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When the Norcal League and El Cerrito Racing decided to raise funds to get John to Val di Sol for the UCI Championships we thought the only hurdle would be financing. With Plane mechanicals, storms, lost luggage, swapped flights, and last minute shuttles to the venue we were glad that John's mom, Pam Bennett, was with them to keep things focused and manage resources.
When our heroes finally arrived in Val di Sol with their gear we thought all our troubles were behind us but it was too late to get in a ride and it was raining. Upon opening the bike boxes, though, our racers found that the bikes arrived in less than perfect condition as customs officials had searched the bike boxes. Not being cyclists they didn't quite put them back the way we would have hoped. John was missing a stem and another downhiller found his pedals rattling around and it scratched up his bike pretty well. I don't even want to imagine those guys tossing stuff back in the boxes and sitting on them to force the latches closed. At least the bike boxes weren't lost, though.
It had rained on Monday and again overnight with regular rain showers. Rain on the course, with much pre-riding by the athletes, and the course condition deteriorated. The obvious tracks through the grassy and wooded sections grew wider as riders rode closer to the tape and fencing lining the course's edges in search of better traction. By the time the team relay started, parts of the course were shoe-deep in peanut buttery goo and in places, soupy mud, while most non-paved surfaces were slick. Top US Racer Adam Craig loaned John a set of mud tires to deal with the mire and they were welcome.
The course is a 6 kilometer, 4 mile, transit of an East-West Alpine Valley, it's shoulders, and the mountainsides above to the North from 2700 to 3100 ft. Each racer would do a 1-lap leg transitioning through the alluvial mud near the valley floor to the thinner slop higher up in grades approaching 15% in places. The racers would have their work cut out for them.
John's prep for his bike was very strong but travel was not kind. In a test ride early Tuesday morning before the Relay, John's rear derailleur broke and damaged spokes on his rear wheel. With support from the USAC folk, the Orbea went back together well with just 30 minutes to go for the opening event of the UCI Mountain Bike Championships.
On Opening Day it rained. Top US Woman Racer Georgia Gould, from the Luna Woman's MTB Team, was on the starting line for the USA Cycling. Georgia was 7th in the World Cup Overall rankings and 9th in the World Championships in 2007. Her effort brought her in at 19th on this day, though, at which point John Bennett took his shot. Behind 45 seconds he had no one to work with and rode without a rider in sight. He was left to attack and ride within himself at the same time. He held off Slovenian rider Biaz Znidarsic and nicked Japan's Keisuke Goda closing the gap putting the US in 17th place.
Top Under 23 racer Sam Jurekovic, who was 4th at Fontana in the Elite category, then took his lap and turned in the 3rd fastest lap in that leg of the race to put the US in 13th. Top American racer Adam Craig anchored the USA relay team and the honor was well placed. Adam put in the second fasted lap of the day and brought the USA Team into 8th place.
The rain from the day before and during the race left the course muddy and slick but, John said, not as nasty as Iron Angels 2007. He averaged only 9 mph on a course he would normally have killed and I can't remember a performance like that out of him. Even worse courses and more climbing have not put him in that position. He said he felt that he wasn't able to make a good effort due to travel fatigue and the short distance was odd. That all makes sense to me. John said that he felt very positive about his next race. He had some definite plans about proper rest and food in the next day and a half. Knowing John, that makes sense to me, too.
In a funny way this may work for John. I cannot find the official distance of his XC race on Thursday but I believe it is about 20 miles. That is about NorCal length. His bike is solid, he knows the course. Since his performance in the relay drew little attention he may not be watched by his competitors and that could be a huge mistake. Anyone out ther remember taking your eye off of John in a race?
Adam Craig took John out for a 1-hour ride after the Relay, ridin' bud like. The USA Cycling people have thrown their support behind John. He has a day and a half to rest. This is just getting interesting…..

We are so lucky to have this. Ride well.

Michael Mejia
Director, El Cerrito Racing

PS. Attached is a shot of John on the course from Cycling News.

For more Photos of the Relay go to:

http://www.cyclingnews.com/mtb/2008/jun08/mtbworlds08/?id=results/mtbworlds081#res
 

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There are two chances... one is normal "support" tape, but the way he is using it, I doubt it would be this. Normally this is used for example for ankle to prevent it to get spread, or to stabilize it when it is spread.
Other option, which is more believable is warming tape. This gives some extra warm to muscle, and is used in cold weather, or when you are injured. Years ago, we were using gels for this thing, now things are a bit easier with these tapes.
 

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primoz said:
There are two chances... one is normal "support" tape, but the way he is using it, I doubt it would be this. Normally this is used for example for ankle to prevent it to get spread, or to stabilize it when it is spread.
Other option, which is more believable is warming tape..
Actually, I believe it is support tape (could be wrong). These types of new tape jobs have been showing up frequently in pro tennis in recent years. I've seen pro tennis players with strips of tape like that on the calf, hamstring, tricep, and forearm. But it's never "wrapped" around the body part like you would expect.

I've never found an explanation behind this new type of taping. You could be right that it's warming tape, but I would really like to know.

EDIT: Okay, I found it. It's called the 'Kinesio Taping Method' and it's for stability. http://www.kinesiotaping.com/
 

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Was developed by a physical therapist to help with the tracking of the patella. Usually is worn for several days when applied to us mortals.

Just make sure you shave the knees first...
 
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