Liam Killeen (Giant Factory Off Road Team) will be among the home nation's favorites racing in the cross country UCI World Cup in Dalby Forest, Yorkshire, in the United Kingdom on May 22.
The current British cross country national champion missed the Dalby round of the British Cross Country Series earlier this spring because he was already in South Africa preparing for the first World Cup in Pietermaritzburg. There, Killeen put in a solid performance that bodes well for this weekend.
"In Pietermaritzburg, I was gridded 50th (at the start) and managed to finish 27th, which was ok for the first major race of the season," said Killeen to Cyclingnews. "That gives me a better start situation for Dalby, and every position helps." He will be gridded in the fourth row.
"A top 15 finish would be good, but I'm aiming for a top 10," said 27-year-old Killeen.
"The course is good at Dalby. It's got a little bit of everything," said Killeen. "They shortened it slightly - to 6km - and there is a mix of good, flowing singletrack with some natural sections through the woods and some fairly steep technical desecending and switchbacking climbs. It's a physical course."
In 2010, Killen also raced the first-ever Dalby World Cup, which was the opening round of the season. There he got 50th place in what was his first major race of the season after a back problem in 2009.
"Last season was different after I had a winter of rehab for my back injury," said Killeen. "It took time to get over it. That disrupted some of my winter training. Dalby was my first race last year, and it was tough. The tail end of the season was good though - I got seventh at the Worlds."
Killeen said his back is healthy again and he's figured out how to keep it that way. "I have to do daily maintenance, and I do similar mobility stuff and off the bike PT."
The British racer is one of a few riders who have had the chance to preview the 2012 Olympic Games course in London, and he's looking forward to racing it in the test event on July 31.
"The course feels very new at the moment," said Killeen of his initial impressions. "There is a lot of man-made trail, and it rides very smooothly. The profile of the course is pretty demanding. There are a half dozen climbs within a 5km lap, so it's a physical course with added man-made technical sections."
"There is nowhere to rest on it. Once you're at threshold, there is no real rest at all."
In addition to all the UCI World Cups and the Olympic Test Event, Killeen will be racing some British national series events and the Worlds. He'll be aiming to win his fourth British national title in a row, too. "That fills most of the weekends between now and September," he said.
This coming weekend, Killeen will skip the eliminator race on Friday evening. He'll be concentrating instead 100 percent on the cross country.
When asked his thoughts on plans to add more short distance type events to the World Cup calendar in 2012, Killeen said, "I've raced some of the NORBA (former US national series - ed.) short track races. They are good for spectators and make for hard racing. I think they could be a good addition."
In the meantime, Killeen will be easy to pick out this weekend in Dalby in his custom national champion's kit.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for complete coverage of the Dalby World Cup.