It's the perfect entrée to Crankworx week. Rotorua Mountain Bike Club and Descend Rotorua are bringing the Altherm Mountain Bike National Championships back home next weekend.
Rotorua last hosted the championships in 2015, before they had a three-year stint in Wanaka. March 16 to 17, they're back in the Whakarewarewa Forest.
The crossover with New Zealand's biggest mountain bike festival ensures New Zealand's best mountain biking talent will be on the start lines. National honours are up for grabs in cross-country (XCO) and downhill (DHI) events in the elite, junior and age group divisions.
The XCO course will include some of our magnificent forest trails. Paul McDowell and his Rotorua Mountain Bike Club team of volunteers are putting the hours in to make sure the course matches the talent on display.
"We're excited to be part of bringing the Nationals back to Rotorua," says Club president, Mat Hunt.
"We've a strong and passionate group of people ready to turn it up to 11 and provide a challenging and fun course for riders and spectators."
The line-up in the Craig's Investment Partners Cross Country is impressive including Elite men's and women's defending champions, Anton Cooper and Samara Sheppard, and Under 19 Women's defending champion, Sammie Maxwell.
The 17-year-old from Taupō is looking forward to backing up her win from 2018 in front of noisy, local support.
"The nationals will be some seriously tough racing and it'll be good to test myself on the steep technical climbs," she says.
"I hope to defend my title and be contending with the U23/Elite women on the day and look forward to pushing my limits with friends and family supporting."
She's been riding since she was 10 and is a member of the Subway Mountain Bike National Performance Hub, supported locally by Toi Ohomai, Rotorua Lakes Council, Red Stag and Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust.
"Being involved with The Hub has been amazing. From coaching to travel, it's offered endless possibilities. The amount of people that surround me with positive energy is outstanding, and I am beyond blessed to have been given the opportunities such as international racing, specialised training programs, skills sessions and tech support at races, that come with the Hub."
Downhill will utilise the purpose built Taniwha – National Downhill course.
Dave Hamilton from Descend Rotorua expects the event to attract New Zealand's top downhill riders based overseas.
"Having Nationals the week before Crankworx is a great opportunity for gravity riders to race twice in the same town, at two difference venues, on a national and international stage," says Dave.
"For the top guys, there's an opportunity to earn some valuable UCI Points as well."
Wyn Masters, Brook Macdonald and George Brannigan are some of the stacked elite field who will double up at both major events over the week.
About 25 per cent of current entrants for the Nationals are from the Bay of Plenty region, proving that a hometown Nationals is a strong drawcard for local riders.
The event is sanctioned by Cycling New Zealand and the UCI, with support from Mountain Bike New Zealand.
Make sure you get out and support the riders. Racing is guaranteed to be spectacular on both courses.