NZ BMX stars take on Australia's world champions

Trent Jones, back from his base in USA and training in Australia for the UCI BMX Oceania Championships near Pukekohe this weekend. Photo / Nico van Dartel.
Trent Jones, back from his base in USA and training in Australia for the UCI BMX Oceania Championships near Pukekohe this weekend. Photo / Nico van Dartel.

New Zealand's elite BMX riders begin their race to the Rio Olympics on home turf this weekend.

They compete in the national elite championships tomorrow before taking on the might of a full-strength Australian line-up for the UCI Oceania Continental Championships on Sunday in Pukekohe.

The New Zealand team is led by London Olympic silver medallist Sarah Walker and her fellow Cycling New Zealand high performance squad riders Hannah Sarten, US-based Trent Jones, Matt Cameron and Daniel Franks.

The Australians are led by 2013 world champion Caroline Buchanan and double elite world champion and Olympic medallist Sam Willoughby.

They also include last year's world championship runner-up Lauren Reynolds, Josh Callen, a finalist at the worlds in Auckland in 2013, and Bodi Turner.

There will also be interest in other Kiwis including North Harbour's Michael Bias, who was a world cup quarterfinalist in Manchester last year, talented young Te Awamutu riders Codi Merito and Cole McOnie, stepping up from elite juniors, and the return of another Waikato rider, Cody Hobbs after two years off the bike living overseas.

Cycling New Zealand BMX national coach Ryan Hollows said he expects a strong showing from the high performance team although most have been training through this meet.

"The team have not tapered for this competition but with the World Cup competition starting in six weeks, then I am expecting them to begin to show some form," Hollows said.

"The Oceania Championships carry significant qualifying points for the Rio Olympics, so they are important especially for the likes of Sarah who has missed so much of the last 18 months with injury.

"The squad will be partially race-ready although not peaking at this stage. The guys have been riding well in training and Sarah has been doing excellent numbers."

He is hoping the weather is favourable with some potential for rain on the weekend which might hinder otherwise exciting racing.

"If it is set-up well then the track at Puni can produce some good and exciting racing. The jumps are not massive nor hugely technical and therefore should provide some quality and competitive racing."

Saturday's national championship is for junior and elite men and women only, starting from 1pm while Sunday's Oceania Continental Championships will cater for both elite and challenge classes, with approximately 400 riders competing. Racing starts at 11am with finals at approximately 4pm.

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