BikeNZ and Mountainbike New Zealand have selected one of their largest and strongest teams for the championships that take place across the Tasman from September 1 to 6.
Joseph (Christchurch) and Leuchs (Dunedin), both based in Europe, head a six-strong elite team in cross-country competition.
Leuchs, 31, has enjoyed a lengthy break back in New Zealand over the summer, his first in nearly a decade, and has recently returned to the World Cup circuit in South Africa. While his ranking has dropped to 47th accordingly, he was a solid 24th at Beijing and 16th at the World Cup on the Canberra course last year.
Joseph, 27, has high hopes for Canberra after finishing runner-up at the world cup there last year following her outstanding ninth place at Beijing, coming back from a serious injury. She won a race in Sherwood Pines in England recently and was 44th in her first World Cup outing in Germany.
There will be high hopes of success in the downhill with Christchurch’s Leov and Wanganui’s Blenkinsop currently ranked fifth and sixth respectively in the world at present.
The professionals take good form into the season. Blenkinsop, who rides for Yeti Fox Shox team, enjoyed a breakthrough World Cup victory in Germany last August, New Zealand’s first victory in nearly three decades at this level.
Leov, 25, was sixth at the world championships in Italy last year and was fifth in the opening round at Pietermaritzburg in South Africa for his Trek World Racing team.
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A pair of female downhillers will also be looking for strong performances. Amy Laird (Christchurch), currently ranked 22nd in the world, was 16th in the worlds last year, 18th in the 2008 Canberra World Cup and third in the Oceania Championships.
Blenheim’s Harriet Harper, ranked in the world’s top 40, was 11th in the World Cup at Mount Saint Anne last year.
Any remaining riders to qualify will be named at the end of July.
The team is:
Elite: Rosara Joseph (Christchurch, Nic Leary (Palmerston North), Kashi Leuchs (Dunedin), Stu Houltham (Lower Hutt), Mike Northcott (Tokoroa), Brendon Sharratt (Christchurch.
Under-19: Alexa Peters (Rotorua), Sasha Smith (Auckland), Sarah-Kate McDonald (Clyde), Dirk Peters (Rotorua), Adrian Retief (Auckland), Locky McArthur (Auckland), Logan Horn (Christchurch), Patrick Avery (Rotorua).
Under-23: Katherine O'Neill (Auckland), Michelle Bellamy (Tokoroa), Samara Shepherd (Wellington), Monique Avery (Rotorua), Ash Hough (Tauranga), Carl Jones (Whakatane), George Bennett (Nelson).
Elite: Harriet Harper (Blenheim), Gabby Molloy (Rotorua), Olivia Johnson (Christchurch), Amy Laird (Chritchurch), Justin Leov (Christchurch), Nathan Rankin (Levin), Sam Blenkinsop (Wanganui), Kieran Bennett (Nelson), Cameron Cole (Christchurch), Wyn Masters (New Plymouth).
Under-19: Georgia Wight (Alexandra), Brook MacDonald (Hawkes Bay), Aari Barrett (Havelock North), Richard Leacock (Wellington), George Brannigan (Hawkes Bay), Rupert Chapman (Christchurch).
Elite: Nathan Sharratt (Christchurch), Matt Walker (Kawerau), Eddie Masters (Dunedin).