Olympic hopefuls and British Champions Annie Last and Liam Killeen will make their first domestic mountain bike appearances of 2012, as an international field travel to Nottingham for the opening round of the British XC Series on Sunday.
Killeen and three-time Olympian Oli Beckingsale are joined by sixty of Britain’s best competitors and a strong European contingent led by Switzerland’s Ralph Naf – tenth in last weeks World Cup.
Belgians Tym Wynants, Jens Schuermans, Robby de Bock and Stijn van Boxsteal, Norway’s Ola Kjoren and Henrik Kippenes and South African Rourke Croesser all take to the line for the elite men’s race – which carries Olympic qualification points – at noon.
Alongside Killeen and Beckingsale, the top British contenders on the flat and fast Sherwood lap famed for close racing are expected to be Dave Fletcher, British under-23 champion Kenta Gallagher, Grant Ferguson, Lee Williams, Steve James and Paul Oldham. All will be hoping to upset some very established names in the only major British race before the first European World Cup.
Annie Last will start the elite women’s race as the favourite of twenty riders, including 2011 series winner Mel Spath. Last, who continues to race with the ambition of being the first British woman to compete in the Olympics since Sydney 2000, returns from South Africa having secured another top ten World Cup placing.
Lee Craigie was the only other Brit to gain international race experience before the domestic season started, with Mel Alexander – third in the 2011 series – and under-23 British Champion Carla Haines among the competitors for the podium.
And alongside the elite races, over 500 ability and age-categorised racers will take on the same track as the professionals, with the aim of promotion and being national series champion by the end of the year.
Entries are now sold out for all Sunday races, with limited entries available for Saturday’s open and fun events.