A rarity for us as we report on the mountain biking scene from Moscow, Russia. Sounds as though its taking off too – albeit in somewhat of a ‘cowboy’ fashion but it will interesting to see how Russia’s representative fares in Beijing. Certainly fron the sound of the last paragraph the Russian’s have plenty of practice! Thanks to Peter Slezkine of the Moscow Times.com for bringing us this article.
Moscow’s mountain biking fans will get the chance to see some of Russia’s best racers compete in the third and final stage of the Univega Country Cup at the Kant Sports Complex this Sunday.
The Univega Country Cup is a cross-country mountain bike race, where the riders are challenged by the terrain nearly as much as by each other. It is also part of the larger Russian Cup, and because of this, the race’s results have a direct impact on the national rankings, said organizer Roman Larionov.
So far, cross-country is the only form of mountain biking to have become an Olympic discipline, but, Larionov said, not all the best could go to Beijing. The Russian mountain bike team was awarded only one male spot, according to the official site of the Beijing Olympics, and so Maxim Gogolev, a six-time Russian champion, has been left at home. Instead of representing his country at the Laoshan course in China, Gogolev will be taking part in the Moscow race Sunday, along with his wife, Yelena Gogoleva, last year’s Russian champion, Larionov said.
The Univega Country Cup is not only for reigning champions and slighted Olympians. The race is open to amateurs as well. “All you need is a bike and a helmet,” Larionov said. Registration costs 100 rubles and remains open until the start of the race.
Once registration has been completed, each participant is issued a number and assigned to a group. Larionov explained that in addition to an “elite group” of about 20 professionals, there are several other categories into which riders are placed based on gender and age.
For those less inclined to test their talents against top competition, it is possible to enjoy the race from the sidelines instead of the saddle. Entry is free of charge, and spectators are allowed to roam the grounds or claim a spot anywhere along the track.
Incidentally, the Kant Sports Complex is a popular hangout for mountain bikers even on days when races are not being held. Anyone who owns a bike can ride the track for free, and those who do not have a mountain bike can rent one.
Cross-country mountain bike racing is seeing a surge in popularity among young people in Russia, Larionov said.
“Before, most professionals started out as road bikers, but now, more and more clubs begin by teaching mountain biking,” he said.
Another reason for the popularity of mountain bike racing seems to be the roads. “Our roads are terrible, so racing bikes are practically useless,” he said.
I’ve included a YouTube video from elkermo, for which thanks, which is not exactly mountain biking but certainly suggests the Russians are learning the tricks of the trade.