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MTB News & Racing Round-up, Sunday, May 5, 2013

Date published:
May 5, 2013, 21:00

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.

  • Knox recovered from knee injury and back to racing

    Max Knox very much at home in the mountains around his house
    Article published:
    April 30, 2013, 10:59
    By:
    Cycling News

    South African targets marathon world championship

    Max Knox (Specialized/EAI Solutions) will be a busy man during the first two weekends of May. The South African mountain biker is aiming to defend two MTN National mountain bike series titles.

    Last year, Knox won the MTN Clarens and MTN Gravel Travel marathons. However, there is a big difference between last year and this year. Last year, MTN Clarens was in May and the Gravel Travel in August, but this year the two races are scheduled to be only a week apart.

    Knox will be racing the UCI marathon world series event, MTN Clarens , on the May 4 and a week later, he will be in Wellington. He openly admits that it will take a heroic effort to win both races again, but he seems to feel up to the challenge.

    "Luckily I have fully recovered from the knee injury that I sustained during the Cape Epic," said Knox.

    "But with regards to racing two hard races on consecutive weekends, I realize that no rider can be in peak condition weekend after weekend so it will be a tall order. That was actually why I decided to take a break after the Epic to give my body time to recover to be able to handle more hard efforts."

    Knox said his current goal is to be competitive from MTN Clarens up to the UCI Marathon World Championship in Austria on June 29. "Everything I do from now will be aimed at ensuring that I will be at my best for the world championship race."

    "I believe that I am capable of improving on my 18th place at last year's world championship. That does not mean that I am not serious about getting good results in the MTN National MTB Series. Both races are special to me. I regard the course at Clarens to be one of the most exciting of the series. The fact that I won my first South African marathon title in Wellington means that the Gravel Travel is also special."

    At the MTN Clarens this weekend, Knox will contend with international riders Steffen Thum (Ultra Sport Rose racing team), Stefan Sahm (The bulls) Pablo Morales and Tom Ettlich (r2-bike.com MTB Racing).

    Last year, his victory at MTN Clarens was achieved in emphatic style. Knox bided his time, and patiently waited for the most opportune moment to attack. When the riders reached the first serious climb, it was the right moment and there was no way of stopping him as one-by-one, favorites dropped off the lead group and he was left out in front on his own.

    According to Knox, the second half of the race was the hardest. "I think the MTN Clarens could be won or lost over the last 50 kilometres. Many riders make the mistake of going out too fast, too soon, and they end up paying the prize. The high altitude definitely has an effect on the way you race."

    Charles Keey (Cannondale/Blend Properties) is the current overall leader in the MTN National MTB Marathon Series. He won at MTN Sabie as well as MTN Tulbagh. Knox was victorious at MTN Barberton.

  • NICA High School Cycling News Round-up - April 30, 2013

    NICA director Austin McInerny introduces the Singletrack High screening at the Golden State Theatre in Monterey, April 20.
    Article published:
    April 30, 2013, 16:40
    By:
    Paul Skilbeck

    New York league starts; Sea Otter wrap; Creating the future of cycling

    On April 27, NICA made another milestone when the fledgling New York League held its inaugural event at Sprain Ridge Park, Yonkers, New York. Hopes are high that this league will grow to rival NorCal for participation figures. There were so many applications for spots in the first Leaders' Summit for coaches, ride leaders and volunteers, a second one has been scheduled for June 2013.

    April has been a breathless month. NICA had hardly finished the move to its new headquarters at 2414 6th St, Berkeley when preparations for the Sea Otter Classic, April 18-21, went into full swing.

    Sea Otter ranks with Interbike as the organization's largest outreach event of the year, and NICA staff said they felt honored to speak at the BRAINY and Bicycling Magazine awards.

    NICA held events of its own at Sea Otter, including launches of the Spirit of Howdy program, in partnership with the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA); a red carpet screening of "Singletrack High", the highly successful documentary about a range of different participants in the NorCal League’s 2012 season, and the launch of the NICA Booster Club.

    Almost 500 people showed up at the Golden State Theatre in Monterey for the film. Following the screening came the launch of the Booster Club, which enables any cyclist to contribute financially to building cycling as a high school sport. Led by NICA board member Ben Capron, a lively impromtu fundraiser saw dozens of public and industry members in the audience pull out their checkbooks in solid vote of support for student-athletes who wish to access the NICA program but lack the means to do it.

    Capron said of the event, "It was wild, I think once all these cyclists watched the film and actually realized all the different and super-important things that NICA does in building strong bodies, minds and characters, and how all that looks in practice, they quickly saw why we need financial support and they didn’t hesitate to contribute."

    The aim of the NICA Booster Club is to have every cyclist in America become a member, and with membership starting as low as $1 per year, NICA is confident that the cycling public will step up to support the continued growth of high school cycling.

    Many members of the audience went home with these cards in their pocket. Expect to see NICA coaches and student-athletes handing these to other trail users in states where NICA leagues are active.

    Sea Otter has a special place in NICA history as the venue of the first NorCal League race in 2001. Since then, student-athletes from several NICA leagues have competed at Sea Otter, usually with considerable success and this year was no exception.

    NICA athletes dominated the junior expert events, with Pan-American champion Kate Courtney taking yet another win, and experienced Sea Otter goers commented that all the junior fields looked larger than ever before. With the NorCal League having to split into two this year to accommodate the 25 percent year on year growth of student-athletes in the league.

    Other NICA events at Sea Otter included skills clinics with top pro riders, co-management of the Team Luna essay contest, a "meet and greet" with NICA board members, the inaugural convention of NICA's new Honorary Board, and filming of more than 20 interviews with NICA sponsors.

    NICA's honorary board members
    Ashley Korenblatt
    Eddie O'Dea
    Lucas Euser
    Namrita O'Dea
    Mari Holden
    Jimena Florit
    Jimmy Mac
    Brian Vaughan
    Gary Boulanger
    Gary Fisher
    Heather Irmiger
    Jeremiah Bishop
    Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski
    Kimber Tedro
    Lea Davidson
    Marla Streb
    Mike Sinyard
    Ned Overend
    Sara Eccelsine
    Rebecca Rusch
    Chris Cocalis
    Nat Ross

    NICA's executive director summed up the weekend, saying, "The overriding feedback repeatedly heard from the industry and others that have learned a little about NICA is: 'You are creating the future of cycling.' That's quite a responsibility, but we have done our homework and a great deal of careful planning, and we are ready to play our part."

    Tags:
    NICA
  • Bresset targets racing comeback by early June

    Julie Bresset (BH-SR Suntour-KMC)
    Article published:
    May 1, 2013, 18:46
    By:
    Cycling News

    Olympic champion recovering from broken collarbone

    Olympic and world cross country mountain bike champion Julie Bresset (BH Suntour KMC) is back on her bike on her home trainer following a broken collarbone at the Bundesliga race in Münsingen, Germany on April 14.

    Her BH-SR Suntour-KMC team manager Michel Hutsebaut told velovert.com that she should be able to resume training on the road soon.

    "There were no complications. Everything is going normally. She had a slight fever for a time, which is normal when the body receives such a shock," said Hutsebaut.

    Bresset crashed in the race when another rider attempted a pass at an inopportune time, sending Bresset abruptly to the ground soon after the start of the race.

    Her manager was upset that the other rider did not show the appropriate respect for his rider. "We would not see this kind of behaviour among the men where there is more respect for the world champion's jersey... but what is done is done, and it's better that it happened now than in the middle of July."

    Bresset's participation in the opening World Cup is very much in doubt, and a decision will not be made until five days before the Albstadt, Germany race. At the latest, Bresset is hoping to return to competition at the Coupe de France Locminé on June 8-9. It means she might also miss the Nove Mesto second round of the World Cup.

  • Schurter and Absalon rivalry resumes in Solothurn

    Julien Absalon (BMC) leads
    Article published:
    May 2, 2013, 16:05
    By:
    Cycling News

    BMC Cup serves as final test before mountain bike World Cup begins

    Once again, two-time Olympic champion Julien Absalon (BMC Racing Team) will lock horns with world champion Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower) in the lead-up to the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup. This weekend, the pair will battle in the third round of the BMC Cup, at the Bike Days event in Solothurn, Switzerland. In the women's race, local Nathalie Schneitter be the crowd favorite as she battles favorite Esther Süss.

    Solothurn will host the third showdown of 2013 so far between Absalon and Schurter. Swiss rider Schurter won the first duel at the BMC Cup in Lugano/Tesserete and was also successful in a Bundesliga round in Heubach, Germany, where Frenchman Absalon was hampered by mechanical problems.

    Going into the race, Absalon was downplaying the seriousness of the weekend's contest. "Solothurn is a fast race, which is not so easy to predict. I intend to use this race as a training session," said Absalon. "At this stage in the preparation for the World Cup, the appropriate training stimuli are most important." But the 25-time World Cup winner also makes clear that he does not intend to go on a leisurely ride. "When I take part in a race, I put the hammer down."

    His rival Schurter said, "I am confident, and I will be trying to win again." The Swiss star said his preparations for round 3 of the BMC Cup are nowhere near the quality of what he does for a World Cup race. However, he understands the importance of the weekend. "This will be the last opportunity to test your physical fitness before the World Cup," he said.

    Absalon and Schurter will be challenged by 2012 European champion Moritz Milatz (BMC Racing Team) and Lukas Flückiger, who recently proved at the Sea Otter Classic in California that he is in fine shape, just like his brother Mathias Flückiger (Stöckli Pro Team), who has also been gaining form. Schurter's teammate Florian Vogel is another man to watch along with former world champion Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida), who has been one of the world's best mountain bikers for the past 12 years.

    "With the exception of the European Championships in Bern, Solothurn and the Swiss Championships are probably the most important races in Switzerland this year," said another Swiss rider, Christoph Sauser (Specialized Racing), who will take the cross country start line this weekend despite switching to marathon racing in recent years.

    Esther Süss is the top rider in the women's competition. She won the first two rounds of the BMC Racing Cup in Schaan and in Tesserete. Last weekend, she was third in a high-level race event in Oetztal after a sensational comeback. "Had the race gone just one more lap ...," she sighed. She had managed to do best time on the two final laps.

    Most of Süss' competitors in Solothurn will be Swiss compatriots. Kathrin Leumann (Ghost Factory Racing) started into the year at a very high level. Kathrin Stirnemann has also been able to demonstrate her high level of fitness in some spring races. As far as motivation is concerned, Schneitter will once again get big support in her home race from her very many fans.

    Adelheid Morath (Sabine Spitz-Haibike) may play the role of most conspicuous challenger and is a candidate for the women's win. The German rider was second in Schaan and has managed to make the podium in all six races she has done so far in 2013.

    Male and female pros will also have the chance to compete in an eliminator race on Friday evening.

  • Mountain biker Keey steps up results in 2013

    Charles Keey delivers a faultless performance in Tulbagh
    Article published:
    May 3, 2013, 18:30
    By:
    Cycling News

    South African marathon series leader successful among international competition

    After the first three races in the South African MTN Marathon Series, Charles Keey (Cannondale/Blend Properties) is currently the leader. With his aggressive approach to racing, he has already accumulated 11,705 points so far this season.

    Keey's success in the MTN series can be ascribed to his consistency. He was victorious in Sabie and Tulbagh and finished third in Barberton.

    The 21-year-old Lourens Luus (RE:CM) is second with 10,815 points. He is followed by Waylon Woolcock with 10,647 points, Nico Bell (Westvaal/Bell Cycles) with 9,758 points and Erik Kleinhans (RE:CM) with 9,755 points. Max Knox (Specialized/EAI Solutions), last year's MTN Series winner, is currently in eighth position with 7,717 points. It should be remembered, however, that Knox did not compete at Tulbagh.

    When asked what he considers to be the highlight of his season, Keey did not hesitate to say that it was his victory at Sabie.

    "Winning the Sabie Race of the UCI Marathon World Series was really very special. It was the first race of the season and my victory put me, tied with the Olympic Champion Jaroslav Kulhavy, in first place on the UCI World Rankings.

    "Although I did not achieve everything that I wanted to during this year's Cape Epic, it was the first time that I was able to race right up there at the sharp end, with the best riders in the world, without being physically outclassed. This experienced boosted my confidence and made me adjust my goals for the future."

    Keey was always considered to be talented but, until recently, he has not really risen to the occasion. "I think I have surprised many people but, actually, my cycling abilities have been building up for a couple of years."

    For a long time, Keey felt like he was not achieving his full potential. "It was crucial that I surrounded myself with people who believed in me and helped me to achieve my goals. I always had great form when I competed in the MTN Series. Unfortunately, I struggled to convert my good form into good results at times when it really mattered. There were various reasons for this."

    He raced the full series calendar in 2012, but was juggling school and racing. "I actually surprised myself by winning about 15 races, including stages in Sani2C and the Karoo to Coast."

    This season, he teamed up with Darren Lill, a former South African road national champion. Keey didn't wan to let him down and focused even more on his training and racing.

    "More self-confidence, as well as proper coaching, also helped me to achieve my most successful season so far."

    Keey is still deciding his long term cycling goals. "I will have to sit down some time to reassess where I want to go in mountain biking and what will be achievable. If I should ever get an opportunity to race on the road in Europe at the top level, I would definitely consider it. On the other hand, our local mountain biking marathon scene is really world class."

    The next and fourth round of the South African MTN Marathon Series will happen this weekend in Clarens. It is doubling as a stop on the UCI Marathon World Series tour. International riders such as Steffen Thum (Ultra Sport Rose racing team), Stefan Sahm (Bulls), Pablo Morales and Tom Ettlich have been confirmed for the race.

  • Beti Bash drops USAC sanctioning after UCI rules decision

    Heather Irmiger (Trek Factory Team) has not given up much speed with her switch to enduro racing. She finished eighth.
    Article published:
    May 4, 2013, 14:05
    By:
    Cycling News

    Women's race no longer serving as Colorado state championship

    After much consideration, Beti Bus Productions LLC decided not to permit the 2013 Beti Bike Bash on June 2 as a USA Cycling-sanctioned event. The pressure to permit the event through USAC was off after the UCI postponed the enforcement of its Rule 1.2.019 forbidding UCI license holders from participation in non-sanctioned events. The change in the UCI's enforcement plans means that top pros can now compete in the unsanctioned event without fear of getting fined or suspended.

    "In recent light of the politics in the domestic racing scene, we feel that it is in the best interest of the Beti Bike Bash to ensure the governing body solidifies its position to listen to the views expresses by the cycling community and truly represent US riders and racers in search of both a workable and sustainable solution for the future over the next years," said organizers in a statement.

    "Since 2010, the goal of our race has been to include all levels of women racers-from never ever to experienced, young to wiser, licensed and unlicensed. We have grown our race on blood, sweat, and support of Yeti Beti's generous sponsors. In our second year, Stan's NoTubes allowed us to offer a sizable cash purse for our professional women."

    The race has attracted top talent including 2012 Olympic Bronze medalist Georgia Gould (Luna Chix), 2013 cyclo-cross World Cup champion Kate Compton (Trek), 2009 US National Champion Heather Irmiger (Trek), and Leadville 100 course record holder Rebecca Rusch (Red Bull/Specialized).

    "Having these women at the Beti Bike Bash gives us an opportunity to create a unique racing environment rarely seen at a typical mountain bike race. With no license requirements to compete in the Pro/Open class, we welcome any racer who wishes to compete for our $3,000 cash purse in our Pro/Open category."

    Racers who already paid their $5 USAC one-day license will get it refunded at packet pick-up or they can donate it to Camp Discovery.

    In conjunction with the decision not to permit with USAC, Beti Bash organizers are changing category names to the following: Beginner, Sport, Expert, Pro/Open, Singlespeed, and Never Ever with age groups in all but the Pro/Open Category.

    Because the race is not USAC-sanctioned, it will no longer server as the official Colorado State Championships for women's cross country.

    Prizes will be awarded 10 deep in the Pro/Open class and three-deep in all other categories.

    Junior entries still available

    Elevation Cycles is sponsoring the Beti Bike Bash with 50 complimentary junior entries (18 years and younger) for racers who register at Elevation Cycles in Highlands Ranch and Boulder.

    For more information on the race visit www.betibikebash.com.

  • Sonntag leads American Interbanc/Cannondale team

    Ben Sonntag (American Interbanc/Cannondale) in the Whiskey 50
    Article published:
    May 5, 2013, 13:56
    By:
    Cycling News

    Durango mountain biker gets 2013 race season off to strong start

    In only the second year of racing, the Southern California-based American Interbanc/Cannondale mountain bike team is being led Ben Sonntag, who recently signed for the squad.

    "I have some big races on my radar for 2013, and so far we're off to a great start, sitting third overall in the US Pro XCT Series standings and a finishing fourth in the Whiskey 50," said Sonntag.

    "I am excited about joining the American Interbanc/Cannondale team and even more excited to be back racing on Cannondale bicycles again. I've raced Cannondales for the majority of my mountain biking career."

    Sonntag, who lives in Durango, has groomed himself over the years into one of the top endurance stage racers in North America. An diverse and talented German, Sonntag's resume includes wins at La Ruta de los Conquistadores and the Breck Epic.

    "We are excited to have a rider of Ben's caliber flying the American Interbanc / Cannondale team colors, and showcasing the performance of Cannondale bicycles," said American Interbanc/Cannondale team manager Jon Hornbeck.

    The squad includes a mix of pro and expert racers who are mixing it up at events throughout Southern California this coming season.

  • Crusher not getting any easier

    Former Leadville 100 winner Gretchen Reeves won last the Women's Pro/Open division while bettering the course record set by Olympian Clara Hughes in 2011.
    Article published:
    May 5, 2013, 19:30
    By:
    Cycling News

    Uniquely formatted off-road race returns for its third edition

    The one-of-a-kind "Crusher in the Tushar",  a road/dirt bicycle race through Utah's Tushar mountain range scheduled for July 13, promises to be as challenging and unusual as it has been in its first two editions.  The 69.9-mile, point-to-point race will consist of more than 10,500 feet of climbing on equal parts pavement and dirt fire road and will reach elevations nearing 11,000 feet.

    Competitors in each of the 10 race categories - from "Bro-Tour to Pro-Tour" as race organizer Burke Swindlehurst likes to say - can choose any type of bike they deem suitable for the course with one caveat: there's no changing of bikes at any point.

    Swindlehurst said that as the race's reputation continues to grow, he expects many of the animators from the previous two editions in his pro/open categories to return, along with some new faces. Among some of the top names on the road, mountain biking and cyclo-cross scene expected to register include two-time men's pro/open winner Tyler Wren and last year's pro/open women's champion Gretchen Reeves. Jonathan Page is also on this year's start list.

    "There's really nothing else like it, as it doesn't cater to any one specific type of rider or discipline," Swindlehurst said. "Mother Nature plays her part as well. We had hot and dry conditions the first year, and last year it was raining off-and-on, so temperatures were quite cool and there was plenty of mud. So it's a unique event that requires a mix of skills and very well-thought-out equipment choice."

    The non-USAC sanctioned race was facing the issue of UCI-licensed riders not being able to compete without fear of getting fined or suspended; however, with the UCI postponing until 2014 the enforcement of its rules against participating in non-sanctioned events, the issue has been averted for this year.

    The race has been granted approval from land management agencies to increase its field size from 350 to 500 spots.

    For more information, visit www.tusharcrusher.com.