The British-born Blythe, who this week is racing the Tour de Wallone-Picardie (Circuit Franco Belge) as defending champion, confirmed that he will join Vuelta a Espana runner-up Froome to test his mountain bike skills on the island of Langkawi.
Blythe, who turns 22 this week, has already spent two and a half seasons in the professional peloton and twice ridden some of cycling's greatest monuments, including the Giro d'Italia and both the Tour of Flanders and Paris Roubaix as right-hand man to fellow teammate and world number one Philippe Gilbert.
Despite having such an important supporting role, Blythe still managed to open his professional account in his first full season in 2010 with four wins and a fifth place in stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia. The promising youngster is now looking to add to that tally in the last remaining weeks of the season before heading to Malaysia for the LIMBC.
The attendance of both Blythe and Froome at the Langkawi event could well see a trend for top road riders to try their hand at mountain biking after a busy season.
The Langkawi International Mountain Bike Challenge will run from October 17 to 23.
One of South Africa's top female mountain bikers, Ischen Stopforth (Bizhub), will again race the DCM Cape Pioneer Trek from October 17-22 this year. Stopforth was one of the heroes of last year's event. After crashing heavily during the first stage, she endured severe pain and raced on to win that stage with her mixed team partner Marcel Deacon.
Afterward, X-rays showed that three of Stopforth's ribs were broken.
Stopforth, a qualified doctor herself, knew that quitting the race would be the best option from a medical perspective. However, with quitting not her style, she chose to continue.
During the next five days, in spite of the fact that every pedal stroke was a stark reminder that the last place for her to be was on her mountain bike, Stopforth battled on valiantly.
Sometimes she struggled to keep her tears back. For this never-say-die attitude of hers, she was eventually rewarded with a fourth place overall in the mixed category.
Despite last year's experience, she did not hesitate to sign up for this year's event. "Let's be quite honest. The DCM Cape Pioneer Trek is definitely one of the toughest challenges on the local calendar," she said. "Last year I even thought that it was harder than the Cape Epic, but after this year’s Epic I am not so sure anymore.
"What makes the DCM Cape Pioneer Trek a must-do ride for me, is the fact that it is a community driven event. In every town the whole community gets involved.
"You cannot help feeling that it is really important for everybody to ensure that we, as riders, have a memorable experience."
Stopforth's teammate this year will be Catherine Williamson. Judging by their respective performances so far this year, they will be contenders in the women's duo category.
Stopforth and Williamson won the Joburg2C. Stopforth, teaming up with Hanlie Booyens, also finished third in the
The latest on eliminators, four cross, gravity enduros and marathons
Change is in the air. The UCI has been shifting its support among existing and emerging mountain bike racing disciplines. For 2012, four cross is out of the World Cup while cross country eliminators are in - at least for some rounds, and the UCI has established a "world series" of marathon races. The organization is also looking at building a gravity endurance series for 2013.
Development of gravity endurance events
Seeing the growing popularity of gravity endurance events, the UCI Gravity Endurance Coordinator Chris Ball is looking to develop this discipline within the UCI by working with existing "enduro" events and riders.
His aim is to develop a discipline that will attract an increasing number of mountain bikers as it combines the physical endurance of cross country riding with the technical difficulty and excitement of downhill racing.
The UCI has invited organisers of current gravity enduro events to contact the UCI with a view to establishing a UCI Enduro Calendar from 2013. Enduro events can be in the form of multi-stage races, day races or mass start races.
World Cup change: Goodbye four cross
In 2012, the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup will no longer include four cross racing. However, the UCI's Manager of Off-Road Disciplines, Peter Van den Abeele, stressed that the withdrawal of four cross from the World Cup in no way rings the death toll of the format in a recent UCI statement.
"Four cross has been an important part of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup series for many years," said Van den Abeele. "Since its introduction, it has been highly appreciated both by riders and spectators. The UCI supports four cross and sincerely hopes that organisers will continue to register their four cross events on the UCI international calendar."
The official "end" to the California mountain bike season takes place this weekend, and offers racers two days of solid racing, a 50-mile West Coast marathon championship and a California state cross country championship.
The final race on the US Cup cross country calendar will happen at Vail Lake resort in Temecula this Sunday, October 2.
For the past few years, the Fall Finals has also coincided with the one-day California state championships, and this year is no different as racers go for the last cross country title on the calendar before heading into the off season.
The Vail Lake XC loop is 8.45 miles with 900 feet of climbing per lap. Riders will see a mixture of rolling doubletrack, some swoopy singletrack sections and fast ridgeline descents making for a fun course. A few punchy switchbacks and some steady climbs will also challenge racers of all levels this weekend.
Last year's elite men's winner Sid Taberlay of Kenda/Yeti looks to be challenged by the local California contingent of racers for his crown, including Trek/World Bicycle Relief's Dana Weber, U23 rider Brendon Davids, who recently joined the Sho-Air/Specialized squad, Vincent Lombardi of Steven K sports and last year's runner up, Sean Donovan, of the KHS team.
In the elite women's division, last year's champion Allison Mann of Rock N Road Cyclery is looking to repeat her winning ride from a year ago.
For racers wanting more than a cross country race, there will also be a West Coast 50-mile marathon on Saturday, October 1.
This epic loop was put together by the Southern Cal endurance crew and offers 2,600 feet of climbing per each 24-mile loop that take racers around Vail Lake and up onto ridgelines, giving racers views of the Temecula wine country.
Mountain bike legend Tinker Juarez of the Cannondale Factory team is set to line up and defend his 2010 West Coast marathon title this weekend.
American junior and U23 development team celebrates success
In just three seasons, the Whole Athlete-Specialized Cycling Team has established itself as one of the most notable junior mountain bike development programs in the United States. In addition to earning three junior 15-16 national championship titles (Kate Courtney, 2010 and 2011; Lucas Newcomb, 2011), the team has qualified riders to the US world championship team for cross country each year thus far (John Bennett, 2009; Zach Valdez, Will Curtis, Tony Smith, Sofia Hamilton, 2010; Keegan Swenson, 2011).
Team founder and director Dario Fredrick said the success was a matter of setting the right standards, and the results follow. "Our team philosophy is defined by 'dedication, integrity and fun', and when the kids focus on the process rather than the outcome, they find success happens."
Success has indeed been happening for the young team. In 2011 alone, Whole Athlete-Specialized juniors have swept cross country podiums from Fontana to the Sea Otter to the Downieville Classic, and earned 13 junior podium appearances at the national championships in Sun Valley, Idaho, in cross country, short track and super D combined.
Yet Fredrick was quick to point out that it's not all about winning. "I emphasize to the kids that it's not necessarily the win that's most important, but the effort that goes into it. As long as each kid does his or her absolute best, that's success in my book." In fact, the program emphasizes much more than just riding bikes fast. True to its name, the Whole Athlete Team promotes a holistic system in which the riders learn about nutrition, sport psychology and yoga, in addition to proper training.
This year the team expanded to include a few under 23 riders. As the young athletes progress through the program, those who are ready to take the next step from the junior...
Annual winners announced for top venues in three disciplines
Riders, UCI mountain bike teams, media, sponsors and UCI officials voted for the best events of the 2011 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup. The three venue winners - in cross country, four cross and downhill - were announced by the UCI last week and each organizer will receive a trophy in honor of the award.
Cross country: Nove Mesto Na Morave takes top honors
The Czech World Cup event in Nove Mesto Na Morave was a first-year event, but it captured the votes of enough to win the Best Cross Country World cup award. Good organization, TV production and crowds were cited as reasons for the award. The event delighted many local spectators in particular since home favorite Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized) won.
Offenburg, Germany, which features one of the most technical courses on the series, finished in second place ahead of last year's winner Dalby Forest, in Great Britain, took third. Neither Offenburg nor Dalby will host the World Cup in 2012 although it will return to Nove Mesto.
Downhill: La Bresse voted the best
La Bresse, France, joined the World Cup calendar just two years ago and was voted this year as the Best Downhill World Cup of the season. The smooth organisation, a unique atmosphere and the thousands of spectators that turned out for this event ensured its popularity within the mountain bike community. The short, old school track which rendered tight results was also noted.
Last year's winner, the well established Fort William event in Great Britain, also proved...
UCI releases rankings to determine eligible "elite" teams for 2012
The International Cycling Union (UCI) completed rankings of downhill and cross country mountain bike teams to determine which teams are eligible for "UCI Elite Mountain Bike Team Status" for the 2012 season. The top 15 teams in both disciplines qualify for the elite status.
Invitations to join the new higher tier of UCI registered mountain bike teams have been issued to the best teams of the UCI ranking established on September 26, 2011. The teams have until December 10 to confirm their interest so as to obtain the "Elite" status.
The cross country team rankings were calculated by adding the points of the three best placed men and the two best placed women of each UCI MTB team. The riders' points came from the UCI's individual rider rankings.
The gravity team rankings were calculated by adding the points of the three best placed downhill men, the two best placed downhill women, the two best placed four cross men, and the best placed four cross woman for each UCI MTB team.
UCI Elite Mountain Bike Teams get free entry to all the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup events and all races on the UCI Mountain Bike International Calendar (not including stage races). In return, the teams are obliged to enter at least one rider in all rounds of the 2012 Mountain Bike World Cup and to display the UCI Elite Mountain Bike Team logo on their uniforms.
UCI MTB Team Standings
UCI Cross Country Team Ranking as of September 26, 2011
Pair will try first six-day mountain bike stage race
The DCM Cape Pioneer Trek is drawing an increasingly international-level field as the start approaches next week. The mountain bike stage race will start on October 17 and finish on October 22 in Oudtshoorn, South Africa.
Christopher Sauser (Specialized), currently the marathon world champion, has already established himself as one of the tour's stalwarts. The Swiss rider has made it clear that something drastic will have to happen for him to miss out on the fun of the Cape Pioneer Trek.
Sauser is not the only world-class rider who has entered. Sweden's Alexandra Engen, a former under 23 cross country world champion, is another big name who could not resist the temptation of coming to South Africa to test her mountain biking skills in the Klein Karoo.
The 23-year-old Swede will team up with South Africa's Mariske Strauss (Contego/Giant/Sludge) to compete in the women's category.
Engen's racing CV makes for impressive reading. She was the Swedish elite women's cross country champion in 2007-2009; won a silver medal in 2009 at an under 23 World Cup race; and won a silver medal at the 2009 European under cross country championship and a gold medal in the team relay.
Neither Engen nor Strauss has ever ridden a six-day stage race. But Strauss, South Africa's current cross country champion, does not worry too much about this fact.
"Our approach to the Cape Pioneer Trek will be to take the race one day at a time," said Strauss.
"I am definitely not a tour expert, but there is no need to be a rocket scientist to realize that it would be a mistake to try to race flat out from day one.
"Luckily I have an idea of what to expect. My grandfather stays in the area and I had done some hard training there in the past."