Racing in the 2011 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships gets underway today, and Australia has a host of medal prospects in action across the five days of competition.
Australia will field a 33-strong team to compete at the world titles in Champéry, Switzerland from 31 August to 4 September, with more than 800 athletes from 49 countries vying for the coveted rainbow jersey.
Australian won three gold and one silver medal at last year's world championships in Mont-Saint-Anne in Canada.
Queensland's Jared Graves is chasing his second rainbow jersey in the men's elite four cross. After being crowned world champion in 2009 in Canberra, Graves was forced to settle for silver at last year's world titles, pipped on the finish line by Czech rider Tomas Slavik. Graves comes to Switzerland in ominous form, after winning his third straight World Cup series crown three weeks ago.
Richard Levinson (Queensland) and Graeme Mudd (New South Wales) will join Graves in the four cross.
Along with Graves and Slavik, Swiss local hopes Roger Rinderknecht and David Graf, and 2010 bronze medallist Michal Prokop (Czech Republic) are also expected to be in the medal mix.
South Australia's Troy Brosnan is the red-hot favourite to defend his junior downhill world title in Champéry.
Competing against the elite men in the World Cup series this year, Brosnan took out the junior title and finished eighth overall in the elite standings – a terrific result for the 18-year-old against more senior and experienced riders.
Seven Australian riders will line up in the junior men's downhill competition, with fellow South Australian rider Connor Fearon (South Australia) seen as the biggest challenger to Brosnan.
In the men's elite downhill competition, Australia has five riders in action, including reigning world champion Sam Hill (Western Australia), whose season has unfortunately been interrupted by a shoulder injury. American Aaron Gwin has dominated this season and will start as favourite, with Greg Minnaar (South Africa) and Gee Atherton (Great Britain) also expected to fight for a place on the top step of the podium.
With the London Olympics less than a year away, much of the attention will centre on the cross country events.
Returning to the world stage after a tumultuous two years is South Australian Chris Jongewaard. After claiming both the 2011 national championship and national series titles earlier in the year, the 32-year-old has returned to form and is ready to make an impact.
Jongewaard will be joined in the elite men's cross country event by Olympians Daniel McConnell (Victoria) and Sid Taberlay (Tasmania), as well as Victorian Lachlan Norris who last week made his debut with HTC-Highroad in the gruelling US Pro Cycling Challenge on the road.
Katherine O'Shea (Victoria) will be Australia's sole representative in the elite women's cross country, as will Rebecca Henderson (Australian Capital Territory) in the under 23 women's cross-country. Victorian Paul Van Der Ploeg will lead the Australian charge in the under 23 men's cross country race.
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