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MTB News and Notes: Moving on and breaking out

Mountain-bike racing lost two of its greats last weekend in Durango when Mary Grigson and Missy Giove announced their retirements from full-time racing. Giove had already taken a big step back this year, skipping all but one of the World Cups and contesting just three of five NORBA stops. She’ll also be a no show come September’s world championships. Next season the legendary downhiller says she may “show up unannounced at a race or two,” but for the most part she’ll be focusing her energy elsewhere. “I want to promote the sport in some different ways,” Giove told VeloNews. “I’ll still be

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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews associate editor

Missy

Missy

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Mountain-bike racing lost two of its greats last weekend in Durango when Mary Grigson and Missy Giove announced their retirements from full-time racing.

Giove had already taken a big step back this year, skipping all but one of the World Cups and contesting just three of five NORBA stops. She’ll also be a no show come September’s world championships. Next season the legendary downhiller says she may “show up unannounced at a race or two,” but for the most part she’ll be focusing her energy elsewhere.

“I want to promote the sport in some different ways,” Giove told VeloNews. “I’ll still be on the bike a lot, but I’m going to be doing more freeride and dirt jump kind of stuff.”

Giove has recently moved from San Diego to Santa Fe, New Mexico and was seen sporting an Angel Fire Resort hat in Durango. Angel Fire, located in northern New Mexico, was the only U.S. venue to submit a bid for a World Cup in 2004, and is a solid bet to be on the final schedule.

As for Grigson, she’ll be turning he energies to reviving a nursing career that began back in the days before she was a professional cyclist. Originally from New Zealand, Grigson was a registered nurse there and worked in a blood bank.

Grigson

Grigson

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“I’m ready to revive it now,” explained Grigson. “I still enjoy riding and I’ll probably always be a weekend warrior. But I don’t want to dedicate all my time to it anymore. I want something else in my life.”

Grigson is also looking forward to her upcoming marriage to longtime Trek marketing man Scott Daubert, who is the company’s main liaison with the U.S. Postal Service team.

Unlike Giove, Grigson is planning to be at this year’s world championships, where she’ll compete for the Australian national team.

Through the years Giove and Grigson have compiled some amazing statistics. Giove, who was one of mountain-bike racing’s first mainstream female superstars (Remember those Reebok ads?), is the all-time leader in NORBA downhill wins with 14 and is second on the World Cup list with 11. Giove’s other accomplishments include three overall NORBA downhill crowns, two World Cup overalls, and the 1994 world championship title.

Beyond the numbers, though, the native New Yorker who made her home in Durango for most of the ’90s, will be remembered as one of the sport’s most engaging characters. At varying times she raced with a dead piranha as a necklace, sprinkled the ashes of her dead dog in her bra, and was always a great interview with her hallmark four-letter-word laced, rat-a-tat style.

In recent years, Giove also became the poster child for the dangers on downhill racing, after she suffered multiple concussions that had many saying she should have retired a long time ago.

Grigson’s prime came during the 2000 and 2001 NORBA seasons, when she dominated the women’s cross-country circuit, winning seven of 10 races and both overall titles. She also won a pair of World Cup races and raced in two Olympics.

Roland on the mend
In the strange but true category, reigning world cross-country champion Roland Green confirmed that a case of the chicken pox was the cause for his absence from last weekend’s NCS finals in Durango.

According to Green he caught the bug from housemate/road pro Cory Lange after Lange came down with shingles. Turns out shingles and chicken pox are related and if you are among the small minority of adults who have never had chicken pox — like Green — then exposure to shingles can trigger an outbreak of chicken pox.

Green said that he started to break out on his chest, but got his hands on an anti-viral medication quickly enough to avoid a full-scale episode.

“[The medication] totally knocked me on my ass for a couple days,” he said. “But it worked; all the dots are gone and I’m feeling better. I’ve already been back on the bike.”

Green’s quest for a third straight world title will hit high gear on August 28 when he heads over to Europe to contest the final Swiss Cup race on August 31 in Gränichen. He’ll spend the ensuing week practicing on the world’s course in Lugano, tuning up for the cross-country race on September 7.

Green also has his eye on October’s road world championships in Hamilton, Ontario. He says he’ll definitely be starting the time trial, but isn’t sure yet about the road race.

“Canada is going to have four spots and I think I have a shot at one of them,” he said. “So far I’ve only expressed interest in the TT, though. I wouldn’t want to take one of the road spots unless all the others guys aren’t prepared. It’s one thing to line up for a time trial, but another to do a 260k road race with the fastest guys in the world.”

American dream
Coming into the finals weekend in Durango, Americans had a shot at five of the eight overall NORBA titles that were on the line. But after two crashes (Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski in the short track and Jill Kintner in mountain cross) and one poorly timed finals run (Marla Streb in the downhill), the U.S. ended right back where it was at the end of the 2002 season, claiming just two of the eight NCS crowns. Give credit to U.S. riders, though. Just being in the hunt for five titles was a marked improvement over last year.

One place where there was little improvement, though, was men’s downhill. Just as in 2002, it was Eric Carter grabbing the stars-and-stripes jersey after finishing a distant seventh in the overall standings. And while this shouldn’t be considered a knock against Carter — the guy has nothing left to prove — you’ve got to wonder what is the deal when a 33-year-old is the best the U.S. has to offer in a sport that is dominated by 20-somethings.

“I think we have some guys capable of stepping up,” Carter said after securing his U.S. title in Durango. “But you’ve got to train your ass off. People think all the Aussies do is party, but those guys are on their bikes all the time, a lot more than most of the American riders.”

Indeed, despite whatever the Aussies do when the sun goes down, there’s no arguing their abilities during the daylight hours. Six of the top 11 in the final NCS standings call Oz home, including four of the first five.

If there was a bright spot for the U.S. downhillers, it’s been the year of Carter’s brothers-in-law, Rich and Gary Houseman. First Gary grabbed an unlikely — and weather aided — win at the Grouse Mountain World Cup downhill, then Rich popped his first ever downhill podium last weekend, taking fifth in Durango.

“I think they’re both getting closer,” said Carter of the Houseman brothers. “I’ve been training with them a lot this year and they’ve really stepped it up.”

As for the brothers, both believe the day will come when they can hang with the likes of Peat, Gracia, Kovarik and Minnaar.

“I’ve been taking baby steps my whole career,” said Rich, 25, who like his brother rides for ITS-Santa Cruz. “I’m not the kind of guy who wants to crash his brains out. But I think this year there was definitely some improvement for both of us. Just having the sponsor stuff sorted out really helped. It just shows what happens when you have good team support.”

Still, complete support is not there yet. While both were selected for the U.S. world championship team, only Rich will be making the trip to Switzerland. The reason is that with little financial support for elite-level gravity racers from USA Cycling, the younger Houseman could not afford to pay his own way.

People wonder why the U.S. isn’t competitive…

MTB News and Notes: Moving on and breaking out

MTB News and Notes: Moving on and breaking out

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Photos of the week
Here are two shots that illustrate the broad diversity of mountain bike racing. On the left is a picture from one of the nastier climbs faced by competitors at this year’s TransRockies – or TransWalkies as some called it – up it British Columbia. The photo came courtesy of former VeloNews ad man Chad Moore who competed in – and finished – the seven-day race.

On the right is a race called the Bike Attack Freeride Marathon that was held in Rothorn, Switzerland. That picture came courtesy of Maxxis-Trek rider Kashi Leuchs, who can be seen under the left side of the banner in his orange team colors. Leuchs wrote that about 500 riders contested this race that dropped 1500 meters. At one point there were “two different lines and after taking the long way round someone charged straight into me knocking me clean off my bike.”

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