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MTB News & Racing Round-up, Thursday, April 14, 2011

Date published:
April 14, 2011, 1:00 BST
  • US Pro Gravity Tour (US Pro GRT) kicks off in Washington

    Bryn Atkinson downhills at the Plattekille round of the US Pro GRT.
    Article published:
    April 09, 2011, 14:30 BST
    Cycling News

    Favorites test their legs at round 1 of US national series

    USA Cycling's 2011 Professional Gravity Mountain Bike Tour (US Pro GRT) starts today with the NW Cup in Port Angeles, Washington. The two-day event opens a five-event Pro GRT calendar culminating with the Wildflower Rush in Crested Butte, Colorado, on June 25-26.

    The men to watch out for this year are last year's champion Bryn Atkinson (Transition Bicycles), Andrew Neethling (Trek World Racing), Justin Leov (Trek World Racing) and the top returning American rider Waylon Smith (Santa Clarita Velo). Smith finished fifth in 2010 with 117 points. Logan Binggeli, Jared Graves, Jason Memmelaar and Duncan Riffle are others to watch.

    At Pro GRT events in 2010, Atkinson earned three podium finishes, including winning the NW Cup and a pair of runner-up results at Plattekill and Northstar.

    In 2010, the women were paced by American rider, Jill Kintner (Red Bull/Transition Racing), Tracy Moseley (Trek World Racing), Melissa Buhl (KHS Bicycles), Jacqueline Harmony (Vixen Racing) and Darian Harvey (Vixen Racing).

    Kintner, a BMX bronze medalist in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, is expected to begin the defense of her Pro GRT overall championship this weekend.

    Harmony is looking strong heading into the US Pro GRT opener. She is fresh off winning the Pan American Mountain Bike Continental Championships last weekend in Colombia.

    Other rounds of the US Pro GRT include the Highland Bike Park in Northfield, New Hampshire May 14-15, the Plattekill (UCI C3) in Roxbury, New York on May 21-22 and Northstar (UCI C2) on June 18-19 in Truckee, California.

    At the conclusion of the entire Pro GRT calendar, a male and female winner will be crowned the series winner based on a season-long rankings system.

  • Successful first elite year bodes well for Danny Hart for 2011

    British Downhiller Danny Hart (Giant Factory Off-Road Team)
    Article published:
    April 11, 2011, 13:07 BST
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Young British downhiller surprised himself with top tens last season

    Making the transition from the junior to the elite ranks is never easy and for many young riders, expectations are kept modest. Yet, every once in a while, a rider like Danny Hart comes along and jumps straight into the top 10 of the World Cup in his first year as a senior.

    Hart, who has just begun his second season with the Giant Factory Racing Team, finished eighth overall in the 2010 downhill World Cup.

    "I'll be perfectly honest, I wasn't expecting to do that well in my first year after moving up from the juniors," said Hart to Cyclingnews at a recent team camp in Santa Barbara, California. "I was thinking top 40 or top 30, but I was in top 20 often, then top 10. I was in the top 10 at the Worlds. It was all on big tracks, too."

    The British rider started his first year as an elite off on a positive note, but he wasn't taking anything for granted. "I could imagine people after the first race saying oh, yeah, it's just one race, but I was 20th in the first World Cup and then it just got better from there."

    Hart credits his Giant team and the tutelage of Oscar Saiz for his success. "Oscar pointed me in the right direction and helped me get some structure. I had missed that for my first few years of racing."

    "When I was on a European team - a French-speaking team - they did a lot for me, but it's so much better to be on an English-speaking team. Everything is so much better, so much easier." Hart made the move to Giant in 2010 from the Lapierre team.

    Hart, who turns 20 this year, shows maturity when asked about his last season - he is not taking his success for granted.

    "It was a consistent season. I butchered one qualifying, but you can't dwell on that. You just have to keep moving on. I think being...

  • Ontario Cup Series undergoes changes for 2011

    Race day action
    Article published:
    April 12, 2011, 17:21 BST
    Cycling News

    New venue, new race dates and new categories

    Chico Racing and the Ontario Cycling Association (OCA) announced some changes to the Plastiglas Ontario Cup Series for 2011 including a new venue, new race dates and new categories.

    The series has shifted one of the most popular venues Albion Hills (previously Ontario Cup # 2) from Mother's Day weekend to June 12. This date change is partially to give Albion's new trails a chance to settle, and for the launch of Mountain Bike Month at Albion Hills - culminating at the end of June with North America's Largest 24-hour race, the Summer Solstice on June 25-26.

    "We moved the date for Albion Hills because this will allow us to showcase three brand new singletrack trails at this very popular stop on the O-Cup race calendar," said Chico Racing's Course Designer Sean Ruppel.

    The Woodnewton venue, located just outside of Uxbridge. Woodnewton, will take the place of the mid-May date. It was a brand new venue in 2010 and has received a few course updates including a rock garden and a new technical uphill section. A "Learn to Race Clinic" on May 14 is also be run for anyone wanting to update his or her skills or get involved in racing.

    The Highlands Nordic, near Collingwood, is another new venue for 2011. This brand new course will test riders in September for Ontario cross country mountain bike championships, and promises a moderately technical trail, with a couple fun climbs.

    "For those that have done some riding in the area, a very good description is a combination of Kolapore and Three Stage," said course builder Scott Holmes of HBCC.

    In addition to venue updates, the Plastiglas Ontario Cup Series will also undergo a couple category changes. With the exploding youth movement in Ontario, the OCA has lowered the racing age to nine, instead of 10. This means there is a brand new category of mini mountain bikers - the Squirts for ages nine and 10. This shake-up also means Peewee will be for 11 and 12 year olds only.

  • Whole Athlete-Specialized Team tackles Sea Otter with full roster

    Keegan Swenson (Whole Athlete/Specialized)
    Article published:
    April 12, 2011, 19:57 BST
    Cycling News

    Eighteen riders to contest West Coast's largest mountain bike event

    The Whole Athlete-Specialized Cycling Team has its sights set on the 2011 Sea Otter Classic on April 15-17 and is sending a contingent of young riders. Nine junior boys, five junior girls, and four under 23 riders will contest their respective cross country races.

    Standout juniors including Keegan Swenson (2010 Junior men's 15-16 National Champion) and Tony Smith (2010 Worlds team member) will face a strong field as they look to maintain their momentum of consecutive one-two finishes in the first two US Pro XCT rounds at Bonelli Park and Fontana.

    Sea Otter will mark the first foray into national-class racing for the junior girls this season, who have focused mainly on High School League racing so far this year. Sofia Hamilton (2010 Worlds team member) is hoping for one step above her second place finish in last year's junior women's 17-18 race, while current junior 15-16 national champion Kate Courtney, also a podium finisher last year, hopes to take top honors in this year's event.

    On the under 23 side, neo-pro Zach Valdez is coming off a strong start to the spring, including two second place finishes in the Kenda Cup Series and 10th in the Bonelli Park US Pro XCT short track. Valdez and his U23 teammates will face the country's top professional racers at Sea Otter, which is the third stop of the US Pro XCT Series.

    Whole Athlete-Specialized for the Sea Otter Classic
    Junior Men 17-18: Keegan Swenson, Tony Smith, Max Houtzager, Taylor Smith, Bobby Zidek, Sven Beer, Eliel Anttila
    Junior men 15-16: Lucas Newcomb, Jonny Kaufman
    Junior Women: Sofia Hamilton, Kate Courtney, Victoria Yoham, Mackinzie Stanley, Josie Nordrum
    Under 23 Men: Zach Valdez, Will Curtis, Riley Predum,...

  • Langkawi International Mountain Bike Challenge returns for year two

    Lachlan Norris won the inaugural Langkawi International Mountain Bike Challenge
    Article published:
    April 12, 2011, 20:33 BST
    Cycling News

    Later date planned for five day race

    The Langkawi International Mountain Bike Challenge (LIMBC) is back for 2011. The second edition of the race will be held on October 17-23.

    Organised by Human Voyage (M) Sdn Bhd and sanctioned by the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF), the five-day race will take mountain bikers throughout a protected tropical rainforest area.

    The event, which is officially listed as an international event on the UCI calendar, offers ranking points in the UCI standings for the top 10 finishers. LIMBC will end with a jamboree for social riders wishing to participate for fun amongst nature, friends and family. The race boasts the biggest purse in Asia - with a RM360,000 in cash and prizes.

    The adventure will begin with stage 1 on October 18 with the 62km. Next up will be stage 2, a cross country which starts and finishes at Kampung Tok Senik Resort. Stage 3 will be a seven-hour endurance cross country special stage race at Telaga Harbour Park, Pantai Kok, followed by the nerve-shredding King of the Mountain and cross country race which will end at the Gunung Raya Hill as stage 4, before the event culminates with Stage 5, a short track race. The jamboree ride event marks the closing and final day of this much-anticipated race, with a limited participation of up to 1,000 riders for the 44km race. Social riders of all ages and backgrounds are welcome to participate.

    "As we are aware, mountain biking is one of the fastest growing outdoor sports in the world. The LIMBC is where adventure meets nature, designed for all mountain bikers to have fun regardless of their status," said Human Voyage CEO Dato' Abdul Malik Mydin.

    "Above all, as an eco-friendly event, LIMBC is the best tool to promote Langkawi as one of Malaysia's major tourist destinations," said Malik.

    Last year's race was run on August 6-8 with 765 local and 55 international racers. Lachlan Norris won the elite men's race while Adrian Lauridsen and Emir Shafiq Zainal...

  • Defending champ Mather hoping for two on the trot

    Tasmania's Ben Mather leads on the single track.
    Article published:
    April 14, 2011, 5:52 BST
    Cycling News

    Australian Mountain Bike Marathon Championship this weekend

    A major challenge for the 2011 Australian Mountain Bike Marathon Championship jersey awaits defending champion, Ben Mather as he takes on some of the nation's best endurance riders at the Mt Joyce Escape Mountain Bike Park in Queensland this Sunday April 17.

    The Tasmanian rider will be among more than 750 competitors set to take on some of the most demanding climbs and unforgiving trails at the 80km course - the Marathon Championships being the first event to showcase the new venue.

    Mather, 29, spearheaded the charge to win the hotly-contested 2010 Nemisis Australian Mountain Bike Marathon Championships in Avoca, Victoria last April. Mather made a bold move to go out hard securing an extended lead on the field in the early stages of the race which he held to the finish line.

    Mather holds high hopes that he has what it takes to take out his second consecutive Australian Marathon Championships title while battling tough rivalry on the new and unfamiliar terrain.

    "The new course itself is a little unknown and I'm not too sure what to expect. The combination of the poor weather conditions forecast and the unfamiliar terrain could prove very challenging for myself and the other riders - it will be interesting to see how it plays out," he said.

    "In terms of my fitness, I am feeling good. I wouldn't say that I am in peak form but I think I've got a good chance at being on the leaders' board in the final stages."

    "It would be nice to take out the title once again but being realistic, there is a strong field going into the race and I know they will be tough to beat."

    "Peter Hatton in particular is riding very well and is in exceptional form coming off the back of a good performance in the Cape Epic Africa Mountain Bike race. Dylan Cooper is another favourite to beat and I know those boys will contest with very good form in their legs."

    Mather will face strong opposition in the elite men's event from the...

  • Oldest race in Germany to kick off International MTB- Bundesliga series

    The start of the elite men's race in Muensingen
    Article published:
    April 14, 2011, 11:49 BST
    Cycling News

    Hermida and Spitz headline starters in Münsingen for this weekend

    The 25th edition of Münsingen Spring Classic will kick off the domestic mountain bike season in Germany as the first round of the 2011 International MTB-Bundesliga. Reigning world champion José Antonio Hermida and Olympic champion Sabine Spitz top the start list, which also includes the Cannondale and Ghost teams.

    The event is drawing more than 1300 participants, with 700 of them doing a marathon on Saturday. A sprint distance race will give the elite racers a chance to warm up their legs on Saturday evening before the traditional cross country race on Sunday.

    The racing in Münsingen comes six days before the UCI World Cup opens in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. It's a final test for some of Europe's top cross country racers.

    The Multivan Merida Biking Team is fielding a strong team, including Hermida and three-time Münsingen winner Ralph Näf, Cannondale Factory Racing is sending Marco Fontana, Martin Gujan and local hero Manuel Fumic.

    Fumic, who's missed the race for the past three years, is aiming for a podium finish. "It's a real classic race and there are not a lot of races with that long of a history." He's never previously made the top three at the event.

    Rabobank-Giant is bringing Henk-Jaap Moorlag and Emil Lindgren while Felt-Ötztal-X-Bionic's roster includes Thomas Litscher and Karl Markt.

    Another racer to watch is Jochen Käss, who was ranked second at the Cape Epic and is in good form. "I feel good and I will try to be in the front group. Doesn't matter if I'm exploding on the last lap," he said.

    Last year's women's race winner Lisi Osl (Ghost) is coming back to Münsingen with two race victories already in her legs this year - both in the Swiss Racer Bikes Cup. She'll face Spitz as well as Spitz's new Central Haibike teammate Tereza Hurikova.

    "In Tesserete (at the Swiss Racer Bikes Cup), I had some problems with my diaphragm, but I think I...

  • Strong support for high school racers at Sea Otter

    Will Curtis, NICA champion
    Article published:
    April 14, 2011, 21:50 BST
    Cycling News

    Four state leagues to be represented

    The National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) has teamed up with pro riders, teams and cycling manufacturers who will teach and assist student athletes from the Colorado, SoCal, Washington and NorCal leagues during the Sea Otter Classic on April 14-17 at the at Laguna Seca Raceway, in Monterey, California.

    "The Sea Otter Classic has a special place in the history of high school cycling, as it is one of the events where we first got students from different schools competing against one another, way back in 2001," said NICA executive director, Matt Fritzinger. "It is very energizing to look back now and see how far we have come, thanks in part to events like this one that have supported us over the years."

    NICA high school rider clinics with the pros

    Pro riders will conduct clinics with NICA student athletes. These include clinics such as the following: Saturday, April 16 at 10:00 am: Clinic and ride with Kinetic pro Meredith Miller. Saturday, April 16 at 4:30 pm: Race warm-up with Giant pro Adam Craig. Sunday, April 17 at 10:00 am: Ride with the Subaru-Trek Mountain Bike Team. Sunday, April 17 at 12:30 pm: Finding sponsorship and balancing your life as a competitive mountain biker, with WTB's Jason Moeschler.

    NICA Saturday spin down

    These sessions comprise three ambassador groups of 10 riders, each spinning for one hour, at the NICA Neutral Support Zone. Sessions are planned for Saturday 11:00 am to noon; noon to 1:00 pm; 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm

    NICA high school neutral support zone

    NICA is providing technical support for any student athletes in a high school cycling league, regardless of the team. Support will consist of Clif and Gu racing product, mechanical support, places to store bags and set-up trainers for race warm-up.

    NICA pro rider photo...