New Zealand National Championships kick off Friday

Nation's best mountain bikers head to Wellington

The New Zealand Mountain Bike National Championships are on for this weekend in Wellington on the North Island. Titles in six disciplines are up for grabs.

New Zealand's top athletes are expected to compete for championships and New Zealand ranking points in the following disciplines: dual slalom, four cross, cross country, downhill, short track and hill climb disciplines.

As added incentive again this year, the under 19, junior and elite / under 23 category winners in four cross, cross country and downhill disciplines will gain automatic selection to the New Zealand Mountain Bike Team for the 2010 World Championships.

The race programme, beginning on Friday, will kick off the 25-year New Zealand Mountain Bike Festival which runs until next Saturday, March 6 when the 25th edition of the Karapoti Classic will run, combined this year with the 2010 marathon National Championships.

In between the various championships, there will be a week filled with fun events and social gatherings celebrating the sport of mountain biking in New Zealand.

World BMX Champion and 2008 Olympian Sarah Walker will add to the mix of competitors. Kawerau's Walker will compete in the Friday evening four cross feature, and also in the downhill event, which will mark a departure from her steady diet of BMX circuit racing around the world.

Walker will join her brother Matt who specialises in both downhill and four cross disciplines. Matt is also a current New Zealand four cross national team representative. The Walker siblings will enjoy some rare time together in the sport for a change, and it will be interesting to see how the elite women's racing unfolds with an athlete of Sarah's calibre injected into the mix.

Dual slalom and four cross racing will start the action on Friday at Mt. Albert in Wellington. On Saturday.the cross country events will run on Mt. Victoria. Sunday will bring downhill racing and short track racing to Long Gulley, Brooklyn, and finally, a hill climb up Mt. Victoria will wrap things up on Monday for the long weekend. The action concludes the following Saturday with the Karapoti Classic serving as the marathon national championships.

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