Since 2011, when Specialized unveiled its Epic 29er, which became the benchmark for cross-country 29ers by notching the first big-wheeled wins on the World Cup circuit, the other major brands have been playing catch-up. To that end, this year has been a good one for consumers with the launch of the impressive Cannondale Scalpel 29er, a finely honed redesign of the Trek Superfly 100, and a handful of other lower-profile but no less interesting models (think GT’s Zaskar 100). With the Spark 29er, Scott made a long overdue and respectable entrance into the fray.
This bike was perhaps the one we anticipated most in this genre because it had the potential to marry the lightweight agility of its small-wheeled sister with the convenient three-stage suspension design that we loved on the Genius LT. After half a year riding the bike, we’re happy to report that the 2012 Spark 29er achieved that balance and more. And though it’s not without a few shortcomings, this bike comfortably keeps up with—though doesn’t outpace—the host of options in this class.
The South Africa Olympic Committee announced Wednesday that double-amputee runner Oscar Pistorius will represent South Africa in the 400-meter race in London despite failing to qualify. He is slated to be the first track-and-field amputee to compete in the Olympics. Pistorius, called "Blade Runner" because of his blade-like prosthetics, started the year with a qualifying time of 45.20 but missed the required 45.30 mark with a 45.52 finish at the African Championships last weekend. Pistorius will also run in the 1,600-meter relay and defend his three Paralympics gold medals. "Since he's going to be there [in London], our decision is he can run both," Tubby Reddy, Olympic committee chief executive, said.
In an eventful day at the Tour de France, Andre Greipel won the sprint into Rouen after a late-race crash took out a number of race favorites, including Mark Cavendish and American sprinter Tyler Farrar. Immediately following the stage, Twitter was abuzz with concerns that Cavendish would be forced to abandon the Tour and miss out on the London Olympics. However, Cavendish recovered to start Thursday’s stage. His girlfriend, Peta Todd, blamed Team Sky's focus on winning the Tour with Bradley Wiggins for the crash. "Cavendish is down, and that is what happens when you take a man that is so harshly marked to the Tour without protection,'' Peta Todd wrote. "If you haven't got the intention of making sure you have the team to look after the World Champ. Don't just wing it. He is just a man.'' Fabian Cancellara held on to the yellow jersey after narrowly avoiding the crash. After the stage, news broke that 30-year-old Belgian rider Rob Goris, reporting on the Tour for Flemish Television, had died of a heart attack in his hotel room.
Wall Street Journal extreme-sports correspondent and freelance writer Michael Ybarra died in a climbing accident this weekend in California's Eastern Sierra. Ybarra, 45, struck out alone on Saturday morning to climb the Sawtooth Ridge Traverse in Mono County, outside of Yosemite National Park. When he didn't return by Sunday evening as planned, Ybarra's friend and fellow climber Alex Few called local search and rescue. After three days of searching on foot and by helicopter, teams found his body on Wednesday. "Michael Ybarra was an extraordinary journalist," the Wall Street Journal said in a statement. "In the best traditions of his profession he enlightened and engaged readers on a wide array of topics in clear, vivid prose."
A Dutch newspaper reported on Thursday that four of Lance Armstrong's former teammates have testified against him in exchange for partial immunity from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Holland's De Telegraaf cited unnamed "well-informed sources" in its claim that George Hincapie, Jonathan Vaughters, Levi Leipheimer, David Zabriskie, and Christian Vande Velde had admitted to doping and cut a deal with USADA, whereby they would receive curtailed, six-month suspensions to be served over the winter if they gave evidence against Armstrong. A spokesperson for Zabriskie and Vande Velde categorically denied the claims. "We can confirm that our Tour team is entirely focused on the Tour and media reports of suspensions are untrue," a Slipstream Sports statement read. USADA CEO Travis Tygart condemned the report as witness intimidation, saying that attempts to bully those who are willing to testify against Armstrong "cannot be tolerated."