Oceania Championship and Australian National Series titles up for grabs

Five races to watch this weekend in Shepparton

The fourth and final round of the 2010-2011 Australian Mountain Bike Series is set to kick off Friday as some of the nation’s best elite mountain bike riders arrive in Shepparton to contest the national series title.

In what will be a massive weekend of top-class cycling through Sunday, March 20, the series finale will take place in conjunction with the 2011 UCI Oceania Mountain Bike Championships.

Competition will be fierce as Australia's best take on a contingent of international visitors from the Oceania region including a strong New Zealand presence.

Elite women's cross country

Tasmania's reigning national series champion Rowena Fry has a point to prove as she lines up for the elite women's cross country event on Friday. After dominating the national series, things didn't go quite according to plan for the 27-year-old at the National Championships in Adelaide last month after finishing a disappointing ninth position.

Fry is currently placed second in the overall series rankings, just two points behind series leader, Jenni King (Ringwood).

With 80 points up for grabs for a first place finish, either of the two could claim the national series title. In what will be tightly fought contest, it will come down to who posts the best performance on the day.

Fellow Victorian Katherine O'Shea took a huge step up last month when she claimed her first national title. Currently ranked third in the overall series standings, O'Shea will be looking to put the pressure on and take advantage of any mishaps throughout the race.

Representing New Zealand in the Oceania Championships, Fiona Macdermid is also expected to put down a strong performance.

Elite men's cross country

One of the nation's best prospects for London 2012, five-time national champion and current national series leader, Chris Jongewaard will be looking to achieve a dual 2011 national series and Oceania championships title to cap off a successful return to mountain biking.

Starting as strong favourite on Friday, the current series leader will need to stand strong against fellow competitors including tough rival Aiden Lefmann. With just 22 points separating the pair, they are expected to put on a great contest in front of the crowd.

Entering the final leg of the series on a total of 160 points, Jongwaard, 32, will need to place in the top two to claim victory.

2011 New Zealand cross country champion Carl Jones will be amongst the mix in pursuit of the Oceania Championships title. It will be an enticing race to see the two champions go head to head and battle it out in the name of their countries.

Elite men's four cross

The crowd will be treated to a fine display of contest in the men's four cross event on Friday as top three series leaders, Blake Nielsen, Richard Levinson and Ryan Hunt battle it out for the title.

With less than 25 points separating the trio, it will be a thrilling race. Nielsen will start as favourite, 15 points ahead of Levinson. However, should Levinson take out the race, it will be an eighty point tie and the two would share the series title.

The Aussies will be highly contested by four prominent New Zealand riders - four cross champions Matt Walker, Kieran Bennett and Daniel Franks.

Elite men's and women's downhill

In the men's elite race, New Zealand's best riders will be competing for the Oceania title along with a strong Australian presence led by current national series leader Rick Boyer with 208 points, followed closely by Rhys Atkinson with 185 points in the current national series rankings.

A win for Boyer would allow him to claim both the national series and Oceania Championships title.

However, on Sunday, he will have to beat New Zealand’s fastest downhill rider Cameron Cole who is regarded highly in the field and is capable of putting down the perfect run to take out the Oceania Championships title.

Boyer will need to be the first of the Australian squad to cross the finish line in the top two, to cement the national title.

In the women's downhill, Maffra rider Leonie Picton who remains undefeated in the national series hopes to continue her winning streak with her first series title. The series title hopeful is relying on a top three finish to claim victory.

Picton is expected to put up a tough contest in pursuit of the national crown but is up against tough rivalry from fellow Australian Julia Boer, who is ranked second in the national series standings.

Under 19 men's downhill

The best of the Australian squad in the under 19 category is young gun Troy Brosnan who has shown promising form throughout the Australian domestic competition.

Ranked number one in the overall national series standings, Brosnan will have to fend off fellow rivals currently occupying second and third rankings, Brandon Yrttiaho and Connor Fearon to claim the national series crown.

Brosnan is expected to place in the top three on Sunday which would see him take out the national title.

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