Double Olympic gold medallist Maris Strombergs has confirmed his entry for this month's UCI BMX World Championship in Auckland.
Strombergs, from Latvia, is the sport's biggest name, having won two BMX world elite titles as well as the Olympic gold medal both in Beijing, where the sport made its debut and again in London last year.
The 26-year-old will be one of the clear favourites when the UCI BMX World Championships comes to New Zealand for the first time, to be staged at Vector Arena on July 24-28.
He will be part of a five-strong team from Latvia, according to coach Ivo Lakucs, himself a two-time Olympian in track cycling at Sydney 2000 and also in BMX at Beijing where he was a quarter-finalist.
Strombergs has recently returned to racing following a lengthy break after the Olympics.
"Growing up I never thought I'd be able to call myself a two time Olympic champion. But after winning the Olympics it was hard to keep myself motivated, my mind set just wasn't in it anymore. I decided to end the season early,'' he said.
"I kept busy while I was back home in Latvia with all the media and trying to get some training in for the season. I got to do a lot of cross-country skiing which I really enjoyed, made training a little fun. It was just good to do something different.
"I didn't want to get back on my bike before I started missing it again and got that hunger back. After taking a break I am happy to be back riding and racing again.''
He has recently returned to the US after winning the overall European BMX Championship, amassing seven wins in the 10 rounds held in France, Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden and Latvia over the last two months.
He had to be content with second in both final rounds in the Latvian capital of Riga to compatriot Edzus Treimaris, who will also compete in Auckland.
"It was great doing the whole series again,'' said Strombergs. "I'm really looking forward to this season. And now I am looking forward to racing in New Zealand.''
Strombergs took up the sport at age six years and won his first world challenge title at nine. Nicknamed `The Machine', Strombergs splits his time between his home in Valiera in Latvia and Murrieta in southern California.
Organisers expect more than 2000 riders from 30 countries for the championships, although entries to not close until July 12.
The championships begin with the challenge class (age group) on Wednesday, July 24 and Thursday, July 25, with elite practice on Friday ahead of the time trial world title decided on Saturday, July 27 and finals the following day.