Under 23 Australian cross country champion Lachlan Norris is stepping up to the elite ranks this year, and he's making no secret of his ambitions for this coming Saturday, when he and others will contest the Australian national cross country championships at Eagle Mountain Bike Park in Adelaide.
"Winning the elite national title is something I've always wanted to do, and I think this year, compared to the last few, I'm in a much better position to do so," the 22-year-old Lachlan said.
"In other years, there's always been a standout favourite, but that's not the case this time around. I think I'm a lot stronger but others have improved as well, so the overall level is higher and it's a really tight field."
"Sid Taberlay is always dangerous and has had some good results recently. But I think the one to beat will be Daniel McConnell, and you can never underestimate Adrian Jackson who is really strong."
After finishing 11th at the World Championships last year in Canberra in the Under 23 category, he is hoping to make the Australian team for the elite race in 2010 and says the Australian championships will play an important role in achieving that objective.
However, like many mountain bikers, particularly after the recent funding cuts to the high performance program, Norris is juggling his mountain bike ambitions with a heavy program of road racing.
"My road program will match in pretty well with my mountain bike commitments, and the two complement each other," he said after finishing a solid seventh in the criterium at Australian Road Championships last week.
"But my heart is on the dirt. And like plenty of other mountain bikers, I'm motivated by the funding cuts as we all think we're as good as the athletes on any cycling program and we're out to prove a point this year."