MORE than 300 mountain bike racers are expected to descend on the former north-east mining town of Derby for the national mountain bike marathon championships on Saturday and Sunday.
Riders will compete in a range of categories from elite — for the top mountain bike riders — through junior to masters, accommodating riders from 30 to over 60 in 10-year increments.
Phil Dent, of Trevallyn, will compete in the 60-plus category.
And although the 63-year-old is hoping for at least a podium finish in his race, he said that it was all about being out there in the bush competing.
Dent has been training for his 70-kilometre marathon race by riding up Mt Barrow.
"Mountain bike races are won on the uphill — anyone can go fast downhill," he said.
"I've ridden up Mt Barrow every week for the past few weeks — I even did it twice one day.
"Mt Barrow is 13 kilometres of gravel road with 1000 metres of vertical climbing in that distance."
Dent said that he took up mountain bike racing about 13 years ago, when he was approaching 50.
"My physiotherapist told me not to take up running because it's too hard on the knees and to try swimming or cycling," he said.
"I thought swimming was too boring and the scenery's no good, so I took up mountain bikes.
"I used to love bike riding as a kid and used to race dirt bikes in my early 20s — old road bikes that we took into the bush — this sort of brought back my youth somewhat."
Dent is full of praise for the Derby tracks on which the competition will be staged.
"The tracks are really well designed — there are no really nasty surprises awaiting you around any of the corners, but the downhill sections require a fair amount of bravery.
"The marathon is going to be massive — Derby is not going to know what hit it."