Downhillers prepare for next Oz MTB series

World champion silver medalists Sabrina Jonnier and Sam Hill have stepped up their training a notch in preparation for Round 2 of the National Mountain Bike Series Downhill at Nannup, Western Australia, this Sunday. 20 year-old Hill, from Glen Forest in Perth, has shown 24 year-old Jonnier from Hyeres, in southern France some of the training locations in and around Perth. "We just did our first cross country ride since world's," said Hill yesterday.

Jonnier has tried to relax after a busy season where she won the prestigious World Cup series. "I have just started easy training. After January it becomes more important," explained the young Frenchwoman, who will ride mainly in America next year. "I'm running and riding cross country and am also riding a small motor bike to work on my technique," she said.

Having started in BMX, and with that discipline being in the Beijing Olympics, Jonnier could have an opportunity to represent France if she does the qualifying races. Jonnier, however, dismissed the possibility: "I like downhill too much to go back to BMX."

After just missing out on a gold medal at the world championships to fellow countrywoman Anne-Caroline Chausson, Jonnier is determined to win next year. "I had a good run of 4.37 minutes but with a few mistakes," she said, adding, "I want to win the world's." The last time Jonnier won the world championships was as a junior in 1999.

Hill has similar aspirations to Jonnier after taking a bronze medal at the world championships in 2004 and narrowly missing gold this year to Frenchman Fabien Barel. He'll face junior world champion, Amiel Cavalier from Wollongong, who has recovered from a leg injury sustained in the first round in Tasmania last month. Close competition is also expected from Canberra's Jared Rando, who had the second fastest time to Hill in round one of the national series, which Hill currently leads. Perth-based downhiller Miikael Kinnunen is also expected to make an impression on the top placings.

Downhill riders start practice sessions on Thursday afternoon, with the track open for practice until qualification runs start at 10.30am on Sunday. Final runs for the under 19's, elite men and women will start at 2.30 pm. Cross country practice begins Thursday afternoon and Friday, with racing starting at 11.30am and the elite men starting at 3.45pm.

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