The Real Insurance XCM Series will kick off in a few days with round 1 of the six-race series at the Wombat 100 in Woodend, Victoria on April 22.
The Wombat 100 will be the first ever event in the XCM series to take place outside of NSW/ACT, and entries have been flowing in at a rapid rate for the first round of the Australian mountain bike race series.
The Wombat will serve as the entree in what will be an intense first month of the 2012 Real Insurance XCM Series. Riders looking for maximum points, or maximum challenge, will back up the following Saturday for the Capital Punishment in Canberra (April 28), then again on the following weekend for the Convict 100 in Sydney (May 5). Three very different races in three weeks, in three states.
A peak of form over the next three weeks could propel a well prepared rider into the three remaining races of the series with a big advantage, but it won't be as simple as that. Only a complete mountain biker will be able to take full advantage of this concentrated three-race block. The Wombat 100 has a deceiving amount if climbing, but the eventual winner will be the most fluid rider over the smooth and twisting singletrack of Womabt State Forest.
Riders with maximum power are best suited to the terrain of the Capital Punishment, which features the least climbing of the first three races and plenty of open trails and paddocks for high speed riding in the big ring.
The Convict 100 also suits a powerful rider as there is little pure singletrack, but the brutally rough and technical nature of the Old Convict Road section of the course can split the field apart in only a handful of kilometres and technically confident riders will have a clear advantage.
The elite men's field for the Wombat features the typically strong Rockstar Racing team of defending Real Insurance XCM Series champion Dylan Cooper. Cooper will be supported (rivalled?) by teammate Shaun Lewis. Other big names returning from last year's series include Andy Blair as well as Ben Mather from Tasmania. The Subaru-MarathonMTB.com team has a solid line up with Nick Both, Graeme Arnott and Tate Dogan. Perhaps the most noteworthy feature will be the contingent of XCM Series newcomers, led by Andy Fellows and Adrian Jackson, two of the biggest names in Australian marathon racing. Blair will travel all the way from the Sunshine Coast just to score cross country points, and AJ needs no introduction as one of the hardest and strongest riders around.
As strong as the men's field is, the women's field is truly stacked. Defending series champion Jenny Fay will have to fight to the death to defend her purple leader's jersey from 2011. Fay was almost untouchable in 2011, but the quality of the Wombat field is as good as it gets. She will line up alongside Becky Mates, Jessica Douglas, Peta Mullens, Claire Stevens and Tory Thomas to name just a few of her well-credentialed rivals. It's a field worthy of an Australian National Championship race.
The second leg of the series and final three events will be the Stevens Bikes Husky 100 (June 30), Wollombi Wild Ride (September 1) and the final at the Briars Highland Fling (November 11).
Over 7,000 participants are expected to partake in the six events, with their three best results converted in a ranking.
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