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MTB News & Racing Round-up, Thursday, April 10, 2014

Date published:
April 10, 2014, 1:00 BST
  • English set to defend Australian marathon title

    2012 marathon champ and 24-hour solo champ Jason English
    Article published:
    April 03, 2014, 22:30 BST
    Cycling News

    24-hour world champion aims for another national championship win

    Reigning Australian marathon national champion Jason English (Merida Bikes/BBD) is set to defend his title when the Australian championships hit Mount Joyce, Queensland this Sunday, April 6.

    English, a four-time solo 24-hour mountain bike world champion, will aim to add another national title to his glittering resume despite a recent bout of illness.

    "The championships are always a little more special as they attract a deeper elite field," said English who claimed third place in the recent Capital Punishment XCM event held in Canberra.

    "Getting sick recently isn't helpful for timing, but I'm keen to see how much Mt. Joyce has changed since I last raced there a few years ago.

    "It has been great to race in the green and gold jersey in both marathon and 24hr events, [and] I would really like to defend my national and world titles."

    English will go head to head with Adrian Jackson who won round one of the Australian marathon national series in Bright last month.

    "Adrian Jackson is always a tough competitor and he is in form," said English. "It seems hard to pick who will be performing well in this event. I think Dylan Cooper and Andy Blair will also be strong contenders, if the race was closer to 100km I think I would have a better chance of keeping up with these guys," said the long distance specialist.

    The full Mt Joyce marathon course will take riders along 72 kilometres of high quality trail with the event forming part of the Real Insurance XCM series.

    "The course layout has been carefully designed to showcase the best trails that the Mt Joyce escape park has to offer," said Mt Joyce course manager Hayden Lester.

    "Each lap will traverse two climbs towards Mt Joyce where riders will have the chance to enjoy sweeping views of the Wyaralong Damn and its foreshore," said Lester.

  • Absalon and Neff among favorites for World Cup dress rehearsal

    BMC Racing Team rider and French National Champion Julien Absalon will return to Pietermaritzburg with his eyes firmly set on putting behind the injury he suffered there in 2013 when the first leg of the 2014 UCI MTB World Cup season gets underway in Pietermaritzburg in mid-April
    Article published:
    April 04, 2014, 20:04 BST
    Cycling News

    Final test for some at Lugano round of BMC Cup

    Led by two-time Olympic champion Julien Absalon (BMC Racing Team) and three-time Olympic medalist Sabine Spitz (Sabine Spitz Haibike), world-class fields are expected to contest the second round of the BMC Racing Cup in Tesserete on April 5 and 6. This race event near Lugano in Switzerland is a final test right before next weekend's UCI Mountain Bike World Cup opener in South Africa for many - not least for Swiss hopefuls Mathias Flückiger and Jolanda Neff.

    "This is a very important race for me, a crucial race even," said the Stöckli rider Flückiger. With only seven days to go to the first World Cup race of the season, it is especially important for him "to get into race rhythm". That means to implement all processes and to confront your body with the intensity of competition - a kind of dress rehearsal.

    Given this rehearsal status, it's quite good that both race circuits, the one in Tesserete as well as the one in Pietermaritzburg, are technically difficult and very demanding. "Despite having suffered a puncture, I was able to collect much self-confidence and motivation at the BMC Racing Cup in Buchs," said Flückiger, who was the bronze medalist at the world championships in 2012. After the puncture was fixed, he had scored fastest laps only in the Canton of St. Gallen.

    At that point in time, Moritz Milatz had already moved into the lead, and he finally claimed victory in Buchs. Therefore the German champion currently is the overall leader of the BMC Racing Cup. And he has fond memories of the six-kilometer course in Tesserete. In 2012, he managed to win his first race in the Swiss series there, and in 2013 world champion Nino Schurter (Scott Odlo) beat him only by six seconds.

    "Due to the cold weather during the race in Buchs, I was feeling somewhat tired afterwards, but I think I will be fit again on Sunday. In my opinion, the Tesserete circuit is really cool. Of course, you should be cautious not to...

  • No Pietermaritzburg World Cup for Kulhavy

    Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized Racing XC)
    Article published:
    April 07, 2014, 17:40 BST
    Cycling News

    Last minute change of plans for Olympic champion

    Instead of flying to Pietermaritzburg, South Africa for round one of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, Olympic Champion Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized Racing) was home in bed with the flu on Monday.

    Kulhavy came down with the flu on Sunday after racing the Velká Bíte - Brno road race on Saturday.

    "Even while racing on Saturday, I was not feeling too well, and I was cold," said Kulhavy on his website. "On Sunday, then came the fever and the intestinal problems. I have therefore decided, after consultation with the team, to pass on the first World Cup."

    "My actual form after a long break, combined with my condition due to the flu, meant I would probably not have had a good race. I would prefer to get everything together for the second round in Australia."

    Kulhavy is just coming back to training and racing after fracturing his kneecap.

    Round 2 of the World CUp will happen in Cairns later this month.

    "Although I now feel a little better, I do not feel I can get on a plane in this situation and travel to Africa," he said.

    In Saturday's 138km road race in the Czech Republic, Kulhavy finished with the main field.

    "The race was a bit of a shock. I wasn't doing anything extra in the race, but in in the end, when we rode up the hill, I lacked strength."

  • Hannahs eager to impress at Pietermaritzburg World Cup

    Having won there in 2012, Hutchinson UR Team rider Tracey Hannah, will look to replicate the feat when she returns to the Cascades MTB Park for the 2014 UCI World Cup
    Article published:
    April 08, 2014, 2:45 BST
    Cycling News

    Siblings ready for downhill World Cup opener

    Having tasted success at the Cascades MTB Park previously, Australian downhill star siblings Mick and Tracey Hannah are hoping to make history and become to first siblings to win the men's and the women's downhill titles respectively at the UCI Mountain World Cup in Pietermaritzburg when they take to the tricky Cascades MTB Park layout from April 11-13.

    Having lost out narrowly to South African hero Greg Minnaar at the 2013 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Pietermaritzburg in 2013, Mick has been hard at work in the off-season in an attempt to get himself back to the summit of his discipline.

    "Going into the season I have changed my training a little this year," the Hutchinson UR Team rider said. "So far I'm really happy with the results, but I never know until the first race. Also we have done a lot of work with the bike so I think we're giving ourselves a good chance to do well this year."

    Mick Hannah has ended in second place twice in Pietermaritzburg, once in the 2009 World Cup leg and then again at the World Champs seven months ago and, with a good knowledge of the course and a fondness for the unique layout, Mick's chances of going one better in 2014 seem bright.

    "I really enjoy riding the Cascades course! It's fast and fun. It's definitely physically demanding as well. I think it's an exciting venue!" said Mick.

    "I have done well here consistently. I really enjoy the high speed courses and here you need a lot of power which is a strength of mine," the 31-year-old said.

    Tracey Hannah rode to a memorable victory in Pietermaritzburg in 2012 but was unable to repeat her feat in 2013 with British rider Rachel Atherton producing

  • Upbeat Bresset ready to rumble in Pietermaritzburg

    Current women's cross country World Champion Julie Bresset (BH Suntour KMC) will be hoping to repeat the feat that she achieved in Pietermaritzburg in 2013 when the 2014 UCI World Cup gets underway
    Article published:
    April 08, 2014, 18:54 BST
    Cycling News

    World Champion ready for Mountain Bike World Cup opener

    Having claimed a dramatic UCI Mountain Bike World Championship title at the Cascades MTB Park in 2013, French rider Julie Bresset is hoping she can replicate that form in the elite women's cross country at the first leg of the 2014 UCI World Cup on April 11 to 13 at the same venue where she won her rainbow striped jersey some seven months ago.

    Having held off a charge from Polish rider Maja Wloszczowska to claim the sought-after world championship title in 2013, Bresset is comfortable with the layout of the course in Pietermaritzburg and wants to get herself off to a solid start with a lengthy season ahead.

    "I think the Cascades course is really nice," the BH Suntour KMC team rider said. "I enjoy the tracks and the technical sections of the course. The layout of the course is very different from what I am used to, which means it is always interesting but it does suit my style of riding!"

    The tough conditions in Europe over the winter have meant that Bresset has not been as active as she would have liked but still feels that she is close to fully fit and is not setting her sights too high for the opening event of the new season.

    "It has been a good off season and the weather at home has not been good for riding but I did go to Spain for a training camp which was great.

    "I am not fully fit at the moment but I always work my way into the season slowly so I just want to start this season well and with this event so early I just want to get myself into the top five," said a relaxed Bresset.

    Having a World Cup event so far from the cycling hub of the world means that the travel so quite foreign to a lot of the riders and having to endure such a long journey is quite...

  • Epic adventure leading into World Cup for Hermida

    José Hermida Ramos of the Multivan Merida Biking Team had to complete the final three stages of the 2014 Cape Epic by himself after partner Rudi van Houts had to pull out but it is all a question of whether Hermida can recover in time for the 2014 UCI World Cup in Pietermaritzburg
    Article published:
    April 08, 2014, 23:00 BST
    Cycling News

    Former world champ uses Cape Epic stage race to prep for Pietermaritzburg round

    Having been a lone finisher at the end of the 2014 Cape Epic, Spanish star José Hermida experienced it all during the eight-stage race in the Western Cape. He's hoping to be fully recovered in time for the 2014 UCI MTB World Cup opener in Pietermaritzburg on April 11-13.

    Having started the Cape Epic strongly, Hermida and his partner Rudi van Houts were unable to finish the race together after the latter had to pull out during stage 5, leaving Hermida to power his way through to an unofficial finish. Nonetheless the Multivan Merida rider thoroughly enjoyed his sixth Cape Epic.

    "Well, the race went well until things went bad," the Spaniard said light-heartedly. "We had a special Epic, going from moments of glory to some sad moments and then losing the leader jersey and also 'losing' my partner with a couple of days to go."

    Having gone into the race with some high expectations, Hermida and van Houts managed to achieve these goals early on in the race but when van Houts was forced to withdraw, Hermida's goals changed and the race ended unfavourably for him as he crossed the finish line alone.

    "We actually managed to achieve our goals early on in the race because we wanted to get a stage win and also claim the leaders' jerseys and we got both of those after the prologue but, for sure, we didn't want the race to end like it did," the charismatic Hermida said.

    With only two weeks between the end of the Epic and the start of the World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, Hermida is under pressure to make sure that he is fit enough to compete well in the elite men's cross country clash at Cascades. It is a novel position that Hermida and world ranked number one Nino Schurter, who also did the Cape Epic, find themselves in...

  • Revitalised Zakelj ready for Pietermaritzburg World Cup

    Elite women's cross country winner of the 2013 UCI MTB World Cup Tanja Žakelj of the Unior Tools Team will be hoping to get her 2014 campaign off to the perfect start when she takes part in the 2014 UCI MTB World Cup Pietermaritzburg
    Article published:
    April 09, 2014, 16:55 BST
    Cycling News

    Last year's World Cup overall winner returns to defend title

    2013 UCI MTB World Cup cross country elite women's winner and current European champion Tanja Zakelj spent some time away from mountain biking following last year's triumph and is rejuvenated and ready to tackle the tricky Cascades MTB Park course when the UCI MTB World Cup takes place this weekend in Pietermaritzburg.

    The 25-year-old spent some time in the surf in the off-season while looking to subdue her natural competitive nature and lay low for a while to recharge her batteries ahead of what is going to be another long and bruising international mountain bike season.

    "The off-season all went as I had planned, but I ended up having a little bit more fun than I initially expected," the Unior Tools Team star said. "After the last leg of the World Cup in Hafjell, I did a bit of relaxing and only rode socially which was a nice change.

    "I went away to Fuertaventura and tried to do some surfing and spent some time on the beach relaxing before I went home to start training again.

    "The whole Unior Tools Team then went to San Remo in Italy to do some technical training at the end of the pre-season, and we are all ready to race!" she said enthusiastically.

    Having suffered a devastating crash at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Pietermaritzburg last year that ended her title aspirations and saw her finish fifth, Zakelj is wary of the Cascades course and has been preparing specifically for it in recent times.

    "The course in Pietermaritzburg is technical so we have been trying to find places where we can simulate the same conditions and that is why we decided to go to San Remo because where I ride at home there are a lot of roots in the forests but no...

  • Testing season opener for Minnaar

    Having recently recovered from a serious knee injury Pietermaritzburg hero and three time downhill World Champion Greg Minnaar has been working hard to be as prepared as he can for his home course when the UCI MTB World Cup comes to town
    Article published:
    April 10, 2014, 3:25 BST
    Cycling News

    World Champion looking forward to racing in front of home crowd again

    Having suffered a major setback during the dying stages of last season, three-time men's downhill world champion and Pietermaritzburg hero Greg Minnaar is happy to be back in his hometown again after establishing such fond memories of the Cascades MTB Park over the past few seasons and is looking forward to competing in front of his home support at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Pietermaritzburg this weekend.

    Minnaar, who splits his time equally between his base in Pietermaritzburg and San Francisco, is always glad to be home with friends and family and is just as comfortable in the United States where he has a number of businesses that he is involved in.

    "Being home and competing at home is always great and being ready to race here is always important for me," the Santa Cruz Syndicate star said. "I always want to do as well as I can for my friends and family that are watching and I'm working as hard as I can to be ready for the World Cup this year."

    Having had a long period off the bike following a knee injury and subsequent surgery, Minnaar has been slowly getting himself back into riding shape however, even after winning at the South African MTB Cup Series' first leg at Cascades earlier this season, he still does not feel that he is where he needs to be in order to be competitive in Pietermaritzburg this year.

    "I feel that there is always a bit of pressure on me when I race at home, but I think that the majority of the pressure comes from myself and always wanting to perform well at home adds that little bit of tension.

    "Knowing that I am not going to be 100 percent for the first half of the season is never ideal but I will be trying my hardest at home!" a...