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A look at the school, the races and the future of this unique 'sport'
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Classic Colnago steel frame with gorgeous pantographed Campagnolo components
A roller coaster of a season for Giant Factory Team downhiller
2013 has been a difficult UCI MTB World Cup season for South African men's downhiller Andrew Neethling, who has had to battle against injury throughout; however, the local talent remains hugely positive heading into the biggest event of the year - the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships being held in Pietermaritzburg from August 26 to September 1.
Neethling recently competed at the fourth World Cup event of the year in Mont-Sainte-Anne in Canada where he claimed a solid eighth place, despite the difficult wet conditions, which many will be hoping is a sign of the Giant Factory Off-road team member coming into some good form after a shaky start to his year.
"It has been a bit of a roller coaster season for me so far. I have suffered a fair few big crashes which is not normal for me and have obviously been pretty frustrating," South Africa's second highest ranked downhill competitor said.
"Fort William was solid for me, but I had to sit out of round two after crashing heavily the morning of the race.
"I'm healthy now though and I'm looking to try build up some momentum heading into the world champs."
His eighth place in Canada has been his best finish in the World Cup series this year which might provide him with that momentum that he has been searching for. He has one more event to use as a fine tuning exercise before he heads back to his homeland for the start of the Worlds.
"I have just finished the World Cup in Mont-Sainte-Anne, and now I have the Whistler Crankworks festival then after that, I get a few days at home and then its World Champs," the 29-year-old said.
Having the home ground advantage...
BMC Cup wraps up in Muttenz this weekend
Many of the European favorites for the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, coming up next week in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, will battle one last time before racing for the rainbow stripes. Among them are Nino Schurter (Scott Swisspower) and Julien Absalon (BMC), who are both racing the BMC Cup finals in Basel-Muttenz, Switzerland this weekend. In the women's race, Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida), Sabine Spitz (Sabine Spitz - Haibike) and Julie Bresset (BH-SR Suntour-KMC) will compete although Swiss favorite Jolanda Neff will be absent.
The Muttenz round will give racers a chance for one last race-like effort prior to Worlds.
Schurter said that Saturday's race results "will not really play an important role", but of course, he would still love to have a victory to take with him to South Africa, where he is hoping to defend his world championship title.
Schurter has tended to beat Absalon this season; however, Absalon won the most recent face-off at the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup in Canada two weeks ago.
"My training data is good, I am quite optimistic," said Schurter.
Absalon is also Schurter's closest rival in the overall ranking of the BMC Racing Cup, but Schurter only needs a top-25 result to secure the overall victory.
Absalon was somewhat restrained about this weekend's race. "Muttenz will be good for my preparation, because it is a race that does not destroy you completely. The final result is of secondary importance. Some riders show up with a poker face prior to the Worlds. But what really counts will happen seven...
Enduro of Nations race does double duty
From the all-time celebration of all things mountain biking at Crankworx Whistler, the Enduro World Series moves next to Val d'Isere, France on August 24-25, where enduro's founding visionary Fred Glo and Tribe Events gets set to host round 6 of the series, in conjunction with the Enduro of Nations.
The Enduro of Nations is a team event, established by Glo in 2008, that crowns the best national team, based on results from two day's worth of racing over six stages by the top three ranked riders from each country.
As the Enduro World Series rulebook articulates, "Teamwork, consistency and strategy are key components in the Enduro of Nations, with the championship title being awarded to the national team who has the lowest combined time of all team members, over all the special stages during the race."
Inspired by motorcycling's Enduro Trophy of Nations, the team event has been won five out of six times by Team France, with the big upset taking place in 2012 when Italy hosted the race and Team Great Britain took the win.
EWS Managing Director Chris Ball said, "The Enduro of Nations is really the first ever genuine team event in mountain biking. It is the only event of the year in which riders compete together. Athletes who normally race against each other will have their times added up, making them only as good as each other."
With national teams being comprised of the top three ranked riders in the individual Enduro World Series standing, it's Team France that go in as the favourites, with a men's team comprised of Jerome Clementz, Fabien Barel and Remy Absalon, and a women's team made up of Cecile Ravanel, Anne Caroline Chausson and Pauline Dieffenthaler.
But anything could happen on race day, as evidenced over the past five rounds of the Enduro World Series. Strong teams from the USA, Italy and Great Britain could...
Dutch rider takes a break due to fatigue
With just a few days to go until the start of the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, Dutch racer Rudi van Houts (Multivan Merida) is bowing out due to health issues.
Not long after his teammate Thomas Litscher had to pull the plug on Worlds to undergo surgery, van Houts is also going to skip Worlds. He has been suffering from fatigue for the past few weeks and is still searching for the reason.
"Just before Mont-Sainte-Anne's World Cup race, the problem occurred for the first time, keeping me from racing in Canada. But the persistent fatigue would not disappear after my return to the Netherlands," said van Houts.
"As we have not been able to find a medical explanation for my problem so far, I only see one option and that is to take a break and then calmly find out what the reason for this persistent fatigue may be."
Multivan Merida team manager Fabian Aust said, "From the perspective of the team, Rudi van Houts' decision to bow out of the world championships is bitter, of course. Rather than having four riders at the start in South Africa, we are going to compete with two riders in the men's race now."
"It's all the more a pity as Rudi had his best season in the World Cup so far in 2013, scoring a top 10 finish in Val di Sole for the first time. Despite the Dutch federation's strict criteria to qualify for the world championships, van Houts would have been selected to race. But as the athletes' health is a top priority, the team supports Rudi in his decision."
The Multivan-Merida men's team will be represented by José Hermida (Spain) and Ondrej Cink (Czech Republic). Cink finished in second in the Vallnord World Cup while Hermida got the same...
French riders aims for his fifth world championship title
The Cascades MTB Park has in the past proven to be a place where current men's cross country world ranked number two Julien Absalon (BMC) has never quite been able to step onto the top spot of the podium; however, he sees the upcoming UCI Mountain Bike World Championships as the perfect opportunity to claim that elusive number one spot when he takes to the popular course in KwaZulu-Natal's "Bike City".
Absalon boasts an impressive record in Pietermaritzburg, nonetheless, with two second place finishes in the two World Cup events that he has competed in at the venue, and the French national champion received a timely morale boost in the build up to the world championships when he won the most recent instalment of the World Cup in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec, Canada.
His form in the other events this season has been impressive with a French national championship, a European championship and two second place finishes out of the four UCI MTB World Cup races suggesting that the Frenchman is hitting his stride at the perfect time.
"I just won in Canada at the last World Cup which was great," the BMC Racing rider said. "It was just the confidence boost that I needed three weeks before the world champs and after one more race I will be ready for Pietermaritzburg."
Racing on the Pietermaritzburg track is something the Frenchman enjoys and he feels that there are areas on the track that give him an advantage over his nearest rivals but there are also a few more challenging sections on the course that keep him honest.
"There is a fairly long climb on the track in Pietermaritzburg which is pretty good for me because I enjoy that part of my race but in the past it has been the rock gardens that have been...
New event to award $20,000 over Labor Day weekend
Hosting a large portion of the USA's top cross country mountain bike talent, the inaugural Grand Junction Off-Road is set to drop-in on the world famous Lunch Loops trail system and beyond in Grand Junction, Colorado, on Labor Day weekend, August 30 - September 1.
More than 50 pro mountain bikers, including 22 women and 33 men, are already confirmed to vie for a $20,000 pro cash purse. Notably, the women's category continues its growth trajectory from last April's Whiskey Off-Road, nearing equal numbers with the men's category.
Grand Junction is hosting the second event of Epic Ride's Off-Road series, and one allure is the equal payout (10 deep) between the men's and women's categories.
Although some of the top US and Canadian racers will be busy at the mountain bike Worlds in South Africa, the Grand Junction Off-Road start list is still steeped with talent. The women's roster includes Monique "Pua" Mata (Team Sho-Air/Cannondale), Teal Stetson Lee (Luna), and Chloe Woodruff (Crankbrothers). Both in the throes of closing out strong 2013 seasons, Amanda Carey (Stan's NoTubes) and Colorado's Deidre York (Gear Movement) are also confirmed to toe the line among the female talent.
Of the men registered to race thus far, strong candidates for the $4,000 first place payout include Kris Sneddon (Kona), Carl Decker (Giant), Ben Sonntag (Cannondale), Spencer Paxton (Kona), and Rotem Ishay (Jamis) all gunning for the top rung of the podium.
Offering the pros a whimsy lead out on Friday evening, a free community clunker fat tire criterium will open the action. Then, the pro women will take the downtown Grand Junction course by storm at 6:15 pm followed by the men at 6:50 pm. With 10 turns and a beer garden plus locally harvested wines in turn 8, the crit course is sure to entertain all in attendance.
Starting on Main Avenue at 7:00 am Sunday morning, stage 2 of the pro category will flight as the pros set out on the same 40...
Australian to compete in three World Champships in 2013
Australian Caroline Buchanan is on her way to her second of three world championships so far this year. The London Olympian got her campaign underway by claiming the BMX World Championship in New Zealand just four weeks ago and now she has her sights set on South Africa.
Buchanan is aiming to prove she is a master of all trades by competing for the win in the downhill at the 2013 UCI MTB World Championships which begin this Wednesday in Pietermaritzburg.
Her journey will then take her to Austria in September where she will attempt to regain the 4X world title, an event she won in 2009 and 2010. Buchanan admitted she feels more at home when racing 4X, but nonetheless is looking forward to the challenge of the downhill in South Africa this week.
"I think I am a little more confident in the 4X side of things, that one I definitely want to win and show I can get back those rainbow stripes," said Buchanan. "But the downhill is more challenging as it certainly puts me out of my comfort zone.
"It's hard to gauge where I am at (in downhill) as at the last World Cup in Scotland I got a flat in qualifying," she added. "I did have a good pre season in Australia racing the Subaru National Series and felt really good then, but since then it's been a big block of BMX racing.
"So I am coming in a little blind with expectations, but maybe that's a good thing. I didn't have as much pressure heading into BMX worlds last month, and that paid off, so going in with a bit more of that attitude for this race as well."
Although relishing the variety of pursuing the three separate events, Buchanan admits that it's so far been harder than she initially expected.
"When I planned it, I was all over it, but I have been permanently on the road, the calendar is a logistical nightmare, trying to juggle all the events and qualifying, different bikes,...
Cycling Australia announces new look for national mountain bike season
On the heels of their announcement that Australia will play host to a suite of UCI World Cup events and the 2017 UCI Mountain Bike World Championship over the next four years, Cycling Australia (CA) announced the Subaru Australian Mountain Bike Season for 2014.
The season will kick off in Adelaide as a prologue to the Tour Down Under, giving mountain bikers the opportunity to race their bikes amongst Australia's biggest cycling crowd and only WorldTour event. The roadshow then will visit a host of Australia's premier mountain bike venues, established and new. The focus is all about rider experience with friends and families all catered for. CA's newly appointed Technical Director of Mountain Biking, Tim Sheedy, is vocal about the future of the sport.
"The process CA implemented to select venues reflects the three pillars of CA's mountain bike program: community engagement, support of local mountain bike organisations and races that serve as destinations for riders and their families." he says.
The season will includes the much anticipated return of the Real Insurance XCM Series with riders able to choose between the full range of world championship formats: eliminator, Olympic cross country, downhill and marathon. This consolidates the strengths of Australian mountain biking at its best: televised races, Olympic prestige, prize money, incredible locations, adventure and the hustle and bustle of downhill and eliminator all culminating with the UCI MTB World Cup in Cairns.
"It's a potent combination when you throw into that mix some of Australia's most desirable holiday destinations." Sheedy said.
CA is excited to be bringing new destinations, new experiences and an opportunity for organisational development to mountain biking.
"This leaves a legacy for the whole mountain biking community that exists year round." Sheedy said. "As a peak body, Cycling Australia's remit is to run great events but also to grow each...