Week-long mountain bike stage race kicks off today
The fourth edition of the Brasil Ride mountain bike stage race starts today in the Chapada Diamantina, State of Bahia in Brasil. Racers will cover 565km during seven days, including 12,240m of climbing.
They will be challenged by Luis Leao Pinto & Abraao Azevedo (Viana do Castelo), Bart Brentjens & Paulo Fritas (Brentjens MTB Team), Hans Becking & Jiri Novak (Superior-Brentjens MTB Team), Steffen Thum & Simon Gegenheimer (Ultra Sports Rose Racing Team) and Roel Paulissen & Johann Pallhuber (RH Racing.it)
In the women's race, Rebecca Rusch & Selene Yeager (Specailized/Team CF) are among the favorites.
Mateus Ferraz & Ivonne Kraft and Annabella Stropparo & Piero Pellegrini will be among those to watch in the mixed category.
This year, the Brasil Ride is running as a categorized as a UCI S2 stage race. Nearly 70 percent of the race's trails are new for 2013, but organizers are keeping classic stages, like the day 1 prologue around the city of Mucuge and the day 3 cross country in the city of Rio de Contas.
The last stage of the race, which will cover 68km, will double as the Bahia state marathon championships.
Brasil Ride also attracts famous amateur competitors. South African Songo Fipaza, founder of the Songo.info charity with Sauser, will ride with Helen Kinuthia, an athlete and cycling activist from Kenya. She runs two social projects focused on introducing and developing the cycling culture in her country.
On the Brazilian side, two big names in Brazilian motorsport, former Formula-1 driver Christian Fittipaldi and Formula Truck driver, Geraldo Piquet will also compete together.
The race is part of a movement to support and grow elite-level cycling in Brasil.
"The Brasil Ride aims to support the development of Brazilian Olympic sport and to promote the 2016 Olympic Games by attracting Olympic-level riders," said Mario Roma, founder of Brasil Ride.
Scheurmans, Langvad and Suss among Europeans racing in South Africa
The 2013 Cape Pioneer Trek international mountain bike stage race that starts on Sunday near Oudtshoorn in South Africa's Western Cape Province will celebrate its fifth edition with its strongest racing field yet.
Both the men's and women's categories have attracted riders that have excelled at international level in marathons and stage races, including multiple current and former national, continental and world champions, setting the scene for seven days of thrilling podium battles.
Starting the race as men's division favourites are the Westvaal Bells Cycling duo of Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck, the 2012 champions. Both confirmed their good form last Saturday when they finished second and third respectively at the MTN Ride Crater Cruise, the final round of the national marathon series. Bell's second place finish there also secured him the 2013 MTN South African Marathon Series title.
There's more depth than ever before in the men's field and Bell and Combrinck will be wary of, among others, the Scott Factory Racing team comprising Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes; the Asrin Cycling team of James Reid and Jens Scheurmans; Team RE:CM's Erik Kleinhans and Waylon Woolcock; and FedGroup Itec's Brandon Stewart and Konny Looser.
Buys and Beukes were sixth overall and the top African team at the 2013 Cape Epic, while Reid, the current South African marathon champion, will have a strong teammate in Scheurmans, a 20-year-old Belgian cross country specialist. The RE:CM pair of Woolcock and Kleinhans showed they're in good form at last Saturday's Crater Cruise marathon, where Woolcock took the win and Kleinhans was fifth.
Stewart, one of the most experienced stage racers in the world, with stage wins in African, European and North American races and Looser, a two-time European Under 23 marathon champion, come off two South African stage race wins in the past two weeks at Isuzu 3 Towers and FedGroup Berg & Bush with superb race sharpness.
Other teams sure to be in podium contention include EAI Cycling's Hanco Kachelhoffer and Johann Rabie; Contego Giant Elite's Louis Bresler Knipe and Gert Heyns; Rocky Mountain Factory Racing's Renay Groustra and Daniel Gathof; Pfitz-Hill's Nico Pfitzenmaier and Andrew Hill; and Continental's Ben Melt Swanepoel and Yannick Lincoln.
Missing from the start list is the Cannondale Blend team of Charles Keey and Darren Lill. Keey has withdrawn due to illness, but Lill will ride the event in the solo division to build fitness following an injury-induced layoff.
In the women's event, there's a small, but exceptionally strong field. Two-time marathon world champion Annika Langvad of Denmark and current Swiss marathon champion Ariane Kleinhans, riding as Team RE:CM, start as the favourites on paper.
But former marathon world champion Esther Suss and British marathon specialist Jane Nuessli (Wheeler BMC) lead a strong challenge that also includes 2011 Cape Pioneer Trek champion Ischen Stopforth and current South African marathon champion Robyn de Groot (Biogen SA) and defending champions Yolandi de Villiers and Yolande Speedy (Klein Karoo Chicks).
In the highly competitive mixed category, John-Lee Augustyn, a top South African road pro returning from an injury layoff will pair up with eight-time elite women's South African road champion, Anriette Schoeman (TREAD 32GI); and the Dutch pairing of Mirre Stallen and Nard Clappers (Cube Nutswerk 3), will be among a number of teams out to dethrone 2012 champions, Jennie Stenerhag and Craig Gerber (Asrin Cycling 3).
With large entry numbers in the solo men, solo women, veteran men and master men categories, the event is set to deliver its largest and most competitive edition yet.
The 549km race will start with a 14.8km prologue time trial at Buffelsdrift Game Lodge at noon on Sunday. Monday's stage 1 will take the riders from Buffelsdrift to Calitzdorp over 105km with Tuesday's stage 2, the event's queen stage, starting in Calitzdorp and finishing on the summit of the Swartberg Pass 92km later.
Stage 3 will be a 107km trek from Prince Albert to De Rust, followed by the short, but ascent-heavy 70km leg to Herold. Stage 5 will take the riders from the dry desert-like terrain of the Klein Karoo down to the coastal forests in George over a 70km route with a 91km final haul to the finish in Oudtshoorn on stage 6.
Leonardo Paez has extended his contract with TX Active-Bianchi until the end of 2014. The 31-year-old Colombian mountain biker has been with the team since 2008, except in 2011.
"We're really satisfied that Paez signed for another season with us. In 2013, he was the master of marathon races. We're sure he will give us new joys, paired with Tony Longo," TX Active-Bianchi's team manager Massimo Ghirotto said.
2013 season stats confirmed Paez and Longo were a successful pair. Marathon Worlds bronze medallist in June, Paez brought home prestigious wins like those at Sellaronda Hero in Selva Val Gardena and Gimondibike in Iseo, along with the GF del Durello, Da piazza a piazza, GF Costa degli Etruschi, Atestina Superbike, 100 km dei Forti, Plan de Corones Marathon, Sauze Mountain Classic and GF Troi Trek while Longo clinched seven victories.
"I'm really happy I'll go on racing for the Bianchi team, my second family: with them, I shared many winning days in 2013 and previously," said Paez. "I will be pursuing big goals for 2014, with the marathon world championships as my top priority."
Several past champions are back in Costa Rica to contend for the win at La Ruta de los Conquistadores, which started this morning. Among them are Todd Wells (Specialized Racing) Paolo Montoya (Frijoles Los Tierniticos-Bicicletas Focus Team) and Pua Mata (Sho-Air/Cannondale).
Costa Rican Montoya is the defending champion from 2012. "I feel very confident about my training. Physically I feel great, and I have improved my overall training time. I feel stronger and more capable to conquer the climbing. Right now I'm focused and serene."
2011 La Ruta winner Wells of the United States is more confident going into this year's edition since it will be his third time at the race. He said knows each stage almost by heart.
"The hardest part is crossing the train track bridges in the third day. I don't like it at all, and last year it was raining really hard, it was really horrible. If I could take another route I would, even if it was longer," said Wells.
Aside from Montoya, Costa Rica will be represented by Dennis Porras, Federico Ramirez, Deiber Esquivel, Jose Montoya, Moises Hernandez, Andrey Fonseca and Marconi Duran. American Alex Grant, who has finished second three times in past editions, and German Markus Bauer are two other favorites to watch.
In the women's race, Mata is hoping to defend her title from 2012. "This year, I'm here to enjoy it all - the people and every moment, I will race from my heart, the fastest and strongest I can, always caring for my safety to race intelligently," said Mata.
She will battle Costa Rican women Nancy Amores, Natalia Navarro and Adriana Rojas as well as international racers Jame Ryndbrant, Michelle Zimmerman and Cheryl Sorson. The latter is the women's winner of the National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Series.
437 mountain bikers took to the start of La Ruta this morning. They face 307km of racing in the 21st edition of the popular stage race.
The athletes will cross Costa Rica from coast to coast, with the first stage starting off in Jaco and ending at El Rodeo in the capital of San Jose. The second day will begin at Terramall in San Jose and end at CATIE in Turrialba, and the third day will begin as well. The third day ends at the Caribbean coast, in Playa Bonita, Limon.
This year, Friday's second stage will have a new section so that the mountain bikers will climb the Irazu Volcano on gravel roads and not on asphalt as it used to be.
"The change was made so that the route will have more trails, thus making it more difficult. Those four kilometers are uphill, in grassy terrain, which will definitely have an impact on every athlete and may even define the winner of the stage," said Roman Urbina, organizer of La Ruta.
2013 La Ruta de los Conquistadores
Thursday, October 24: Stage 1 - Jacó-El Rodeo, 100km
Friday, October 25: Stage 2 - Terramall-CATIE Turrialba, 86km
Saturday, October 26: Stage 3 - CATIE Turrialba-Playa Bonita, 121km
New territory for 11th edition of popular mountain bike stage race
Organizers announced the route for the 11th edition of the Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, to be held from March 23 to March 30, 2014. Twelve hundred international and local racers will take on a demanding 718km route with 14,850m of climbing in the Western Cape of South Africa.
The route, which changes significantly each year, will cover vast distances of virgin territory, not previously visited by the race. With its challenging and exhilarating landscapes, the stage locations of Robertson, Greyton and Oak Valley Wine Estate await riders before they again finish at the Lourensford Wine Estate as has been tradition since 2007.
"We aim to offer participants from around the world an awesome experience that showcases the best that our beautiful country has to offer," said Kevin Vermaak, founder and director of the Cape Epic:
"We want different routes, with suitable technical and challenging riding, that take the riders to new towns whilst at the same time giving the riders the most beautiful and remote scenery, and with wild animals to boot. Without the incredible support of Cape Nature Conservation, this would not be possible as they give us access to their reserves."
Just finishing the race is a challenge for many participants although top riders battle it out every stage. Many World Cup riders use the early season race for training purposes. Christoph Sauser and Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized) won the 2013 edition of the Cape Epic. Yolande Speedy and Catherine Williamson (Energas) won the women's category.
Prologue: Meerendal Wine Estate, 23km with 700m of climbing
The 2014 race will start at Meerendal Wine Estate, on the doorstep of Cape Town. Riders will tackle the purpose built network of trails through protected Renosterveld bush. With some surprising new twists there are always the dependable views of Cape Town, Robben Island and Table Mountain to keep the spirits high to finish strong.
Stage 1: Robertson to Robertson, 108km with 2,450m of climbing
Stage 1, referred to as one of the hardest of the race begins at Arabella Wines, just outside the town of Robertson. The stage will begin with a fast section through vineyards, followed by climbing and is certain to test riders' endurance.
Stage 2: Robertson to Robertson, 101km with 1,550m of climbing
This stage will explore the opposite side of the Robertson Wine Valley with some breathtaking riding through the Klein Karoo and northern Riviersonderend Mountains. Once again, the day will start off fast before heading into flowing singletrack before water point 1. This mix of terrain will continue until riders hit Main Road in the charming town of McGregor, where the warm hospitality of the Langeberg Region is sure to lift the spirits. The route will then head deep into the unspoiled expanses of this rugged and striking landscape of sandstone and underlying shale formations. "Neil's Folly" is bound to give riders' legs a beating before returning to the lush Breede River Valley. A short, but steep climb will follow, before rolling into the finish, and the last night at Arabella Wines.
Stage 3: Robertson to Greyton, 134km with 1,800m of climbing
With 134km from start to finish, this will be the longest day of the 2014 race, transitioning from the red dust of the Klein Karoo of Robertson to the lush farmlands of Greyton. This year sees a brand new race village at The Oaks Estate, just outside Greyton.
Stage 4: Greyton to Greyton, 88km with 1,850m of climbing
During stage 4 riders will tackle some rolling hills and district roads while the trails of The Cape Country Meander will offer some twisting and rocky singletrack. The route sees a mix of superb singletrack sections, descending and climbing as well as visiting the historical highlight of the day, the mission town of Genadendal.
Stage 5: Greyton to Elgin, 110km with 2,900m climbing
Known as the queen stage, the most amount of climbing will happen on stage 5. Riders will endure the UFO climb as well as several more short, sharp hills, and near the end, a rugged false flat grind, flanking the majestic and well-known Groenlandberg, before riders will drop down to the familiar race village at Oak Valley Wine Estate.
Stage 6: Elgin to Elgin, 85km with 1,800m of climbing
Stage 6 will be the stage of rewards. With hundreds of kilometers banked, riders will enjoy a sampling of the great singletrack still to come. They will be richly rewarded as they rail the manicured singletrack of Lebanon, Thandi, Paul Cluver and Oak Valley Wine Estate.
Stage 7: Final stage - Elgin to Lourensford Wine Estate, 69km with 1,800m of climbing
The final stage of the 2014 Cape Epic will draw to a close at Lourensford Wine Estate. The first team to the hotspot will earn R10,000 and as for the rest, they will get to enjoy the many vistas of the day, including False Bay and Cape Town where their journey began eight days ago. Some flowing singletrack will offer a final reward, before being reunited with loved ones at Lourensford Wine Estate.
Check out the video preview below for the 2014 Cape Epic.
The 2013 Crocodile Trophy wrapped up on Sunday on Cooktown's Grassy Hill, and for the first time in eight years an Australian claimed the win. Mark Frendo from Brisbane celebrated victory after nine days, 900km and more than 15,000m of elevation and finishing in 30:40:17, ahead of the Canadian Cory Wallace and Jiri Krivanek from the Czech Republic.
The race started in Cairns on October 19 and took its riders across the Atherton Tablelands to historic mining towns deep in the Australian Outback. The race courses throughout the nine-day event included singletrack in Smithfield, marathon races through rain forests, across Outback Highways and rough mining trails and the 2013 edition also included a time trial stage on day seven. Sandy terrain, corrugated roads, narrow and flowing singletrails, gruelling climbs and fast descends - the Crocodile Trophy showcased the best mountain bike trails that Far North Queensland has to offer.
More than 15 nations were represented, and participants included pro road and mountain bike racers as well as passionate amateurs, all of whom had the same goal: to race more than 900km and climb over 15,000m of elevation to experience the Australian Outback in the saddle of their bikes.
After the first training rides together in Cairns and as a newcomer to the mountain bike stage racing scene, Frendo was labelled as the "dark horse", and he delivered on his status from day one.
Frendo won the first two stages - first the multi-lap race at Smithfield's MTB Park near Cairns and then the marathon stage 2 up towards the Atherton Tablelands and Lake Tinaroo.
"I went into this race confidently - competing alongside Cory Wallace at the Mongolia Challenge, I knew what it takes to race at his level," said the 28-year old rider from Brisbane. The mechanical engineer had to defend his early race lead in the final days against none other that the Canadian marathon national champion and Mongolia Challenge winner Wallace, who finished with a gap of more than 12 minutes in second.
The biggest favourites this year had been last year's third place finisher and experienced stage racer Wolfgang Krenn from Austria, the Czech cross country ace Jan Fojtik and Wallace. However, both Krenn and Fojtik were forced to retire from the race due to severe lower back pains - as Fojtik gave up after two and Krenn after three stages, the battle between the Australian contender Frendo and the North American favourite Wallace unfolded, which ended with the first Australian Crocodile Trophy win since 2005 by Adam Hansen.
Wallace congratulated the Australian winner at the finish on Grassy Hill. "Mark [Frendo] had a fantastic race and made all the right moves. Sure I'm disappointed, but I love racing the Crocodile Trophy." He added that he liked the variety of trails and the adventurous nature of the event and promised to be back in 2014. "I'm still content with my race. The Croc has the best mix of trails of any stage race I've ever competed in. Every day the scenery changes and the Outback is just so different from anywhere else - there's snakes and spiders and scorpions. In Canada with our bears, at least you see 'em coming."
Krivanek finished in third in the overall classification after putting up a fierce fight for the position and was happy with his performance. "I'll be back 100% next year as well," he said.
Hessens dominates women's race
While Frendo was winning the men's category. Liesbeth Hessens was dominating the women's field. The Belgian adventure racer was undefeated during the nine stages and won the overall ahead of Italian racers Giordana Sordi and Maria Cristina Prati.
"This was the longest and hardest race I've done and I'm so happy that I did so well," said an emotional Hessens at the finish.
Living, working and training in Switzerland she said that she didn't mind the climbing, but suffered in the heat at times. "The racing was tough, but I just loved the adventure of the race. Every day we got to see a different part of this country and that's what made it so special for me."
Notably, Hessens finished 21st overall, which was her big goal from the beginning she said, "I don't usually compete, but rather like riding and training in the Alps. But here I sort of got the racing bug and to finish as 21st in a field dominated by male riders, makes me very happy."
Hessens added that one of the most fun aspects was that so many different riders were summoned to the event, "I enjoyed the atmosphere out on track, I was usually racing with the master fields and I loved the camaraderie. You motivate each other, some people fight hard to make it through each day."
Race organizer Gerhard Schönbacher said that he and his team had already been scouting new and even more exciting race tracks for next year, which will mark the 20th anniversary of the iconic event.
"The Crocodile Trophy is the toughest mountain bike stage race in the world. We will continue to feature a wide variety of stage routes including fun and exciting mountain bike sections as well as less technical yet tough trails and Outback Highways, which challenge the endurance skills of our riders."
The Crocodile Trophy will return to Cairns and Far North Queensland in October 2014.
Former high school racer makes leap to elite MTB squad
The Specialized Racing elite cross country mountain bike team has signed Kate Courtney to its roster for 2014. The US junior national champion will make the leap to her new team at the same time that she moves into the under 23 ranks.
"I am honored and excited to be joining the Specialized Racing family," said Courtney.
"My relationship with Specialized started when I got my first red Specialized mountain bike at age eight. Since then, I have always been on a Specialized bike. With the support of this team behind me, I hope to take my racing to the next level as I transition into the U23 category."
Courtney makes the move from the Whole Athlete-Specialized Racing team.
Tyler Frasca from Specialized's Sports Marketing said. "We're extremely excited to work with Kate. Her positive attitude and determination on and off the bike made her the girl to beat in 2013, and we're confident that offering her the best support and equipment will help her carry that momentum into a successful career in racing."
Several former pro mountain bike racers excelled at the recent Xterra World Championships in Maui, Hawaii last weekend. Chief among them was Ruben Ruzafa, who powered to his second-ever Xterra title. The 29-year-old Spaniard won his first title in 2008, was injured just before the 2009 edition, then spent the intervening time racing his mountain bike before returning to off-road triathlons.
The racers competed on a course with a 1.6km swim, a 32km mountain bike ride and a 10km trail run. Temperatures were about 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ruzafa came out of the swim more than two minutes off the lead pace, but he made it all up and more on the bike, getting the fastest split of 1:30:11. Going into the run, he had a 45-second lead to defend, and he extended it to a final advantage of one minute and 27 seconds. His finishing time was 2:34:34 and for his efforts, he won $20,000.
Crossing the finish line, Ruzafa raised his arms to the sky in tribute to both his late teammate and friend Iñaki Lejarreta, a pro mountain biker who was killed last winter while training on his road bike, and to his father, who died away after a battle with cancer two years ago.
"Everything turned out perfect, without problems and feeling good during all segments," said Ruzafa.
"During the swim, I stayed in a group, losing the expected time. On the bike, I felt great and powerful and was not taking risks. When I passed the two leaders, the last long downhill was still remaining, and I managed to reach the transition alone. The run was tough, I set short goals and tried to keep my stride. I didn't feel like I was winning until the beach, and from there on, it was a about enjoying it!"
Ruzafa said he had been dreaming of another world title since 2008. "During recent years, my performance hasn't been as expected, together with the bad moments that life brings you. To me, this victory is a great reward, but it isn't only mine. It's thanks to everyone who helped me and support me at some point."
In the women's race, former two-time Xterra World Champion Lesley Paterson finished second in a time of 3:00:14. Cyclingnews' readers may remember her winning the Bonelli Park US Pro XCT earlier this season. Former Luna pro mountain biker Shonny Vanlandingham was eighth. Paterson and Vanlandingham took home $12,000 and $800, respectively, for their achievements.