World Cup Race Season Looms Large

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Words and Photos by Colin Meagher

It seems like the cyclocross World Championships were just yesterday— in fact it’s been nearly two months since that Czech Republic dance in the snow. This means the mountain bike World Cup begins in just a little under a month, kicking off in Yorkshire, England with the season’s first XC race on April 24-25. Before the action starts, brush up on recent happenings in the racing world, starting with the gravity contingent:

Jeremiah Dylan Dean has been keeping very busy. Not only has he continued to be the most visible organizer for the Pro GRT (US Professional Mountain Bike Gravity Tour), but he continues to keep a hand in his other endeavors: Dean Optics, his new bike shop— the Bike Vault— and consulting for Nema Clothing will all keep him fully occupied.

The Pro GRT series promises to attract some top-shelf talent, kicking off in Port Angeles, Washington, on April 24-25. Evil Bikes will have Steve Smith and Luke Strobel on hand; Transition Bikes will represent with Jill Kintner and Bryn Atkinson; Giant will bring their full gravity contingent, as will the Trek World Racing; Yeti will be in attendance; and more… In other words, JDD’s hard work and passion have made the Pro GRT officially “legit”. Go to www.progrt.com for the full enchilada.

With Luke Strobel onboard, Evil Bikes will retain the MS-Evil team concept/relationship for the World Cup. Look for an official press release when either Kevin Walsh or Gabe Fox can tear himself away from testing a prototype 140mm travel trail bike. Yes, it almost exists.

Giant has gotten a bit more serious with a top-shelf Gravity WC team, bringing Duncan Riffle and Danny Hart into the mix to give Jared Rando a bit of company aboard the new Glory DH—slightly old news, but worth mentioning.

Trek World Racing added young gun Nicholas Mullaly to the fold during the off-season. Look for the 17-year-old “Neko” to turn some heads with support from Trek.

In other Trek World Racing news, Andrew Neethling (aka “Needles”) was in Chile when the earthquake hit, having just attended the Valparaiso Downtown race. Thankfully Needles was in the mountains, and while he got rattled around a bit—a “life experience” as he calls it—there was no real harm done.

steve-peatReigning World Champ and all-around nice guy Steve Peat has been putting in a bit of training time with Santa Cruz Syndicate teammate Greg Minnaar in South Africa. Greg is fully recovered from his late-fall mishap, so look for those two, plus Josh “Miami” Bryceland to come out swinging once the season starts.

Incidentally, Minnaar has now added extreme kayaking to his resume of “things to do in the off-season” after competing in a 3 day, 124 km canoe stage race this past winter in South Africa.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know Sam Blenkinsop not only left Yeti for Lapierre, but has also been nursing a wrist injury in New Zealand. It’s apparently nothing too serious, and “Blinky” has not required surgery. He’s confident that he’ll be ready for the first gravity World Cup in Maribor, Slovenia.

Yeti without Blinky, sans gloves, barreling down the Fort William course aboard a 303 in the sleet will be a sight I’ll miss, but Yeti is still very much a force on the circuit, retaining the talents of Aaron Gwin, Jared “Grubby” Graves, and Joey Schusler.

Sam Hill did in fact tweak his knee a bit during a training session in Australia, yet Monster/Specialized team manager Sean Heimdal assured Bikemag; “Sam will be rehabbing with the goal of being ready for Maribor. He’s had some great success bouncing back from previous mishaps, and we’re confident he’ll be back stronger than ever.“

In other Specialized news: Hill and Brendan Fairclough will be joined by young gun Troy Brosnan for 2010.

Coming off her best DH Championship showing in recent years, Kathy Pruitt will continue representing Jamis Cycles in selected North American races this season.

Cedric Gracia founded the CG Racing Brigade in the off-season—a team consisting of mostly younger riders—and plans to race a full World Cup schedule, Sea Otter, and Lisbon Downtown this season. CG has switched from long-time sponsor Commencal to Santa Cruz as the Brigade’s official ride. Other sponsors include Oakley and Commencal tires.

XC:

The first round of the World Cup may start in late April, but that doesn’t mean cross-country racing hasn’t begun. The US ProXCT series kicked off in Fontana this past weekend with Todd Wells and Lene Byberg (both of Specialized Factory Racing) taking the first wins. Go to http://uscup.net/index.php?dyn/Schedule2010 for the complete—if confusing—schedule.

adamcraig-rehabGiant’s US squad and World Cup Rabobank XC team will start the season a man down, with Adam Craig currently six weeks into recovery after ACL reconstructive surgery. The unlucky Craig tore his ACL pursuing the extreme sport of walking across an icy Bend, OR parking lot. Seriously. As he put it:

“After all these years of doing marginally safe activities outside, I had one go wrong and got my due. Unfortunately, there’s no cool story of an avalanche sweeping me over a cliff or Kurt Sorge teaching me how to land a backflip on the mulch pile. Nope, the aforementioned activity was a brisk walk across a slick parking lot here in Bend… Awesome.”

AC opted for a cadaver ligament graft vs. a hamstring graft for the reconstruction. This means a stronger knee in the long run, but a longer recovery time. Look for AC to be back aboard his beloved Anthem X SL sometime in June, although realistically, he probably won’t be knocking WC heads until sometime in late July.

As Gary Fisher’s bike czar Travis Ott put it: “The Subaru-Fisher team is all 29 all the time for 2010.” JHK and Sam Schultz of Gary Fisher were already fully committed to wagon wheels, but both Heather Irmiger and Willow Koerber, following their respective successes in races last season, have joined them on the full-time 29er bandwagon. Koerber in particular came through in spectacular fashion with a bronze at World Championships on the big wheels.

Todd Wells, a long-time 29er convert, will also be joined by Specialized teammates on big wheels in selected World Cup races this season.

More big wheels: Mike Broderick and Mary McConneloug missed out on the quake in Chile—but just barely. They’ve been training hard in NorCal for the ProXCT and World Cup, recently turning that hard work into a pair of blue ribbons at the UCI race in Puerto Rico. Mary took her win aboard a Seven Sola SLX 29er, while Mike claimed his aboard Sola 69er.

Jamis will have what they hope to be a competitive squad this season, with Rob Squire, Rotem Ishay, Adam Snyder, Omer Kem, Blake Harlan and Jason Sager representing. Look for Squire and Ishay to hit the World Cup in Europe and in North America. They won’t be riding 29er wheels, but have the option to rock the bastard child 650b standard instead.

Emily Batty made the move to the majors this last winter, joining Lukas and Mathias Flückiger in representing Trek on the Trek World Racing—a huge step up from representing Trek Store.

That wraps up the general state of things as the 2010 racing season approaches. Keep an eye on bikemag.com for future updates.

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