Australia is moving its elite cross-country training programme to Tasmania to take advantage of the island's technical terrain.
The High Performance Mountain Bike Program will be hosted by the Tasmanian Institute of Sport (TIS) for the next four years. Riders will spend six months of the year at the centre in Launceston and the remainder of the time competing overseas.
The athletes will be coached by Neil Ross, former head coach and director of Canada's National Cycling Centre and coach of the Canadian national team. John Gregory, sports performance manager at the TIS and a former national cross-country champion, will provide sports science support.
Michelle O'Byrne, the Tasmanian minister for sport and recreation, said having the programme based in the state would provide an excellent opportunity to help Tasmanian cyclists such as Rowena Fry gain selection for the Australian Olympic team to compete in London.
She said, "Tasmania is a mountain bike Mecca with the facilities and terrain to challenge our cyclists. Accessing this network will help develop a high-performance culture for the athletes participating in the programme. We believe the programme will produce the next generation of mountain bike athletes, rivalling some of the top Tasmanian mountain bike athletes produced in the past."
Ms O'Byrne said the state government would contribute Au$400,000 to the programme. She said, "Being chosen to host this elite programme in the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics is a great coup for Tasmania and also great recognition of the TIS as an elite sport development body. It is recognition of the great job done by the TIS this year when it was selected to host the 2008 programme."
The riders will sport the Tourism Tasmania website address on their kit. Ms O'Byrne said, "The programme is further recognition of Tasmania's emergence as a world-class mountain bike destination, attracting national and international interest from elite and recreational riders, and will help grow the tourism benefits we are already receiving form this activity."