A major challenge for the 2011 Australian Mountain Bike Marathon Championship jersey awaits defending champion, Ben Mather as he takes on some of the nation's best endurance riders at the Mt Joyce Escape Mountain Bike Park in Queensland this Sunday April 17.
The Tasmanian rider will be among more than 750 competitors set to take on some of the most demanding climbs and unforgiving trails at the 80km course - the Marathon Championships being the first event to showcase the new venue.
Mather, 29, spearheaded the charge to win the hotly-contested 2010 Nemisis Australian Mountain Bike Marathon Championships in Avoca, Victoria last April. Mather made a bold move to go out hard securing an extended lead on the field in the early stages of the race which he held to the finish line.
Mather holds high hopes that he has what it takes to take out his second consecutive Australian Marathon Championships title while battling tough rivalry on the new and unfamiliar terrain.
"The new course itself is a little unknown and I'm not too sure what to expect. The combination of the poor weather conditions forecast and the unfamiliar terrain could prove very challenging for myself and the other riders - it will be interesting to see how it plays out," he said.
"In terms of my fitness, I am feeling good. I wouldn't say that I am in peak form but I think I've got a good chance at being on the leaders' board in the final stages."
"It would be nice to take out the title once again but being realistic, there is a strong field going into the race and I know they will be tough to beat."
"Peter Hatton in particular is riding very well and is in exceptional form coming off the back of a good performance in the Cape Epic Africa Mountain Bike race. Dylan Cooper is another favourite to beat and I know those boys will contest with very good form in their legs."
Mather will face strong opposition in the elite men's event from the likes of 2010/11 Jayco Australian Mountain Bike Series silver medallist Aiden Lefmann (QLD), 2010 Nemisis Australian Mountain Bike Marathon runner up Peter Hatton (NSW), Dylan Cooper (ACT) and Neil Van Der Ploeg (Tawonga).
In the open women's event, 2010 Nemisis Australian Mountain Bike Marathon champion Heather Logie (ACT) won't be returning to defend her title leaving an open field of prospects seeking victory.
The Canberra rider is taking a short break from the bike and will return to competition later in the year when in optimal form.
Therefore, it's anyone's race with 2010/11 Jayco Australian Mountain Bike Series runner up, Jenni King (Ringwood) Terri Rhodes (SA) and Niki Fisher (Ivanhoe) amongst the mix of top contenders to take home the jersey.
Regardless of the victor, with a challenging course and a red-hot field across all events, the 2011 Australian Mountain Bike Marathon Championship is sure to make for an enthralling showcase of competition amongst Australia's elite.