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Oceania Mountain Bike Championships & Australian Open - CC
Thredbo, NSW, Australia, March 23-25, 2007
The UCI Oceania Championships start with the Mountain Cross.
The absence of Australia's National Champion, Luke Madill, and Jared Graves who are aiming for BMX Olympic selection allows for pure mountain bikers to fight it out for the mountain cross title. A close rivalry is expected between National Series winner, Terrance Scarr and Luke Strom along with Australia's highest placed rider at the World Championships, Alex Lloyd. The absence of last year's Oceania winner, John Kirkcaldi from New Zealand leaves an opening for Wyn Masters, the silver medallist at the New Zealand national championships to retain the title for New Zealand.
The women's event features National Champion, Caroline Buchanan. At only 16 years-old, Buchanan is expected to take on the likes of New Zealand's Scarlett Hagen, Jennifer Makgill, and Amy Laird.
Saturday's racing lays claim to the World's best downhill riders competing in a seeding run on the ski slopes of Thredbo. With Australia ranked as one of the best countries in the world, the Oceania's has attracted World Champion, Sam Hill and the bronze medallist Nathan Rennie coming head to head with the best New Zealand riders. The 2006 World Junior Champion, Cameron Cole from New Zealand now has to mix it up with his seniors and will be out to prove that his second in elite at the New Zealand Nationals recently was well deserved. The Downhill final run will be the final event on Sunday afternoon with riders expected to reach speeds in excess of 60 km per hour.
Reigning World Junior Downhill Champion, Tracey Hannah will compete against New Zealand's Scarlett Hagan in a bid to reverse placings and win after placing fifth and fourth last year. Australian National Series winner Claire Whiteman will pursue a top ride to assist her selection for the World Champioinships in Fort William, Scotland.
All eyes will be on the potential Olympians when racing gets underway Sunday morning in the elite women's cross country. Australia boasts National Champion, Tory Thomas who has dominated in the Olympic distance events and marathon distance this season. Thomas however will have her work cut out for her with New Zealand's World-ranked Rosara Joseph. Joseph placed 10th at the World Championships last September and is also looking to back up her win at last year's Oceania's in Rotorua, New Zealand. European-ased Kate Potter will also be a hot favourite for Australia after winning on this course at the last National Series event held last December.
Australia is hoping for a clean sweep of the podium in the men's race with Athens Olympian, Sid Taberlay competing against his Commonwealth Games teammate Chris Jongewaard and other riders with good form such as Dylan Cooper and Daniel McConnell. New Zealander Clinton Avery could be out to switch last year's placings with Shaun Lewis (Adelaide) in the Under 23 division .
For Olympic Cross Coutnry riders such as Taberlay, Jongewaard, Thomas and Potter who head overseas soon to compete in World Cup events, these points will help them get a top grid positions.
The Oceania points are valuable on a national scale as well. "They all add to the Australian National ranking which is used to define the number of riders each nation can place on the XCO Olympic start line," said Scott.
A full slate of amateur races will be held in conjunction with the Oceania Championships, but all practice and race times will be conducted separately.