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MTB News & Racing Round-up, Thursday, March 15, 2012

Date published:
March 15, 2012, 0:00 GMT
  • Neethling ready to raise his game at MTB World Cup

    Andrew Neethling (Giant)
    Article published:
    March 14, 2012, 4:30 GMT
    Cycling News

    South African star looking forward to opener in Pietermaritzburg

    South African downhill star Andrew Neethling made big strides in the UCI MTB World Cup in 2011, including claiming a first ever podium finish at Windham in the USA. He's looking to up the ante in 2012, starting at the UCI MTB World Cup Pietermaritzburg this weekend, March 17-18.

    Last year's stop in Pietermaritzburg ended in disappointment for Neethling - he showed good form by qualifying in tenth place for the final, but suffered a fall high up on the course in the race itself, which took him out of contention. He's looking forward to a better result this time around.

    "The home support is awesome," he said. "Even though the race didn't go my way last year, it was an awesome experience having so many people come up to you and wish you luck.

    "The crowd support is insane and not just for the local riders," he said, echoing a commonly held opinion among the top riders that the Pietermaritzburg crowd is one of the best to be found anywhere.

    After the disappointment of crashing out on home soil in the season-opener, the Giant rider lifted his game and went on to finish the World Cup season in 15th place overall. He also won the South African Downhill National Championships and captured the Jeep Air downhill title at Crankworx Whistler in Canada.

    "It is tough not to be very pleased with how the year went. I learnt so much and had a great time with the team," he said, looking back on 2011. His goals for 2012 are similar to last year and he wants to end the season ranked inside the top 10. "I want to be consistent and push for podiums and wins all year long."

    That push will begin on the Cascades MTB Downhill...

  • Pietermaritzburg World Cup cross country course gets thumbs up

    Burry Stander drops through a new technical section in the Amphitheatre during the Momentum Health XCO International, ahead of this weekend's 2012 UCI MTB World Cup Pietermaritzburg
    Article published:
    March 14, 2012, 14:56 GMT
    Cycling News

    More technical features added to challenge racers

    The cross country course for the 2012 UCI MTB World Cup Pietermaritzburg hosted its first competition this past weekend, the Momentum Health XCO Internationals, and afterwards the general consensus was that it's a step up on the 2011 course.

    "The guys have found it to be a better course than last year, with more overtaking, shorter climbs, and more technical challenges," said course designer Nick Floros.

    The competition at the front of the field was fierce, with Specialized Racing's Burry Stander having to deal with the twin challenge of Scott-Swisspower's Nino Schurter and Florian Vogel, ranked second and fourth in the world respectively.

    It was tight, but the Swiss stars worked well together to prevent the South African star from taking victory. Schurter, the winner of the UCI MTB World Cup Pietermaritzburg in 2011, claimed victory, with Stander in second and Vogel in third.

    "The racing was brilliant," says Floros. "I don't think everyone showed their cards. It was a bit of a chess game, so we'll see what happens this coming weekend."

    For those that have failed to heed warning boards or who might have lacked sufficient skill, the course has already shown its teeth. "We had a couple of internationals come and not adhere to our danger boards and we had a dislocated hip and one or two broken wrists," Floros said.

    The character of the course is far more technical, with five new features of various sizes set to challenge the all-round...

  • Milka Superior launches 2012 mountain bike team

    The Milka-Superior MTB Team for 2012
    Article published:
    March 14, 2012, 17:21 GMT
    Cycling News

    Cape Epic an early season target for Brentjens and teammates

    Milka Superior Mountain Bike Racing Team presented its 2012 team last week. Former road world champion and Eurosport host Danny Nelissen launched the team, which is owned and run by mountain biking's first Olympic champion Bart Brentjens, to press and sponsors.

    Chocolate company Milka and Superior Bicycles teamed up for this season as co-title sponsors. "I am extremely proud to be able to present this team and to be the manager of this team. This will be the third year that my team is riding for Milka, and I am really thankful for this cooperation," said Brentjens. "This season we have a new frame sponsor, Superior Bicycles. We are their first factory team, and I am sure we will get some good results together."

    The team will race in a flashy, lilac-colored kit. The team chose to present itself in Limburg in the Netherlands for a reason. "The road world championships are in Limburg this year. Our main goal is to bring two of our riders to the start of the Olympic race in London, 2012."

    Brentjens manages the team, which includes the following riders: Chris Jongewaard (Aus), Marek Konwa (Pol), Tim Wynants (Bel), Jeroen Boelen (Ned), Hans Becking (Ned), Anneke Beerten (Ned) and Brentjens himself.

    The Milka Superior squad is an officially registered UCI Mountain Bike Trade team. Its riders will compete in the cross country and eliminator World Cups, four cross Pro Tour races, the Cape Epic, national championships and various international and national races.

    Brentjens is also supporting an additional racer, Annie Last of Great Britain, under the Milka Brentjens MTB Racing team name. Last will also race this year...

  • IMBA announces 2012 grants for clubs and chapters

    Racing on buff singletrack at Utah Championship Series race 1 in Lambert Park, Utah
    Article published:
    March 14, 2012, 19:54 GMT
    Cycling News

    Deadline for first grants is April 15

    The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) announced its 2012 grant offerings, provided in partnership with Clif Bar, HucknRoll and USA Cycling. All three can be applied for separately using the same application and are available to IMBA-affiliated chapters and clubs. Applicants should be aware that not all deadlines are the same.

    There are three kinds of grants available for this calendar year.

    First, IMBA and CLIF Bar will award ten $500 grants to fund projects that promote environmental education and inspire conservation in the mountain biking community. The deadline to apply is April 15, 2012.

    Second, IMBA and HucknRoll will award four $700 grants to support projects that maintain and improve the sustainability of local trails, preserve the environment and enhance conservation in the mountain bicycling community. The deadline to apply is April 15, 2012.

    Finally, IMBA and USA Cycling are offering Trail Tune-Up grants, which include $2,000 in funding and a follow-up visit from one of the Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crews. The crews will provide technical assistance for the grant winners' trail projects. Projects that create or improve trails used for mountain bike racing will receive the highest consideration, but funding can also be used to improve trails for race training and recreational riding. Applicants must be current members of IMBA, as well as USA Cycling member clubs/race promoters. The application period is May 15 - Aug. 15, 2012.

    All applications for the above grants must be submitted via IMBA's 2012 Small Grants Application Form. Submissions will not be accepted via mail or email.

    IMBA chapters and clubs with non-profit status may also apply for grants of up to $2,500 each from the North Face Explore Fund. Grants will be awarded by North Face to organizations with spring and summer activities geared toward youth that are based on three...

  • Wloszczowska and Szafraniec complete World Cup preparations

    Maja Wloszczowska at the 2011 Worlds
    Article published:
    March 15, 2012, 11:19 GMT
    Cycling News

    CCC Polkowice riders wrapped up pre-season training in Spain

    With the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup coming up quickly, CCC Polkowice riders Maja Wloszczowska and Anna Szafraniec wrapped up their early season training in Spain.

    Wloszczowska spent two weeks at the centre for Olympic preparations C.A.R. (Centro de Alto Rendimiento) in Sierra Nevada while her teammate Szafraniec chose a lower altitude venue in Benidorm.

    "Here you can feel the atmosphere of hard work, strong motivation and the hope for good results during the season," said 2010 cross country world champion Wloszczowska of the C.A.R. "The centre offers everything a rider needs for training and recuperation,"

    "There's no room and time for entertainment. Everybody trains, rests... and likewise day by day. As usual I had brought here books to read and learn as well as films for moments of relaxation, but I haven't touched any of it."

    Wloszczowska won silver in Beijing at the Olympic Games and hopes for another strong performance at the London Olympics. She was second last year at the world championship, not helped by a flat tire that cost her some valuable time.

    The C.A.R. facilities include an Olympic-size swimming pool, a fully equipped gym, a room for aerobic exercises, basketball and volleyball courts, handball and indoor football court. There is a room for pole-vaulting, wrestling mats, a boxing ring and - an outdoor one, though - running track and sports field. There are places for recuperation - giant freezing rooms for cooling down muscles after trainings, rooms for massage, saunas and jacuzzis.

    Daily medical monitoring was part her camp as the facility is at altitude - 2300m. While there, the Polish rider was surrounded by athletes from different...

  • Video: 2012 UCI Downhill World Cup preview

    Aaron Gwin (Trek World Racing) was the dominant Men's downhill rider of 2011 (Val di Sole World Cup, Ita)
    Article published:
    March 15, 2012, 12:40 GMT

    Updated: Who will be the best this season?

    This article and videos first appeared on

    The wait is almost over for the season opener of the UCI Downhill World Cup, with Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, once again on hosting duties for the opening round this weekend.

    Competition for the overall title will be fiercer than ever, with the established names getting stronger and a new generation pushing them all the way. Who will be contesting the podiums? What will the top three look like come September? Who will have the edge in Leogang at the World Championships?

    The two videos below, featuring Rob Weaver and Ric McLaughlin from our mountain biking titles, offer our view of how we see the 2012 gravity season shaking down.

    The first video offers a season preview, and in the second and third videos, the pair gives their predictions for the 2012 men's and women's downhill World Cup and world championships.

    Use this on all articles. The player is narrow enough to fit next to the article gallery images box on the right.
    Use this on all articles. The player is narrow enough to fit next to the article gallery images box on the right.
  • Minnaar keen to repeat previous Pietermaritzburg triumph

    Santa Cruz Syndicate downhill star Greg Minnaar is keen to ride the wave of local support to repeat his 2009 triumph in next week’s 2012 UCI MTB World Cup Pietermaritzburg
    Article published:
    March 15, 2012, 14:30 GMT
    Cycling News

    Santa Cruz Syndicate rider excited to race at home World Cup

    For Pietermaritzburg local Greg Minnaar, the opening round of the UCI MTB World Cup, to be held at the Cascades MTB Park, is hugely important.

    In the past, it has brought the South African rider both joy and disappointment.

    The first time the World Cup was held in Pietermaritzburg, in 2009, Minnaar gave the home fans exactly what they wanted, producing an outstanding run after going off as the second last rider in the field, to claim a massively popular and exciting victory.

    "That definitely was the best win by far," he said on Thursday before heading off to put in some practice at Cascades. "It was the first time that I got to race in front of all my family. My gran was still around, it was cool for her. She was one of my biggest fans. All of my friends and the people who I was at school with, who didn't quite know what I did, I finally had a chance to race in front of them all.

    "It was really special, and luckily, I was fortunate that I won. It was crazy. The sound of the crowd was just echoing. You could say that it was a fairytale ending to the first World Cup."

    Last year, American Aaron Gwin produced a stunning ride to edge Minnaar by a quarter-of-a-second for the title. No other rider came close to their times, but for the South African star it was a disappointing result.

    "When you're racing at home, you want to win, more so than at any other race. Last year was disappointing, being second and just so close to the win, but I feel the physical shape I am in now, and with the new bike and new equipment we've got for this year, we have a bit of an edge on the guys, so hopefully we can turn that second place into one step better."


  • UCI elite mountain bike team rosters finalized for 2012

    The elite women's start on pavement
    Article published:
    March 15, 2012, 17:05 GMT
    Cycling News

    Riders and teams imported into Cyclingnews database

    Cyclingnews' riders and teams database now contains the final rosters of the UCI Elite Mountain Bike Teams for 2012.

    When the 2012 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup gets underway in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa on March 17 and 18, riders from 27 teams will be sporting the logo that identifies them as belonging to this higher tier of UCI registered mountain bike teams.

    In December 2011, the UCI announced the names of the 15 cross country teams and 14 "gravity" teams eligible to receive this label, which was first introduced for the 2011 season. These teams have submitted their registration files within the deadline and are now confirmed as UCI Elite Mountain Bike Teams.

    Of these teams, two (Trek World Racing and Ghost Factory Racing Team) are "mixed" teams, receiving the UCI Elite label for both "endurance" and "gravity" disciplines.

    The elite teams are made up of 144 riders - of which 91 are in cross country teams and 53 in the "gravity" teams.

    UCI Elite Mountain Bike Teams are identifiable by a logo on their team vehicles and race outfits. They are obliged to enter at least one rider in all 10 rounds of the 2012 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup. In return, the teams benefit from numerous advantages, including free entry in the World Cup events and races on the UCI Mountain Bike International Calendar, with the exception of stage races.

    You can check out the 2012 Elite teams at