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MTB News & Racing Round-up, Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Date published:
July 19, 2011, 1:00 BST
  • Photo gallery: US cross country national championship course preview

    The view from the top of the downhill rock garden near the end of the lap.
    Article published:
    July 15, 2011, 9:11 BST
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Racers flock to Ketchum, Idaho for championship racing

    The US Mountain Bike National Championships are happening this weekend in Sun Valley, Idaho. Racing got underway on Thursday with category 2/3 cross country events for riders of all ages. On Friday morning, the Under 23 and junior women will kick off their racing, followed by the Under 23 and junior men. Elite cross country races will happen on Saturday, and the short track and super D are on for Sunday for all categories.

    On Thursday evening, after the amateur racing had concluded, Cyclingnews took a walk around the pro cross country course which starts at a ski area at the base of Baldy just on the edge of the town of Ketchum. It includes a sub-four mile track that after a very brief few twists and turns at the bottom of the mountain, climbs a gruelingly (dare we say soul-crushing?) steep fireroad climb before turning into fast, flowy singletrack all the way back down the mountain. The big climb up and subsequent big descent are reminiscent of the old days of ski area mountain bike racing and are rather unlike current more rolling, up and down World Cup courses except in overall course length.

    The course includes two notable rock gardens. One comes just after the start/finish and is rather long, but on level ground. Momentum will be key to carrying speed through it. The other rock garden comes at the very end of the lap. It's downhill and drops steeply (though not as steeply as drops on the Offenburg World Cup). What makes it tricky is that it's hard to see the end of it from the top, and many amateur riders were out Friday evening spending time getting up the courage to ride it and then practicing their line. There is a go-around that adds time but is required for some of the non-elite categories. Both rock gardens...

  • McConneloug sidelined with Lyme disease

    Mary McConneloug racing in Offenburg at the World Cup
    Article published:
    July 15, 2011, 21:34 BST
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Former US National Champion to miss this year's title race

    Mary McConneloug (Kenda/Seven/NoTubes) will miss the US Mountain Bike Cross Country National Championships tomorrow because she is battling Lyme disease. She previously won the stars and stripes jersey in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2008.

    "Mary has come down with a case of Lyme disease due to a tick bite and we have returned home to Martha's Vineyard to recover," McConneloug's partner Mike Broderick told Cyclingnews.

    "After struggling through a lot of pain and fatigue during the past weeks, we finally have a clear diagnosis. We are very happy to now be able to take the appropriate steps to get Mary healthy as soon as possible!"

    Lyme disease gets its name from where it was first noticed in Old Lyme, Connecticut, in 1975. It is now present throughout much of the United States and is typically contracted in the late spring, summer and early fall when a person is bitten by a tick infected with one of several species of borrelia bacteria.

    Fever, headache, fatigue, depression and a bull's eye rash are common symptoms of Lyme disease. If untreated or treated late, the joints, heart, and central nervous system may later be affected.

    "We are very bummed that Mary is ill though we are very hopeful that the early detection will allow her a full recovery and a quick return to feeling good! She is currently in the early stages of antibiotics which is a tough time for her although she seems to be responding well."

    The elite women will race the cross country national championships on Saturday at 12:30 pm in Sun Valley, Idaho.

  • Behlen happy with first stars and stripes jersey

    Jill Behlen from Boulder, Colorado
    Article published:
    July 16, 2011, 3:30 BST
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Under 23 champion looking forward to Worlds

    Newly-crowned under 23 women's cross country US national champion Jill Behlen (Tokyo Joe's) is looking forward to representing her country at the world championships in Champery, Switzerland in September. She automatically qualified for a place on the US national team by winning the title race in Sun Valley, Idaho, on Friday morning.

    "I get to go to Switzerland, I'm so excited," said Behlen. "The courses in Europe are so fun. I did a junior / under 23 camp a few years ago and got to race there a little a few years ago."

    On a sunny afternoon during the US mountain bike national championships, Behlen was enjoying her first national title after eight years of racing.

    "I've been going to nationals for awhile - even racing many times at junior nationals - but this is my first jersey. I'm so excited to finally get the jersey."

    The 20-year-old from Boulder, Colorado, is a second-year U23 racer and also a molecular biology student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. She also races collegiately.

    She called her title-winning race perfect. "I had no mechanical issues. That climb was hard. The last time up, I was so glad I was almost done."

  • Alexander races to silver at US nationals after tough crash

    Grace Alexander (BYRDS) descends with absolutely no braking
    Article published:
    July 16, 2011, 7:53 BST
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    17-year-old Boise rider back in action

    American Grace Alexander raced to an impressive second place in the junior women's 17-18 cross country national championship in Sun Valley, Idaho, on Friday afternoon. It's hard to believe that just a few months ago, the 17-year-old crashed so hard that she broke her jaw in three places as well as her arm.

    "I'm pretty much healed and cleared to do anything I want now," she said to Cyclingnews after her silver medal winning ride. That much was evident by how well she has been racing. Her performance at mountain bike nationals comes just a few weeks after she won the time trial and got fourth in the road race at junior road nationals in Augusta, Georgia.

    She described what happened to her in the crash. "I was in a cycling accident while I was in a criterium with some guys, including Cat. 4 men and masters A men," she said. "There was a guy on the front who was trying to get people off his wheel and he took a wide line and everyone followed him. I was on the outside and got inadvertently pushed into a fence. I don't remember all of it, but I went over my handlebars."

    Following her accident, she spent five days off her bike and then got back on a trainer. "Then I started riding and training for road nationals. I got fit for that, and then I refocused for mountain bike nationals."

    Alexander hails from Boise, Idaho, which made her the home crowd favorite on Friday. She rides and races with the Boise Young Rider Development Squad (BYRDS). She has one more year to race as a junior.

  • Craig describes the perfect super D

    Adam Craig (Rabobank-Giant) in the woods
    Article published:
    July 17, 2011, 23:30 BST
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Time trial format preferred by most

    Some super Ds are run as mass start events while others are run as a time trial. Unlike the last two years in Granby, Colorado, this year's US super D national championships race in Sun Valley, Idaho, was done as a time trial. Gathered at the finish afterward, riders generally agreed the format was better.

    "The time trial format IS the format," said freshly crowned super D national champion Adam Craig (Rabobank-Giant), who went on to give his definition of how to make the perfect super D.

    "You take the most available vertical in your venue and then you take the raddest route to the lowest available spot that also happens to be the finish area. It could be five minutes or an hour and five minutes. It's better if it's an hour and five minutes. It's awesome when it's a time trial because it lets you race."

    Craig has previously won super D nationals in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.

    "This course, if run as a mass start, would have been a race up the climb, which would have separated people, but then it would have been dangerous on the way down with the morning sun and all the dust for low visibility," said Craig, who then gave kudos to the national championship race organizers for doing a good job with this year's super D.

  • Squire follows the road

    Rob Squire (Chipotle Development) puts in a third place ride
    Article published:
    July 18, 2011, 20:30 BST
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Third place at mountain bike nationals for Chipotle rider

    Chipotle Development Team racer Rob Squire sees his future on the road, but he couldn't pass up the chance to participate in the US Mountain Bike National Championship cross country race on Saturday in Sun Valley, Idaho.

    "Being second two years in a row, I figured I had to come up here and at least show up," the 21-year-old Squire told Cyclingnews after finishing third in the under 23 men's cross country race. "With my focus on the road, I'm happy to be here on the podium at mountain bike nationals."

    Squire would have liked to win, but his ride was impressive when you factor in that he has had a busy road racing season. In June, he won the under 23 road race at elite road nationals in August, Georgia. He was 15th in the time trial.

    "This is my fifth ride on my mountain bike this year and my second mountain bike race," said Squire. "I was slow on the descents, but oh well, it was fun.

    "I've had better days. I just came off a break after road nationals, and I head to Bend, Oregon, next week for the Cascade Classic with my Chipotle team. That should be the perfect warm up for the Tour of Portugal in August."

    Squire is a former member of the US National Development Team run by USA Cycling's Marc Gullickson.

    "I think this will probably be my last mountain bike race for the year. It's fun to come up and see all my old friends."

    When asked whether he expects to keep racing his mountain bike going forward, Squire said, "I'm having a lot...

  • Elliott impresses at US mountain bike nationals

    Tad Elliot (Durango Devo) rode on of the strongest races of his career
    Article published:
    July 18, 2011, 22:45 BST
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Sixth place finish for national cross country ski champion

    Tad Elliott impressed with a near podium finish in the elite men's cross country at the US Mountain Bike National Championships in Sun Valley, Idaho, on Saturday. No longer an under 23 racer globetrotting to do events as part of the development team, Elliott hasn't been seen at many national-level races this year, so his sixth place finish was a surprise to some and even himself.

    "I joined this new Rocky Mountain Chocolate Devo team and we've been racing a lot in Colorado. I raced all right at Ironhorse and a few Mountain States Cup," said Elliott, who lives in Durango, Colorado.

    "For the last month, I've been doing some secret training for nationals. I guess it paid off. I didn't go do the World Cups like these guys. I trained a lot and then tapered for this race. I thought I'd be top 10 but to finish sixth, I'm pretty amped."

    Elliott had come off of a few weeks of preparation in Park City, Utah, where he stayed at a US Ski Team house. The talented young mountain biker is a world class cross country skier, too. This year, he won the 30km skate ski at the US cross country skiing championships.

    "I took a mid-summer break to ski train because I had some obligations with the US Ski Team," said Elliott. "I skied this winter - it was a good season. I definitely love mountain biking and that's been almost all of my training this summer."

    He seems to be finding a good balance between the two sports and has been enjoying a pressure-free summer of mountain bike racing. When he's not preparing for skiing or cycling, he likes to play golf with fellow Durango residents Todd and Troy Wells.

    "This year since I wasn't U23, I didn't go to Europe with USA Cycling. I got on the local team instead, and I've stayed in...

  • Endurance racer Grant bags top 10 finish at cross country nationals

    Endurance Specialist Alex Grant (Cannondale) showed that he also has plenty of speed
    Article published:
    July 19, 2011, 1:35 BST
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Cyclingnews blogger prepping for Leadville and La Ruta

    Endurance racer Alex Grant (Cannondale) logged a top 10 finish at the US elite men's cross country national championship in Sun Valley, Idaho, on Saturday. Grant doesn't do a lot of shorter races, but he was there mixing it up with the nation's best cross country racers.

    "I always go to nationals or at least I try," said Grant, who managed his best finish yet in eighth. "I've been hoping for the top 10, and I've never gotten it before. I can't believe I just did that. I'm psyched."

    Grant, who finished second at La Ruta de los Conquistadores last November, took a measured approach to the start.

    "I took a start on the back row, and I got caught in a traffic jam on the first lap and was walking up the climb," said Grant. "A lot of times in the cross country, I get caught up going as hard as I can in the first lap and then I go backwards. This time I moved up the whole time."

    "It's more motivating to pass someone than to get passed, so that helps keep it going."

    Grant called the course "brutally hard".

    What happens next for the Utah resident and Cyclingnews blogger is some down time.

    "I'm going to take a break and then race the Leadville 100. I might do a local race or two before Leadville. I'll get in some longer rides."

    He's also planning to do the Park City point-to-point race on September 3 and then La Ruta again in early November in Costa Rica.