World champions to ride Oceania MTB Championships

In a major boost for the event, a host of world-class riders will ride the New Zealand Community Trust Oceania MTB Championships in Rotorua on March 3-5. French downhill legends Fabien Barel and Cedric Gracia will compete, along with Canadian Geoff Kabush plus Australians Sid Taberlay and Chris Jongewaard, who'll ride the cross country race. The course will be the one used for this year's world championships, and with most riders competing at the Commonwealth Games using the event as preparation for Melbourne two weeks later, competitive racing is guaranteed.

Barel, the reigning men's down hill world champion, should be competing against Australian Sam Hill, who was second to Barel at the 2005 World Championships in Italy. Barel's countryman Gracia, along with New Zealand's new national champion Nathan Rankin, Justin Leov and Glenn Haden will join riders from New Caledonia, Austria, Israel and Britain in the men's downhill competition. In the women's event, New Zealand's former world champions Vanessa Quin and Scarlett Hagen will ride for an Oceania title.

In the elite men's cross country race Canada's Geoff Kabush will push Australia's three Commonwealth Games riders Josh Fleming, Chris Jongewaard and Sid Taberlay all the way, and with New Zealand's Kashi Leuchs competing, a podium place will be a hard task. The women's cross country race has also attracted a big field, with New Zealand's national champion Rosara Joseph facing Kiara Bisaro (Canada), former world champion Lisa Mathison (Australia), Australian Commonwealth Games riders Claire Baxter, Emma Colson and Dellys Starr, plus Switzerland's Nathalie Schneittel and Eva Lechner from Italy (silver medalist, 2003 world championships) all featuring in Rotorua.

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