Posted by Editoress on 08/18/11
Truth & Rumours from the Pits
As the teams, riders and press all get ready for the final Mountain Bike World Cup of the 2011 season, it is a good time to walk the pits, have a chat and some coffee (best cappuccino - Specialized) with the teams, the riders and the mechanics, and find out what the latest news and gossip is. Herewith are some of the bits and pieces from today.
Nys is Done for the Season
Belgian cyclo-cross star Sven Nys has been trying to make the transition from cyclo-cross-only pro to off-season mountain biker, with the hope of going to the London Olympics next year. His results have been sporadic - a few top-10s, but also a number of DNFs.
At the very technical Dalby race in the spring, he crashed and injured his knee, including tearing his quadricep muscle. At last weekend's World Cup in Nove Mesto he started and initially was moving up before he began to go backwards quickly and then dropped out. It now appears that his knee injury had not completely healed, and he has re-injured it. So, his mountain bike season is done, and there are concerns that it may even require a long term recovery, which could impact his cyclo-cross season.
Ralph Näf Ends Season
The highly popular Multivan Merida cross-country rider has been struggling with back problems this season, and it was very apparent that he was having problems last weekend. So it was no surprise when Näf has announced that he will not race either this weekend in Val di Sole or in two weeks time at the Worlds in his home country, at Champery, Switzerland. Our best wishes to Ralph, and we hope to see him back in action next season.
Hill Iffy for Worlds
Defending men's world champion Sam Hill (Monster Energy-Specialized-Mad Catz) has missed most of the World Cup season after injuring his shoulder following the Leogang round. He is reported to be riding a cross-country bike for the first time this week, out of his shoulder sling, and will be flying into Switzerland next weekend for the Worlds, but whether or not he starts remains questionable.
Schultz Bike Recovered
We reported last week, prior to the World Cup, that Subaru-Trek rider Sam Schultz had his prototype Super Fly stolen out of his room, while he was in the shower, and that police recovered it (see Daily News - Czech World Cup Marred by Theft). Now we have some more details: Apparently, it was found hidden in a ditch under some scrub, just down the road from the hotel - possibly, the thief was planning on coming back later, after the fuss had died down. Team manager Jon Rourke said that, apart from some scratches and having spent the night outside in the rain, the bike was fine, but "it came back all CSI'd, covered with fingerprint powder"...
Specialized Goes Totally 29er
Team Specialized has now gone completely 29er for the cross-country team; "there isn't a 26" bike on the truck," stated team director Benno Willeit. Even that retro dude Christoph Sauser has gone to 29" wheels. The team is planning on riding hardtails this weekend.
In other Specialized team news - new 2012 bikes have arrived for the team (only Kulhavy had one last week, for his win), but the riders will race on the older ones this weekend, while the new ones get dialed in for Worlds. Kulhavy has also been using a one-of-a-kind power meter from Quarq on his mountain bike crank to measure wattage. Quarq has been working with SRAM on a unit to fit their road cranks, but Specialized modified one to fit their mountain bike crank. There's even an iPhone app to access the data. They declined to provide Kulhavy's wattage measurements from Nove Mesto...
Val di Sole Tracks Rougher
Riders from both Downhill and Cross-country are reporting that because it has been so hot and dry, the tracks are very hard and rough. The downhill is little changed from last year, according to Team GT's Mick Hannah, but sections in the woods that were soft dirt last year are now rock hard. While you might think that this would make the course faster, Hannah says that getting bounced around so much will mean that times should be similar to last year.
The cross-country has been shortened up a bit, with a loop before the first climb removed, as well as a short climb in the middle of the circuit. The circuit is now 4.45 kilometres (down from over five kilometres). However, it is still a climber's course, with some of the steepest climbing sections on the World Cup circuit.
Concerns About Worlds Schedule
The UCI announced last week that the schedule for the Elite cross-country events at the Worlds (Saturday, September 3rd) had been modified, at the request of the organizer, so that both the men's and women's races will take place in the afternoon, to better suit TV. The concern has already been expressed by a number of teams and riders that the lateness of the men's race (5:00 pm local) will mean that sections of the circuit will be run in the dark. Champery is in a narrow, steep valley, so any sun will have long gone by 5:00-6:00 pm, and there are technical sections in the woods that are pretty dark even mid-day. Riders and managers polled in the pits today all agreed that it is very much a concern.
Schedule Change for World Cup Next Season?
The UCI has announced previously that the Eliminator will be added as a full World Cup event next year, to be run at cross-country only events (and possibly Pietermaritzburg, South Africa). The problem has been getting top riders to sign up when it takes place before the more important cross-country, since they want to save their legs. Various options have been proposed (such as making it mandatory, or linking XC start positions to participation), but the one that seems to be gaining most traction is having the XC on Saturday and the Eliminator on Sunday; similar to what USA Cycling does with their national series.
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