US Cup pro cross country series continues in California
Bonelli Park is hosting its first-ever hors categorie mountain bike race as round 2 of the USA Cycling US Cup presented by Sho-Air Cycling Group, but it is no stranger to big-time mountain bike racing. The venue has hosted races since the mid 1980s, including no less than three UCI C1 category events in recent years.
Elite cross country racers from around the globe will be lining up in San Dimas, California to compete for some of the big money on the line for both the race and the series.
In addition to being round 2 of the US Cup, Bonelli Park is also round 2 of the US Pro XCT series.
Saturday, March 15 Bonelli Park Race Schedule (all times Pacific Daylight Time / Local California Time) 11:00 - 11:15 PDT: Elite women cross country - staging and call-up 11:15 - 13:15 PDT: Elite women cross country race 13:30 - 13:45 PDT: Elite men cross country - staging and call-up 13:45 - 15:45 PDT: Elite men cross country race 15:50 - 16:00 PDT: Elite women and men cross country podium ceremony
French women's downhill sensation Emmeline Ragot is fed up with playing second fiddle at the Cascades MTB Park and after another second place finish at the 2013 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships is hoping that she can go one better and claim the first title of the season when the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup arrives in Pietermaritzburg on April 11-13.
The veteran of 50 World Cup podiums has always had to work harder on the Cascades layout due to the tough nature of the course and the reliance on strength which Ragot feels is not a strong part of her technique but going into the World Cup this year, Ragot feels she has what it takes to win.
"I am a small girl, so the course doesn't really suit my style of riding because of the long flat sections," the former World Champion said. "I much prefer the steeper, more technical tracks but I have been working hard and feel that I will be fit enough to take on the physical track when I get to Pietermaritzburg."
It has been a busy winter for the 27-year-old who has been working hard on her strength training and heads into the 2014 season with a clean bill of health and having won the 2013 European Continental Championships after the world champs she will be confident see can take that form into the new season.
"I have had a busy off season with a lot of studying and training taking up my time, so I haven't had too much time off, but it means that I will be ready to go when I get to Pietermaritzburg. I haven't had any problems with injuries so I will be fully fit for the tough track at Cascades.
"I ended the year well last year which is encouraging going into the first leg of the World Cup this year," the Lapierre Gravity Republic team rider said.
Marek Galinski died in a car accident early Monday morning according to an announcement by the Polish Olympic Committee. He competed in four Olympic Games (1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008) and was a nine-time Polish national cross country mountain bike champion (2000 and 2004-2011).
A former coach of the Polish National Team, Galinski was currently working as the coach of the Russian Mountain Bike National Team. Most recently he raced for the CCC Polsat team (2007) and the JBG - 2 Professional MTB Team (2008-2011).
He is survived by his wife and two children.
Shortly after midnight on Sunday night, Galinski was returning from a camp in Cyprus as reported by Echodnia.eu. He had landed in Cracow and was driving a car home when he skidded off the road going around a bend and hit a tree. Rescuers had to free him with hydraulic tools, but his injuries proved fatal.
Cyclingnews extends its condolences to the friends and family of Marek Galinski.
With only days to go to the Cape Epic, South Africa's Kevin Evans has changed partners and will now compete alongside countryman Max Knox and will be aiming to be the first all-South African team to win the world's leading mountain bike stage race.
Team FedGroup Itec announced the change and that it had signed Knox yesterday. Evans has previously finished second and third in the Epic and Knox has finished the event five times, often riding as a back-up to leading teams.
Neil MacDonald, who had been scheduled to ride with Evans, will now partner Johann Rabie in another all-South African combination.
The Epic will start on Sunday with a prologue at Meerendal Wine Estate and will finish on March 30 at Lourensford Wine Estate after traversing 718km of the Western Cape.
"It's a late change to our team for Cape Epic, and it took me a bit by surprise," said Evans. "It's taking a while to sink in that I have gone from African leader jersey (for the top all-African team to finish) contender to overall title contender, which is quite a nice adjustment to have to make."
"I've never had a problem with endurance. My early season training hasn't changed really this year. If anything, I've got more speed and power now combined with my endurance and I've not raced much this year, so am very fresh," said Knox. "I'm looking forward to combining with Kevin for the Cape Epic. You can't get a more experienced South African to race with. I'm done with being a back-up rider in the Epic. I'm very keen to go for the win for my new team."
"I certainly want to win a Cape Epic title my career and I know it's the one major race title Kevin is missing from his impressive career. It's the most open Epic in ages and anything can happen in those eight days," added Knox. "But if you're not in the race with some form, you can't be in with a shot at the podium. We're aiming for an overall...
French national champ eager to start World Cup season
After riding to a brave and determined sixth place with no less than three broken ribs at the 2013 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 11-time French national champion Julien Absalon will be anticipating a fast start to the international mountain bike season where he hopes to record a 27th UCI World Cup race victory when the global series gets underway at the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on April 11-13.
The BMC Racing Team rider won the European Continental Championships towards the back end of 2013 and has been working hard in the winter period to get into a position where he can challenge for a podium at the opening event of the UCI MTB World Cup.
"I have had a good, solid off season and am just really keen to get the season going again because there has been quite a lot of waiting!" an eager Absalon said. "I am fully fit going into this season and am ready to get out on the track in Pietermaritzburg!"
The 34-year-old French rider currently sits at number two on the UCI rankings and, after a sixth place finish at the world championships last year, getting back to the top of the pile is the main focus for Absalon going into the Pietermaritzburg leg of the World Cup.
"There will be only one goal on my mind when I arrive in Pietermaritzburg and that is getting back onto the podium. I missed out in Pietermaritzburg last year at Worlds so proving that I can finish in the top three in Pietermaritzburg will be my main objective, but it is going to be difficult with most of the best riders coming back this year."
"Nino (Schurter) really enjoys the track and has done well there in the past, which means that he is going...
Equal prize money draws top women to South African stage race
Two teams - each with a Swiss connection - are emerging as the favourites for what promises to be a hotly-contested women's category at the 2014 Cape Epic.
Will Swiss national but Stellenbosch resident Ariane Kleinhans or her countrywoman Esther Süss stand on top of the podium at Lourensford wine estate, Somerset West, on March 30 after 718km of racing through the Western Cape? Or could the vagaries of eight days of challenging riding - mechanical problems, injuries or illness being the most common - undermine the favourites and hand the win to one of the lesser-fancied teams?
An added incentive this year is the biggest pot of prize money ever put up for a women's race - R690,000, matching that of the elite men's riders.
Kleinhans has won the mixed category of the race for the past two years with her husband Erik, the South African professional. This year, though, she will be joined by Denmark's Annika Langvad as Team RECM 2 in the women's division.
Langvad has won the world marathon championship twice and, together with Kleinhans, comfortably took first place in their category in the Cape Pioneer Trek in October of last year. "She was a machine. She's a complete rider - a good climber and very good technically," said Kleinhans, adding that "we definitely want to win it".
Much-decorated veteran Süss is also eyeing the win and will be reunited with Briton Sally Bigham in Team Meerendal 3. The pair won the category in the 2012 Cape Epic and each has tasted success in the race before: Süss twice winning the mixed category and Bigham the women's category in 2011 with Karien van Jaarsveld.
Süss knows too well, though, that success or failure in the Cape Epic can be influenced by events beyond a riders' control: illness, for example, ended her efforts to win the 2013 race with Jane Nuessli. "I hope we will have more luck," said...
Both riders competing to become first five-time race winner
Great sport is defined by its rivalries - the more intense and sustained they are the more compelling the contest - and two of the world’s leading mountain bikers have turned the 10 editions of the Cape Epic into their personal battleground: Christoph Sauser and Karl Platt.
Both are moving towards the twilight of their competitive years and this month both have an extra motivation to win the world's foremost mountain bike stage race again: to become its first five-time winner.
German Platt won the first Epic in 2004, when it was raced between Knysna and Cape Town, with Namibia's Mannie Heymans. He did it again in 2007, 2009 and 2010 with countryman Stefan Sahm.
Sauser won with fellow Swiss Silvio Bundi in 2006, with Burry Stander in 2011 and 2012 before the South African died in an accident while training, and with Czech Jaroslav Kulhavy in 2013.
In person, Platt is affable, charming and laughs easily, while Sauser appears reserved, considered and thoughtful. The German says he is "addicted to fast cars", while Sauser lists reading and following the news among his off-the-bike activities.
Then they get on their bicycles, where their approach to racing suggests different aspects to their personalities. Platt's Epic wins have generally been built on patience and attrition, while Swiss Sauser acknowledges that his races have been "pretty much all or nothing" - winning or DNF (did not finish) thanks to crashes, illness or "some drama".
Sauser's pedigree is unquestionable. Besides his Epic wins, he is a former cross country world champion, Olympic medallist and goes into the race this year as the reigning marathon world champion (a title he'll defend in Pietermaritzbug in June). But the Epic is raced in teams of two, and this...
Germany's Robert Mennen and the Czech Republic's Kristian Hynek of team Topeak-Ergon are eager to race against the top riders in this year's Cape Epic. These two riders would like to finish on the podium at the end of the eight-day race.
After Mennen's previous partner, Alban Lakata, severed his Achilles tendon in a skiing accent in Europe, Mennen decided to team up with first-time rider, Kristian Hynek.
Lakata and Mennen's bad luck follows on from 2013 when a duiker (a small antelope) ran onto the course, causing Mennen to crash and break his collarbone, ending their chances for the 2013 event.
Both Mennen, 28, and new partner Hynek, 33, boast an impressive list of victories behind their names. Last year, Mennen finished first in the German marathon championships. He took second place at the TransAlp (with Lakata), and first place in both the Vaude Trans Schwarzwald and Andalucía Bike Race. He also finished in fifth place in the 2012 Cape Epic, which was his first time riding with Lakata.
Hynek finished fourth in the marathon Worlds last year, first in the Dolomitenmann, and third in the European Championship. He placed first in the UCI Marathon Series Dolomiti Superbike as well as the Czech marathon championship.
Hynek, who started competing professionally at the age of 21, said of the race, "The Cape Epic is the biggest and most prestigious event of its type in the world and it has been on my list for a long time."
Hynek is confident that they will fight for an overall podium finish as well as a stage win. "With mountain bike racing and especially team stage racing, there is a lot of luck involved. I believe that everything will go well. We just finished the Andalucía Bike Race which was a general test for us and I think everything is going as planned towards being well prepared for this year's Cape Epic."