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New Zealand mountain bike series heads to Nelson

The RaboPlus 2010 New Zealand Mountain Bike Cup continues this weekend in Nelson with the final South Island stop. Nelson continues its strong and enduring pedigree of hosting national-level mountain bike events. The Brook and Maitai Valley race courses are tried and tested, having previously being used for National and Oceania Championship contests over recent years.

In the elite cross country races on Saturday, two athletes are going for three-peats in the South Island portion of the series. Brendon Sharratt and Amy Laird have won their respective races at the first two New Zealand Cup rounds, but may face some stiffer competiton this weekend.

Sharratt will race current New Zealand Champion Stu Houltham in his first national outing this summer, as well as two Under 23s with the potential to push hard at the front of the field: Carl Jones and Alex McGregor. McGregor has recently returned to mountain bike racing after several years racing on the road, but he had some mechanical issues in his Dunedin race start that took him out of contention.

Several racers have been only fractions of a second from upsetting the form card and besting Leov - in this sport only the slightest mistake or missed line can be the difference between the top step of the podium and finishing back in the field. X-Fusion athlete and Nelson local (on his preferred home track) Kieran Bennett knows this only too well, and Bennett will fall back on his 2007 Oceania Championship winning form on this same track to draw inspiration for Sunday's race run. Seasoned pro rider Nathan Rankin also joins the New Zealand Cup in Nelson for the first time this year and like other athletes entering the series at this stage, will be very aware of the form and pace he is up against.

Cross country racing happens at Codgers MTB Trails on Saturday, and the downhill finals will take place at Kaka Hill, Sharlands Creek on Sunday.

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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.