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- Article published:
- February 17, 2011, 15:40
- Cycling News
Swanepoel and Niyonshuti may surprise
The MTN Clarens marathon that will take place on Saturday, February 19 will probably boil down to a battle of wits and brawn between the riders from Garmin-adidas and DCM.
When it comes to racing marathons, Max Knox (DCM) is certainly the in-form rider at the moment. He finished fourth in the Attakwas and fulfilled the role of destroyer in Barberton when he simply "killed off" his competitors on the last climb of the race to achieve a third consecutive victory.
The only thing that could complicate matters for Knox and his DCM teammates, Brandon Stewart and Thomas Zahnd, is that none of them have ever raced in Clarens before because of international commitments.
However, racing in Clarens will be nothing new for the Garmin-adidas riders. Even though Kevin Evans (360Life) was the overall winner, they have practically dominated last year's race. Mannie Heymans finished second, followed by Buys a mere 10 seconds behind, in the third place. Francois Theron finished fourth.
Cycling experts predict that Heymans will win on Saturday, in spite of being more than 10 years older than most of his rivals. Heymans proved, with his third-place finish in Barberton, that he is fighting fit. It was noticeable in Barberton that Heymans had developed into a "thinking" cyclist. He realizes that he can no longer, as he did in his prime, rely on simply outriding his rivals on steep climbs.
He has now resorted to riding at his own steady pace, playing the waiting game. And it seems to be working for him. Towards the end of the Barberton race, Heymans managed to catch up with and pass his younger rivals one by one.
What makes the Clarens marathon an exciting challenge, is the steep, technical climb which will be contested on a slick rock surface. Not many riders can boast that they have conquered the climb, staying on their bikes all the way to the top. Buys is one of the elite few who can.
Judged purely on his climbing and technical abilities, the question is not if Buys is capable of winning the Clarens race, but rather when he will do so. The only factor that might count against him is the fact that at the moment he focuses on cross country racing and not so much on marathon racing. This could mean that his stamina might not be what it should be.
Knox is not overly worried about the fact that neither he, nor his teammates, have ever raced at Clarens. "It is just another race. I know that there will be tough climbs and challenging downhill sections, as well as some really technical singletrack sections, but that applies to every marathon. Therefore, riding in Clarens cannot be much more difficult than racing in Barberton, or Sabie, or any other venue for that matter.
"The challenge will be to stay focused and not make any costly mistakes. What might count in our favour is the fact that we will be prepared to work as a team to ensure victory. It does not matter to us who wins, as long as it is a DCM rider."
For Zahnd, the race at Clarens will be a welcome return to South African racing, which he absolutely loves.
Zahnd and Knox teamed up in October last year to win the DCM Cape Pioneer Trek. He is also a past stage winner in the Cape Epic.
The Epic is the reason why Zahnd is back in South Africa already. He will be teaming up with Knox again. The Swiss rider readily admits that his form is not quite what it should be at the moment.
"After winning the DCM Cape Pioneer Trek I took a break. During the winter months I could not really train on my mountain bike, so I did gymnasium work and cross country skiing to keep fit. Whenever the weather allowed it, I tried to go for a training ride."
According to Zahnd coming to South Africa was, as far as temperatures are concerned, not such a big shock. "We had some quite pleasant weather of about 10 degrees in Switzerland."
As far as Saturday's race is concerned, Zahnd sees his role as helping Knox and Brandon Stewart to a victory.
Ben-Melt Swanepoel and Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN/Qhubeka) could be the riders who might spoil the fun for the DCM and Garmin-adidas riders who will have safety in numbers. Riding as individuals against the two teams will be challenging but they might become so embroiled in their fight that the race opens up for a rider like Niyonshuti.
Niyonshuti impressed with his ride this past weekend at the Continental African Mountain Bike Championships held in Jonkershoek in the cross country discipline. He not only finished fourth but also qualified for Olympics for Rwanda. Niyonshuti is much more at home on the marathon circuit and judging from his performance he should be right up there in the fight for the win.
Burry Stander (Specialized/USN), bronze medal winner at last year's marathon world championship, Kevin Evans (360Life), defending champion at Clarens and overall winner of the MTN marathon series last year, and David George (360Life), this year's winner at Attakwas, will not be competing.
- Article published:
- February 17, 2011, 17:50
- Cycling News
Skarnitzl, Langvad return to defend Voroklini titles
The Cyprus Sunshine Cup will open the European mountain bike season at Voroklini on Sunday. 2010 race winners Jan Skarnitzl of the Czech Republic and Annika Langvad of Denmark will be back to defend their titles. It will be the first event of the three-race series.
The Sunshine Cup will provide the first glimpse of how racers from all over the world have fared with their winter training.
In the women's race, 30 are pre-registered including Langvad, Slovakian Janka Stevkova and Slovenian Blaza Klemencic. Stevkova was the runner-up in 2010. Four cross World Cup winner Anneke Beerten is also jumping into Voroklini's cross country competition.
Under 23 world champion Alexandra Engen of Sweden may also take part but as she is contending with health problems, her participation is unconfirmed.
Skarnitzl is facing a host of strong contenders in the elite men's race. He'll battle Czech compatriot Jiri Friedl and the whole Rabobank Giant Team, lead by American Adam Craig, Swiss Fabian Giger and Dutchman Henk-Jaap. Finn Jukka Vastaranta and Dutchman Jelmer Pietersma, two Milka-Trek teammates of Beerten's, will also be racing. Finally, Swiss Under 23 racer Thomas Litscher and Germans Torsten Marx, Stefan Sahm and René Tann make up part of the 70-racer strong men's field.
Racers will compete on a 6.1km cross country course not far from Larnaka.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage of the race in Voroklini.
- Article published:
- February 17, 2011, 19:55
- Cycling News
Past women's winner to team with newbie van der Sandt
At this year's eighth annual Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage race in South Africa, the women's division is set to be as exciting as the men's with riders such as Hanlie Booyens, Hannele Steyn and Esther Süss.
Booyens, 37, who lives and trains in Stellenbosch, will be participating with teammate Thea-Mari van der Sandt as Team Absa aBreast. Booyens finished first in the Ladies division in 2009 and 2004, in second place in 2005 and fourth in 2008. She was third in the TransAlp in 2004 and was South Africa's cross country champion in both 2003 and 2004.
"Every year I promise myself, my friends, family and business partner never to do it again," said Booyens of the Cape Epic. "Then someone holds out the carrot, and I simply can't help myself. Such a sucker! Truth is the years that I've skipped it I just felt left out. You miss the vibe, the build up, the familiar faces. But, I never miss the blue loos though."
Booyens will ride to raise awareness for the JAG Foundation this year. "Our goal is to raise awareness and funds. Thea-Mari and I come from very different backgrounds in terms of the event. I've raced it four times, winning twice, coming a close second and a tough fourth. She's a complete novice.
"To bring these two worlds together within one team is going to be a huge challenge for both of us. Fortunately we've both done many crazy things that have taught us how to suffer - that will help a lot when the going gets really tough. But I believe having a bigger goal than just personal gains will be our strongest asset."
Booyens' advice to her partner and other participants in the Absa Cape Epic is simple. "Before the race, ride, ride, ride and ride some more until mid-March. It's all about getting use to being on the bike. And during the race you need to break it up into little bite sized chunks and wolf it down with as much zest as you can muster. It's going to hurt, you're going to suffer, you'll probably hate your bike, your sponsor and even your partner but in the end it'll be worth it!"
Booyens and Van der Sandt do not train together often. "Thea-Mari lives in George, and I'm from Stellenbosch. We had seven days in December when we did an awareness campaign and rode our own seven Mini Summits. We had great fun and got to know each other a lot better. We've also done an Absa training camp earlier this month which helped a lot."
"For me personally the year starts with a lot of racing (Totalsport Challenge, Attekwas, Trail Run series, 24hours, Xcountry Champs, Xterra etc.) so I try to survive during the week just doing maintenance stuff and then race hard over weekends. Because I'm not racing the Absa Cape Epic to win, I'm doing things a little differently than I would if I was trying to go for a podium finish. I try to follow a nice varied and healthy diet and then wash it all down with way too much Coke. Just make sure you get good carbs, lean protein and lots of fruit and vegs."
She also reckons it is important to be very familiar with one's equipment, kit and nutrition before race day. "Look after your body and respect it - you're asking a lot from it! Eat well and get out of your riding kit ASAP after each stage. Remember it's a huge privilege to be fit and healthy and able to ride this race, so appreciate every moment out there even when it hurts like hell. And be kind to your partner! The most important ingredient to finish this race is a positive mindset."
An architect by profession, Booyens enjoys sport in her free time. "Being outside - either riding, running, hiking or simply watching waves breaking or flames playing in a fire is what keeps me really happy. This year I have a couple of other races in the pipeline that would be nice to do well in. I'd like to be a good architect as well and keep building our practice. In the end, I just want to look back and feel I've made the best of each opportunity and every moment."
The JAG Foundation aims to give young people opportunities and pride in themselves, through sport and education at grass roots level. "Their programmes like Mighty Metres go beyond physical exercise as it encourages healthy daily habits and goal setting. There are already almost 20,000 kids on the program. I believe that through an organisation like JAG we have the ability to unlock the door to a better future for all in this country. I feel honoured to be able to ride the Absa Cape Epic for such a worthy cause."
The Cape Epic will take place from March 27 to April 3 over 707km with 14,550m of climbing. Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage.
- Article published:
- February 18, 2011, 03:54
- Cycling News
Top field expected for 100km marathon from Apollo to Forrest
World champions, national titleholders, age group legends and a field full of weekend warriors hoping that they can make it to the finish line will be lining up at the Otway Odyssey Mountain Bike Marathon in Australia on Saturday, February 19.
Competitors will take on 15km, 50km or the main event, the 100km course which begins at the coastal town of Apollo Bay and snakes up the Otway Ranges to Forrest, two hours southwest of Melbourne.
So who will be masters of the Otway Odyssey come the final stretch of singletrack in 2011? The pointy end of this year's 100km Otway Odyssey is as sharp as ever with both the men's and women's fields including many of the nation's best riders.
Leading the men's charge is likely to be four-time national champion and two-time Odyssey winner Chris Jongewaard, fresh from an exciting, if narrow win at the Australian Mountain Bike Series cross country event at Mt Buller earlier this month.
Jongewaard will be pushed long and hard by the likes of 2010 race winner Adrian Jackson and runner up Lachlan Norris, who is particularly quick on the cross country circuit at the moment.
Hot on all their heels will be the likes of Matthew Flemming, Peter Hatton, Ben Hogarth and Andrew Fellows, to name just a few.
Former 24-hour Solo World Champion Craig Gordon and his entire Rock Star Racing team will be chasing victory in a race that has eluded the team in the past, while the reigning 24-hour Solo Champion Jason English is also a top contender and will take no prisoners in his quest to capture the title.
The women's field is just as competitive and should see a close battle in a field of very fast females. Forrest local and reigning 24-hour Solo World Champion Jess Douglas wants to make her mark on the race and is determined to stand on the podium, and preferably the top spot after four previous attempts at the race.
Having ridden the course plenty of times, she's not daunted but knows experience won't necessarily dull the pain ahead. "I know it hurts, it just depends on the day how much I can hurt. Last year was not so good - I hurt in the first 10km and never came good. This year I will try and go a bit faster. That's all I can do," said Douglas.
The likes of Gracie Elvin won't make Douglas' job any easier: as the Under 23 National Champion, Elvin is particularly strong over the distance and carries plenty of cross country speed.
Jo Wall, Peta Mullens, Niki Fisher and Amity McSwan will push these two all the way.
Now in its fifth year, the Otway Odyssey has grown to be the largest mountain bike event in Victoria and second largest mountain bike marathon in Australia, with 1,750 competitors set to pedal their way through the Otway bush.
- Article published:
- February 19, 2011, 21:23
- Cycling News
Mountain biker a favorite for cross country championship title
The 2011 Australian Mountain Bike Championships begin in a few days in Adelaide, and four-time national champion and current national series leader Chris Jongewaard is out to prove he has what it takes to take out his fifth national title and to represent Australia for the first time at the 2012 London Olympics.
It's been a long road for the Olympic hopeful whose career was put on hold after a tumultuous couple of years. In December, Jongewaard, 32, returned to the elite scene in promising form taking out round two of the Australian Mountain Bike Series in Hobart followed by a convincing victory at Mt Buller earlier this month.
His success in the national series has marked a giant step forward in the Adelaide rider's bid to compete at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
"The nationals are a really important time for me, particularly with the lead up to the Olympics next year. It's a good indication that I have made a successful return to cross country," said Jongewaard, who is fresh of victory on Saturday at the Otway Odyssey.
"I'm feeling positive and training hard to do well in key races to keep selection close to being achievable. My preparation for the international circuit is on target. After sitting out last season, I am really motivated to get the green and gold stripes back again and to feel like I'm one of the leading riders in the bid for 2012."
Often referred to as Australia's biggest contender, there is a lot at stake for Jongewaard with each performance between now and London sure to leave a lasting impression on the minds of national selectors.
Jongewaard is believed to be the only Australian athlete previously selected twice for the Olympics without getting to the Games. After being selected for Athens, he was replaced by another rider who appealed on performance grounds. Then he lost his place as a mountain biker on the Beijing Olympic team. Jongewaard was jailed after a conviction for involvement in a hit-and-run accident in 2007. He was found guilty of aggravated driving without due care and leaving the scene of an accident after hitting his former training partner Matthew Rex following a night of celebrating Rex's 22nd birthday.
It's anyone's race with a stellar line up of talent competing in the cross country races which will take place on Friday, February 25 followed by the short course on Saturday, February 26.
Jongewaard's main challenger, Athens Olympian and three-time Australian champion, Sid Taberlay is expected to apply the pressure in what will be a tightly fought contest.
Beijing Olympian and national champion, Dan McConnell has been forced to withdraw from the competition due a broken wrist that he sustained whilst racing last Sunday, consequently robbing him of the chance to defend his title.
"Taberlay is a dark horse, he can turn it on unexpectedly and is one to watch. I know what he is capable of because I have raced on the same team as him and competed against him"
Also amongst the mix is reigning national series champion Lachlan Norris, who has impressively stepped up to the elite ranks, and Ben Henderson remains a strong contender.
In the women's category, Tasmania's golden girl and defending national champion, Rowena Fry is chasing her third consecutive national crown and will start as the strong favourite.
However, Fry won't be given a free reign and is expected to face fierce competition from fellow rider Jenni King, who crossed the line just seconds behind her at Mt Buller, and Victorian Katherine O'Shea, who won the national series in 2009.
Canberra's Gracie Elvin is another main contender after her third place finish in round four of the national series at Mt Buller as well as Heather Logie.
In the U23 category, Canberra rider Rebecca Henderson remains unbeaten and Victorian Paul Van Der Ploeg is expected to start strong after a convincing victory at the Mt Buller meet.
The 2011 Australian Mountain Bike Championships will be held from Tuesday, February 22 through Saturday, February 26 at Eagle Mountain Bike Park in Adelaide, Australia.
- Article published:
- February 21, 2011, 22:04
- Cycling News
Dakar winner Coma and Olympic champion Absalon racing
The inaugural edition of the Andalucía Bike Race was presented last weekend, one week before the mountain bike stage race will kick off in Spain. Andalucía Tourism Minister Luciano Alonso and current motorbike Dakar winner Marc Coma presided over the ceremony in Jaén. The race will begin on February 27 and run through March 4 in the provinces of Córdoba and Jaén.
Coma will be racing in the new event along with cross country world champion José Antonio Hermida, former marathon world champion Ralph Näf, former Spanish marathon national champion Rubén Ruzafa and Olympic team representative Iñaki Lejarreta.
During the presentation, the entry of another of the world's best mountain bike racers was announced. Frenchman Julien Absalon, four-time cross country world champion, five-time World Cup winner and two-time Olympic gold medalist, will also be in the race.
The final stages of the Andalucía Bike Race were modified recently, resulting in shorter distances and less climbing. The stages in Córdoba have hardly changed at all, with small modification including a new staging location and a second descent on the Reventón downhill.
However, on the fourth stage, between Priego de Córdoba and Jaén, the climbs to Mahína and Cerezo mountain passes have been removed, and the Navazuelo climb has been replaced with the Valle mountain pass, which heads directly to Luque. The finish will remain the same, with racers entering Jaén through the Jabalcuz mountain range.
The fifth stage has had some small changes, with a few less kilometers, but still including its three main highlights: Sierra Mágina, Serrezuela de Pegalajar and Sierra San Cristóbal.
The sixth and final stage has been transformed into a route surrounding the Quiebrajano lake in view of the surrounding Pandera mountains.
Andalucía Bike Race for 2011
February 27: Stage 1 - Córdoba - Cerro Muriano, 75.2km
February 28: Stage 2 - Western Córdoba, 73km
March 1: Stage 3 - Eastern Córdoba, 74km
March 2: Stage 4 - Priego de Córdoba - Jaén, 115km
March 3: Stage 5 - Eastern Jaén, 63km
March 4: Stage 6 - Southern Jaén, 82km
- Article published:
- February 22, 2011, 11:00
- Cycling News
Ninth place finish kicks off season Sunshine Cup opener
Marathon World Champion Alban Lakata began his season with a ninth place finish in Cyprus at the opening round of the Sunshine Cup in Voroklini on Sunday. The Austrian took a measured approach to the beginning of racing efforts for 2011.
"I intentionally didn't go hard," he said. "It's the first chance in competition I have to measure my progress, and it gives me a chance to see where I stand against the competition."
Lakata raced a technically demanding course on the Mediterranean Island and looked strong despite not going all out. He started slowly and then made up place after place until the finish.
"Today was a great way to measure my condition, I used the race as feedback for my training," he said. "I was testing everything - myself and equipment - and I have to say that I'm very impressed. Additionally world ranking points were available at the event, so I'm very pleased with the result."
- Article published:
- February 23, 2011, 16:24
- Cycling News
Three-day race kicks off Friday for first time as HC event
The second round of the Sunshine Cup will kick off on Friday with the three-day, HC-categorized, Afxentia stage race, and number-one ranked Jaroslav Kulhavy of the Czech Republic will be the man to beat there. In the women's race, Voroklini winner Annika Langvad of Denmark will be a favorite along with Norway's Lene Byberg.
Relative to this past weekend's opener in Voroklini, more racers are making their way to the island of Cyprus. Specialized's Kulhavy is one such rider; the 2010 European Champion will be back to see if he can repeat his sweep of all three stages and subsequent overall victory last year. The race proved to be a fantastic season opener for Kulhavy, who went on to have a breakout year.
Kulhavy will be challenged by Voroklini winner Karl Markt (Felt Ötztal X-Bionic biker), Emil Lindgren, Fabian Giger and Adam Craig (all Rabobank-Giant), Christoph Soukup and marathon world champion Alban Lakata (Topeak-Ergon).
Women's Sunshine Cup leader Langvad will face tougher competition, too. Byberg, Blaza Klemencic and Janka Stevkova are among the favorites.
For the first time in its 12-year history, the Afxentia stage race is being run as an Hors Categorie event per UCI sanctioning. The winner will take home 160 UCI points, one more than a second place finish at the Continental Championships would earn.
The race kicks off Friday, February 25 with a one-lap time trial on the cross country course in the Macheras mountains near Kapedes. The second stage, on Saturday, February 26 is a point-to-point race with start in the village of Kapedes and finish at the picnic area of Mantra tou Kampiou. It's 45km for the men and 40km for the women. The final stage is a regular cross country race on the new, now 5.5km course at Mantra tou Kampiou.
The Afxentia stage race is named after Grigoris Afxentiou, a Cypriot freedom fighter who was killed by the British in the Macheras Mountains.
Racers from 30 nations are pre-registered, which will set a new record for the Sunshine Cup. 160 racers are expected to tow the starting line - more than ever before, which caused organizers to have to bump up the start of the time trial.
2011 Afxentia Stage Race
Friday, February 25: Time Trial, 5.5km
Saturday, February 26: Point-to-point Cross Country, 44.7km (men) / 39.8km (women)
Sunday, February 27: Cross country Race (variable distances by category)