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MTB News & Racing Round-up, Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Date published:
May 23, 2012, 1:00 BST
  • Näf returns to World Cup podium after two years

    Ralph Naef in action
    Article published:
    May 16, 2012, 15:55 BST
    Cycling News

    Multivan Merida rider happy to be back among the fastest

    Ralph Näf (Multivan Merida) rode to his first World Cup podium finish in two years at the Nove Mesto World Cup in the Czech Republic on Sunday. Näf is one of Switzerland's many fast cross country riders, and he is among those competing for a spot on the Swiss team headed to the 2012 London Olympic Games.  Sunday's performance boosted his chances of making the three-man Swiss team.

    He put in a strong ride, moving up from a spot on the start grid in the fourth row. He moved up quickly toward the front of the race and then spent most of the rest of it in a select five-man group that also included eventual winner Nino Schurter (Scott Swisspower), Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized), Burry Stander (Specialized) and Marco Fontana (Cannondale).

    Throughout much of the race, Näf appeared to be hanging on to the lead group for dear life, sometimes getting gapped, often on the technical sections, and then catching back up until the group finally disintegrated on the second-to-last lap.

    "Although I had planned it differently, I lacked a bit of self-confidence to take the lead in technical sections," saisd Näf. "Due to the accordion effect, I lost some terrain and had to give chase repeatedly, which cost me some power."

    "I missed that power when the fastest three pulled away. The fact that I still scored a top five finish and thus stepped on the podium gives me an enormous mental boost. This success comes at the right time, right in the middle of the Olympic selection."

    Näf struggled through the 2011 season with back problems, even ending his season early...

  • $10,000 up for grabs at next two US Pro GRTs

    Aaron Gwin (USA) Trek World Racing
    Article published:
    May 16, 2012, 22:08 BST
    Cycling News

    Eastern States Cup hosting national gravity series rounds

    The first two rounds of the Eastern States Cup (ESC) will double up as the next two rounds of the US Pro GRT. The Mountain Creek Spring Classic will happen this weekend, May 17-20, and the Plattekill Gravity Open will occur over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, May 24-27.

    The two bike parks have doubled the US Pro GRT Pro Purse to $5,000 to be awarded at each race. In addition to cash, top pros and juniors may use the events to qualify to represent the US at the downhill world championships in Leogang, Austria.

    Amateurs will get a chance to race on the same courses as many national and international World Cup regulars including the 2011 World Cup Champion Aaron Gwin (Trek World Racing). Gwin will be the Master of Ceremonies at the grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday at 9:00 am at the new Mountain Creek Bike Park. Mountain Creek is celebrating with a Saturday pre-race rock concert featuring the "Misfits" and two other bands.

    "I am excited that the Eastern States Cup is able to bring the US Pro GRT downhill series to two of the premier bike parks in the United States," said George Ulmer of the ESC. "The ESC is committed to bringing the best mountain bike racers and racing to the East Coast."

    "We are working on adding cross country and enduro series races in 2013. With those additions, the future of the POC Eastern States Cup is exciting."

    Both US Pro GRT events will offer double Eastern States Cup points to participants.

    Trail crews have been working on both tracks for weeks.Plattekill renewed one of its classic courses on the steep north face side of the bike park. It has new berms, chutes and its famous steep, loose shale. Mountain Creek is combining the new and the old, and its course offers a few newly cut woods sections, and a steep wide-open ski trail...

  • Nations rankings updated for Olympic MTB qualifying

    Catharine Pendrel (Luna Pro Team) leads the women's field up the first big climb
    Article published:
    May 17, 2012, 20:35 BST
    Rob Jones

    Updated: One more World Cup to go

    Thanks to for permission to post this article.

    The UCI has published updated standings for nation rankings to include last weekend's World Cup in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic. While the official qualification period does not end until after this weekend's World Cup in La Bresse, France, the nation rankings are unlikely to change in any meaningful way - meaning how many Olympic spots each nation receives. Note that none of the following is official until the UCI and IOC publish the "official" standings in a few weeks.

    The ranking is based on a combination of the combined points for the top-three riders of each nation for the periods May 23, 2010 to May 22, 2011 PLUS for the period May 23, 2011 to May 22, 2012. The UCI has just published updated rankings as of May 15, 2012 for the current qualifying period.

    For the women, the top eight nations get two spots, and 9 through 18 get one spot. For the men, the top five get three spots each, 9 to 13 ranked get two spots and 14 to 24 each get one spot. Of course, this does not include positions that are qualified through winning Continental Championships (more on that below).

    The table below provides the full breakdown. Canada is ranked number one in women, and is 280 points ahead of second place Switzerland, so it is not going to lose any positions, no matter what the outcome of the races this weekend. The United States will also be sending two athletes, despite the loss of points-getting machine Willow Rockwell after she retired, because all of her points from 2010-2011 still count. Similarly, the last of the top-eight - Norway - has 358 points on Russia, so it is safe. In the last qualifying spot is Denmark, with a comfortable buffer of 118 points over 19th place...

  • Hanlen and Joseph battle for New Zealand Olympic place

    Kiwi Karen Hanlen had a great ride before crashing, and still managed to finish eighth
    Article published:
    May 17, 2012, 21:59 BST
    Cycling News

    Showdown expected this weekend in France

    A brutal challenge faces riders in the final Olympic showdown for mountain bikers in the fourth round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in La Bresse, France this weekend. It is the last event that can earn qualifying points for London with riders from virtually every nation fighting for Olympic selection.

    That is the case for New Zealand where Whakatane mother Karen Hanlen and Beijing Olympian Rosara Joseph are locked in a duel for the solitary spot available for kiwis in the elite women's class.

    La Bresse, which is in the Alsace region of France, borders both Germany and Switzerland, adjacent to the Rhine. It is the first time a cross country World Cup has been held in the region, which seems fitting given that the French superstar Julien Absalon lives nearby.

    The 4.9km cross country course features a steep climb on rocky and uneven singletrack, with a second higher climb before a steep downhill technical descent.

    Hanlen, 32, who had a taste of World Cup action last year, has been in superb form throughout an unbeaten New Zealand summer. She took this form on to this year's World Cup with an eighth placing in South Africa, 18th in Belgium and 26th in the Czech Republic last week where she had mechanical issues after being caught in a crash.

    "I really hope to have a good race in La Bresse, and I've never ridden there before so not sure what to expect but it is going to be testing," Hanlen said.

    "After I got caught behind the crash it made it really hard to pass slower riders once you hit the single track. A good start will be important this weekend."

    Joseph, the Rabobank Giant professional, has been aiming for her best form at this part of the season. She was 11th in South Africa, 38th in Belgium and edged Hanlen for the first time at the 2012 World Cup for 22nd at the...

  • Joseph and Benko out of La Bresse World Cup due to injury

    Barbara Benko wins the women's race
    Article published:
    May 18, 2012, 17:40 BST
    Rob Jones

    Olympic hopes dashed for both riders

    New Zealand's Rosara Joseph (Rabobank Giant) and Hungary's Barbara Benko (Focus-MIG) are both out of this weekend's World Cup in La Bresse, France, after crashing and injuring themselves in separate incidents. For both, it is a blow to their Olympic aspirations.

    Joseph, who broke her arm, was in a heated battle with fellow New Zealand rider Karen Hanlen for the single spot New Zealand is qualifying, while Hungary had an outside chance of catching Denmark for the final women's spot. Benko injured her ankle and while it is probably not broken, she will not be able to race this weekend.

    Heavy clouds are now moving in after sunny weather earlier in the week, which follows closely the predictions for rain this weekend. If it does rain, the course will become muddy and slippery quickly - particularly the downhill. Riders have being saying that it is still ride-able when wet, but that doesn't take into account the damage that will be done by some 400 under 23 and junior riders on Saturday prior to the elite races on Sunday.

    Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in La Bresse France.

  • Canada Cup starts this weekend in Mont Tremblant

    Canada's Frederique Trudel was sitting 3rd on lap 1
    Article published:
    May 19, 2012, 0:58 BST
    Cycling News

    Hundreds of mountain bike racers expected

    The 2012 Canada Cup is set to begin this weekend in Mont Tremblant, where hundreds of mountain bike enthusiasts will race for coveted points that will ultimately crown the 2012 Canada Cup Champions.

    In 2011, the married couple of Catherine Vipond and Matt Hadley won the Canada Cup in the elite category, while junior Canadian Champions Marc-Antoine Nadon and Frédérique Trudel both took the titles in the junior category.

    The national cycling series will be held both in eastern Canada and western Canada. The 2012 Canada Cup Series starts with the very popular Mont-Tremblant round featuring both a cross country race and a downhill race on May 19 and 20.

    The series will then travel to Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec before a stop in Barrie, Ontario, the final stop of the eastern leg of the series.

    After a six-week break, the series will move to the West, for both cross country and downhill finals.

    2012 Canada Cup Series
    May 19 - Mont-Tremblant, Quebec (cross country)
    May 20 - Mont-Tremblant, Quebec (downhill)
    May 27 - Baie-Saint-Paul Quebec (cross country)
    June 03 - Barrie, Ontario (cross country)
    July 15 - TBD (cross country) - Finals
    July 29 - Panorama, British Columbia (downhill) - Finals

  • UCI announces Olympic mountain bike spots qualified by nation

    Catharine Pendrel (Luna Pro Team) and Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida Biking Team)
    Article published:
    May 23, 2012, 15:25 BST
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    50 men and 30 women heading to London

    The UCI announced the number of mountain bike spots qualified for each nation for the 2012 London Olympic Games on Wednesday.  The spots are based on three criteria specified by the UCI including nations ranking and performance within the individual continental regions.

    The UCI Olympic qualification ranking was determined by summing the points of the UCI rankings by nation Olympic format as of May 23, 2011 and May 23, 2012.In case of equal points, the nations were ranked by their best place in the UCI rankings by nation.

    For the men's race, the top 24 ranked nations qualified one, two or three riders depending on their specific ranking. In addition, seven other nations also qualified one rider each based on individual rankings as of the 2011 Continental Championships for Asia, America, Africa and Oceania. Finally, Guam qualified one rider under a special provision which states that if an NOC obtains a qualifying place under criterion no. 2, but has already qualified under criterion no. 1, the next best ranked NOC in the respective continental championships ranking will qualify.

    For the women's race, the top 18 ranked nations qualified one or two riders depending on their specific ranking. In addition, four other nations also qualified one rider each based on individual rankings as of the 2011 Continental Championships for Asia, America, Africa and Oceania.

    In total, 50 men and 30 women are allocated spots by nation for the Olympic Games. A complete listing of the number of mountain bike racers qualified per nation is below.

    Although there was some minor shuffling in the rankings after this past weekend's World Cup in La Bresse, France, there were no changes in the number of racers each nation qualified relative to

  • Outstanding La Bresse World Cup pays off for Näf and Vogel

    Elite men's podium in the La Bresse, France World Cup
    Article published:
    May 23, 2012, 17:59 BST
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Final Swiss Olympic qualification race done

    The most recent UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in La Bresse, France, was the final race that counted toward the nations qualifications for the Olympics. It was also the final race at which riders could qualify for their respective national teams headed to the 2012 London Olympic Games. The day brought of mix of success for some and disappointment for others, especially for those trying to make it on to the super competitive Swiss Olympic team.

    The Swiss qualified, as expected, the maximum three men and two women. With former world champion Nino Schurter already having secured one of the three men's spots, two more men's spots were up for grabs. Schurter, who was ill with stomach problems, actually sat out the La Bresse round.

    The intense competition for the other two men's spots produced a sort of race within the race, with the Swiss men, including Ralph Näf (Multivan Merida), Florian Vogel (Scott Swisspower), Christoph Sauser (Specialized), Fabien Giger (Rabobank Giant) and Lukas Flückiger (Trek World Racing) battling each other as much as the others for a ticket to London.

    Näf seemed the most motivated and rode to secure an Olympic team berth. The Multivan Merida racer went to the front early on and also made a late race bid to catch eventual winner Julien Absalon (Orbea) before he faded back to third place.

    "Before the season started, I did not waste a lot of time thinking about the...