New Zealand will be well represented at this weekend's Oceania Mountain Bike Championships in Australia where Karen Hanlen will take up a battle of the Olympians in Tasmania. The defending Oceania champion will clash with leading Australian rider Rebecca Henderson in the cross country race on Saturday. They last raced each other in London where both made their Olympic debuts.
Hanlen, who won the title impressively in Rotorua last year, will be the clear favourite with Henderson and former national and Oceania champion Rowena Fry likely to be the major Australian opposition.
Another New Zealander, Samara Sheppard, who will ride for the new Toko Print UCI trade team in Europe this year, is moving up to the elite division for the first time after winning a World Cup round in the under 23 class last year.
Whakatane's Carl Jones is the sole Kiwi hope in the elite men's division, with the 2011 national champion building up in New Zealand this year before mounting his long term challenge for a place at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
He was second in the Mountain Bike Cup series over the summer and will take on Olympian Daniel McConnell and the current champion, the experienced Chris Jongewaard who will lead the Australian charge.
Junior world champion Anton Cooper is back from his camp with the new Cannondale Racing Team to compete in Tasmania, and while riding in the under 23 division, he will likely be the marker for the elite men's field.
New Zealand's Dirk Peters, who pushed Cooper to the line at the national championships, will also look for a strong finish in the under 23 division.
The cross country races will be on Saturday at a new course at Tolosa Park, with a big 5km lap. The downhill will be at Glenorchy Mountain Bike Park, which is close to Hobart.
New Zealand team for 2013 Oceania Mountain Bike Championships
Elite women: Karen Hanlen, Samara Sheppard
Elite men: Carl Jones
Under 23 men: Dirk Peters, Brad Hudson, Anton Cooper, Sam Shaw, Josh Parkin
Under 19 men: Ben Oliver, Craig Oliver, Brett Stokman, Samuel Gaze
Under 19 women: Samantha Hope, Amber Johnston
Under 17 men: Nathan Johnston
Under 17 women: Shannon Hope
Under 15 men: Eden Cruise.
Elite men: Tom Matthews
Under 19 men: Michael Kammlein-Cutler, Thomas Lockwood.
Men: Alex Young
Women: Harriet Beaven