Sunday, August 2, 2009

Round Sette --- Bromont, Quebec

The Canadians put together another burly, rocky course for the world's fastest riders this weekend, and the results were very, very close. The top 5 were separated by just a couple seconds on the 2:30 speed course. Sam Hill maintained his slim lead in the overall, but it will all get decided at the last race in Austria come September. The riders will have a long break until Worlds and I imagine they can't wait for Canberra.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Round Seis - Mont St Anne, Quebec

Another round of burly, rocky, long, speedy racing took place in the Great White North this past weekend at the old stomping grounds of Mont St Anne. The Worlds will take place here next year, which will be interesting considering how familiar everybody is with this course.

The big news was the return of Shaun Palmer to DH racing via a brand new Intense bike. I don't think he is sponsored per-se, but it looked like he was given a lot of product to showcase at the pits. He attracts a crowd wherever he goes (even at age 40), and is great at promoting his sponsors.

The race played out as it always does with Sam Hill and Steve Peat battling it out for top spot on the box. Sam won this week, but it was the 50th World Cup podium experience of Steve Peat's career, which is absolutely phenomenal, and may never be equaled again.

Chris Kovaric had a great race and finished 6th, while Steve Smith kept his top-10 overall placing with a solid 7th. Aaron Gwin snuck into the top-10 overall by finishing 3rd, the best result for an American in years. Yeti must be stoked. Sam Blenkinsop rode well, but must have had a crash as his time was so-so.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Round Five --- Maribor, Slovenia

Unfortunately I slept through this one, and only got to see the men's and women's podium presentation. There was no surprises with the ladies (all French and one Japanese rider), but when the men walked out, there was a huge surprise with the French rider Fabian Barel. After hurting his knee during the first race in South Africa, he decided to strengthen the knee (as opposed to surgery) in preparation for the second half of the season. That decision turned out to be a good one, as he came back fresh and managed to squeek out a close victory over Sam Hill (< 1 second). Sam was gracious on the podium and was the only rider to take off his hat during the French national anthem.

The MS Evil Team rode strongly with a 7th place (Steve Smith), 8th place (Matti Lehikoinen), and 22nd place (Filip Polc). They really shine on the rough courses like Maribor and Ft William. It will be a long break until the next race in Canada, so hopefully the riders are resting up with the last few races of the summer.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Round Four --- Ft Bill, Scotland

Riders were blessed with clear, warm conditions thanks climate change. Normally this course is soaking wet, wicked cold, and hella slippery. I managed to get up and watch the last 40 riders live on Freecaster, and despite some awkward (but funny) interactions between Rob Warner and the Dutch 4x star Anika Beerten, the live telecast was a little dull. It will be tough to beat the top-to-bottom coverage from the 2nd race in La Bresse for excitement and race coverage.

Mick Hannah (Australia, GT-Mongoose) bikes showed that he is the real deal, and continued his consistent top-5 placing in the rankings. The MS-Evil team did really well, with Steve Smith holding the hot seat briefly, and ending the day in the top 1o for the race and top 10 of the UCI world cup rankings. Sam Hill (Australia, Specialized) had the most impressive jersey, and just barely lost due to the incredible pedalling effort put out by the winner, Greg Minnar (South Africa, Santa Cruz Bikes). Top Americans were Aaron Gwin (Yeti) and Duncan Riffle (Duncan Riffle Racing).

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Round Trois --- Andorra, France/Spain

Andorra is one of those small, "island" countries within a country like Luxemborg or Monoco. A left over from long dead royalties. The third installment of the World Cup series took place on the recently snow covered ski slopes in the Pyrennes along the Spanish/French border. Apparently it was the same course as last year, but much drier, and less sketchy.

Surprisingly the mood and crowds were much tamer than last week's race in La Bresse. Maybe everybody was exhausted from all the travel of back-to-back races? Anyways, Steve Peat managed to win two in a row and set the all-time UCI DH race win record with 17. Sam Hill or Gee Atherton could beat this someday, or maybe not? The competition is so much fiercer, and it is hard to see anybody racing as long as Peaty.

Notable results also included a back-to-back win by Sabrina Jonnier (France, Rocky Mountain-Maxxis) on a fast, burly track, which obviously fits her strengths. For the men, the entire Santa Cruz team finished in the top 10, the MS Evil team in the top 20, and Trek Bikes got their first men's podium with Justin Leov piloting the Session 88 to a notable 5th place finish. Sam Hill was leading all the way down, but had a nasty over the bars crash near the finish, and came in around 30th place. He will be back and more motivated than ever.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Round Deux --- La Bresse, France

So first off, where the hell is La Bresse? I had to look that one up, and it turns out it is east of Dijon, near the German border. Not quite Strasbourg, but headed in that direction. I wonder how the riders got there? Anyway, on to the qualifier race...A large field of 195 starters were fighting for one of 80 spots in the finals, and after a long day of riding the top three were Steve Peat, Gee Atherton, and Mick Hannah.

Race day brought out huge crowds, particularly along the lower, rocky section of the course. I managed to get up and actually watch the last seven riders on Freecaster. The usual suspects did well, but a few sleepers such as Kyle Straight (USA/Specialized), Brendan Fairclough (Great Britain/Specialized), Sam Blenkinsop (NZ/Yeti-Fox Racing), Aaron Gwin (USA/Yeti-Fox Racing), Steve Smith (Canada/MS Evil Cycles) and Julian Camellini (France/Chain Reaction-Intense Cycles) managed to crack the top 15. The entire MS Evil Cycles team managed to crack the top 30 (Steve Smith 15th, Matti Lehikoinen 19th, and Filip Polc 30th).

The highlight of the day was watching Steve Peat crush it at the end, under all the pressure of being the last rider on the course. He was clearly pushing the limit as he appeared to be sliding/drifting in lots of sections on the course. The best part of his ride was his victory celebration which included high fiving the entire fan section surrounding the finish line, followed by a full sprint power slide on his knee pads. Its no wonder that Peaty is the most beloved MTB rider in the world.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Race#1---Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Tracy Moseley (Great Britain/Trek Bikes) stuck to her winning ways from the previous week by pedaling her Session 88 to well deserved victory in South Africa. She did not have much competition, due to Rachel Atherton being out with an injury, and Sabrina Jonnier riding tentatively after a training ride crash.

The Men's raced panned out as expected, with the usual suspects rounding out the top 5. The big surprise, however, was Mick Hannah (Australia/Mongoose-GT Bikes) qualifying first and backing it up with solid 2nd place finish in the finals. The flat, pedal focused course suited his strengths and he showed his peers that he deserves to be back after a year hiatus. Greg Minnaar (South Africa/Santa Cruz Bikes) surprised nobody by winning easily on his home turf. He stepped up under the pressure and delivered the victory to adoring fans from his nearby hometown.

Sam Hill (Australia/Specialized-Monster) had a surprisingly good run despite all the pedaling required, and the low expectations for his performance. He looks a lot skinnier than usual, which may be due to some new training program put together by his new sponsor. Either that or he working on his fitness in advance of the upcoming, pedal focused Worlds in his home country.

The disappointment of the day had to go to Chris Kovarik (Australia/Intense-Chain Reaction) who qualified third, after winning on the same course the week before, then crashing in the finals in a rocky section near the top of the course. I am pulling for Chris to get it back together as he always been one of my favorite riders after watching his 2nd place ride at the Squaw Valley, CA World Cup in the summer of 1999 (1st went to Nico V. of France).

Other surprisingly slow results went to Sam Blenkinsop (NZ/Yeti Fox Racing) 28th, and the entire MS Evil Racing Team (Steve Smith 20th, Filip Polc 37th, and Matti Lehikoinen 81st). Maybe they spent too much time in the team trailer the night before?

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Season Begins

Elite DH racers are gathered in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa for the upcoming UCI World Cup race on Easter weekend. Several of the racers just participated in a national race held at the same venue as a warm up for big day. Chris Kovarik (Intense Cycles) won the men's race, while Tracy Moseley (Trek) won the women's race. Andrew Neethling (Trek) came in 2nd, riding the same Session 88 bike as Tracy, and sporting a Leatt neck brace. It will be interesting to see how many riders start riding with them as they gain more acceptance.

Monday, March 9, 2009

More Bike Porn

Looks like Clay Porter is releasing his annual DH MTB Movie. This year's offering is called "The Tipping Point" and it will have its US Premiere at Sea Otter on April 17th. Here is a sneak peak courtesy of Decline Magazine:

Saturday, February 28, 2009

DH MTB Teams to Watch in 2009

Downhill mountain bike racing is fashionable again, and despite the global recession, sponsors are lining up to financially back the Formula One of cycling. Not since the late 90's heyday of Shaun Palmer and Nicolas Vouilloz have so many bike manufacturers stepped up to increase their spending on R&D and racing across the world. Here are some of the bigger names and the teams to watch in 2009.

The big S is diving back into the sport and is relying on ex-racer Scott Sharples to shepherd two of the sport's bigger egos into piloting the Demo 8 to bigger victories than slope style events. Specialized lured Sam Hill and Brendan Fairclough over from Iron Horse to give it a go for the Morgan Hill squad. They will no doubt be under a lot of pressure to perform at the nearby Sea Otter in mid-April.

Trek Bicycles
Trek lured three DH veterans away from established programs (Andrew Neethling (Mongoose), Justin Leov (Yeti), and Tracy Moseley (Kona)) to race their new Session 88 DH bike. This bike usually gets a lot hype around its proven ability as an All-Mountain ride based on its development by Andrew Shandro in the wet and wild conditions of the Pacific Northwest. We will have to see how it performs under racing conditions on the variety of conditions to be encountered during this year's World Cup season. Martin Whiteley, DH mountain biking super agent, and former Team Honda leader, has been hired by Trek to manage the squad. They ought to do well with him around, as his teams have consistently won many races.

Evil Bikes - MS Racing
I don't know anything about Evil Bikes other than they clearly like Danzig and have said that they will be playing Slayer regularly in their team RV. The international squad consists of Filip Polc (Poland), Steve Smith (Canada), and Matti Lehikonen (Finland). All three are fantastic riders, though Matti is the only one to ever podium in World Cup events. Hopefully he doesn't drink too much beer in the team RV, or his results may suffer.

Yeti Bicycles
The Golden, CO company has absolutely reinvented itself as a premier racing organization after its fall from grace in the late 90's. Yeti started the careers of many MTB pioneers such as John Tomac, Julie Furtado, and Missy Giove, and is doing the same these days with a young crop of Kiwis and Aussies such as Sam Blenkinsop, Aaron Gwin, and Jared Graves. Look for the team of to dominate both DH and 4X wherever they choose to race. Sam Blenkinsop is the only rider to beat Sam Hill at Schladaming in years. And he did it without gloves.

Santa Cruz Syndicate
And last, but not least, how I could not discuss the lads from Santa Cruz who consistently stood on the podium, and won the overall World Cup, last season. I was sad to see they cut Nathan Rennie loose, but maybe it was for the best. Josh Bryceland won the World Championships last year with a pretty sweet mohawk. Maybe he will do the same in 2009? As for Peaty, I hope he makes it happen in Canberra, but his best chance ever may have been last year.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Mountain Bikers at the Tour

Well put another exciting Tour in the books. This one had all the drama, doping, crashes, hot weather, and team tactics that we come to hope for in "le Grande Boucle". One difference this year is the predominance of former Pro MTB racers who have made the huge leap to the biggest bike race in the world. To be a successful MTB racer, you need to be able to time trial and tempo ride for long periods of time through a variety of conditions. It also helps to be a pretty good climber and a great bike handler. All these skills can translate well to the rigors of road racing.

This year there were four former MTB racers in the Tour. Surprisingly they either rode for Silence-Lotto or Garmin-Chipotle. I am not sure why, but I think it is just a coincidence. Who knows, maybe the team managers have a special place in their heart for MTB racers? Each rider had a different path to France, and they all shined in different ways over the past three weeks. Here are brief descriptions for each rider and my predictions for the next MTB heroes of July in France.

Dario Cioni (Italy)
Silence-Lotto (83rd place, 2:20 back)

Dario is a former Junior XC world champion who really shined as being the most blinged out, Euro-Pro in his days as a MTB racer. I remember seeing him race at the Napa World Cup in the late 90's with bright Northwave roadie shoes and outrageous sunglasses, and he usually could be found walking around the pits with perfectly coiffed hair. Following his fashion sense, he made the permanent transition to the road where his style blended in with the rest of the pelaton.

Ryder Hesjedal (Canada)
Garmin-Chipotle (47th place, 1:33 back)

Ryder started turning heads on the MTB scene back in the late 90's up in Canada. As a Junior he was crushing his older peers and it did not take long for him to end up as a fully-sponsored pro with Gary Fisher. Ryder's specialty was mashing a big gear really early on in the race. In fact one of Ryder's more famous ads said "Flat Out Fast" with a picture of him just hammering away in the big ring. If he could keep the pace he would win races, but he never was able to win the big one. In the 2003 worlds he led for most of the race before the doped out Felipe Mierhage passed him for the gold. It's too bad Felipe never gave Ryder his medal. Ryder vowed to make up for it in Greece at the 2004 Olympics and unfortunately crashed in the very first sharp turn of the race. Sometimes you can be going too fast. Soon after the Olympics, Ryder made the switch to the road and has never looked back.

Trent Lowe (Australia)
Garmin-Chipotle (77th place, 2:14 back)

Trent is a little guy and a natural climber. He won a few big races, including the Sea Otter XC, and then started showing up at the Redlands Classic and winning there too. He was one of those guys that started racing both road/MTB in the early 2000's and has done better on the road. I don't know too much about him and did not see much of him during the Tour. I imagine he was protecting VdV, but I saw more of Ryder than Trent. Maybe it's because he is so little?

Cadel Evans (Australia)
Silence-Lotto (2nd place, 0:01 back)

Another Aussie and another 2nd place. After all the drama, stress, and screaming at the press, this is a really big let down. He has repeatedly said that he "needs a better team", but he said the same thing last year and got exactly the same result. Plus he lost to a Spaniard in the final time trial again. It's deja vu all over.

Cadel was one of the first MTB pros that I really admired. He was riding for Diamond Back on one of those bright yellow mid-90's aluminum bikes and he seemed to have a good style and flow on the course. He eventually ended up on Cannondale and became their poster child for XC dominance. But again, he never won the big one. He came close, but was never able to win a World Championship or Olympic Gold. After the Sydney 2000 games he switched over to the road and made his first big splash in the Giro when he was actually leading the race for awhile. He eventually cracked when Tyler Hamilton passed him on some big climb (in 2003 I think?). Tyler was probably juiced, who knows? But Cadel has been cleanly plugging away to his current status of one of the best cyclists in the world. It's too bad he has not figured out a way to deal with the pressure. He needs to be more "tranquilo" like the Spaniards.

Future MTB Stars of the Road???
  • Ryan Trebon. A time trialing machine and built for the classics. He could win in Flanders some day.
  • Tom Danielson. A great climber with a great future. Wait a second, he already had his moment of fame.
  • Chris Eatough. How many 100 mile MTB races can you do before you lose your mind? Plus, all that endurance riding has given him a great base for the road. Plus he rides for Trek, so he is in for sure.

Friday, July 25, 2008

New Direction

It's time to give this site some focus and start ranting about all things mountain biking. Sure there will be some occasional discussions on cyclocross, BMX, and maybe even the Tour, but the old site was tired. Like Bernard Kohl tired after climbing the Alpe du Huez.

Monday, March 24, 2008

I wonder if Leonard Zinn built it for him?

Here is a recent photo of the world's tallest man (8'5") riding on his "custom" bicycle in the Ukraine. He does not look too stable, and I bet Giro would have trouble building a "custom" helmet for him.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I'd Like a BMX Bike from Albe's Please

Based on the fact that there are around thirty amateur Albe's Bike Shop videos on YouTube right now, it looks like Albe's had themselves a contest. My vote is for this video.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

OK, that's fast

Austrian Markus Stoeckl just set the world speed record on a mountain bike at 130 mph. Good thing he did not crash. Red Bull must have some great waivers.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Is Jessica Alba the Bike Messenger "Eve"?

As we are all keenly aware, urban areas are awash in a bike messenger craze. Some are actually professional messengers, but most people just want to look like they are one. While many debate the pros and cons of the huge boom in popularity, I feel it is a good thing as it has resulted in more people on bikes. A small change, but still a good change. One topic that continues to surface is "how did this all start?" That is, what was the messenger "tipping point".

Lots of people state that this is a long due delay to Kevin Bacon's movie "Quicksilver". As all things lead back to Mr. Bacon, it is quite possible, though unlikely. The trouble is the date of the movie, 1986. The kids riding fixies were likely just starting kindergarten then, so it is tough to say that this started it. So who might be their contemporary? Who is a recent role model? I have a hunch that it was Jessica Alba.

In 2000 Fox released the popular "Dark Angel" television series starring a very young and not quite yet superstar Jessica Alba. She played Max Guevara, an escaped Manicore soldier on the run from her former government trainers. Max survives in Seattle and makes her living as a Cannondale riding bike messenger for Jam Pony. Here she is with her television buddy Original Cindy. Check out Jessica's front wheel and compare it to the current craze for Aerospoke front wheels. Coincidence, I think not. The show was short lived, but its popularity lives on. This was the show that the current messenger crowd was watching in college, or possibly while still living off their parents at home. She is quite the Eve and likely started it all.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Several Riders Humiliated at Oakland Alleycat

This past weekend, local riders were treated to sunny skies and a novel approach to the now standard alleycat race format. Tired of the tried and true point-to-point messenger style race, the promoters opted to go with a new "street skills" approach.

After a quick warm-up down Telegraph, riders were told to enter the Hood Games ramp competition. This is a typically a skateboard only event, but the Games organizers were open to new faces in the event. Unfortunately riding a ramp on a bike proved disastrous for most, and the cyclists were booed out of the competition. One teary eyed rider noted that "Even the guys from Clean Skate Shop laughed at us, it was horrible. I mean, I go to Oz every month, I couldn't believe it."

Next up was an eating contest at China Town's Legendary Palace. Riders had to negotiate a 7th Street delivery truck obstacle course, before entering the restaurant. Once inside, riders were told they must eat a fried squab, bowl of duck tongues and a "dim sum surprise". Several riders immediately dropped out, one girl threw up, but the remaining competitors put their game faces on and tore into the meals.

After a nice cup of green tea riders were told to sprint to Lake Merritt for a skidding competition. No problem thought many, this is my signature move. Unfortunately for them, they would have to skid across the Geese nesting area by Fairy Land, an area covered in nearly an inch of goose poop. One rider stated, "This was the worst. After a day of suffering, we were now falling down into slimy, stinky bird shit." Several cyclists slid entirely into the Lake. One of these riders now has a nasty rash that just won't go away.