24 hour Australian Championships head to Canberra

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, 2,400 riders will converge on Mt Stromlo Forest Park in Canberra this weekend for the 24 hour Australian Mountain Bike Championships. The largest 24 hour mountain bike race in the southern hemisphere will start at noon on Saturday, October 13 and wrap up on Sunday, October 14.

The two-day outdoor extravaganza, which revolves around a specially-designed "hourglass" course and is largely a participation event, is expected to attract more than 6,000 spectators who will cheer on the Olympic standard riders including Australia's leading male and female solo riders. The race starts with a Le-Mans style 300 metre run.

131 individual riders will be contesting the national title including champions Andrew Bell and James Williamson.

Bell will draw inspiration from his disappointing 24 hours of Adrenaline Solo World Championship just three weeks ago in California. The 32 year-old from Melbourne had to receive medical attention after 17 hours of racing in temperatures that reached 40 degrees Celsius during the race.

"I went there to podium," he said. "Even with a 19th overall it was really a disappointment for me." Recovery has been slow for Bell with short six hour rides causing aches and pains.

Bell will use this weekend's event to fine tune his fluid and food intake. "It's an ongoing experiment," he explained. "I plan to knock 10 to 20 percent off the effort and concentrate more on hydrating and on my food intake." However winning is not far from Bell's mind. "I can't help myself. I am there to compete," said Bell.

After placing second in last year's event to Canberra's Williamson, Bell put this event on his "must win" list. "If I miss this I don't get another solo race until December," he said. "For exposure it's a huge event."

Last year's solo winner Williamson has paired up with fellow Canberra rider Dylan Cooper and could use the advantage of knowing the course to secure the fastest lap of the race.

Also on hand will be a "dream team" of four including Athens Olympian Sid Taberlay, Brent Millar, 2006 24 Hour World Champion and current National Marathon Champion Craig Gordon and top-ranked Olympic cross country racer Perren Delacour. Chris Jongewaard (Adelaide) was expected to race but has decided to ride in the Sun Herald Tour. Taberlay and Jongewaard recently returned to Australia after racing World Cups, the World Championships and the Olympic test event in Beijing.

The battle for fastest team could also come from the Pro Team with four Canberra riders Scott Chancellor, Angus Harding and Ben Mather along with junior Australian representative, Nathan Haas.

German rider, Alexandra Kiendl is expected to dominate the women's solo race while riders like Coffs Harbour's Justine Leahy are aiming to podium. The fastest women's lap could see a tough tussle between Canberra's team riders Niki Fisher and youngster Rebecca Henderson. National Marathon champion, Rowena Fry could also challenge.

A total prize pool of AUS$125,000 is up for grabs, making it the richest race in Australia. The top elite team will take home $5,000 while each man and woman who logs the fastest lap will take home $4,000 each.

The Mt Stromlo venue will also host a round of the 2008 World Cup and the 2009 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships.

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