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Michael Hannah (GT Bicycles)
Downhiller looks forward to Sunday's point-to-point cross country race
Barely a week until the UCI World Mountain Bike Championships at Mount Stromlo in Canberra, Mick Hannah has been enjoying the most relaxed preparation imaginable, playing the role of tourist guide for his Team GT Teammates in Australia's Tropical North.
Together with American team manager Steve Spencer, Belgian mechanic Mark Maurissen and UCI mountain bike photographer Gary Perkin, Australian downhill national champion Hannah will cap off a week in Australia's adventure holiday playground, by fronting up for the legendary Triple RRR Classic point-to-point cross-country race from Mount Molloy to Port Douglas on Sunday.
"The Triple RRR is one of the better races anywhere in the world," Hannah said of his home event that starts in the rural outback, descends through World Heritage rainforest and finishes on palm-fringed Four Mile Beach.
"The atmosphere is normally pretty relaxed, with a few guys going crazy at the front of the race. It'll be great fun."
Mixed in with a training program that has included downhill runs and cross country laps at the Cairns Mountain Bike Club's Smithfield headquarters, Hannah has been showing his mates a good time locally, with a snorkelling trip to the Great Barrier Reef and a spear fishing expedition to the coastal islands.
"I shot at a lot of fish, but had no luck," said Hannah, who is ranked fifth on the UCI World Cup downhill circuit.
Maurissen, who has been fine tuning Hannah's downhill bike in preparation for the World's assault, has also been enjoying every minute, despite missing out on a promised dinner of gourmet coral trout.
"It's been pretty cool and I can't wait for Sunday," Maurissen said.
Entries sold out last week for Australia's oldest point-to-point cross country mountainbike race, which, in its 19th year, has attracted a record field - capped at 300 cyclists. The list of contenders includes four-time champion David Wood, who will use the race to mark a return to full-time training.
"Looking forward to an excellent track, the biggest field ever, for the most fun race on the calendar," Wood said.
Two-time women's champion Abby McLennan is the race favorite after a late withdrawal by the talented teenager Gillian Burgess, who's been called to an Australian team camp ahead of the World Championships.
"The Crocodile Trophy is still my main goal, McLennan said. "If I can get three in a row at the Triple RRR, it'll be a bonus."
The major prize for 2009 will be a random entry to Australia's Crocodile Trophy mountain bike stage race.
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