Australia's Commonwealth Games mountain bike riders will have their final Australian race at Mt Buller this weekend (February 18 and 19) in the fourth and final race in the National Series. Five members of the Australian Cross Country team will line up on Saturday in one of the highest quality cross country fields to grace the slopes. The Commonwealth Games team will use the tough Mt Buller circuit as preparation for the Oceania Championships in Rotorua on March 3 - 5.
After winning on the Commonwealth Games course in December, both Chris Jongewaard (Adelaide) and Claire Baxter (Melbourne) confirmed their spots on the team. The second Games spots were secured by Sid Taberlay (Hobart) and Dellys Franke (Melbourne) after they took out the National Championships at Mt Beauty in January. Emma Colson (Melbourne) and Josh Fleming (Sydney) were the best ranked Australians, and they secured the final third places when selectors named the six rider team on February 3. Athens Olympian, Josh Fleming will be the only team member not in attendance at Mt Buller or the Oceania race, instead preferring to do his training in and around Sydney to prepare for the Commonwealth Games.
After Mt Buller, the other team riders head off to Rotorua to race against their New Zealand opponents and other riders wishing to check out the course which will also be the same for the World Championships in August this year. The team then returns home in time for the Commonwealth Games Cross Country race on Thursday, March 23.
Emma Colson was slightly emotional on hearing the announcement of her Games spot. "It was because it was the culmination of all those years of effort," said Colson after setting her sights on the Games back in October 2004. Leading the elite women's series by 68 points, Colson is looking to securing her second consecutive National Series title. "I'm looking forward to putting a score on the board for the national series." Colson is hoping to turn the tables on the misfortune in her last race at Mt Buller. "Last year at Oceania's (Championships) three of us took a wrong turn, hopefully we won't do that this time," she said.
Elite men's series leader Chris Jongewaard is not expected to lose his commanding 86 point lead, however, Athens Olympian Sid Taberlay has done his maths and wants to take second in the series. "I just want to beat Murray (Spink); he's only four points in front of me at the moment," he said. The experienced Taberlay could be difficult for Spink to outride, however, Taberlay has never ridden the challenging Mt Buller loop before. "I've always been overseas," he stated.
The elite women's race starts at 11.30 am while the elite men's race starts at 11.00 am. Downhill practice continues on Saturday with racing starting at 1pm on Sunday.