After debuting in Perth and then surviving the heat in Mt Buller, the Real Insurance All Mountain Cup moves to Mt Stromlo this weekend, February 10-12, for round 3. The All Mountain Cup format, new for 2011-2012, encourages racers to compete in three different cross country formats over three days. Riders collect points from each race which go toward the overall general classification.
Friday afternoon will feature super D racing, a format that challenges the skills of riders with what is essentially a fast, long downhill course. With super D racing booming overseas, riders have been excited that the local season has followed the world trend.
None may be happier about the presence of super D in the series than Joshua Carlson, who has won the elite men's super D in both rounds so far this season. Super D is racing is a focus for Carlson in 2012, and he has plans to spend significant time in the US racing the biggest races.
In the women's field, overall season general classification leader Jenni King has been in white-hot form, winning both rounds, while 2011 national cross country Champion Katherine O'Shea was a close second in Mt Buller.
Olympic cross country
With the London 2012 Olympic Games looming, racing on Saturday is arguably even more important than usual, with riders racing lap-based racing in the traditional cross country Olympic format.
While ultimately selection criteria is based on international performances, national-level performances are still important for riders to raise their profile and measure their form and preparation leading up to the international events.
"It's an Olympic year, and that brings into focus the preparation of our top athletes," said Chris Clarke, Mountain Bike Australia's National Sporting Director, who due to the vagaries of Olympic methods couldn't confirm the number of positions available on the Australian team.
"In terms of places, we have a guaranteed spot for the men, but for the women, we're relying on New Zealand.
"They need to stay in the top 18 nations in the world for Australia to pick up the Oceania spot and thus be able to take a female rider to the games," Clarke said.
In the men's field, racing has been fairly wide-open in cross country, with overall season general classification leader Andrew Blair the most consistent across the rounds, winning in Perth and placing third in Mt Buller.
Also racing will be former national champion and 2008 Olympian Dan McConnell, who hit form in Mt Buller to take the win, and perennially fast ACT local Dylan Cooper. Missing from action will be another ACT local, Ben Henderson, who has been out of racing since early November due to an illness picked up while racing internationally.
In addition to riders who have been performing well to date, the Stromlo round will mark the return of four-time cross country national champion and regular international racer Chris Jongewaard to the series. Jongewaard returns to racing after training over summer, and as always, he will be a massive favourite for any local race he enters.
For the women's cross country, it’s again Jenni King who has the form in 2011-2012, she's yet to be defeated in any discipline this season at a national level.
Rebecca Henderson will be one to watch with the 2011 Cycling Australia Elite Female Mountain Biker of the year owning an outstanding international season last year.
While she hadn't been back from international commitments long enough to race the Perth round, Henderson had a strong second place in Mt Buller, and will be expected to put in a great performance on her home track.
Point-to-point cross country
Point-to-point racing takes place on Sunday. Riders will complete 25 kilometres of Stromlo Forest Park trails. With legs still tired from the days before, this race becomes a test of endurance in many ways. Sunday's winner can come from riders who prefer the longer distances, or sometimes even from a rider who has his or her Saturday race cut short by mechanical issues and arrives with fresh legs for the point to point.
Canberra Off-Road Cyclists (CORC) will again be the hosts, and CORC is excited that the All Mountain Cup allows them to show riders the full scope of Stromlo Forest Park's trail network.
Heading to the park brings up memories of the 2008 World Cup and the 2009 world championships. ACT Territory Venues and Events have been hard at work preparing the trails for racing after rain damage over Christmas.
Super D action will take place on Friday at 4:00 pm. Cross country Olympic racing will happen on Saturday, with the elite women at 9:30 am and the elite men at noon. Sunday's point-to-point race will be a mass start at 9:00 am.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for coverage of the Mt Stromlo round of the All Mountain Cup.