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MTB News & Racing Round-up, Sunday, September 9, 2012

Date published:
September 9, 2012, 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.

  • Gallery: First day at cross country MTB Worlds

    Kenta Gallagher (Great Britain)
    Article published:
    September 7, 2012, 07:53
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Racers dial in the course and compete in team relay

    Racing got underway on Thursday at the cross country portion of the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Saalfelden, Austria. Cyclingnews took a trip around the 4.5km course as racers practiced for the team relay later in the day and other upcoming events. The following gallery captures some of what it's like to be at the 2012 Worlds.

    Friday's racing will include cross country events for the U23 men and women and the junior women.  Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage.

  • Jacques assaulted during Park City Point 2 Point

    ’96 Olympian Tammy Jacques fought hard to secure second place.
    Article published:
    September 7, 2012, 17:22
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Former World Cup racer knocked to the ground by unidentified man

    Former World Cup mountain bike racer Tammy Jacques-Grewal was a victim of a freak attack while racing the Park City Point to Point last weekend. She was assaulted and knocked to the ground by an aggressive man along the trail while on some singletrack about five hours into the 80-mile race.

    While Jacques was racing in third place in the women's category of the endurance mountain bike event in Utah, an unidentified man ran up the trail toward her.

    "He eyed me and lifted his elbow to my helmet and assaulted me hard enough to knock me over off from the narrow, root-filled trail onto the ground, downhill side of the trail, where I could not get out of my left pedal," said Jacques to Cyclingnews. "Subsequent to the blow, the man laughed at me while I was in tears because my head hurt and was spinning, as I lay on the ground; however, he never said sorry or showed any remorse."

    "Another guy or two rode by after the incident and yelled at the guy, but he only responded with 'she is okay and there was only one sign on the trail to let me that there was a race' - which was strange because there were a few dozen riders in front of me with number plates!" said Jacques.

    She believes the attack was intentional. "He obviously was on a mission to disrupt the race and cause havoc to the racers. The man appeared very satisfied that he had inflicted me with pain and looked evil. The incident was very weird in that I actually yielded to the runner out of habit; although, I have never met a runner on course during a mountain bike race, it seemed the proper thing to do regardless of my third place position in the race."

    Upset by the assault, Jacques determined to keep racing. "I continued on for another hour, passed the girl that had passed me as soon as finished sitting on a log for about five minutes to recover and get my bearings, as another racer had placed me there, gave me water, and made me eat."

    Unfortunately, her day didn't get any better when she later went off course with another rider. "I followed the wrong tracks down a very long descent for several minutes only to discover that we had gone the wrong way. A very sweet gentleman informed us that we were off course and that the only way back was to climb up over a ridge."

    "We started to climb up Armstrong, but I turned around after about 20 seconds and went back down the trail all the way to Park City. I met a very nice lady hiking who stopped me and gave me a hug, as she must have sensed that I was lost and not going to complete the race. She was the most kind person one could have met and kept saying 'god bless you', which made me fall apart and to tears, as it was contrary to the encounter about an hour beforehand, which ultimately ruined my day and a race in which I would have certainly made the podium."

    Jacques had planned to kick it into high gear to attack the final two hours of the race, so after the assault, she rode conservatively and ate and drank plenty because she was going to skip stopping at the second feed zone. Her husband Rishi Grewal was going to hand up bottles and food in which she would use upon attacking the long climb ahead.

    Still feeling beat up and bruised from the assault, Jacques said she is recovering. "My Achilles is still very sore and has inhibited me from riding because I can't pull up on the pedals; however, I am able to swim slowly and walk. I really wanted to go to marathon nationals in Bend, Oregon, but instead I will visit an orthopedic doctor."

    Undeterred by the experience, she is planning to return to the Park City P2P next year. "I would like to thank Jay Burke, the race staff, and all of the volunteers that created such a great event. The course was very difficult, but at the same time, fun! It did not seem like I rode nearly six hours that day."

    After the assault, Jacques filed a description of the assailant with local police. "The man was about 5'10", light hair and fair skin, late 40s early 50s, and very fit looking. He had a light blue running shirt, white or light blue running cap w/visor. His smile and face looked like that of the man accused of killing the 77 people in Norway last year."

    Race organizer Jay Burke told KSL.com, "It is a shame that something like this has happened."

  • Kulhavy weighs future: road or mountain bike?

    Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic) poses with his brand new gold Specialized Epic, a surprise present for winning the Olympic Games. He didn't race it in the team relay, but look out for it on Saturday in the cross country.
    Article published:
    September 7, 2012, 22:38
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Olympic mountain bike champion will decide after Worlds

    What do Cadel Evans, Peter Sagan and Jacob Fuglsang have in common? All three are current WorldTour racers that used to be top mountain bikers. Mountain bike and road fans alike will have to wait a little bit longer to find out whether 2012 Olympic cross country champion Jaroslav Kulhavy will join his predecessors on the tarmac.

    In the meantime, it's one big race at a time for the Czech rider who competes for Specialized Racing.

    First there were the Olympic Games... just three weeks ago. "Winning the Olympics felt good because it was my big dream," said Kulhavy, "and I hope for a good future in cycling."

    Kulhavy and Nino Schurter (Switzerland) faced off for an exciting finale outside London on August 12. When asked what he was thinking on that final, nail-biting lap after Marco Fontana (Italy) had dropped off due to a mechanical, he said, "It was hard because I was fresh, but in the last lap, I felt my legs and I was thinking about them," said Kulhavy.

    "I had more energy on the flats. I tried to attack on the biggest climb, but Nino and I were still together into the last corner. That last corner was the last possible moment for an attack. I was stronger and I attacked. I was strongest that day."

    So what about the future?

    Kulhavy's contract with Specialized Racing ends with this season. "My motivation is still to win after the Olympics. My big dream was always to do road cycling," said Kulhavy. "It's a big decision - whether or I will ride on the road or stay with cross country. I will see. It will be a hard decision time at the end of the season."

    There are a couple of options for the Olympic champion. "I need to think about it and decide. One one hand, I could be a perfect mountain biker for the next five years, or I could try road cycling for maybe two years and then maybe come back to mountain biking for Rio de Janeiro [in the Olympics in 2016]."

    "I will decide once I see some offers," he said.

    Kulhavy is wise to the fact that should he go to the road, it would not be an easy transition. He's raced a bit on pavement before, but nothing close to the WorldTour level. There's no doubt Kulhavy has a strong engine, but will he be able to pick up the tactics and the heavy race schedule of roadies?

    "I have raced the road before, but just small races in Czech because in Czech, road racing is not so big," said Kulhavy. "It's not like in Italy or France. Czech road cycling is really small, but I have some experience with road racing. I always did it alone in races in which others had teams of nine or 10 riders."

    It never hurts to ask those who have done such transitions, and Kulhavy has been doing his homework.

    "I spoke with Zdenek Stybar, who went from cyclo-cross to road racing with Omega Pharma - Quick Step. It's a different transition from cyclo-cross, but I think our training is a little bit the same."

    "I also spoke with Roman Kreuziger (Astana). It's just too soon to say what will be better."

    "Peter Sagan was a big surprise for me. We rode together. He was a junior and espoir mountain biker and was super strong. He's good in the Classic races."

    Time to defend a world championship title

    After winning the Olympics, all pressure is off Kulhavy, who is looking forward to Saturday's elite cross country world championship race in Saalfelden, Austria.

    "I am not under pressure because the most important race was the Olympics, but it would be a nice bonus on the day if I am in the top three. I think I will enjoy the race. It will be a nice last race of the season."

    Speaking of his many media obligations after the Olympics, he said, "I don't know what my form is after the Olympics because I was really busy for two weeks. I was out of training. It was hard for me. I don't know whether my condition will be good or not."

    On Saturday, Kulhavy will race his brand new gold Specialized Epic 29er. The bike was a surprise present from him team this week to honor his Olympic achievement.

    But it wasn't his only new bike. He was also given a new white Specialized Epic 29er, which he raced in the team relay on Thursday.

    Talking about the Saalfelden, Austria world championship course, he said, "I don't think it's so different from Champery. There are a lot of roots although there's not so much steep climbing. It's two climbs - long but not steep. There are not as many technical sections. I think the course is good for me. I'm good at steady tempos."

    "It will be a good race. For the first half of the race, I expect a group of five or six riders." You can also expect he will be up against the usual cast of characters including his Olympic rivals Fontana and Schurter and those who are looking to make up for disappointing Olympic performances, like two-time Olympic champion and past world champion Julien Absalon (France), who DNFed in London.

    Shrugging off any concerns about whether the rainbow stripes jersey brings a curse to those who wear it, he said, "I don't know - I think the rainbow stripes are perfect for every time. It's always a big challenge for everyone, and I'll take them any time."

    Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage of the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships on Saturday.

  • Neff's world championship win a dream come true

    Jolanda Neff (Switzerland) flies toward victory.  She rode strong in the challenging technical sections.
    Article published:
    September 8, 2012, 01:46
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Third attempt at winning rainbow stripes is the charm

    Jolanda Neff was delighted to win a world title after three years of trying and being a serious contender. She pedalled to victory in the under 23 women's cross country mountain bike world championship race in Saalfelden, Austria, on Friday afternoon.

    "Until now, in every world champs that I've raced so far, after the first lap, I've been leading," said Neff. But then something always went wrong.

    "Two years ago, the race was in Mont-Sainte-Anne in Canada, and I was in good shape there. In Canada, I probably went too fast because I got heat stroke and couldn't finish the race and had to go to the hospital. It was very bad and sad for me."

    "Last year, I wanted to win it as a junior in Switzerland," she said. "It was a big event. I was already European champion and Swiss champion and had won the World Cup, and I just wanted to win. I was looking forward to the race so much, and then I got sick and couldn't do my best. I finished fourth."

    Neff's U23 win comes as a first-year U23 racer, but to her, age is not important. It's simply about winning the rainbow stripes. "For me, it doesn't matter so much if I'm a first year or second year; of course, it's great to win it as a first year."

    Neff called her success "a dream come true." She defeated her top rival Annie Last (Great Britain), who finished fourth, by outriding her on the technical sections.

    Not having any pressure helped out the Swiss rider.

    "I think probably it was an advantage to be an outsider. Last year, I was sick for the race and it was not just because I was nervous. This year, It was an advantage not to be the favorite. Annie Last had a strong season and everyone was looking at her as the big favorite. I knew I had a chance, and I just went for it. I felt good on the uphill and all the way through the race."

    All the while she was off the front on her own, she did not want to jinx herself by thinking of winning. Past experience had taught her valuable lessons.

    "I was thinking out there that I'd done this before, but I was never sure I would win it until I crossed the finish line. I knew something could always happen. This year at the World Cup in La Bresse for example, I was leading and then I had to stop the race on the last downhill."

    Her downhill and technical riding skills paid off, though, today. "I think technical riding is my advantage. The difference today was the downhill and that's where I passed Annie Last and where I always opened up the gap again. I've always been one of the better downhillers, especially racing with the girls, not all of them have the courage to do the stuff."

    When asked if she would continue to race with the U23 women at next year's World Cup or race up a category with the elite women, which is an option, she said, "I don't know yet. I haven't decided." First things first, Neff will have to finish celebrating her victory.

  • Cink finishes off U23 career with world championship win

    Julian Schelb (Germany), Marek Konwa (Poland) and Ondrej Cink (Czech Republic) at the front at the start of the U23 men's race
    Article published:
    September 8, 2012, 09:55
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Czech racer earns rainbow strips in Saalfelden, Austria

    Ondrej Cink capped off a great season on Friday afternoon by winning the under 23 men's cross country race at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Saalfelden, Australia. Earlier this year, he won the European U23 Championships and two U23 World Cups, one in Houffalize and one in Nove Mesto.

    "I had hoped for victory today. I concentrated on this date and I'm happy to meet my goal," said Cink, who will move into the elite ranks in 2013. "I trained very hard and wanted to finish my time in the U23 category with such a good result, although I think winning today was more than I had expected before this season."

    For much of the race, Cink chased race leader Michael van der Heijden (Netherlands), but as the race progressed, Cink got stronger and stronger as the Dutch rider started to fatigue.

    "When Michael attacked, I thought the race was over, but when I saw him on the flats, I knew I could catch him," said Cink. "I had also expected Alexander Gehbauer (Austria) to be strong, but he had a flat tire."

    Cink, who races for the Merida Biking Team, has spent some time with another World Champion from the Czech Republic: Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized). When asked about their relationship, he told Cyclingnews, "Jaroslav is a different rider than me, but I'm happy to have joined him in training on this course. Jaroslav is a world champion and an Olympic champion, and I'd like to do the same as him, but I have to follow my own way."

  • Cooper ends junior career with world championship victory

    Anton Cooper (New Zealand) win the junior men's cross country world championship
    Article published:
    September 8, 2012, 21:55
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    New Zealander makes mountain bike history

    Anton Cooper ended his junior cycling career with a victory in the cross country world championship race in Saalfelden, Austria on Saturday morning. Cooper also made New Zealand history by winning the nation's first-ever cross country world championship title.

    Living far from Europe and being in school has kept Cooper from racing more frequently against his European rivals although based on his performances so far, he had realistically hoped to win the world title in his final attempt as a junior.

    "Heading into the race, I wasn't sure how it would go because I hadn't raced these French guys in so long," said Cooper. "Today, I had to go with it on the spot. Where I went, I did so because I felt strong and it worked out."

    One of several French riders he beat was defending world champion Victor Koretzky. Cooper proved much stronger on the day and rode away from all of his competition to win by over two minutes.

    "One of my goals I set for this year was to win the world championships. It's been a dream as a kid to win this thing. I'm finally satisfied.

    "Prior to the race, I felt relaxed and had a good sleep. Everything just fell into place. All my training has been really good. I've been well looked after with Trek. I've had a good build-up to Worlds."

    Last year's Worlds in Champery, Switzerland didn't go so well due in part to a poor start. This year, Cooper got a good start and "that proved to be one of the factors that helped me win it".

    Being off the front for so long can be daunting, but for Cooper, it was one of those kinds of days where there is no suffering. "I had that rainbow jersey in my mind and that was just pulling me to the finish. It was the least painful kind of effort I'll ever do."

    Going to and from New Zealand isn't easy, but you have to do it to compete against the world's best riders. "It can be difficult to travel back and forth from New Zealand, but when you come from training in New Zealand in the winter to the summer, you can get a bit of a boost out of that."

    Next up for Cooper, he goes home and back to school. "I have a couple months of school and then exams and then I'm finished with that. Next year, I plan on racing a full season - all the World Cups as an under 23."

    Note: Vanessa Quin is the only kiwi mountain biker to win an elite title, claiming the women's downhill title in 2004. New Zealand downhill riders have also won three junior world championships, with Scarlett Hagen in 2004 in France, Cameron Cole in 2006 at Rotorua and Brook MacDonald in 2009 at Canberra.

  • Schurter celebrates best season ever

    Nino Schurter (Switzerland) on his way to winning the world championship
    Article published:
    September 9, 2012, 09:55
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Swiss rider wins his second elite cross country world title

    Nino Schurter sat absolutely beaming at the press conference after winning his second-ever elite cross country mountain bike world championship title on Saturday afternoon in Saalfelden, Austria.

    "It was my best season ever," he said.

    In July, he wrapped up winning the overall World Cup at the final round in Val d'Isere, France. Then three weeks ago, he finished second at the Olympic Games to Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic). At first he seemed disappointed not to win Olympic gold, but time changed his perspective. "Looking back, I'm happy about the silver medal in London. It was a great race and Jaroslav was just stronger there."

    For 2012, Schurter's focus was on the Olympic Games. He missed two World Cups to concentrate on the Olympics.

    Earlier this season, he told Cyclingnews that Worlds was a bit of an afterthought although after winning the Worlds on Saturday, he also said he'd been looking forward to this day, too, for quite some time.

    "I was quite tired after the Olympics. After the Olympics, I took one week to recover. I didn't know if I would compete at the Worlds. I was tired and didn't know what I wanted to do. Then I found the motivation again to train and to focus again on these Worlds."

    Schurter previously won the elite world championship cross country in 2009 in Canberra, when he out sprinted Julien Absalon.

    "Now I'll take a break and rest," he said. "It's awesome to wear the stripes. It feels nice to compete with the world champion's jersey. I don't know if I will race again this year, but it will be great to start next year in the World Cup with the rainbow jersey. I'm really proud."

    When asked whether he would compete in the eliminator on Sunday, when the first-ever world championship for that discipline will be held, Schurter said. Today is a great victory for Switzerland [after two of his teammates the Flueckiger brothers joined him in winning medals]. "I don't know what will happen tomorrow, but I'm sure we will celebrate tonight, and we'll see if we can compete tomorrow. The eliminator is so far not that important for us, but maybe we can recover."

    The press conference moderator then joked that perhaps Schurter would, in fact, be "eliminated" from the eliminator before it even started.

  • Bresset pulls off the Olympic - Worlds double

    Julie Bresset (France) wins her first elite women's cross country world championship
    Article published:
    September 9, 2012, 13:01
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    French woman wins gold in both cross country mountain bike events

    After Julie Bresset (France) won the Olympic women's cross country mountain bike race three weeks ago, there wasn't much time to get ready for the world championship race, held this weekend in Saalfelden, Austria.

    "For me, today was amazing because I did not prepare for this race," she said. "I had a lot of obligations after the Olympics and travel."

    The lack of time to train or think about the race plus having already won the Olympics may have been just what Bresset needed to boost her to victory at Worlds. It meant no pressure and no expectations.

    Doing so well in London was good for her mind and body. "Preparing for the Olympic Games was very important, and so today I was more confident," she said.

    "Today I was very relaxed because after winning the Olympic gold medal, I was happy," she said. "It's very difficult for to me to realize what has happened. The gold medal of a world champion is very amazing."

    Bresset should know. She won the under 23 women's cross country world championship last year, but as a first-year elite, this is her first elite title. There could be many more to come.

    She said her technical skills are what helped her to victory in Saalfelden. "I was relaxed and my mind was good. In the technical sections, I was at ease. I liked the course although the road sections were not fun. The laps were very fast today."

    The young French woman will take a break now and will not race cyclo-cross this winter season.

    "Last year, all winter was for preparing for the Olympic Games. I am looking forward to next season's World Cup," she said.