Mountain bikers from around Australia and overseas are flooding into Tasmania for Australia's Pure Tasmania Wildside MTB. The event, which happens every other year, starts on Saturday at Cradle Mt Chateau.
Almost 500 riders will complete seven competition stages and six cruising stages before finishing at Strahan Village next Tuesday. Around 300 of the riders are from interstate, with all states and territories represented, and overseas from Switzerland, France, Columbia, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Thailand, Singapore and the United Kingdom.
These mountain biking visitors to Tasmania will bring with them an estimated $1.5 million dollars worth of bikes and, along with their support crews, will inject close to a million dollars into the Tasmanian economy.
The elite field is one of the strongest in the event's 10-year history, but four-time winner of the event and Olympian Sid Taberlay remains the favourite. Canadian Max Plaxton is his biggest threat. Plaxton has just completed a fantastic year based in North America, winning the prestigious US Pro XCT series as he aims to represent Canada at the 2012 Olympic Games.
The women's field suffered a blow this week with the withdrawal of 2008 Wildside winner, Launceston's Rowena Fry, due to national team commitments. This leaves the winner of the last national series event, Jenni King, of NSW, a clear favourite.
Wildside is about much more than those at the front end of the race, though. The structure of the event promotes friendly rivalry at all levels within the field and there will be many battles in all age categories.
The Wildside MTB is supported by the Tasmanian Government through Events Tasmania.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage of the Wildside MTB.