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MTB News and Notes: Hunting for points in Cyprus; DH champs in Oz

If last weekend’s results from Cyprus are any indication, give Jeremiah Bishop and Mary McConneloug the early nod as favorites in the chase for spots on the U.S. Olympic mountain-bike team. Each grabbed victories at the Voroklini International, a UCI E1-rated race on the island nation that sits off Turkey’s south coast in the eastern Mediterranean. The win was McConneloug’s fourth straight. She also took victories in the final three races of the four-race E2 Cyprus Winter Cup series contested in February. According to the official event report, the men’s race saw a group of four riders —

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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews associate editor

Jeremiah Bishop

Jeremiah Bishop

Photo: the Voroklini International

If last weekend’s results from Cyprus are any indication, give Jeremiah Bishop and Mary McConneloug the early nod as favorites in the chase for spots on the U.S. Olympic mountain-bike team. Each grabbed victories at the Voroklini International, a UCI E1-rated race on the island nation that sits off Turkey’s south coast in the eastern Mediterranean.

The win was McConneloug’s fourth straight. She also took victories in the final three races of the four-race E2 Cyprus Winter Cup series contested in February.

According to the official event report, the men’s race saw a group of four riders — Bishop, Austria’s Michael Weiss, Oli Beckingsale of Great Britain, and Dutchman Marten Tjialingi — separate themselves from the rest of the field. Then, during the final lap, Bishop (Trek-Volkswagen) pulled away, taking a 12-second win over Beckingsale. Third place went to Tjialingi.

Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (RLX Ralph Lauren) finished a distant eighth, 6:06 behind Bishop.

In the women’s race McConneloug outlasted fellow American Sue Haywood, taking the win by 2:32. It was the second time in two weeks that the Seven Cycles rider had bested Haywood (Trek-Volkswagen). Ireland’s Jenny McCalley was third.

All told, 13 countries were represented by the 48 men and 10 women who contested the Voroklini. The large diversity at this early-season race was at least partially attributable to this being an Olympic year. The U.S. — which had four top riders competing in Cyprus — will select its team based on UCI ranking. One woman and two men will represent America at the cross-country race in Athens this August. Final selection will be announced on July 12.

Racing in Cyprus rolls on for one more week, with the three-day Axfentia stage race set for March 5-7. This event is rated D2.

Hill, Jonnier take Aussie DH titles
Already they’ve been linked romantically, and now Sam Hill and Sabrina Jonnier are the downhill champions, following this year’s Australian national mountain-bike championships, held February 27-29 in Eildon, Victoria.

In the men’s race Hill gave further proof that he sits atop the ones-to-watch list for 2004, besting a field that included reigning World Cup overall champ Nathan Rennie, and gravity stalwarts Jared Graves, Jared Rando and Mick Hannah. The final standings saw Hill (Iron-Horse-MadCatz) beating Graves (Yeti) by more than three seconds, with Rennie (Santa Cruz Syndicate) in third.

In the women’s race, the Frenchwoman Jonnier (Intense) topped Great Britain’s Fionn Griffiths (Foes) by nearly four seconds, with Tracey Hannah in third. Hannah, the 15-year-old younger sister of Mick, was the talk of the weekend, as she also made the four-cross final, which was won by American Tara Llanes (Giant-Pearl Izumi). Mick Hannah (Haro-Lee Dungarees) won the men’s four-cross crown.

In cross-country action, Aussies Sid Taberlay and Lisa Mathison won the long-course titles. Taberlay also grabbed the short-course crown, while Anna Bayliss took the women’s STXC.