The biggest names in Australian cross-country are gearing up to battle it out for green and gold jerseys across numerous disciplines at the 2023 AusCycling Mountain Bike National Championships this week.
Among them will be Olympians, World Champs, Commonwealth Games medalists and World Cup riders.
For the first time since 1996 the championships are being held at Thredbo, NSW, where riders will go wheel-to-wheel for their chance to wear the green and gold jersey for the next 12 months.
While Canberra’s Rebecca Henderson is poised to claim her 10th Elite Women’s National XCO title, the Elite Men’s field is wide open.
Here are some of the top contenders.
Four-time Olympian and Commonwealth Games Bronze medalist Daniel McConnell will be hungry to claim back the National Title after finishing with silver by just 5 seconds last year to Matt Dinham.
The nine-time national champion spent 2022 competing in World Cup events, and represented Australia at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games where he placed 7th, which will boost his confidence.
Dinham however won’t be returning to defend his title and is currently in Europe preparing for his first professional road season with DSM.
Eyes will also be on Tasmanian Sam Fox who has shown good form in the lead up to the most important race on the Australian XC calendar and finished at last year’s Commonwealth Games sixth ahead of McConnell.
In January, Fox finished at the top of the podium in the opening rounds of the XCO National Series at Mt Stromlo, Canberra.
He will be hoping to continue that trend, after missing out on a medal at the 2022 MTB Nationals in Maydena, Tasmania, finishing fourth in his first year in the Elites.
Also in the mix will be Cameron Ivory who won bronze last year and took out the win in 2018. He too has spent 2022 competing in Europe in World Cup events and had a strong showing at Mt Stromlo with third and fourth placings.
Former U23 National Championship winner Scott Bowden will make a comeback to XCO at Thredbo after a seven-year absence.
Last year’s U23 winner and 2017 Junior World Champion Cameron Wright will be among the Elites this year as will 2022 U23 bronze medalist Tom Cheesman.
Reigning XCO National Champion Rebecca Henderson looks set to claim her 10th consecutive National Championship crown.
Few have come close to challenging the current world No 4. for the green and gold jersey since she joined the elite ranks.
The two-time World Championships bronze medalist showed her dominance at the top level again last year becoming only the fifth woman to win an XCC and XCO World Cup race on the same weekend (link to article).
Last month she took out the opening rounds of the XCO Nationals Series at Mt Stromlo, Canberra ahead of Zoe Cuthbert, who will be one of Henderson’s biggest threats.
Cuthbert has twice finished second behind Henderson at the National Championships, and had a stellar 2022 season which included a silver medal at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
An intriguing battle is shaping up to be the fight for the final spot on the podium.
Last year’s U23 champion Katherine Hosking will be up there in her first year as an Elite, while the likes of Em Viotto, Peta Mullens and Kathryn McInerney will again be at the pointy end.
Domenic Paolilli will be keen to go one better this year after claiming silver in 2022. And the Victorian is coming off some strong results at the opening rounds of the National Series, with a 5th and 3rd placing in the Elites.
Last year’s U19 winner Joel Dodds will be looking to secure a spot on the podium in his maiden year in the U23s.
In the women’s race Lillee Pollock, Izzy Flint and Talia Simpson will be among the riders at the front of the pack. Flint won bronze last year while Pollock, who won silver in the junior event in 2021, placed 4th. Former junior champion Queensland’s Hayley Oakes will leave nothing out on course as she makes her debut in the U23 category.
Jack Ward and Ruby Dobson will be back to defend their titles in the under 19 men's and women's races.
Both Ward and Dobson will be tough to beat coming into the event as leaders of the Junior National XCO Series.
Other riders to watch in the men’s is Harry Doye, who is currently in second in the junior National Series, Sam Northey fresh from the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in the Netherlands, and Cohen Jessen who finished second in the junior men’s road race at the National Championships at Buninyong.
In the women’s Maya Martin and Ella Menigoz both had strong results behind Dobson at Stromlo last month and will have hopes of a podium.
Age category riders will also be searching for National Title glory with riders from as young as 11 up to 78 years of age competing in the championships.
There are more than 500 entries in XC events including Olympic, short course, relay, adaptive, and E-bike from Under 13 to Masters 10 and Elite categories.
The National Championships kick off on Thursday with adaptive and E-bike racing before the team relay on Thursday afternoon. The short course format is set to light up Friday Flat on Friday before the Olympic format closes out the cross-country racing on Sunday and focus shifts to the downhill action the following week.
The full schedule can be found here.
FOLLOW ALL THE ACTION WITH AUSCYCLING
AusCycling MTB National Championship 2023
• Location: Thredbo, NSW
• Dates: Wednesday, February 8 – Saturday, February 18, 2023
More information about the 2023 AusCycling MTB National Championships.
Live results will be published here.
HOW TO WATCH
Coverage of the AusCycling MTB National Championships will be broadcast and streamed via SBS and Kayo for Australian audiences and on Global Cycling Network for international viewers.
Sunday 12 February – 12:30pm - 4:30pm (AEDT)
Saturday 18 February – 11:00am - 4:00pm (AEDT)
The 2023 AusCycling MTB National Championships is proudly supported by Visit NSW.