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Leuchs leading New Zealand Worlds team

Kashi Leuchs (Cannondale-Vredestein)

Kashi Leuchs (Cannondale-Vredestein) (Image credit: Tour of Japan)

Oceania champion Kashi Leuchs hopes he has recovered from a bout of asthma as he plans to chase a top finish for New Zealand in this weekend's UCI Mountain Bike World Championship in Scotland. He's in Scotland leading a Kiwi team of more than two dozen racers.

Leuchs, 29, currently ranked 14th in the world, bounced back from fatigue and an asthma attack to finish second in a road race in Europe recently. That finished bolstered his confidence.

"I can say my legs are feeling super and my confidence is growing by the day," Leuchs said on his website. "My only big concern now is my asthma, which is continuing to cause issues still," he said last week.

The double Olympian, has five finishes in the top 11 or better including two fifth placings in the UCI World Cup series this year. He was 16th in the world championships last year in Rotorua but would love to break into the top 10.

On the women's side, New Zealand's cross country hopes are with Rosara Joseph, now studying at Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship. She was second in the Commonwealth Games last year in cross country and has two top-25 World Cup finishes earlier in the season.

2004 women's world downhill champion, 29 year-old Vanessa Quin is recovering from a broken neck suffered at the national championships. She is currently ranked 25th in the world after top-10 finishes in three recent world cup contests in North America and Europe. Queenstown's Scarlett Hagen, the 2004 junior world champion, who is ranked 10th in the world cup, is looking to make her mark after graduating to the elite division. She's already earned two top-10 finishes in Spain and Switzerland.

"My goal is to have a solid run and finish in the top eight women in the world" the 20 year-old Hagen said from Scotland. "I am feeling strong after two months of hard riding in Whistler, Canada, but it is a difficult sport to predict. I will be giving it my best shot and we'll just have to see if that's good enough."

"This is the one race I work everyday of the year towards." said the 2007 New Zealand elite women's series and national champion. "I get one timed run. It takes total focus, strength and speed to finish the race with a good time," she said, "but it's also wicked fun. I really love racing downhill."

She'll be joined by Jenna Makgill, seventh in the UCI rankings, with one top-10 finish this year in Spain and 14th in Canada, and Sam Blenkinsop, second in the junior downhill world championships in Rotorua last year, who has also moved up to the men's elite division this season.

New Zealand Cross Country Worlds team
Men : Marcus Roy, Michael Northcroft, Stu Holthan, Kashi Leuchs, Eric Drower
Junior: James Williamson, Connor MacFarlane, Alex MacGregor, Ashley Hough
Women: Rosara Joseph, Anga MacDonald, Jennifer O'Connor, Kaytee Boyd
Junior: Samara Shepherd

New Zealand Gravity - 4X/ Downhill team
Men: Nathan Rankin, Sam Blenkinsop, Kieran Bennett, Glenn Haden, Mike Skinner, Reon Boe
Junior: Mat Scoles, Michael Langford, David Scandrett, Peter Cooper
Women: Vanessa Quin, Jenna Makgill, Scarlett Hagen, Amy Laird, Olivia Johnson

New Zealand finished 14th of 15 teams in the team race Tuesday. The elite men's and women's cross country races are scheduled for Saturday. 4X finals happen Friday and Downhill finals are scheduled for Sunday.

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