Tasmanian mountain bike couple Rowena Fry and Ben Mather have teamed up this year to ride for Avanti Bikes.
Fry is taking a year away from European competition and returning her focus to a majority mountain bike racing program. She will concentrate primarily on the Australian domestic scene, racing cross country, marathons and stage races.
The six-time national champion, with titles in short track, cross country and marathon, is also a former Oceania champion and has won major events including the Highland Fling, Wildside MTB and Tour de Timor.
Fry has battled with health issues over the past two years but feels like they are now behind her. Last year, she had a busy schedule racing for the women's GreenEdge road team and competing at the cross country and eliminator World Cups. She scored a podium result in the latter.
Although Fry's cross country world ranking has dropped from the top 20, she is looking forward to a year at home before embarking on a campaign to compete at the Commonwealth Games in 2014.
"I have definitely under-performed the last couple of years. I'm happy I've finally been able to string together a solid pre-season. I'm feeling good and really looking forward to competing in all the great Australian races I've missed out on the last few years."
Mather is better known to the marathon scene and won the Australian marathon national championship in 2010. In 2011, he won the Convict 100 and finished runner-up in the Ottway Odyssey, the James Williamson Enduro and the Highland Fling. Also in that year, he finished second overall in the hotly contested National Marathon Series.
A major road race accident resulted in him breaking his collarbone and patella and put a damper on his 2012 season.
"It was a tough year. Every time I tried to increase my training load, I had knee problems. It was hard to watch the other guys racing, but has made me hungrier for success. This year I'm really looking forward to a solid marathon season and will be focusing on the national marathon champs in Atherton in April."
The couple has just finished hosting their own two-day mountain bike event: The Blue Dragon MTB Challenge.
"It's the perfect way to showcase our favourite riding area and allows us to be on the other side of the race tape for a change," said Mather. He capped off the event presentations with a surprise marriage proposal to Fry that sent the crowd into a wild cheer. She said yes.
Mather raced last weekend's Ottway Odyssey, finishing a creditable fifth on the tough 100km course. This weekend, the couple has travelled to Canberra to compete in the Australian mountain bike national championships hosted at Mt Stromlo. Fry finished third in the women's cross country and Mather was ninth in the men's race.
The pair will race 2013 Avanti Competitor hardtail 29ers.