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MTB News & Racing Round-up, Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Date published:
August 15, 2012, 20:00

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.

  • Top 10 Olympic finish delights 21-year-old Last

    Annie Last (Great Britain) is congratulated by supporters after her Olympic race.
    Article published:
    August 12, 2012, 17:09
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    British mountain biker optimistic about her future

    Annie Last of Great Britain was delighted with her eighth place finish in the Olympic Games women's mountain bike race. The 21-year-old made her Olympic debut on a hot day at Hadleigh Farm in Essex on Saturday.

    "I'm really, really happy with my race," she said. "I came here and wanted to get the best out of myself. That's what I did."

    "I wanted to put myself in the race from the start and get a good start so I had a clean run on that first half lap." Last was at the front in the beginning of the race. She led through the technical Dean's Drop section with eventual winner Julie Bresset (France) hot on her tail.

    "The last few laps I slipped back a bit, but I left everything out there, so I'm pleased."

    "To be able to race at a home Olympics in front of a home crowd was incredible. The crowd the whole way round was unbelievable. You can just feel the atmosphere and feel them pushing you forward."

    The biggest cheers came when Last crossed the line, her face a picture of grim determination and effort. Upon finishing, she became the first British woman to finish an Olympic mountain bike race since Caroline Alexander in Sydney 2000.

    Her Milka Brentjens Team Manager Bart Brentjens said, "It is a great performance by Annie Last in the biggest sporting event of the world. She has made an incredible step ahead this year and being 21 years old and finishing eighth at the Olympic Games is a big achievement. She will have a beautiful future ahead." Brentjens, the 1996 Olympic men's mountain bike gold medallist, paid tribute also to the Olympic organizers on the venue, course conditions and general atmosphere.

    Last said she loves what she is doing and sees herself still being able to progress forward in the sport.

    "This is what I'm going to stick at for the time being and keep at it."

    Tags:
    Olympic games
  • Fontana's bronze Olympic medal feels like a gold

    Marco Fontana (Cannondale) riding 30 seconds off the lead in third place
    Article published:
    August 12, 2012, 18:06
    By:
    Daniel Benson

    Mountain biker wins Italy's only cycling medal at Olympics

    Marco Fontana (Italy) won Italy's first and only medal in cycling at this Olympic Games with a bronze medal in the men's mountain bike event. The 28-year-old, who is the current Italian cross country and cyclo-cross national champion, attacked and got away with Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic) and Nino Schurter (Switzerland) in the early stages of the race.

    Fontana rode intelligently in allowing the other two, who were the top favourites, to set the majority of the pace. In the closing stages, Fontana began to show his strength with a series of accelerations. However, any chance of the win evaporated when his seat post snapped on the final lap, and he was forced to nurse his bike home in third.

    "I did a very smart race - always in the front (group). I planned everything with my coach and my psychologist," said Fontana. "I knew I couldn't lose energy. I didn't do turns (at the front) as I knew Nino and Jaroslav had to lead the race. They wasted a lot of energy and perhaps in the final part, I had something more. When I broke the whole seat in the last (passage through the) Rock Garden, I risked losing the medal, but I stayed calm."

    Fontana was left to ride the final stages without a saddle. "It's really hard climbing the switchbacks without a saddle because you don't have balance." Then he gave himself a pep talk to motivate him to ride courageously to defend the third spot until the finish.

    Fontana, who has never won a World Cup, was third in the recent World Cup event in Val d'Isère, proving that his form had been on the rise this year. "I'm not surprised (about the result). I always believed in a medal, I never hid myself. I always said I aimed for a medal and now this bronze for me is a gold."

    With Italy leaving the Olympic Games with no medals in road, track or BMX, Fontana's medal looks all the more precious.

    "Now the newspapers have to talk about mountain biking. I'm fed up with the media talking about other sports," said Fontana.

    Tags:
    Olympic games
  • Best American Olympic men's mountain bike results yet

    Todd Wells (United States) put in the best-ever American Olympic men's mountain bike race finish
    Article published:
    August 12, 2012, 19:16
    By:
    Cycling News

    Wells and Schultz crack top 15

    Two Americans posted the best results in the United States' Olympic men's mountain bike history as they each placed in the top 15 of the race on Sunday to close the cycling portion of the 2012 Olympic Games. Three-time Olympian Todd Wells (Specialized Factory Racing) finished in 10th place while Sam Schultz (Subaru-Trek) placed 15th in his Olympic debut.

    Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic) won in a sprint finish in front of an estimated crowd of 20,000 on-site spectators, beating Nino Schurter (Switzerland) by just one second for the gold medal while Marco Aurelio Fontana (Italy) finished third, 25 seconds behind the winner. Wells finished the race in 1:31:28, 2:21 behind Kulhavy while Schultz finished in 1:32:29.

    Prior to Sunday's contest, the best an American man had finished the Olympic mountain bike race was in 19th place. Wells placed 19th in Athens in 2004 and David "Tinker" Juarez finished 19th at the first-ever Olympic mountain bike race in Atlanta in 1996.

    Wells and Schultz each started slowly in the 34km race on a sunny, warm day. The two Americans were in the middle of the 50-rider field after the first long lap. Wells rebounded and started to surge through the field, moving up to 14th after the second lap. He continued overtaking riders as he moved into ninth position with a group of five riders about 1:29 behind the leaders. Heading into the sixth and last of the 4.82km laps, Wells and Stephane Tempier (France) were dueling for the last spot in the top 10. Wells held on to 10th.

    "I didn't have a very good start," Wells said. "I started to move up in the middle of the race. I thought I was going to be able to get up to the front group. We were in the second chase group, I think for a while. I had bridged up to that, felt strong, started to go across and then I just ran out of juice."

    Schultz's position in the race improved as the race continued. He finished his second long lap in 20th place before beginning to pass riders. Schultz, the reigning cross country national champion, averaged just over 13 minutes on the six long laps as he moved from 20th after the first of those laps to 15th at the finish line.

    "It was awesome," Schultz said. "It was a super, cool race on such a huge stage with tons of people. It was definitely a different level. Tons of good cheers out there. Everyone was super fired up, you could definitely tell. It was a different vibe on the start line than a normal World Cup, which is always super tense. This was definitely up a level, which is really cool."

    Tags:
    Olympic games
  • Hermida comes full circle with Olympic performance

    Burry Stander (South Africa) leads Jose Antonio Hermida (Spain)
    Article published:
    August 12, 2012, 20:21
    By:
    Cycling News

    Spaniard deals with untimely chain problem in mountain bike race

    Jose Antonio Hermida (Spain) finished fourth in his fourth participation at the Olympic Games. He raced the elite men's mountain bike event on Sunday afternoon near London.

    It wasn't a medal-winning ride, but it was close. "I'm very happy. Everyone has setbacks in the race and there is always the feeling of what would have happened if... You can always think and think about many details, but that happens to all the riders," said Hermida, who won the silver medal in Athens in 2004.

    "I felt good and I could make it up to the front group. Still, [Julien] Absalon had a problem on a rocky climb and that made me lose important time. I gave it all to try to contact the three leaders and with [Burry] Stander, we closed that gap." Hermida and Stander successfully bridged up to the eventual top three finishers: Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech), Nino Schurter (Switzerland) and Marco Fontana (Italy).

    But with a lap and a half to go, another setback marked the end of the Hermida's time in the lead, five-man group. "My chain fell off just when I was opening a gap on Stander and the leading group was reduced to four. I knew Burry would pay the effort of the first two laps."

    From that moment onward, the race was for fourth place. For Hermida, it was matter of pride to race Stander for the fourth place. He beat him in the final meters of competition.

    "On that last lap, I could not slow down. I had to keep the fourth spot and give it all in case any of the three in front would have suffered a mishap. The medal I was coming for was still possible. Finally this did not happen, but I'm happy because I've given everything I had. The level of the front riders was very similar and details made the differences."

    Hermida's first Olympic Games was in Sydney in 2000, when he also finished fourth. "I have gone full circle," said Hermida. "In Sydney, I was fourth with a chain problem and this is exactly what has happened to me again four years later."

  • No luck for Nys and Van Hoovels at Olympics

    Sven Nys (Belgium) scored a ninth place.
    Article published:
    August 13, 2012, 09:34
    By:
    Cycling News

    Punctures and crashes destroy London ambitions

    Sven Nys and Kevin Van Hoovels experienced bad luck and misfortune during the men’s Olympic cross country mountain bike race on Sunday. Nys was placed inside the top 20 and was comfortably making his way toward the leaders until a slow puncture hampered his progress during the second lap. The Belgian cyclo-cross national champion found himself losing precious time as he made his way toward the pits.

    "The flat tire ruined everything," he told Nieuwsblad. "I got a puncture on a dumb stone, just about the furthest point of the pit. I lost a minute and was forced to chase. Then I cramped. I had no strength and the pain in my back was no longer tolerable. On the final lap I realised the effort was rediculous and I stepped off. That's sport. It was just bad luck."

    The 36-year-old has not ruled out the possibility of a return to the Olympic Games in Rio - where he would be 40 but for the moment he is still coming to terms with the disappointment of London.

    "It was already such an achievement to make it to the Olympics and the top-20 of Van Hoovels shows that I could have got a result. My condition was very good, it’s just a shame I could not show it.

    Van Hoovels was the first Belgian to be selected for the London Games after he finished 15th at the cross country world championships in September last year but he, like Nys, was unhappy with his race. A tangle with another racer caused him to lose a number of places and while he was able to remount and continue his race, he could not achieve his goal of finishing inside the top-15.

    "I finish in the top twenty but I cannot really satisfied. I was a perfect way but then I get tapped by a Canadian I think. If you are on the ground after travelling at such speed, you know immediately that you are in big trouble."

    Van Hoovels was however, amazed by the experience of the Olympics and will be vying for another opportunity to prove his Olympic potential in four years time at Rio.

    "The atmosphere here was enormous. The Olympics are truly a unique experience. I would certainly like to race again in Rio. I will be only 31, I am still young," he told Nieuwsblad.

  • Gwin renews with Trek World Racing

    Aaron Gwin (Trek World Racing)
    Article published:
    August 14, 2012, 18:53
    By:
    Cycling News

    American signs multi-year deal

    After two incredible seasons in which the history books in men's downhill racing have been re-written several times, UCI world ranked number 1 Aaron Gwin confirmed his recent contract renewal with Trek World Racing for an additional three years. The announcement was made last night in the US during the annual Trek World show in Waterloo, Wisconsin which Gwin was attending.

    Since joining Trek World Racing, Gwin has twice won the UCI World Cup overall.

    "I'm honored to continue my relationship with Trek Bicycles, and the Trek World Racing program. Their support has been a key part of my success over the last two years, and they've given me all the tools I need to reach my goals," said Gwin. "I'm excited for the years ahead, and looking forward to further developing the Trek Bicycles brand."

    A goal that still remains for Gwin this year is winning the UCI Downhill World Championships in Leogang, Austria a venue that brought him World Cup success in the past. Then he'll head to Norway to collect the World Cup trophy and try and put in another win for the season at the final round of the World Cup for 2012.

    "Obviously we're thrilled to know we have Aaron back with us for a long period of time. He's a consummate professional to work with and a great inspiration to his teammates," said Team Director Martin Whiteley. "His confidence in our staff and support means a great deal to us, and we'll do all we can to support him in achieving his goals over the coming years".

    In the past two seasons with Trek World Racing, Gwin has won nine of the 13 World Cup downhill events; achieved 100 percent World Cup podium results and won two World Cup overall titles. He is the first rider in the history of the sport to win five World Cup races in a season (2011), the first to win four World Cup races consecutively (2012) and the first American man ever to win the downhill World Cup overall title.

  • Kalentieva looks toward world championships

    Irina Kalentieva (Russia) at the Olympic Games in London
    Article published:
    August 15, 2012, 16:08
    By:
    Cycling News

    After Olympics, Russian targets cross country and marathon Worlds

    After finishing the 2012 Olympic Games in fourth place, mountain biker Irina Kalentieva (Topeak Ergon) has shifted her attention to the rest of her season including the cross country world championships in September and the marathon world championships in October.

    "I am now focused on the [cross country] world championships in Austria, where I want to finish in the top three, and then perhaps at the marathon world championships in France - perhaps I will podium there?"

    Kalentieva is a former cross country world champion. At the Olympic Games on Saturday, she raced for Russia in front of 20,000 spectators.

    She just missed out on a medal, spending much of the race on her own in fourth place. She crossed the line in 1:32:33, just 33 seconds behind bronze medallist Georgia Gould of the USA.

    "Naturally I am not disappointed with fourth," said the 34-year-old. It was clear to me that I could have got a medal, but all the same, I am happy enough because I felt good during the race, and I rode well."

    Kalentieva never gave up hope on winning a medal; after all anything could have happened to the first three ladies, especially with such small gaps between the top racers. "But fourth is also damn good!" she said.

    "I had prepared well for the race. I did everything that I planned to do. It all worked. My start was good and the bike functioned perfectly. I felt that I was better positioned on the bike, and had more power on the climbs."

  • 24-hour mountain bike Worlds cancelled

    Leighton Poidevin, Tinker Juarez and Cory Wallace
    Article published:
    August 15, 2012, 18:47
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Lack of participation kills event

    Organizers of the 24-hour Mountain Bike World Championships in Canmore, Alberta, Canada, announced the cancellation of the race on Friday, August 10. The annual world championship, which is not sanctioned by the UCI, was to have run September 14-16, 2012.

    "Today is a hard day... it's like the loss of a family member. I'm sad for all the racers (and families) who trained hard and devoted resources to being in Canmore this September," read a letter by Stuart Dorland, founder of the W24C/WSC committee on the race's website. "I'm sad for those in this community of Canmore that supported our desire to build a world-class event. I'm disappointed and sad beyond belief at the cancellation today, which is a real blow for the whole endurance family."

    Dorland went on to explain that it "would not be economically and administratively feasible to keep the event on the calendar... The priority has always been to ensure that the event lives up to the required standards of the participants which it cannot do without proper funding."

    "Dating back to 1998 when it was decided that we (Trilife Sports International) would underwrite the creation of a world championship (1999), this event was always dedicated to showcasing the best endurance athletes. It's been our vision to provide the endurance community with the ultimate test for both elite and age group mountain bike athletes."

    Success at the 24-hour mountain bike worlds made the careers of riders like (now retired) Chris Eatough. Movies like 24 Solo documented the effort and planning that went into winning the race multiple times. Eatough won six 24-hour solo world titles and five US 24-hour national championships during his career.

    "After announcing that Canmore, Alberta Canada would host the championships back in August of 2011, W24C have worked hard based on a 'not-for-profit' model to provide the best possible event for all athletes involved," said statement continued.

    Dorland claimed in his letter to have attracted the best international field in the 13-year history of the event, but the problem was the lack of general participation.

    "At the end of the day while other areas (lack of sponsorship support) challenged our resources it was the recent loss of overall participation numbers, over the past two weeks that finally made the decision inevitable."

    Dorland promised refunds to all racers who had not cancelled or had outstanding balances within 72 hours of the letter's date. Pros such as Tinker Juarez, Josh Tostado, Kelly Magelky, Cory Wallace and Leighton Poidevin had committed to the race.

    The cancellation of this event seems in keeping with trends in mountain biking, in which many participants have moved from endurance events like 24-hour races to newer formats like 100-milers, mountain bike stage races and shorter marathon events.  The trend is widespread across North American in particular.

    Another 24-hour race in Utah, the 24 Hours of Moab, recently struggled with whether or not to continue after its participation also had dropped over the years. According to the race's website, the event will happen again in 2012. Granny Gear Productions put on as many as seven 24-hour races in the heyday of 24-hour racing, but the Moab one is the only one still happening. Its 18th edition is scheduled for October 6-7, 2012.

    Without an official UCI designation of a world championship event, several 24-hour events around the globe have at times claimed world championships status. Another event in Finale Ligure, Italy, also called the 24-hour world championships, was run in May of 2012.  It was run under the auspices of the World Endurance Mountain Bike Organization (WEMBO), their next championship event is scheduled for Australia in 2013, then Scotland in 2014.