 in prize money for the top 15 overall, with equal pay going to men and women. The total $81,000 prize purse will make the US Cup, which was announced in December, the highest paying cross country race series in the world.

    The rich prize purse and UCI points on offer will bring some of the best cross country mountain bike racers in the world to line up for the inaugural season. In addition, mountain bike fans all over the globe will be able to follow their every move via free and professionally-produced live online video coverage, starting with round 1 in early March.

    "This new USA Cycling US Cup Pro Series raises the level of competition in the US and is a complimentary series to the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, as evidenced by the high level of interest from some of the world's top riders," said Scott Tedro, owner of the Sho-Air Cycling Group, which is organizing the series. "We're proud to host elite racers from around the globe and throughout North America and to give up-and-coming talent the chance to go head-to-head with the sport's established stars."

    Already, at least six of the top 40 riders in the world and a 30-strong contingent from Central and South America have committed to make the trip to the US to compete in the US Cup Pro Series.

    The pros will have the chance to earn coveted, early season UCI points in four locations at high-ranking HC and Category 1-level UCI races, which will help them toward more advantageous starting spots at the 2014 UCI Mountain Bike World Cups.

    "Racing against the best racers in the world will also help Olympic hopefuls elevate their skills, fitness and strategy ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro," said Tedro. "It will bring the Olympic cross country mountain bike movement back into focus in the U.S."

    USA Cycling President & CEO Steve Johnson said, "We are excited to be working with Scott and his team at Sho-Air Cycling Group to produce a North American mountain bike race series. The USA Cycling US Cup is an important step in the continuing development of the international race calendar in North America; and will provide significant development opportunities and financial rewards for American mountain bike racers.”

    On Friday, the Sho-Air Cycling Group announced series details including the points structure, payout and awards for its inaugural series, with plans for live streaming of media coverage of each round provided by We Media Project / We Media Live and webcast by USA Cycling.

    Elite men and women will compete for equal prize money totaling $50,000 split among the top 15 in the overall series. In addition, each round will pay top finishers for their day's results: approximately $11,500 for the Bonelli Park HC-categorized race and $6,800 for the other three C1-level rounds.

    "We've listened carefully, and our prize payout addresses the concerns which we've heard from racers over the years," said Tedro. "It reflects balance by paying the top male and female racers equally in the overall ranking, and combined with the points structure we've created, should guarantee competitive fields for the whole series."

    USA Cycling US Cup Pro Series points will be awarded at each round, ranging from 25 points to each race's winner to one point to each 20th place finisher. All racers will receive an additional five points per start. The overall elite men's and women's series championship titles will go to the riders with the most points - with ties broken by number of wins, second and third place finishes. If there is still a tie, whoever finished best in the last race of the season will be awarded the championship.

    The top three riders in each round will receive custom designed trophies while series leaders will don leaders' jerseys and also earn MMA-style championship belts.

    The series will kick off on March 1-2, 2014, at the Mellow Johnny's Classic in Dripping Springs, Texas, and will conclude with round 4 in Colorado Springs, Colorado on June 28.

    In addition to watching the pros, amateurs will line up and race the day after each of the pro races. The Colorado Springs amateur races will also count for the Colorado State Championships.

    2014 USA Cycling US Cup Pro Series presented by Sho-Air Cycling Group
    Round 1: March 1-2 - Mellow Johnny's Classic, Dripping Springs, Texas (UCI Category C1)
    Round 2: March 15-16 - Bonelli Park, San Dimas, Calif. (UCI Category HC)
    Round 3: March 23-24 - Fontana, Calif. (UCI Category C1)
    Round 4: June 28-29 - Colorado Springs, Colo. (UCI Category C1)

    For more information on the USA Cycling US Cup Pro Series, visit www.uscup.net.

  • Max Plaxton joins Cannondale Factory Racing team

    Max Plaxton has joined the Cannondale Factory Racing team for 2014.
    Article published:
    February 8, 18:30
    By:
    Cycling News

    Team enters its sixth season in 2014

    Canadian mountain biker Max Plaxton has signed with the Cannondale Factory Racing team for 2014. He joins elite riders Marco Fontana, Manuel Fumic, Anton Cooper and Keegan Swenson on the squad for the team's sixth year.

    "I'm amped to be riding with a strong squad," said Plaxton. "I'm ready to bring my A-game to the 2014 season."

    After a year with Sho-Air/Cannondale team in North America and proven World Cup results, including three top 10 places and a fifth place podium visit, it was logical for Plaxton to make the move to the World Cup-focused Cannondale Factory Racing team. During 2014, Plaxton will continue to aim for consistent top 10 finishes and World Cup podiums.

    "We watched Max compete last year, and his results speak for themselves. We're thrilled to add him to the team," said Cannondale General Manager Bob Burbank.

    The Cannondale Factory Racing team will focus not only on the cross country World Cup, but the riders will compete globally with major appearances, especially in North America. As they start the new Olympic qualification period, they are a strong contender for the UCI World Cup top team ranking as well.

    Burbank said that for 2014, the team also picked up additional sponsorship from Sho-Air International, a California-based tradeshow and event transportation company that strongly supports cross country racing.

    "We're also excited to have Sho-Air expand a great North American relationship to an even broader global partnership. Our companies share a passion for cycling and a commitment to expanding the sport. This will be a great relationship," said Burbank.

    Plaxton and his teammates will use the Cannondale F29 and Scalpel for most races this season.

  • Gallery: BH-SR Suntour-KMC kicks off season with training camp

    The 2014 BH-SR Suntour-KMC team
    Article published:
    February 9, 15:00
    By:
    Cycling News

    World champion Bresset to lead squad in 2014

    The BH-SR Suntour-KMC team of cross country world champion Julie Bresset held its first training camp of the year on the French Riviera. The mountain bike pros mostly focused on accumulating low intensity mileage and getting acquainted or re-acquainted with each other and team staff. They mixed in on and off-road kinds of riding, sometimes in the same ride, but always on their mountain bikes.

    New recruits Hanna Klein, Perrine Clauzel, Jordan Sarrou and Victor Koretzky met their returning teammates cross country world champion Julie Bresset, Maxime Marotte, Stephane Tempier and Helene Marcouyre.

    Three beautiful sunny days were followed by several days of heavy rains, but that didn't stop them from training hard ahead of the 2014 race season.

    What's next for the team are French and German national team training camps in February; the Copa Catalana International in Banyoles, Spain on March 9; the BMC Cup in Buchs, Switzerland on March 23; another training camp in Saint-Raphael from March 22-30; and the Raider Cap Esterel on March 28-30.

    Check out the gallery.