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MTB News & Racing Round-up, Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Date published:
April 11, 2012, 23:00

Edited by Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

Welcome to our regular roundup of what's happening in mountain biking. Feel free to send feedback, news, & releases to mtb@cyclingnews.com and results, reports & photos to cyclingnews@cyclingnews.com.

  • Willow Rockwell retires from mountain bike racing

    Willow Rockwell (Trek World Racing)
    Article published:
    April 9, 2012, 13:16
    By:
    Cycling News

    Olympic dream ends for new mom

    Trek World Racing's Willow Rockwell née Koerber announced that despite her best efforts to return to the sport of mountain biking after taking time out to have her daughter, the reality of the situation is nothing like she had imagined. In this past week, Rockwell decided definitively that it's time to stop racing for good and focus on her new family.

    Recent experiences at the opening round of the World Cup in South Africa and in training back home have acted as wake-up calls for Rockwell, who found herself needing to be honest about being able to push herself so hard whilst also being the mother of a new-born baby.  Her daughter Raven was born on December 31.

    The 34-year-old had an illustrious career in the sport which included two bronze medals at the cross country world championships, as well as numerous continental and national titles, and was ranked as high as number two in the world on the UCI rankings in 2011. She served as an ambassador for Trek and Gary Fisher bicycles after joining the Subaru-Gary Fisher team (later the Subaru-Trek team) in 2005 and then switching to Trek World Racing at the beginning of last year.

    Rockwell released a statement which in part said, "After much soul searching, and many tears, I have decided to end my mountain bike racing career. I committed to racing for 2012 before having my child. There was no way I could have predicted the changes that have occurred within me. Thank you for your support during this time of intense decision and transformation."

    "I especially thank my Team Manager Martin Whiteley and my team, Trek World Racing, for understanding that sometimes life has other plans. Enjoy every moment on the bicycle, for every moment adds up to create your life!"

    Whiteley said, "It's true that we are sad not to see Willow racing in our team colors again, but it is equally true that we are fully supportive of her decision, and we are grateful for every day we had Willow with us on the team. Eternally positive and a great spirit, she will be missed not only from our family, but from mountain bike racing in general."

    Rockwell's retirement is effective immediately and she will not appear at this weekend's World Cup event in Houffalize, Belgium or at the Sea Otter Classic as previously planned.

    Trek World Racing has no plans to replace Rockwell for season 2012. Her husband Myles Rockwell continues with the team in his highly valued role as downhill rider liaison.

  • USA earns seven medals at Continental MTB Championships

    Todd Wells (Specialzied) rides in third position on lap two
    Article published:
    April 9, 2012, 19:34
    By:
    Cycling News

    Wells, Finsterwald, Alexander, Harmony win gold

    The United States won four golds, two silvers and one bronze medal at the 2012 Pan American Continental Mountain Bike Championships this weekend in Puebla, Mexico.

    American Todd Wells (Specialized) rode to gold in the the elite men's cross country race on Sunday in a time of 1:32:15. He finished 1:29 ahead of Catriel Andres Soto (Argentina) and 3:12 ahead of Rubens Valeriano (Brazil). Wells was the only American in the elite men's race; no Americans did the elite women's race.

    The US also collected gold in the U23 elite men's cross country race thanks to Russell Finsterwald (Subaru-Trek). Colombia's Diyer Rincon was second just 11 seconds ahead of the next American Kerry Werner (BMC MTB Development Team), who earned the US the bronze medal. First-year U23 racer Howard Grotts (Specialized) was sixth.

    On Saturday, Grace Alexander (BMC MTB Development Team) wowed the spectators in Puebla with an outstanding race in which she soloed over the finish line to take the win in the junior women's cross country contest. The 17-year-old Alexander beat out second- and third-place finishers Xiomara Guerrero (Colombia) and Andrea Fuentes (Mexico) to claim the continental title.

    Adding to the success of American women this weekend was Jacqueline Harmony, who finished the downhill course with a time of 2:40.88 to get the gold medal in the elite women's competition. The American bested silver and bronze medalists Diana Lorena Droomundo (Mexico) and Diana Maggraff (Ecuador) by three seconds. Also riding to an impressive finish for the US was Katie Holden (CU Cycling-Boulder) in sixth place.

    Keegan Swenson (Cannondale Factory Racing) continued the medal winning ways for the US in the junior men's cross country when he rode to a silver medal behind winner Jose Tito Hernandez (Colombia). Rounding out the podium for the junior men was Luis Camacho (Costa Rica).

    Also riding to a medal on Saturday was Neko Mulally (Trek World Racing) who posted a time of 2:11.11 to finish second in the elite men's downhill time test. He finished behind Marcelo Gutirrez (Colombia) while Mario Jarrin (Ecuador) rode to the bronze medal. Fellow American Joey Schusler (Yeti Fox Factory) placed 14th.

    See full results from the Pan Am Championships in Puebla, Mexico.

  • 4X ProTour opens in Houffalize, Belgium

    Four cross racers lined up and ready to go in Houffalize
    Article published:
    April 10, 2012, 15:07
    By:
    Cycling News

    No longer in the World Cup, four cross gets new international series

    The first round of the 4X ProTour will kick off in Houffalize, Belgium, this weekend. After the UCI made a decision to eliminate four cross from its World Cup, the race in Houffalize will not be a World Cup event although it will be run in conjunction with the cross country and eliminator World Cups.

    Chris Roberts and Scott Beaumont have worked together over the winter to create a five-round, four cross series that comprises the 4X ProTour as they aim to keep four cross racing on the world stage. Over 100 racers are pre-registered thus far, and unlike at a World Cup, racers can pre-register late on-site.

    In the men's race, Tomas Slavik and Joost Wichman will be the favourites. Slavik has already got his season off to a winning start last weekend at the first round of the Schwalbe British 4X Series. His reasons for racing in the UK early in the year? He wanted to be ready for round 1 of the 4X ProTour. Wichman has a new focus this year. As the team captain for the newly-formed Rose Vaujany team, he will be looking to get his season started with a great result in Houffalize.

    In the women's race, world champion Anneke Beerten will be racing in her rainbow jersey for the very first time since winning the Worlds in last September. Her competition will surely come from Katy Curd, teammate to Wichman. Curd has always shown promise with her racing, but 2012 looks like it could be her year.

    The four cross track at Houffalize is a classic. Huge, loose berm corners, a corkscrew bridge/tunnel, pro line and road drop at the finish make this a unique track. Racing is always close with lots of passing and favourites for the event never have an advantage here.

    Practice and qualification are scheduled for Friday, April 13. Finals will happen on Saturday, April 15.

  • Larger Canadian contingent heading to Houffalize World Cup

    World Champion Catharine Pendrel (Luna Pro)
    Article published:
    April 10, 2012, 17:20
    By:
    Cycling News

    Pendrel, Batty, Kabush lead a mix of pro and national team racers

    A bigger Canadian presence will be felt this weekend as more Canadian mountain bikers will partake in the second UCI World Cup race of the 2012 mountain bike season, in Houffalize, Belgium. Relative to the first World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, the trip to Belgium is more manageable for more North American racers.

    Max Plaxton will wear the Team Canada uniform in the men's elite race. Plaxton will be riding aside Geoff Kabush and Derek Zandstra, both racing for the Canadian Scott-3RoxRacing team.

    In the women's race, Canada will once again be strong contenders for spots on the podium. Emily Batty (Team Subaru-Trek) started the season on a high note in South Africa, capturing her career first elite top three finish, while world champion Catharine Pendrel (Team Luna Pro) will be looking for the victory after grabbing the third place in the opening World Cup race of the season.

    Olympic medallist Marie-Hélène Prémont (Team Rocky mountain-Maxxis) will be looking for a strong performance after a tough start to the season. Other Canadians will be Amanda Sin (Team Scott-3RoxRacing) and Catherine Vipond, the 2011 Canada Cup Champion, racing with Team Canada.

    Canadian riders will also contest the junior and U23 categories. Frédérique Trudel will race in the junior women's race, while Marc-Antoine Nadon and Alexandre Vialle will race the junior men's race.

    The cross country World Cup event in Houffalize will begin on April 14 with the U23 and junior women's races, and will end on Sunday April 15 with the elite races as well as the junior men's race.

    The first-ever eliminator World Cup will be run on Friday, April 13

    Canadian Contingent from Houffalize World Cup in Belgium

    Elite men
    Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Rox Racing)
    Max Plaxton (Team Canada)
    Derek Zandstra (Scott-3Rox Racing)

    Elite women
    Emily Batty (Team Subaru-Trek)
    Catharine Pendrel (Team Luna Pro)
    Marie Hélène Prémont (Rocky Mountain-Maxxis)
    Amanda Sin (Team Scott-3RoxRacing)
    Catherine Vipond (Team Canada)

    Junior women
    Frédérique Trudel (Team Canada)

    Junior men
    Marc Antoine Nadon (Team Canada)
    Alexandre Vialle (Team Canada)

  • Yak Attack invites international racers to 2013 edition

    A hike-a-bike section in the Yak Attack
    Article published:
    April 10, 2012, 20:23
    By:
    Cycling News

    10-day mountain bike stage race in Nepal never won by foreigner

    Organizers announced that registration is open for the 2013 Yak Attack. The 10-day, 400km mountain bike stage race in Nepal has been one of the toughest on its calendar since its inception six years ago. Although international racers have regularly contested the event, Nepali riders have won all six editions.

    In an effort to draw more potential international winners, the Extreme World Challenges organizers are offering to refund the entry of the first non-Nepali rider to make the top place on the podium.

    Australian rider Peter Butt has been the only only non-Nepali to podium so far with a hard fought third place in 2012, but Nepal National Champion Ajay Pandit Chhetri has had it pretty much his own way for the last three years with victories in 2010, 2011 and 2012. With entries already received from a previous Trans Rockies winner and a top 20 La Ruta de los Conquistadores contestant, things could change in 2013.

    The race starts in Nepal's capital city of Kathmandu and traverses the Himalayan foothills for four days before heading off into the the remote Annapurna mountain range, crossing the formidable Thorong La Pass at 5416m above sea level during stage 9. Riders will encounter a temperature range from around +30 degrees Celsius during the first four days to -20 degrees Celsius on day 9, will climb over 12,000m on mud, rock, sand, snow, cross suspension bridges, battle past pony trains, and have to endure the hardships of 10 days racing in a third world country with very few comforts, but nearly all previous entrants describe as "an experience of a lifetime".

    International entries are limited to 25 places, are considered on a "first come, first served" basis and are expected to sell out very quickly. Details for registering for the race can be found here.

    For those riders that aren't ready to take on the highest mountain bike race on Earth, there are still places left in Yak Attack's little brother, Trans Nepal, a five-day stage race from Kathmandu to Pokhara starting on December 26, 2012 - details about this race can be found here.

  • Sauser aims for Trans Germany three-peat

    Christoph Sauser (Specialized)
    Article published:
    April 11, 2012, 15:24
    By:
    Cycling News

    Cape Epic winner will return to German MTB stage race

    When hundreds of mountain bikers have a crack at the 6th annual Trans Germany on June 6, one man is hoping to head the peloton from Sonthofen to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The race's most dominant rider during the past two years, Christoph Sauser (Specialized), would like to become the first-ever three-time winner of the race. He previously claimed titles in 2010 and 2011.

    In recent weeks, Sauser won the Cape Epic mountain bike stage race with teammate Burry Stander.

    The Trans Germany is a four-day mountain bike stage race for individuals with a total distance of 275 kilometers and some 8,500 meters of elevation gain.

    It will kick off in Sonthofen, then visit Pfronten, Lermoos (Austria) and Seefeld (Austria) before finishing in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

    For more information on the race, visit www.bike-transgermany.de.

  • Killeen looks for progress toward 2012 London Olympic goals

    Up close ... and nearly personal with Liam Killeen (Giant Factory Off-Road Team)
    Article published:
    April 11, 2012, 19:29
    By:
    Cycling News

    Next month to prove decisive after training, equipment changes

    For Liam Killeen - two-time Olympian and British Cycling Podium Programme athlete, the next month will provide the answers to the goals he set at the start of the season, including returning to the World Cup podium.

    As Olympic qualification continues, Killeen's ambition came to a premature end at round one of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa when he crashed with two laps remaining. According to the British champion, the fall cost more than just skin.

    "Getting up from that crash to go on and finish 36th took a lot of mental energy. Before that I wasn't making the race but I was in contention for a top 15," he told British Cycling. Killeen's attention now turns to round two of the World Cup in Houffalize, Belgium, this weekend - a race for which he says he is still trying to regain physical shape.

    "I am trying to forget South Africa and start again. It's not the end of the world. At Houffalize I have to make the best of the day and try and get off to a pretty rapid start. I know from training sessions that I feel in good shape, but you have to nail the race results to know where you are exactly; we've only done one World Cup, so I think next month should give the answers."

    Killeen will hope that his revised training regime started this winter - which reflects the changes to the demands of Olympic cross country - will bear fruit in Houffalize, along with a revision in his equipment.

    "I can feel the difference from my change in training, I've not fully adapted but I'm certainly headed in the right direction. I think there is more to work on, but I know what I have to do and I will keep chipping away. I've also switched to riding a 29er, and I think I will stay on it all year. It is the bike I've ridden since the end of last season, and I feel comfortable on it. I think it is good to keep it simple and just travel with one bike, instead of travel to races with multiple bike choices which gives you something else to worry about.

    "The main advantage of the 29er is that I feel faster; once the course opens up the bike seems to roll and if you average a lap out you may have a few sections where you are slower, the odd dead corner, but if you average it out, it's better. Every rider is different and right now there are a lot of distractions, but you have to be happy with your equipment, it is the rider's preferred choice."

  • BC Bike Race to give away free entries to deserving advocates

    A rider in the BC Bike Race
    Article published:
    April 11, 2012, 21:30
    By:
    Cycling News

    Nominations being accepted for Kazlaw Community MTB Award

    The BC Bike Race and the Kazimirski Law Corporation have teamed up to give away two entries to the 2012 edition of the mountain bike stage race, which is currently sold out. The spots are for people who make mountain biking happen in their community.

    Race organizers are asking for nominations for deserving riders. "What do we mean by a deserving rider? They could be a trail builder, a dedicated volunteer, an inspiring rider, a developing young racer, or anyone else you feel deserves this opportunity," said organizers.

    Marc Kazimirski is a passionate cyclist, a former Canadian national team member and is a personal injury lawyer in Vancouver, British Columbia. Kazimirski is a cycling advocate and the Kazlaw Community Mountain Biking Award is meant to support cycling in the lucky winner's community.

    To nominate someone, submit a short summary (up to 500 words) describing what this person does to make mountain biking happen, along with one to four inspiring photos. Email nominations to karen@bcbikerace.com by April 14. Eligible nominees will be announced and public voting will commence to pick the winners.

    BC Bike Race is a seven-day mountain bike race from Vancouver to Whistler. BCBR is gearing up for its sixth year. The 2012 edition includes a new stage on day 7 in Whistler, 12 individually times gravity enduro stages and two more kids' races in communities along the route all this to compliment the established Epic and Challenge routes.

    For more information on the award, visit www.bcbikerace.com/registration/promotion.