With just over a week to go until the 2011 Australian Mountain Bike Championships, the UCI's World number-one ranked rider Jared Graves is geared up to tackle the brand new, purpose-built four cross track at Eagle Park in Adelaide.
In his first appearance for the domestic season, the Queenslander will take to the start line of the highly contested elite men's four cross race on Thursday, February 24, holding high hopes of taking out the national title.
A seasoned rider, the 28-year-old is no stranger on the world stage having represented Australia in BMX, downhill and his primary discipline, four cross.
2009 marked a hugely celebrated year for Graves who became four cross World Cup champion before going on to win the UCI mountain bike four cross world championships on home soil in Canberra.
Graves said he is determined to snatch back the rainbow stripes after narrowly missing gold at the 2010 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships to Czech rider, Tomas Slavik.
"I have been working closely with my coach and training hard for the nationals," Graves said. "If I were to win, I would be a step closer to claiming back the world title at the championships later this year."
"I am feeling confident and hope to be up there with some of the fastest riders as the race progresses into its final stages."
Graves is well aware of the stiff competition he will face with some of Australia's most skilled elite riders including Graeme Mudd, current national series leader and state champion Blake Nielsen, Richard Levinson, Ryan Hunt and Ryan Chesney amongst the confirmed line up.
Although three-time national champion, Luke Madill recently suffered a minor hip injury during a training session, he is in fine form and will prove Grave's biggest rival. It is expected to be a tightly fought contest, and Graves knows he will need to start strong to keep the opposition well out of sight.
"Madill is definitely the one to beat this year after the success he has had over the past few years."
"Experience really counts here and Madill is certainly one of the most experienced riders out there."
"I think it will come down to who is best on the day and I hope I have what it takes to cross the finish line in first position."
In the elite women's category, four cross world champion, Caroline Buchanan will not be competing due to overseas commitments, leaving 2010 national championships bronze medalist, local rider Emily Hockey and Jayne Rutter with a good chance at securing their first national title.
The 2011 Australian Mountain Bike Championships will be held from February 22 to 26.
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