A RECORD contingent of Launceston riders will besiege the national capital for the Australian mountain bike championships next week.
The eight members of Launceston Mountain Bike Club will be spearheaded by elite duo Rowena Fry and Ben Mather, who are seeking an appropriate way to celebrate their engagement after a somewhat public proposal at the end of Sunday's Blue Dragon ride.
Former national champion Fry is attempting to take a step up from her second-place finish last year, and Mather is hoping to reap the rewards of a punishing training program during the summer as he targets national marathon titles.
Hadspen's Tom Goddard will join Launceston duo Stephen Matthews and Brendan Adair in the under 23s, while Lebrina's Alex Lack will tackle the under-17 event, Longford's Innes Ferrier the under 15s and squad coach Phil Leslie the veterans.
``Our pathway program was set up to get juniors to national events and this is our second year at these championships, although Ben and Row have been competing for a while,'' Leslie said.
``We are mainly looking to gain experience, but top-10 finishes are a realistic goal.''
At the Buller round of this year's national series, Goddard finished fifth, Lack sixth and Adair eighth in their divisions, but all are expecting the standard to rise for the national championships.
``These are the pinnacle, this is where the green and golds are won, so it's a step up,'' Leslie said.
Goddard was a DNF in the blistering heat of Adelaide last year, but has been doing his homework before a debut run at Canberra's challenging five-kilometre Mount Stromlo cross-country course.
``It was 41 degrees last year and I cooked, but I would like to finish top 10,'' said the 19-year-old, who is studying in Adelaide.
``I was fifth at Buller, but there will be a few more guys there so I will have to step up a notch.
``Row's ridden the course a fair bit and we've tried to replicate it a bit up at Trevallyn.
``The longer climbs should suit me but the descents are a bit technical so I've been working on getting used to them.''