By Jason Sumner, VeloNews associate editor
Looking for a moniker to attach to this year’s mountain-bike season. How about the summer of suffering? Like no campaign in recent memory, 2003 has served up injured riders in spades, ending promising seasons and tipping the power balances in several title chases.
The most notable downfalls have been those of Americans Brian Lopes (broken ankle) and Alison Dunlap (separated shoulder), but others who’ve spent at least some time on the disabled list include Roland Green, Tara Llanes, John Waddell, April Lawyer and Dustin Adams. Green’s been back for a while now, and Lawyer and Llanes made their returns at the Idaho NORBA last weekend. Next to come back should be Lopes, who’s been pointing to the NORBA finals in Durango, Colorado.
But for 2001 world cross-country champion Dunlap, the road to recovery is proving a little longer. When she first went down during the NCS cross-country race in West Virginia, all indications were that her season was over. But six weeks later, the Luna rider is cautiously hopeful that she might be back in time for September’s mountain-bike world championships in Switzerland.
“I have a plane ticket to go over there, but that’s as far as I’ve gone,” said Dunlap from her home in Colorado Springs. “I probably won’t decide for sure until a couple days before I’m supposed to travel.”
Indeed, Dunlap knows she has a ways to go before she could be even remotely competitive again. While it’s not the worst injury she’s ever had, this one has been the toughest on her.
“In ’95 I crashed on my head and had a second-degree concussion and I couldn’t race for four months,” she recalled. “But at least with that one I could still ride my bike. The doctors were just afraid that I might crash again if I raced.
“But this one has been the most debilitating as far as affecting my job, not being able to ride a bike outside at all.”
In fact, Wednesday was the first time she was able to put both hands on the handlebars of her trainer, and she says right now her biceps and triceps are “small and floppy.”
“It was pretty uncomfortable to have weight on the shoulder,” she said. “I haven’t used those muscles in six weeks, so everything has atrophied.”
Still, Dunlap’s doctors say she’s way ahead of schedule. “A normal person with an injury like this wouldn’t even start rehab for six weeks,” Dunlap explained. “But we’ve been very aggressive with my rehab. I had to keep the shoulder immobile, but I was doing stuff within a week of the surgery.”
In her absence, Dunlap’s Luna team has been one of the best on the circuit, with three different riders (Marla Streb, Kathy Pruitt and Katerina Hanusova) winning NORBA races since Dunlap went down.
“It’s been awesome,” said Dunlap, who’s planning on going to the NCS finals to cheer on her teammates. “I go down and all of a sudden they all step up.”
Whether or not Dunlap makes it back for the mountain bike world’s, she’s already got her sights set on another big race a little further down the road. “I’m really going to focus on ’cross this year,” she said. “I want to go to the world championships and go after another rainbow jersey.”
Automatic nods for MTB world’s
On Tuesday USA Cycling announced its automatic athlete nominations to represent the United States at the 2003 mountain bike world championships in Lugano, Switzerland.
Those already assured of spots on the world’s team include cross-country pros Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, Todd Wells, Jeremiah Bishop, Sue Haywood, Willow Koerber and Mary McConneloug. Under-23 cross county athletes include Walker Ferguson, Adam Craig, Barry Wicks and Ryan Trebon
Downhill nominees are Gary Houseman, Eric Carter, Marla Streb and Kathy Pruitt. The four-cross contingent will include Carter, Mike King, Brian Schmith, Jamie Lily, Jill Kintner and Tara Llanes.
In the junior categories, the XC squad will consist of John Devine, Michael McClure, Sabra Davison and Caitlyn Tuel. The junior downhillers will be Kyle Strait, Henry O’Donnel, Cody Warren, Jenny Cornelison and Leanna Gerrard.
USA Cycling will announce the final team, including discretionary nominations, on August 4, 2003.
Bootes at BMX world’s
Trek-Volkswagen pro Wade Bootes did a little double duty recently, competing at the BMX world championships in Perth, Australia. Bootes got through to the main even,t where he faced Robert De Wilde, Kyle Bennett, and Medhi Remili. And while Bootes ended up fourth, it was a stellar effort considering how much BMX racing the Aussie has done lately (very little) and all the turmoil (broken collarbone, death of his mother) that he’s gone through lately.
Four bicycle groups will receive cash awards in the second round of 2003 IMBA/Koobi Club Assistance Grants. The $500 grants support projects that preserve and enhance trail opportunities for mountain bikers. Here are the 2003 IMBA/Koobi Club Assistance Grants second-round winners:
New Orleans Metro Area Mountain Biking Organization, New Orleans, Louisiana: Grant funds will be used for tools, trail markers and an information kiosk at a multi-use trail at the Bonnet Carre Spillway.
Moab Trails Alliance, Moab, Utah: The Moab Trails Alliance will create educational plaques that inform trail users about the desert’s fragile ecosystem and the importance of staying on the trail.
Club Scrub, Hope Sound, Florida: In collaboration with Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Club Scrub will replace a dilapidated bridge. A new bridge will discourage trail users from riding and walking around the unsafe bridge and damaging sensitive wetlands.
IMBA-UK, United Kingdom: A Koobi grant will support key first-year projects of IMBA-UK, which was formally launched in April 2003. IMBA-UK is developing a wide range of trail access and construction projects, as well as new membership and communication materials.