Chris Jongewaard from Adelaide will use his top National Series ranking for a pole position start in the first Mountain Bike selection race for the Melbourne Commonwealth Games. The Cross country rider will ride in the Elite Men's race as part of the Felt Bicycles MTB Challenge will be run on the Games course in Lysterfield. Jongewaard is favoured to win on this Sunday after placing second and third respectively in the first two National Series in Tasmania and Western Australia.
The National Mountain Bike Champion must win the race to safely secure himself a berth as one of the three for the Australian men's team. Two years ago Jongewaard narrowly missed out on selection for the Athens Olympics and he is now determined to set things straight.
Jongewaard, 26, has the backing of fellow competitor and Olympian, Sid Taberlay from Tasmania. "It just depends on the day," explained Taberlay, "but Chris most deserves to win. He's the rider in form at the moment.” Taberly says that although he has started serious training to prepare himself for the Games in March, he dismisses the need to be in top form this early in the season. "I'm not too worried. It matters in March and not now," he said. According to Australia's cross country mountain bike Coach, Damien Grundy, Taberlay has got the performances in 2005 which would make a strong case for selection as one of the three Australian male riders for Melbourne's Commonwealth Games in March.
Jongewaard prepared himself earlier by riding three major road tours in Australia. He won the Top End Tour in the Northern Territory and rode the Sun Tour as well as the Tour Down Under. Jongewaard has become stronger as the season progresses. When asked if he would taper his training before the Melbourne selection event Jongewaard said, "Not really; I have had some big weeks and I'm happy with the way Perth went so I'll follow on from there."
Fellow South Australian, Shaun Lewis, will line up in the Elite men's race along with Taberlay and National Series defender, Dylan Cooper from Canberra.Olympian Josh Fleming from Sydney will also have his first national race of the season. Great Britain's Olympic representative Nick Craig will compete in the expert men and use the event to assist the British team in their preparation for the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.
The women's event has seen a keen resurgence of interest with Olympian Lisa Mathison returning to training after a year's break. Melbourne's Dellys Starr has returned from her base in America and Sydney Olympian, Anna Baylis from Germany is expected to enter. Also competing will be National Champion and Series leader, Emma Colson from Melbourne.