Cairns' Smithfield Rainforest is set to erupt with the cream of the crop of international cross country mountain biking set to battle in the second round of the 2014 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup this weekend. Round 2 comes two weeks after round 1 was run in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
Dubbed the "Rumble in the Rainforest," the three-day Cairns event begins on April 25 and over 300 riders are expected to converge on tropical North Queensland along with tens of thousands of fans.
Fresh off winning round 1, French mountain-biking legend Julien Absalon (BMC) will headline the men's endurance field, with the super-star's overcrowded resume boasting five overall World Cup wins, four world titles and two Olympic gold medals. He claimed his 27th World Cup round win recently in South Africa.
Australia's Daniel McConnell (Trek Factory Racing) will be aiming for more glory after a great performance in the 2013 World Cup, which saw him become the first Australian since Cadel Evans (1999) to finish on the podium at season's end. Reigning eliminator world champion Paul van der Ploeg (Giant) will excite the crowds when he hits the course in his pet event.
Reigning Olympic champion Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialised XC) will do his first World since fracturing his patella while 2004 Olympic silver medallist and 2010 elite world champion Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida) and former U23 world champion Ondrej Cink (Multivan Merida) will also make the trip.
In the women's field, reigning Olympic and two-time reigning cross country world champion Julie Bresset (BH-Suntour-KMC), 2013 World Cup champion Tanja Zakelj (Unior Tools), round 1 winner Jolanda Neff (Liv Pro XC Team) and 2013 UCI rankings leader Eva Lechner (Team Colnago Sudtirol) will all line up.
2010 world champion Maja Wloszczowska (Liv Pro XC Team) and two-time reigning eliminator world champion Alexandra Engen (Ghost Factory Teamriders) have also confirmed.
Rebecca Henderson (Trek Factory Racing) will fly the Aussie flag, with the Canberran having enjoyed a superb 2013 season, taking out the U23 World Cup Series following two victories (Albstadt and Mont-Saint-Anne) and three runner-up finishes in the six events.
With the 22-year-old making the jump to the elite ranks in 2014, Henderson kick started the year with victory at the national titles and silver at the Oceania Championships.