After the Oceania Cycling Federation announced last year that teams outside the Federation would be eligible to race at the event being held weeks before the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, a healthy turnout of riders is expected in the Sulphur City (Rotorua) Oceania Championships March 3-5.
BikeNZ marketing manager Ted Jones said the relaxing of the rule also added momentum to preparations for the 2006 UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships to be held in Rotorua in August next year.
Jones, who was part of a 13-strong official New Zealand delegation that attended last year's world mountain bike championships in Italy in a bid to promote both Rotorua events as well as observe best operational practices, said he was "pleasantly surprised" at the interest from a variety of team managers.
"There's a lot of interest to come out here," Jones said. "Countries such as South Africa, the United States and a number of European teams have all shown an interest to use the Oceania as an opportunity to test the course ahead of the World's while there will be a huge incentive for teams from top Commonwealth cycling countries like Canada and the four British nations to enter their cross-country teams."
Australia is set to send its biggest international team yet. The French mountain bike team had expressed an interest in travelling to Rotorua to test the course.
"For New Zealand riders it's a great opportunity to compete against the best in the world and be in contention for national series titles, while for non-Oceania riders it's a great opportunity to test the world's course...bring it on."
The 2006 Oceania Mountain bike Championships, which double as the final round of the New Zealand National Series, will be held on Mt Ngongotaha March 3-5.