Mountain biking: Top two face tough ride for one place

New Zealand's Rosara Joseph. Photo / Kelvin Teixeira
New Zealand's Rosara Joseph. Photo / Kelvin Teixeira

Rosara Joseph's bid for back-to-back Olympic Games could hinge on a difficult final qualifying event in France this weekend.

Joseph, who finished ninth in the mountainbike crosscountry race at the Beijing Games four years ago, is in a tight tussle with Whakatane rider Karen Hanlen for the one spot available to New Zealand in the elite women's class in London.

The race - over a 4.9km course with a steep climb on a rocky, uneven track, followed by a second higher climb, and ending with a steep downhill technical descent - is the fourth round of the UCI World Cup and being staged for the first time in La Bresse, in the Alsace region of France, bordering Germany and Switzerland.

But sorting out which rider gets the Games ride is more complicated than merely giving it to the one who finishes higher this weekend.

Should one rider finish significantly ahead of the other in France, it could be a decisive factor in the selection.

But form in last year's World Cup programme is taken into account, as are performances this year.

In the three World Cups so far, Hanlen has had the better of her rival twice. She was eighth in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa to Joseph's 11th and 18th in Belgium to Joseph's 38th.

Joseph finished 22nd in the Czech Republic last week, four spots higher than Hanlen, who had mechanical problems after being caught in a crash.

Hanlen, at 32, two years older than her rival, is ranked 19th on the circuit; Joseph is 26th.

"I really hope to have a good race in La Bresse, and I've never ridden there before so I'm not sure what to expect but it is going to be testing," Hanlen said.

Joseph, a professional with the Rabobank Giant team, is ready for a strong performance.

"I've had a couple of weeks of hard training and racing and so this week has been cruisy and I feel fresher and stronger," said Joseph, who earned the Olympic place for New Zealand last year.

The New Zealand Olympic Committee will make its decision at the end of this month.

Five New Zealanders will be in action over the weekend, including Rotorua pair Dirk Peters and Sam Shaw and Rotorua-based Wellingtonian Samara Shepperd, all in the under-23 division tomorrow.

The elite men and women race on Monday (NZ time).

- NZ Herald

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