The fourth and final round of the 2010-2011 Australian Mountain Bike Series is set to make for an enthralling showdown as the nation's top elite mountain bike riders converge on Greater Shepparton this weekend to contest the national series title. The series finale will take place in conjunction with the 2011 UCI Oceania Mountain Bike Championships from Thursday, March 18 to Sunday, March 20.
Featuring four formats - cross country, four cross and the downhill, riders will take to the challenging terrain at Mount Major while the short track will be held in Shepparton.
Competition will be fierce as Australia's best take on a contingent of international visitors from the Oceania region including a strong New Zealand presence.
One of the nation's best prospects for London 2012, five-time Australian national champion and current national series leader Chris Jongewaard will be looking to achieve a dual 2011 national series and Oceania championships title to cap off a successful return to mountain biking.
Throughout the series, the South Australian celebrated wins in rounds two and three of the national series as well as the Otway Odyssey Mountain Bike Marathon before taking out his fifth title at the 2011 Australian Mountain Bike Championships in Adelaide last month.
Having set the benchmark, Jongewaard, 32, will need to stand strong in the elite men's cross country taking place on Friday, March 18. Queenslander Aiden Lefmann, who is trailing by just 22 points in the current national series standings, will prove Jongewaard's biggest threat and the pair are expected to put on a great contest. He'll also battle New Zealand's Dirk Peters and Carl Jones.
Tasmania's reigning national series champion Rowena Fry has a point to prove as she lines up for the elite women's cross country event. After dominating the national series with wins in rounds two and three, things didn't go quite according to plan for the 27-year-old at the National Championships in Adelaide last month, after she fell off the pace in the first lap and finished a disappointing ninth position.
Fry is currently placed second in the overall series rankings, just two points behind series leader, Jenni King. In what will be a tightly fought contest between the two, the national series title will come down to who posts the best performance on the day. Expect New Zealand's Rosara Joseph to give both a run for the victory.
Fellow Victorian Katherine O'Shea took a huge step up last month when she claimed her first national title. Currently ranked in third position, O'Shea will put the pressure on and be looking to take advantage of any mishaps throughout the race.
In the Under 23 category, Canberra rider Rebecca Henderson remains unbeaten and Victorian Paul Van Der Ploeg is expected to start strong as the current national series leaders.
The crowd will be treated to a fine display of contest in the men's four cross event on Friday as the top three series leaders, Blake Nielsen, Richard Levinson and Ryan Hunt battle it out for the title.
The third of the feature events, the downhill will be staged on Sunday, March 20.
In the men's elite race, New Zealand's best riders, including Cameron Cole, will be competing for the Oceania title along with a strong Australian presence led by current national series leader Rick Boyer who is followed closely by Rhys Atkinson in the current series rankings. Timothy Eaton remains in third ranking.
Boyer's credentials throughout the series consist of wins in Glenorchy and Mt Baw Baw while claiming fourth position at Buller. A win for Boyer would allow him to claim both the national series and Oceania Championships title.
In the women's downhill, Maffra rider Leonie Picton, who remains undefeated in the national series, hopes to continue her winning streak with her first national series title.
Picton is expected to put up a tough contest in pursuit of the national crown but is up against tough rivalry from fellow Australian Julia Boer, who is ranked second in the national series standings.
The best of the Australian squad in the under 19 category is young gun Troy Brosnan who has shown promising form throughout the Australian domestic competition.
Ranked number one in the overall national series standings, Brosnan will have to fend off fellow rivals currently occupying second and third position in the rankings, Brandon Yrttiaho and Connor Fearon to claim the national series crown.
The ongoing battle between the Brosnan and Fearon parties has been enticing throughout the series. Brosnan snatched the men's under 19 win away from Fearon by less than a second at the Mt Buller meet last month while Fearon fought back posting a surprise victory over the junior world champion at the 2011 Australian Mountain Bike Championships in Adelaide.