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MTB News & Racing Round-up, Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Date published:
February 23, 2011, 0:00 GMT
  • Knox and Heymans favored for MTN Clarens marathon

    Max Knox is elated with his third win at the MTN Barberton.
    Article published:
    February 17, 2011, 15:40 GMT
    By:
    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...

  • European mountain bike season gets underway in Cyprus

    Annika Langvad and Alexandra Engen lead the ladies out on the start loop at Voroklini in 2010.
    Article published:
    February 17, 2011, 17:50 GMT
    By:
    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.

  • Booyens returns for fifth Cape Epic

    Hanlie Booyens racing at the Cape Epic
    Article published:
    February 17, 2011, 19:55 GMT
    By:
    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...

  • Jongewaard and Jackson among those battling for Otway Odyssey title

    2010 Otway Odyssey Race Winner Adrian Jackson
    Article published:
    February 18, 2011, 3:54 GMT
    By:
    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...

  • Jongewaard's road back continues at Australian national championships

    Chris Jongewaard is a favorite for the 2011 Australian national cross country and short track championships.
    Article published:
    February 19, 2011, 21:23 GMT
    By:
    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...

  • Inaugural Andalucia Bike Race presented

    Dakar winner Marc Coma will race the Andalucía Bike Race
    Article published:
    February 21, 2011, 22:04 GMT
    By:
    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.

    ...
  • Marathon World Champion Lakata warms up his legs in Cyprus

    Alban Lakata (Topeak Ergon) starts in season in the Mediterranean Sun
    Article published:
    February 22, 2011, 11:00 GMT
    By:
    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."

  • Kulhavy returns to defend Afxentia sweep

    Jaroslav Kulhavy and Emil Lindgren lead at the 2010 Afxentia stage race.
    Article published:
    February 23, 2011, 16:24 GMT
    By:
    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...