New Zealand Mountain Bike Cup kicks off in Christchurch this weekend

Pedemenaud, Joseph and others to test legs in downhill, cross country

The RaboPlus 2010 New Zealand Mountain Bike Cup launches this weekend in Christchurch. The six-event national series for cross country and downhill disciplines, will take competitors all over the North and South Islands of New Zealand in January and February, culminating in the RaboPlus Mountain Bike National Championships at the end of February in Wellington.

Christchurch is proudly hosting the first round of the 2010 Cup this weekend at a new venue on the national mountain bike circuit. The Living Springs Farm Park in Governors Bay will be the event base for the downhill race on Saturday, and the gruelling cross country race on Sunday.

Christchurch is also hosting the RaboPlus National Elite Road Cycling Championships this weekend, in what will be an amazing weekend of national level competitive cycling for the city.

Saturday's downhill event has attracted a number of New Zealand's best gravity racers, with Dunedin's Justin Leov featuring. Leov, formerly of Christchurch, is a world ranked top 10 athlete. Leov will square off against several other current New Zealand National Mountain Bike Team members as well as a number of international visitors.

Frenchman Fabien Pedemenaud has raced previously in New Zealand, and is returning again in 2010 to maintain a high level of off season racing fitness before the 2010 World Cups start in May.

Current downhill junior World Champion Brook MacDonald has moved up into the elite category this year. Another Hawkes Bay charger, George Brannigan will be racing his first year in elite this summer and while still a junior, Brannigan is eager to kick on following his 2009 top 10 junior World Championship finish.

The cross country race on Sunday also features several current New Zealand National Team athletes racing their first competitive national level event. Brendon Sharratt of Christchurch returns to his home turf with a new sponsor and renewed enthuisiasm and will be hard to beat in the 40km elite men's race, which will cover six laps. Olympian Rosara Joseph, also of Christchurch is expected to make a surprise appearance on the mountain bike this Sunday, after illness ruined her international racing season in 2009.

Downhill practice at Living Springs, Governors Bay will run from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on Friday, with seeding and racing taking place on Saturday at 10:30 am.

Cross country racing at the same venue kicks off with age group racing at 10:30 am on Sunday. Elite, Under 23 and Under 19 racers begin at 2:00 pm.

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