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MTB News & Racing Round-up, Thursday, February 16, 2012

Date published:
February 16, 2012, 0:00 GMT
  • Swiss Cycling Federation opposes Bern MTB trail ban

    Nino Schurter (Switzerland) races to a silver medal in Champery at the Worlds
    Article published:
    February 14, 2012, 16:27 GMT
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Canton's proposal threatens mountain bike access

    The Swiss Cycling Federation officially voiced its opposition to a proposed ban on mountain biking on trails in the Canton of Bern late last week. It expressed its concern that the ban, if turned into law, could eventually be applied nationally and argued that any such ban would have drastically negative effects on the sport of mountain biking, both for elite Swiss athletes and recreational enthusiasts.

    The Bern Canton's proposed law on forests would prohibit mountain biking except on forest roads provided for this purpose. It would mean an end to mountain biking on singletrack, not only for regular racers, but also recreational riders.

    "Swiss Cycling, the cycling federation of Switzerland, opposes this change in law," read a statement from Swiss Cycling on Thursday. "Changing it could create a precedent that might be emulated on a national level. We encourage everyone to sign the online petition which has been launched against the amendment.

    "This change would have devastating consequences for mountain biking, a favorite Swiss hobby. The sport could no longer be done in its current form. Mountain biking only on forest roads is not practicing mountain biking. Thousands of children and youth and recreational and elite sportspeople could no longer legally do their sport of mountain biking with the application of this law."

    Swiss Cycling noted that nature is an essential part of the infrastructure for Swiss Cycling athletes, which use and respect the forest during training. Swiss elite mountain bikers are well respected in the mountain bike world - riders like Christoph Sauser, Nino Schurter, Florian Vogel, Thomas Litscher and Nathalie Schneitter are consistently top international contenders.

    "According to statistics, cycling has long been the favorite sport of the Swiss population. Just in the canton...

  • Japanese champ Yamamoto joins Kulhavy, Sauser & Co. on Specialized

    Kohei Yamamoto is the newest addition to the Specialized Racing squad for 2012
    Article published:
    February 14, 2012, 20:01 GMT
    Cycling News

    2012 Specialized Racing cross country team announced

    Multi-time Japanese national champion Kohei Yamamoto has joined Specialized Racing for 2012. Yamamoto becomes part of a roster full of mountain bike stars including cross country world champion Jaroslav Kulhavy, marathon world champion Christoph Sauser, Burry Stander, Todd Wells, Lea Davison, Rebecca Rusch and Ned Overend.

    "2011 was our most successful season ever, which is super motivating now that we are in an Olympic year," said Bobby Behan, Specialized's Sports Marketing Director. "There are four championship titles that matter in our sport: Olympic XC, world XC, World Cup overall and world Marathon. Jaroslav was sensational last year, blasting his S-Works Epic 29er to five World Cup Wins, the World Cup overall and the cross country world championship while Christoph delivered the goods again in the marathon Worlds. We are incredibly excited to watch them race this season."

    New arrival Yamamoto has won the Japanese cross country national title and the Asian cross country championship multiple times.

    "I started mountain bike racing when I was 10 years old," Yamamoto said. "In 2003, I was picked to join junior national team in Japan for the world championship. I graduated from the International Nature and Outdoor Activity college, where I studied mountain biking for three years. After my graduation, I started racing with Bridgestone Cycle as my first pro contract for the past five years. In 2012, I joined Specialized, and restarted with a refreshed mind. I am all excited about this season, and proud of being a member of Specialized."

    Kulhavy, of the...

  • NICA partners with first major sponsor outside bike industry

    Varsity female student-athletes start a race in Northern California in 2011.
    Article published:
    February 15, 2012, 2:30 GMT
    Cycling News

    Jeep commits to platinum-level support

    The National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) signed a landmark corporate partnership agreement with Jeep to be the league's official vehicle sponsor. With the partnership, Jeep becomes NICA's first platinum level partner outside the cycling industry.

    Jeep's commitment to high school student-athletes and mountain biking further advances NICA's mission of spreading the sport coast to coast by 2020.

    "Jeep joining the NICA movement as the Official Vehicle Sponsor and promoting high school mountain biking is incredible," said NICA Executive Director Matt Fritzinger. "Their financial support will be targeted where it matters most - the improvement and expansion of the sport to enable more student-athletes to strengthen body, mind and character."

    "NICA is doing great work in youth development, and we have been very impressed in our dealings with the organization thus far," said Jay Weaver, Chrysler California Business Center Marketing Director. We are entering this with a view to building a long-term partnership that provides ongoing support of a wide range of NICA activities and programs."

    Jeep has long supported mountain biking in North America and Europe and will engage its dealer network to connect with and support teams at the local level. Jeep's NICA support will include funding coaching, local leagues and improvements to the online PitZone - a resource for coaches and student-athletes.

    The Jeep partnership coincides with NICA's February 26 spring season openers in Northern and Southern California.

    "In 2012 we will have more than 2,000 student-athletes competing in 31 races in seven states, and that represents a 50 percent increase in participation, events and locations," Fritzinger said. "These are exciting times for NICA, and seeing the hard work and training put in by student-athletes and coaches makes it all worthwhile."

    NICA Spring Season
    NorCal: February 26 - May 20

  • Loose sand and rocks challenge racers in Tulbagh

    MTN Qhubeka rider Adrien Niyonshuti leads the chase
    Article published:
    February 15, 2012, 16:31 GMT
    Cycling News

    This weekend's MTB marathon expected to draw top talent

    Any rider who has hopes of winning the MTN Tulbagh marathon on Saturday, February 18, will have to be wide awake. One little mistake could effectively mean "race over" for him. Kevin Evans (Nedbank360Life) can vouch for this. During last year's Cape Epic, he crashed during the Tulbagh stage of the marathon and broke his collarbone. This ended his race prematurely.

    But Evans tasted sweet revenge during the most recent MTN Tulbagh marathon when he and his teammate, David George, put their rivals in a checkmate position with their tactically sound riding. George won and Evans finished second. According to Evans the racing in and around Tulbagh is challenging because of the loose sandy sections and loose rocks.

    "It is a real battle to get into a comfortable rhythm because you have to struggle to find your way through and over nature's obstacles. Of course this makes the race interesting for spectators to watch."

    Listening to Evans and some of the other top mountain bikers describing their racing experiences, it becomes clear that the Tulbagh marathon is truly a hard man's race. Even though the trail does not venture out of the Saronsberg valley, there are some challenging climbs and technical singletracks that test the skills, as well as the stamina, of the riders.

    The organizers recommend that the riders at the back should stop to admire the scenery when they come close to the magnificent Saronsberg mountain. They will see the route winding its way around cool farm dams, between luscious green vineyards and along rocky mountain tracks that are edged with indigenous fynbos, including proteas. The route, which makes a full anti-clockwise loop around the town of Tulbagh, takes full advantage of the scenic beauty of the Saronsberg valley.

    Because the race has been...

  • Nys keeps alive 2012 Olympic dream

    World Cup leader Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet)
    Article published:
    February 15, 2012, 19:08 GMT
    Cycling News

    Belgian 'cross star wants to race his mountain bike in London

    Sven Nys is keeping alive his dream of racing the 2012 Olympic Games as a mountain biker. It wouldn't be the first Olympic appearance for Nys. The Belgian cyclo-cross superstar raced to a ninth place at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

    After the final 'cross race of the season, the GVA Trofee - Internationale Sluitingsprijs Oostmalle on Sunday, February 19, Nys will turn his focus to his mountain bike.

    At his Landbouwkrediet-Euphony team's presentation earlier this week, he said the quest to qualify to race the mountain bike event for Belgium would begin with the first World Cup in South Africa in mid-March. Nys needs a top 12 placing in one of the first four World Cups to secure his spot.

    Nys said at the beginning of 2011 that he was going to use the summer to qualify, but his efforts did not work out. He ended his mountain bike season early, skipping the final World Cup and the Worlds after injuring his knee earlier in the season.

  • IMBA urges mountain bikers to fight for endangered RTP

    A rider flies along singletrack in Sun Valley, Idaho
    Article published:
    February 15, 2012, 21:12 GMT
    Cycling News

    Federal program supporting US singletrack at risk of being cut

    The International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) alerted members and supporters to threats to cut an important federal program that funds the development of singletrack. The endangered Recreational Trails Program (RTP) is the only US federal funding source for multi-use singletrack trails.

    "RTP is in grave danger in both chambers of the US Congress. This week, both the House and Senate are expected to vote on their respective transportation bills," read a statement from IMBA.

    "In the Senate, RTP is eliminated, but U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is offering an amendment to restore dedicated funding.

    "In the House, RTP was included in legislation forwarded by the committee, but Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has an amendment to eliminate the program. The entire House of Representatives hears the bill later this week."

    RTP funding provides US$85 million annually for trail construction and maintenance. Since 1993, RTP has funded more than 15,000 projects nationwide and leverages local and state funding. Only a small portion of federal funds collected are returned to the program for motorized and non-motorized trail projects.

    IMBA noted that eliminating dedicated funding for the RTP violates the "user-pay and user-benefit" philosophy undergirding the nation's surface transportation program. Eliminating funding converts a legitimate user fee into an unfair tax.

    "Organized trail planning and development will simply vanish in many areas of the country. The elimination of the RTP represents a substantial new tax on motorized recreation enthusiasts. Ending dedicated funding for RTP takes these gas taxes away from the people who pay them," said the IMBA statement.

    For details on how to contact your Senators and Representatives, click...

  • Video: Hannah looks forward to the season

    Mick Hannah (Hutchinson United Ride Team)
    Article published:
    February 16, 2012, 0:41 GMT
    Cycling News

    Australian downhiller targets World Cup

    Part of the Hutchinson United Ride team for 2012, Mick Hannah talks about his off-season and the racing to come in this video interview.

    "This year will give me the opportunity to race and travel with my sister Tracey (Hannah)," said Mick. "That's really exciting for both of us. We've been racing forever, but never had the opportunity to ride together much."

    Hannah will focus on the World Cup in 2012. He's also expecting to race Paris - Montmartre, Sea Otter a few French Cups.

    "This off-season has been different than I expected," he said. "I've been in Australia most of the time. Dad and I rode 2500km from NSW to Cairns, where we live. That was a lot of fun... out in the outback just riding along. We camped, visited friends and stopped in a few pubs. Since we've been back, I've been training."

    "My goal for 2012 is to get back up to speed after a hard couple of years. I'm back into getting fit and getting over injuries I've been dealing with."

  • Voroklini kicks off Cyprus Sunshine Cup

    The start of the elite men's race at the opening round of the Cyprus Sunshine Cup.
    Article published:
    February 16, 2012, 9:45 GMT
    Cycling News

    Best roster yet for European cross country opener

    The 2012 Cyprus Sunshine Cup will kick off on Sunday in Voroklini. Cross country world champion Jaroslav Kulhavy is the favorite among the men as Olympic champion Sabine Spitz and marathon world champion Annika Langvad are among the women. Racers from 24 different nations will be attending, including six ranked in the top 10 of the world.

    "I am trying to get in high intensity training to get back into race mode again," said Spitz. "But at the same time, I am trying to grab world ranking points as much as possible to improve my position. Like the other top riders, she is preparing for the World Cup opener in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, in mid-March.

    With it being an Olympic year, the race is drawing some of its best competition yet, especially in the elite women's category.

    Langvad (Fujibikes Rockets), the Voroklini winner in 2010 and 2011, and Spitz (Haibike) top the favorites list, but they'll have to watch out for Irina Kalentieva (Topeak-Ergon). It will be the first time the Russian is racing in Cyprus in about 10 years, and she's already test ridden the 6km course with other riders from her country.

    Tanja Zakelj (Salcano Factory Team), bronze medalist at European championships in 2011 and former U23 world champion from Slovenia, is also on the list, along with her compatriot Blaza Klemencic (Felt Oetztal X-Bionic), 2010 U23 world champion Alexandra Engen (Ghost Factory Racing) and Engen's teammate Katrin Leumann, the 2010 European champion.