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MTB News & Racing Round-up, Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Date published:
March 30, 2011, 1:00 BST
  • Racer Bikes Cup to kick off in Schaan this weekend

    Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower)
    Article published:
    March 24, 2011, 18:51 GMT
    Cycling News

    Swiss national series starting in Liechtenstein

    The Swiss Racer Bikes Cup will start not in Switzerland, but in Liechtenstein when Schaan hosts round one this weekend, March 26-27. The series has previously visited Liechtenstein in 2007 and 2009.

    While many of Switzerland's top racers will be in South Africa contesting the Cape Epic stage race, World Cup winner and 2009 World Champion Nino Schurter will be at the start in Schaan along with his teammate Florian Vogel, German champion Milatz Moritz, Frenchman Cedric Ravanel and Italian champion Marco Aurelio Fontana.

    Olympic champion Sabine Spitz, the world ranked number one Lisi Osl, two-time world champion Irina Kalentieva and European champion Katrin Leumann will guarantee an exciting women's contest.

    The Racer Bikes Cup features eight rounds in 2011, distributed across all regions of Switzerland and the stop in Liechtenstein. Regular venues include Schaan, Gränichen, Muttenz Lugano/Tesserete, Engelberg and Plaffeien while Chur, which hosted the Swiss national championships two years ago, is a new venue for 2011. Solothurn will host a festival while the Muttenz round will happen as the perfect warm-up, one week before the world championships. This year, Plaffeien is hosting the Swiss national championships.

    "We will not deviate from our concept of a high quality, innovative and far-sighted racing series," said Andi Seeli, Racer Bikes Cup organizer. "The UCI has upgraded the status of the Racer Bikes Cups further, making it the series for top racers and the media and hence, interesting for spectators."

    Like the last time the series visited Schaan, the course will feature a lap around the Community Center.

    "From the start, you have to be there with the front to race well. Otherwise, you will have little chance of a top result. Another particular challenge is the plunge into the finish area, which requires great courage," said organizers.

  • Niyonshuti returns to Cape Epic

    Adrien Niyonshuti races in the 2010 Cape Epic.
    Article published:
    March 24, 2011, 20:22 GMT
    Cycling News

    Rwandan Olympic hopeful to pair up with past winner Heymans

    Pro racer Adrien Niyonshuti, born in the Eastern Province, Rwanda, will be participating in this year's Absa Cape Epic as a member of team MTN Garmin Qhubeka. The event, which takes place from March 27 to April 3 is drawing 1,200 cyclists from around the globe over 707km. It will be his third time in the South African mountain bike stage race.

    Niyonshuti, 24, began amateur cycling at the age of 16. Although he survived the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, six of his brothers were killed. He came to the attention of a former professional cyclist, Jonathan Boyer. As the first American cyclist to compete in the Tour de France, Boyer was working in Rwanda on a project to import cargo bicycles. Boyer also assumed the role of coach for the Rwandan national cycling team, and recruited Niyonshuti to race.

    Niyonshuti had good initial results in local races such as the Tour of Rwanda, in which he finished in the top 10 five years in a row and won in 2006 and 2008. In 2008, Niyonshuti attended the Africa Continental Centre Training Camp in South Africa, where he was offered a contract by Douglas Ryder. He started his first UCI European road race in August 2009 with his participation in the 2009 Tour of Ireland, becoming the first Rwandan cyclist to ride in European professional races.

    Niyonshuti enjoys stage racing. "I also particularly enjoy the Cape Epic and have been given the opportunity to participate thanks to my sponsors. My partner is well-known cyclist and previous winner Mannie Heymans. I'm very happy to race with him as he has so much experience and I can learn from him. I have a lot of confidence in him."

    Heymans won the inaugural Cape Epic with then partner Karl Platt, the only rider to have ever won the race four times. Heymans won the TransAlp mountain bike race in both 1998 and 2004, the African Mountain Bike Championships in 1999, 2001 and 2003, participated in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney and was 10-time Namibian Road...

  • Crocodile Trophy winner Huber to race Cape Epic

    Urs Huber looking confident on the start line
    Article published:
    March 26, 2011, 15:01 GMT
    Cycling News

    Huber partners with fellow Swiss racer Looser

    Swiss mountain bike champions Urs Huber and Konny Looser from team Stöckli Pro Team are teaming up for the first time at this year's Absa Cape Epic. The South African mountain bike stage race, now in its eighth year, will kick off with a prologue in Tokai Plantation, part of the Table Mountain National Park on Sunday, March 27 and end on April 3 at its long-established Lourensford Wine Estate finish.

    Huber, 25, won the bronze medal in the marathon world championships in Italy in 2008, the European Championships in Germany in 2008 and the Swiss Championships in 2009. He is also the three-time winner of the iXS Swiss Bike Classic (2007-2009) and a two-time winner of the Crocodile Trophy in Australia (2009 and 2010). He has won over 50 races in his career to date.

    Looser's achievements include winning the under 23 European marathon championships in 2010, winning the ICX Classic short distance in 2008, 2009 and 2010, and achieving a fifth place overall at the 2010 TransAlp.

    Huber, who will be participating for the second time, believes the Cape Epic is the hardest stage race in the world for mountain bikers. "It's therefore a big challenge for me to take part this year with a new partner. However, we always know what the other one is thinking and always find the right thing to say to each other, which makes it a little easier. The race takes place in such a beautiful environment - a big highlight in my season," he said.

    This will be the 22-year-old Looser's first Cape Epic, and he is looking forward to all the decision making that they will have to make as a team during the race. "Urs is a perfect teammate for me as we have the same attitude towards sport. We also share the same philosophy in terms of our training and the race - we're both really strong minded. On top of that, we have the same riding style on our bikes," Looser said.

    According to Huber, "The...

  • Platt and Sahm back at Cape Epic to defend title

    Overall leaders Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm of Team Bulls during stage seven of the 2010 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held in and around Oak Valley in the Western Cape, South Africa.
    Article published:
    March 26, 2011, 19:52 GMT
    Cycling News

    Pair looks for fourth victory together in South Africa

    Last year's winners of the Absa Cape Epic Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm are back to defend their title at this year's event starting Sunday, March 27 and ending on Sunday, April 3. The German Bulls team is ready to take on the challenging 707km mountain bike stage race through South Africa.

    Platt, 33, and Sahm, 34, achieved a hat trick winning the Cape Epic in 2007, 2009 and 2010, with Platt also winning the inaugural 2004 race with his previous partner Mannie Heymans.

    "I've participated in the Cape Epic since its inception - this will be my eightth race," said Platt. "I love this race, the people and the country. It's an exceptional experience to train in South Africa - riding around Chapman's Peak is beautiful and one needs no further motivation. Also, coming from a very cold Europe, the weather is perfect."

    "For me it really is the best race in the world and the highlight in our season," said Sahm. "It's the hardest and cruellest week of cycling throughout the year, but I enjoy every second."

    Platt's victories speak for themselves - six-time winner of the TransAlp, winner of the TransRockies, winner of the Trans Germany, winner of the Trans Schwarzwald and also the German Marathon Championship.

    Sahm also boasts an impressive list of wins behind his name such as the TransAlp, the Trans Germany, the Trans Schwarzwald, the Riva del Garda and Willingen Marathons, and the National Bundesliga. This will be their fourth Cape Epic as a team.

    Platt said he is never over confident before a race. "Our chances are as good as anybody's. But we did our homework and are well-prepared. We also have really great equipment - so we can't do more."

    Sahm added jokingly that they are "as confident as winning the lottery. I know that we're well prepared for racing the Cape Epic and I had a really good training season in winter. But, this is the Cape Epic and it has...

  • Rabobank-Giant Offroad team presented in Apeldoorn

    The Rabobank-Giant Offroad Team includes mountain bike and cyclo-cross racers.
    Article published:
    March 28, 2011, 14:34 BST
    Cycling News

    17 racers representing second-year Dutch team

    The Rabobank-Giant Offroad Team was presented at the Omnisportcentre in Apeldoorn the Rabobank-Giant Offroad Team late last week as the UCI Track World Championships were happening. The Dutch UCI-registered team includes both mountain bikers and cyclo-cross racers.

    Jan ten Tusscher is managing the second-year team after a successful first year in which mountain biker Jelmer Jubbega won the Dutch under 23 mountain bike title, and Henk Jaap Moorlag is the currently top-ranked under 23 mountain bike rider according to the UCI. Dutch cyclo-cross rider Lars van der Haar also won the under 23 national, European and world championships and was first in the Under 23 World Cup cyclo-cross.

    In 2011, the Rabobank-Giant Offroad Team includes 17 riders. With the signings of American Katie Compton and Kiwi Rosara Joseph, the team has added its first female racers.

    So far this season, Joseph has already won her national cross country championship and the Oceania cross country title. Compton is coming off winning five UCI Cyclo-cross World Cups and she won silver at Worlds. She is the current US short track national champion.

    Dutchman Michiel van der Heijden is also new to the team. he was the Dutch and World Champion junior cross country champion in 2010. Compatriot Niels Wubben, who was the runner up at the Under 23 European cross country championships, has also signed with the team.

    2011 Rabobank-Giant Offroad Team

    Bart Aernouts (Bel)
    Gert-Jan Bosman (Ned)
    Adam Craig (USA)
    Emiel Dolfsma (Ned)
    Gerben de Knegt (Ned)
    Fabian Giger (Swi)
    Jelmer Jubbega (Ned)
    Tim Lemmers (Ned)
    Emil Lindgren (Swe)
    Marco Minnaard (Ned)
    Henk Jaap Moorlag (Ned)
    Mike Teunissen (Ned)
    Lars van der Haar (Ned)
    Michiel van der Heijden (Ned)
    Niels Wubben (Ned)

    Katherine Compton (USA)
    Rosara Joseph...

  • Bishop and Plaxton tied in US Pro XCT standings

    Max Plaxton (Specialized) hammering up the climb.
    Article published:
    March 29, 2011, 17:50 BST
    Cycling News

    Gould at the top of the women's classification

    Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale) and Max Plaxton (Specialized) are tied atop men's US Pro XCT standings while Georgia Gould (Luna) remains the women's leader after two rounds of the American national cross country series. The second round was held in Fontana, California, this weekend.

    Plaxton won round two ahead of Bishop and Sam Schultz (Subaru-Trek). Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Trek) and Todd Wells (Specialized) were fourth and fifth, respectively

    "I’m just trying to find my pacing," said Plaxton. "Other years I've gone out hard and faded the last couple laps. Now I'm trying to make my last couple of laps strong. Today I just punched it near the top of the climb on the third lap."

    Bishop and Plaxton have 380 points, 40 points ahead of Wells in the series standings.

    On the women's side Gould and Lea Davison (Specialized), who has returned from a hip injury in 2010, placed second and third in Fontana behind winner Catharine Pendrel (Luna). Pendrel rode with Gould for a lap before pulling away from the pack on the long, arduous climb.

    "The course was in awesome condition. They had some rain. The first it's nice to know you have legs. It's okay to feel good in training, but it's nice to test it out," Pendrel said.

    Pendrel was absent from round one, so Gould leads the standings with 380 points, 20 points more than Davison. Emily Batty (Subaru-Trek), Chloe Forsman (BMC MTB Development Team) and Krista Park (Cannondale-NoTubes) round out the top five in the standings.

    Stephen Ettinger (BMC MTB Development Team) is the top under 23 men's rider in the overall standings as his 190 points place him 10th after finishing 12th in Fontana. On...

  • Three Leadville 100 qualifiers announced

    Levi Leipheimer en route to victory at the Leadville 100
    Article published:
    March 29, 2011, 21:40 BST
    Cycling News

    New York, California and Colorado hosting events

    Three qualifying events for the 2011 Leadville 100 mountain bike race in Leadville, Colorado, were announced today. Racers who perform well enough at the qualifiers in New York, California and Crested Butte will earn themselves a spot on the start line of the 100-mile race with the likes of Dave Wiens, Rebecca Rusch, Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer - all who have raced the Colorado event.

    The Leadville Qualifying Series (LQS) is comprised of the Wilmington/Whiteface 100K on June 19 in Wilmington, New York; the Lake Tahoe Trail 100K on July 10 in Lake Tahoe, California; and the Crested Butte Alpine Odyssey on July 31 in Mt. Crested Butte, Colorado.

    Each race will provide 100 qualifying spots which will be allocated partially on the basis of age-group performance and partly by lottery among finishers. Registration for the qualifiers will open on Thursday, March 31.

    "We are delighted to be able to have three great races in three of the best mountain biking locations in the country," said Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports. "In addition to the opportunity to qualify for the Leadville Trail 100, these races will be superb opportunities to celebrate the sport of mountain biking."

    "These qualifiers have been carefully selected as each contain many of the characteristics of the Leadville course, including overall challenge and climbing," said Kenneth Cooper, vice president of Endurance and Athletic Events for Life Time.

    All qualifiers will be approximately 100 kilometres and have been vetted by LQS Technical Director Dave Wiens, a six-time LT 100 champion and member of the Mountain Biking Hall of Fame. The events are fully supported with aid stations and mechanical support, and are chip-timed.

    The qualifying system was announced in late January of this year as a new way of entry into the popular Leadville 100 race....

  • Norris sets sights on Olympic goal

    So close, an exhausted Lachlan Norris finishes in 2nd in the Elite Mens XC
    Article published:
    March 30, 2011, 0:03 BST
    Les Clarke

    Australian to juggle road and dirt duties until London

    Australian road rider and mountain biker Lachlan Norris says he'll continue riding both disciplines until the London Olympics as the 24-year-old aims for representative honours at next year's Olympic Games.

    The affable Victorian, who rides on the road for Australian Continental team Drapac, finished second at last month's Australian Mountain Bike National Championships and will compete for the Giant Factory Team in World Cup events throughout 2011.

    "I'm going to be racing with the Giant Factory Team in the States, so I'll do a bit of mountain biking with them at most of the World Cups and I'll also do two months in Belgium with Drapac," Norris told Cyclingnews.

    "The Giant Factory guys are a pretty good crew - good fun to hang out with a good environment to hopefully get some strong results. I'll do Sea Otter and probably a couple of others, but basically I'll just do most of the World Cups.

    "It'll be a pretty hectic year - I think it's good for both sides of my cycling, though. I really don't have to train... I just race!"

    Norris has largely flown under the radar, not having competed with the Australian Institute of Sport squad and preferring to ride as part of the Drapac outfit which focuses on developing young riders. He finished fifth in the Australian Open Road Championships elite men's road race in January before his runner up position at MTB Nationals.

    "This first part of the year's been really good; I've had a good strong preparation and I haven't overcooked it yet, which is good. I think that this year the plan will be to maintain good form all year, without going over the top, and try and get some good solid results.

    Known as 'Chuck' to some of his close friends, Norris will be part of Drapac's squad that competes in Belgium and Ireland for two months this year, something that has him excited.

    "I'm pretty motivated for both," he said. "We'll be doing a few tours [in Belgium]; we've got...