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Aussie National MTB series kicks off in Hobart this weekend

Tasmania gets to test out its state of the art Mountain Bike Park at the end of this month. Glenorchy Mountian Bike Park just north of Hobart, will be christened with the first ever full Round of the National Series to be held in Tasmania. Hobart Dirt Devils, the local club, will host three very different disciplines all in close proximity to each other.

Up first is Olympic Cross Country, where riders complete laps of a technical and fast 6km loop. One of the fastest growing sports, Downhill, will have well-armoured riders testing their descending skills through some tricky and technical terrain. Glenorchy also boasts the biggest and best Mountain Cross course in Australia and riders from overseas are expected to line up their mountain bikes for this exhilarating mix of Supercross and BMX racing.

Event co-ordinator, Luke Chiu, says, “This is a unique venue because it is only 15 minutes out of Hobart. We're really hoping that a lot of local Tasmanians will get out there and race and come along to watch.”

In Saturday's cross country, Olympic Mountain Biker Sid Taberlay will begin his preparation for selection in the Commonwealth Games. After competing in World Cup races and at the World Championships in 2005, Taberlay says he is content to race in his backyard. “After racing overseas all last season, I'm looking forward to racing a National event in my home state,” he said. Taberlay also says he feels confident of a spot as one of the three riders in Australia 's Commonwealth Games Team. According to Australia 's Cross Country Mountain Bike coach, Damien Grundy, Taberlay has got the performances in 2005 which would make a strong case for his selection in the team. Grundy said, “Sid certainly is the most experienced of the senior riders. He is the best performed on the key indicator races which are the World Cup events.”

National Cross Country Champion, Chris Jongewaard from South Australia, will also be looking for a top finish in Tasmania. Jongewaard was nominated for the Athens Olympic squad and is keen to prove he is on form for a spot on the Commonwealth Games team. If he finishes with top placings in the National Series events prior, he will secure a pole position on the start line for the first Commonwealth Games selection race in Melbourne in December. Jongewaard has just returned to form, winning the Top End Tour road race in Darwin and more recently a placing third in the final stage of the Herald Sun Tour .

Last year's National Series winner, Dylan Cooper from Canberra, will defend his crown, whilst youngster, Lachlan Norris from Castlemaine, Victoria will ride his debut in the Under 23 division and race alongside the elite men. Norris is out to prove his mechanical mishap at the World Championship robbed him of a top spot.

National Women's Cross Country Champion, Emma Colson, from Melbourne, returns to the sport after a collision with a motorbike injured her knee just one week before the World Championships in Italy in September. Colson is eager to assert her dominance on the National Series. “I've lost a lot of confidence since the injury,” she said. “I really need race experience but I will still be racing to win.”

The absence of Olympic rider, Lisa Mathison from Queensland could leave the door open for any of the elite women to medal.

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