Australian mountain bike series heads to Mt. Baw Baw

Downhill talent travels to revered Victorian venue

Australia's top downhill riders will tackle the challenging terrain of Mt. Baw Baw this weekend in the second round of the 2010-11 Jayco Australian Mountain Bike Series.

Up to 300 downhill riders are expected to compete on January 15-16, including Adelaide young gun Troy Brosnan, who was crowned junior world champion in Canada last year.

In the opening downhill round held in Hobart in December, Newcastle rider Rick Boyer broke through to claim the first national series win of his 10-year career.

The 29-year-old Boyer will return to defend his victory on Sunday afternoon in the elite men's final and is expected to face strong opposition from Rhys Atkinson and Kaine Cannan.

Competing on her home track, Leonie Picton from Maffra will start as favourite in the elite women's category after taking out the opening downhill round in Hobart, but emerging talent and Hobart runner up Holly Baarspul has other ideas.

"Leonie is my biggest threat, I have to try and knock her off if I can," said Baarspul. "I'm looking forward to Mt. Baw Baw this weekend actually, it's a bit wet but it should be good. I haven't raced there, but I rode there last year and it's a fun track.

"There are not too many technical sections, but we will just need to hold our speed, and because of the rain it's going to be tricky trying to go fast down some of the fast fire roads and around the corners."

The 18-year-old Baarspul from Perth is one of the hottest young prospects in mountain biking, not just within Australia but on the world stage.

Despite being troubled by broken fingers, Baarspul narrowly missed out on a spot on the podium at the world championships in Canada last September, placing fourth.

She competed as a junior back then, but 2011 is whole different story. Having made the transition into the senior elite ranks, Baarspul is thriving on the new challenges and opportunities.

"I'm enjoying being up with the elite girls. It's good, I've got a lot more competition and I'm a lot closer to the skill level," said Baarspul.

"I've been working on lots of cardio in training as I really needed to improve my fitness. Lots of road and cross country riding and also gym work too. I really want to go to Worlds this year but it will depend on my funding."

As for the remainder of the national series, Baarspul is eyeing the top ranking at the end of the domestic season.

"Of course ideally I'd love to win the national series. I'm looking forward to staying up there on the podium as much as I can but the first step is where I want to be. I'm pushing as hard as I can, but any result in the top five on the overall standings in my first elite year would be great."

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage the Mt. Baw Baw round of the Australian mountain bike national series.

Note: A free kids' skills clinic will be held Friday, January 14 from midday at Mt Baw Baw Alpine Resort. The clinic is a chance for kids aged between eight and 16 and of all levels to get out there and learn new cross country skills on world class terrain.  Bike and helmet are the only required gear.

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