Bendigo cycling stars chase World Cup glory in Cairns

THREE of Bendigo Mountain Bike Club's best, Chris Hamilton, Russell and Tasman Nankervis, are gearing up for the testing climbs in this weekend's World Cup round in Cairns.

All three will do battle in the under-23s event on Sunday.

Russell Nankervis, 21, will contest his first World Cup leg.

Hamilton raced two Cup rounds in Europe as he warmed up for last year's world championships race in South Africa.

The hit-outs for the Strathdale-based cyclist were in Germany and Czech Republic.

The Australian team for the under-23 cross-country race at the worlds in South Africa included Hamilton and Tasman Nankervis.

All three Bendigo cyclists said the Cairns course would be a tough one to negotiate.

"The heat and humidity is a lot different to Bendigo," said Russell Nankervis.

Riders in the under-23 cross-country event will race 90 minutes on a 5km layout.

"Because it's a World Cup round this course is likely to be one of the hardest I will have raced on," Russell Nankervis said.

It will be the first time he has visited Cairns, let alone raced on the hills.

This year's national mountain bike championships were raced at Bright.

Hamilton was fifth in the under-23 race as Tasman Nankervis and Russell Nankervis fought on to be 10th and 18th.

There's been many hours spent on the bike in recent months.

"I have been training six days a week and raced as often as I can," Russell Nankervis said.

A few sessions have been at One Tree Hill near Spring Gully.

"There are a lot of great tracks in here to train on," said Russell, who races in the Cycle Concepts-Giant colours.

"The World Cup leg is a challenge I am really looking forward to."

The World Cup round is another leg in what's being a hectic round of racing for Hamilton.

He raced for Avanti in the Mount Baw Baw classic and was fourth in a duel where team-mate, Horsham's Mark O'Brien was runner-up.

Hamilton said a goal for this year was selection for the world mountain bike championships.

"The nationals and World Cup results will have a major bearing on selection for the team," said Hamilton.

The 18-year-old has shown a lot of skill on the mountains, road and track.

In summer, Hamilton excelled in the criterium on the final day of the Victorian Grand Prix in Bendigo's CBD.

He raced at the Mars-backed national road championships at Buninyong and near Ballarat.

A highlight of his track season was victory in the David Capuano Memorial, one of the feature events in the Bendigo and District Cycling Club's track season.

Hamilton said one of the biggest challenges was balancing training for mountain bike and track racing.

"Mountain bike racing is my main preference at the moment," Hamilton said.

All three riders said the MTB racing was a great test on bike-handling skills, especially the descents, whether it be One Tree Hill, Bright, or in Germany.

Tasman Nankervis said he expects the Cairns course to have a lot of tricky bends and downhill stretches.

"We will have a couple of days up there to ride on the course and to acclimatise," Nankervis said.

He and Hamilton both race in the Torq Nutrition colours in their mountain bike campaigns.

A lot of Tasman's workouts are done at One Tree Hill and also on the popular Cavagna's Road track in Sedgwick.

Cairns was chosen to host the first World Cup round in Australia in six years.

London Olympians Dan McConnell and Rebecca Henderson are two of Australia's hottest prospects in the cross-country action.

Brother and sister Mick and Tracey Hannah are from Cairns and will be aiming to capitalise on hometown knowledge in the downhill.

Reigning world champion Paul Van De Ploeg marks his return from injury in the cross-country eliminator.

President of Mountain Bike Australia, Russ Baker AM said the World Cup round was significant for the sport in this country.

"While riders strive to be world champions, the standard of competition at World Cups can actually be higher and the races harder because more top level riders can enter," Baker said.

The three-day titles in Cairns start on Anzac Day.

Events are cross-country, downhill, cross-country eliminator across the elite, under-23 and junior categories.

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