Wintry World's gets started with sheep trial!

The 2006 Mountain Bike World Championships will get underway in Rotorua, New Zealand on the...

The 2006 Mountain Bike World Championships will get underway in Rotorua, New Zealand on the afternoon of August 22 with the Team Relay. Teams from over 35 countries have registered for the world championships, with 12 scheduled for the Team Relay.

It is the end of winter in New Zealand, so the weather is still on the chilly side, with regular downpours sweeping through the area. The south island had snow scheduled for today, so a little rain doesn't seem too bad on reflection!

Rotorua, close to the eastern coast of the north island, and two and a half hours south of Auckland, is known for its sulphur hot springs, and the scent of sulphur and clouds of steam are pervasive in the town, along the south shore of Lake Rotorua.

The world championships themselves are just north of the city, on the slopes of Mount Ngongotaha - literally, "To drink from a calabash". A calabash is a fruit similar to a gourd, and the Maori legend is that the explorer Ihenga ascended the mountain and met a fairy woman. The woman gave him a drink from her calabash.

The organization has purpose built most of the cross-country and downhill courses, trying to take advantage of the natural terrain while doing as little damage as possible to the ecosystem. The 5.9 kilometre cross -country begins with a long switchback climb to the highest point of the course. The climb is wide enough for much of its length that passing shouldn't be a problem.

Click here for the full preview, schedule & results, map, and past winners.

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