The heat is on as husband and wife downhill duo Chris Kovarik and Claire Buchar prepare to tackle the fast and thrilling
line of the heavily contested elite downhill races on Saturday, 26 February before an expected crowd of more than 4,000 spectators.
Dominant performers, the pair will be tough to beat starting as strong favourites in their respective categories.
Kovarik’s major rival, world downhill champion Sam Hill (WA) has suffered yet another blow, having to withdraw from competition. Another win would see Kovarik bag his fifth title and return to the top of the podium, having won the Australian title three years running from 2000 to 2002, then again in 2010.
Kovarik hopes to go one better this year and beat his own personal best of 1:56.03 which he achieved at last year’s nationals.
The pursuit for the title will be tough given the strong field of elite riders who have demonstrated promising form throughout the national series. Kovarik won’t go unrivalled and knows he will have to maintain a strong presence throughout the race to secure first position.
“I’m keen to defend the national title but it won’t be easy,” he said.
“There are a number of international racers some of which are my mates that will definitely keep me on my toes.”
“It will be a testing weekend, especially with the tough weather conditions forecast for 30° degrees.”
Current national series leader Rick Boyer (NSW) is Kovarik’s main contender who is coming off the back
of wins in Hobart and Mt Baw Baw. The two share a history of rivalry and it is expected to be a tightly
World championships 2009 bronze medalist Michael Hannah (QLD) is also amongst the strong field of riders along with 2006 world championships bronze medalist Nathan Rennie (QLD), Mitch Delfs (WA) as well as Bryn and Shaun Atkinson – New South Wales brothers who took out first and second place in the
men’s elite downhill at the Mt Buller meet earlier this month.
2009 world championships silver medalist Shaun O’Connor (NSW) also stands as a major contender, experienced and capable of taking out the championships.
Battling it out in the elite women’s event, Buchar who is a regular on the UCI world cup circuit and a multiple world cup medalist will need to call on her wealth of experience in effort to take out her second consecutive Australian title.
“I’m looking forward to competing at the championships and defending the title,” she said.
“After sitting out the current domestic series due to a minor injury I endured during the 2010 world championships in September, I am anxious to get back into the riding scene.”
“I’m feeling strong and positive, and I hope I can take out the title again.”
The rivalry is fierce, particularly from Maffra rider Leonie Picton (VIC) who remains undefeated in the national series and hopes to continue her winning streak in
“Leonie is doing really well and is definitely my main competition but I am focusing on myself and making sure I am in form and feeling confident,” Buchar said.
2009 junior world championships bronze medalist Holly Baarspul (WA) has stepped up to the elite ranks and is expected to cap of a successful national series with an impressive performance.
Fellow riders, Sarah Booth (NSW) and Victorian Alyssa Lyons also remain strong contenders.
Collectively, the pair says they will begin preparation for the world cup circuit and hope to compete across all of the major meets this year.
“The world cup circuit is our main focus ahead of the nationals. We hope to make our way to South Africa for the first major meet in April,“ Buchar said.
“We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do well and I think that’s were our drive and motivation comes from,” Kovarik added.
All local eyes will be on young gun Troy Brosnan (SA) in the under 19 downhill event. After taking out the junior title at the 2010 world championships in Canada at just 17 years of age, Brosnan has a promising future ahead of him.
The 2011 Specialized Australian MTB Championships will provide the perfect preparation as he looks to defend his title at this year’s world championships to be held in Switzerland.
The ongoing battle between Brosnan and biggest rival, Connor Fearon (SA) is sure to make for an enthralling showdown as they battle it out for the national crown.
Brosnan snatched the men’s under 19 win away from Fearon by less than a second at the Mt Buller meet earlier this month.
The 2011 Specialized Australian Mountain Bike Championships commence today through to Saturday 26th of February at Eagle Mountain Bike Park, Adelaide Hills.