Welcome to The Dirt, the weekly news round-up on what is happening in the worlds of gravel, mountain biking, and all things rough and dirty.
Pollen allergies force double Olympic champion Absalon to hang up wheels
France’s double Olympic mountain bike champion Julien Absalon announced his retirement from the sport on Monday citing his allergy to pollen.
A five-time world champion, Absalon also won Olympic gold in mountain biking’s cross-country discipline at Beijing (2008) and London (2012).
Absalon launched his own team, Absolute Absalon, earlier this season.
He said allergies to pollen had played a major role in his decision.
“I’ve been suffering from allergies to pollen in the south of France for the past three years, mostly at the start of the season,” Absalon told the L’Equipe.fr website.
“The doctor told me it would only get worse.”
Absalon is also allergic to pollen in the north of Europe, a condition that leaves him “struggling to breathe” and “with a taste of blood in my windpipe.”
Although a TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) certificate — used by many top athletes and cyclists — would allow him to relieve the symptoms, he added: “I don’t like to take too many medicines.”
He added: “My main aim is now to focus 100 percent on my team Absolute Absalon and dedicate myself to managing it full time.”
(Via Agence France-Presse)
Q&A: Erin Huck headed to Europe for MTB World Cup
Erin Huck is one of several Americans heading to Europe as the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup series picks back up this weekend in Albstadt, Germany. Here’s a check-in with the 36-year-old Coloradan on the Construction Zone Racing-Scott team after her strong start to the 2018 season.
VeloNews: You scored back-to-back wins at two signature HC (hors categorie) events to start the 2018 Pro XCT season, at Fontana and Bonelli Park in California. Then you finished fourth at the Subaru Sea Otter Classic. This gives you a big lead in the women’s Pro XCT standings. Tell us about this fast start.
Erin Huck: I was really happy with how the first two Pro XCTs went. They were good confirmation that training is on track. I’m hoping to take that fitness, do some fine-tuning and focus on the upcoming World Cups.
VN: Take us through your Pro XCT win in Bonelli Park.
EH: I didn’t have the best start at Bonelli, so after the start loop, I think I was sitting in the mid-20s. I was patient though, and waited for efficient opportunities to pass. Once I caught up to the front of the field, I kinda just kept the same charging pace and found myself with a bit of a gap. I was able to settle into a good rhythm and kept the gap through to the finish.
VN: Last year the Bonelli ProXCT event started the season, and that was a significant race, right?
EH: At the start of the last lap, I knew two things: one, that I wanted to avoid this race coming to sprint (Chloe [Woodruff] is one of the best sprinters out there!); and two, that I’d like to lead going into the first descent. So, I focused on the singletrack, I put in a little effort to get there first, and then realized that I had a bit of a gap. Nice! The gap grew a bit on the next climb and by focusing on being smooth on the descents and pushing the climbs, I was able to maintain the gap through to the finish — my first UCI win!
VN: What does your ideal mountain bike course look like? Fast? Technical?
EH: I love to climb, and technical climbing is my favorite. I like the Nove Mesto course for that reason and Andorra. I also really enjoy natural terrain without a lot of man-made features. But at the end of the day, every course presents a unique challenge and I try to have specific objectives for each race. One of the best things about World Cup racing is the variety!
VN: You are part of the U.S. National Team, mountain bike discipline. What is the most significant resource for you as a member of U.S. Team?
EH: For me, being a part of the National Team means that I get logistical support for the UCI World Cups. Without this support, it would be nearly impossible for me to get to these races and have the support necessary for my best performance.
VN: What are your plans for racing World Cups?
EH: I hope to be able to do all six of the remaining World Cups.
VN: What is your favorite U.S. cross-country race course? What is a favorite race for area activities away from the venue?
EH: There are a few that I have liked for different reasons. My favorite area away from the race course is at the Catamount race outside of Burlington, Vermont. It is a really cool area. I also like Monterey, California, at Sea Otter. The Angel Fire [New Mexico] course, Missoula [Montana], and Catamount are all great events. I also really like the XC course at the Vail Mountain Games (non-USAC race).
VN: Nationals are at Snowshoe, West Virginia again this year, July 17-22. What is the advantage of returning to a familiar course?
EH: Being familiar with the area and having an idea for optimal travel logistics is one of the more significant benefits of racing at a familiar venue. Being familiar with the course helps to determine which equipment to bring, and it’s also nice to be able to identify and work on lessons learned from the year before.
VN: How big of a goal is the Mountain Bike National Championships in 2018 — recapture the XC title and defend the STXC?
EH: National champs are always a big goal. This year it will be interesting because we have a block of World Cups right before, but I’ll probably just stay on the East Coast as opposed to flying home like I did last year. Hopefully that will ease the travel a bit.
VN: You are a two-time U.S. elite national champion on the short track. Tell us a little about that discipline.
EH: I think it would be awesome to see some of our short track races get registered as UCI C3 races. I believe Solider Hollow (Utah) was the first this year, and it would be cool to see some more, especially now that Short Track is a part of the World Cup program.
VN: Tell us about your new team and equipment for 2018.
EH: I’m racing for Construction Zone Racing team. With their support I’ve put together a bit of a custom program, enabling me to work with sponsors and individuals that I’ve developed relationships with through the years. I’ll be racing on Scott bikes, the Contessa Spark and Scalle 900 models, with Shimano XTR di2 drivetrain, FOX suspension, Stan’s NoTubes Podium wheels, Maxxis tires, Lizard Skins grips and gloves, and Time pedals. I’m also really happy to continue with WD40 for all my cleaning and lubrication needs, GU Energy, Oakley, and VC Graphix.
VN: What are your plans for the fall with cycling? Do you have any plans for cyclocross or road racing?
EH: I am planning on a few later-season mountain bike races, but then hope to transition to ’cross a bit. I love the fall and being home, doing some cross-training, exploring, and relaxing are my favorite things to do. So we will see what races fit in.
Blowin’ up my feed: Salsa Chase the Chaise at Michigan Coast to Coast
The guys at Salsa are at it again with their red chaise lounge. After giving gravel riders a little spot to chill during Land Run 100 back in March, they went up to Michigan last weekend for the Michigan Coast to Coast Gravel Grinder. The 210-mile race went from the east coast of the Mitten on Lake Huron to the west side, Lake Michigan.
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