The mountain bike battle for a potential Olympic berth heats up again this weekend at the third round of the Rocky Roads UCI World Cup in the Czech Republic.
Whakatane mother Karen Hanlen has transplanted her outstanding form from the New Zealand domestic season with her overseas, with excellent performances in the World Cup and the Swiss Cup last weekend.
Rosara Joseph, 10th at the Beijing Olympics, is hoping she can find her best form as the pair take on a compact 4.46km circuit, lengthened a little from last year when it was introduced to the world cup circuit.
This weekends race and next weeks fourth round in France present the final opportunities for riders to score ranking points for Olympic qualification.
New Zealand is likely to earn just one spot in the womens ranks for London based largely on Josephs results with Hanlen bursting on to the international scene this year following some mid-pack finishes last year.
The event is based at the Czech nordic and biathlon centre with the cross country course featuring long climbs through the forest which will test supreme fitness while there are some technical descents as well as the addition of a new section more like a BMX test.
Hanlen placed eighth in the opening round in South Africa and 18th last month in Belgium with Joseph, who rides for the Rabobank Pro Team, finishing 11th and 38th in the same races. The 32 year old Hanlen also finished runner-up in the Swiss Cup round last week ahead of some illustrious company.
There is only cross country on the programme this weekend with the Rotorua pair of Sam Shaw and Dirk Peters also competing.
While the riders have enjoyed some outstanding weather in Europe of late, there is a cold snap forecasted for the weekend.
The under-23 racing is set for Saturday (local time) and elite races on Sunday.