With the mountain bike worlds rolling up this weekend it's time for MTB fanatics to get momentarily excited as the sport hits the headlines.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

...only to inevitably fade away again?

Why this is has always bewildered me, because the sport is exciting, often verging on the oft abused term "extreme". Car makers love to use MTB and MTB'ers in their ads and Australia boasts some of the finest riders in the world and yet they tend to be invisible for 99 per cent of the year.

Ask any non-mountain biker what they think of the sport and it commands back-handed respect. "Those guys are crazy, rocks, trees, man you could get hurt!" they'll say as they ride along in a road bunch as two tonnes of steel commanded by a texting P-plater blindly whizzes by.

My take of the invisibility problem is something along the lines of "big money begets big exposure" and there sure ain't a huge amount of money floating around in MTB. I wish it was not the case but at least it's not Cycle Ball.

There's plenty to be excited about with the current crop of 30 Aussies who have made to the trip to Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. The first event of note will be the Cross Country Eliminator which will feature Mount Beauty's Paul Van Der Ploeg, a former world cup winner, who, apart from winning the inaugural national championship in the discipline, has not been up against many of the competitors he will meet at the championships. With a win recently on the road at the Tour of Borneo he's shown he has form, but can he convert that to the dirt?

It's been a year for the lycra bandit in all of us to rejoice with the excellent results from the winning-est couple in cross country, Dan McConnell and Bec Henderson. Dan and Bec both started the year by not winning the elite national championships for very different reasons. Bec was too young but walked away with the under-23 green and gold jersey after what was a super dominant display while Dan broke a chain just one kilometre from the finish.

Since then it's been one hell of a year with Bec winning two under-23 World Cup events, taking the overall series lead while Dan won the opening round and currently sits in third place. Results that haven't been seen from Aussies since Cadel Evans and Mary Grigson were racing in the early 2000's. Sadly we won't see Bec race because only the elite events are being streamed but you can watch Dan from 9.45pm on Saturday night here at Cycling Central.

While we've all gone cross country mad this year, lets not to forget that Australia has always been very strong in the Gravity disciplines, and the world championships, with its separate junior categories, gives our crop of young "pinners" a chance to shine. And shine they have over the years, with Australia boasting numerous junior world champions like Sam Hill, Nathan Rennie, Ben Cory, Tracey Hannah and most recently, two-time winner Troy Brosnan.

Of the current crop of juniors Dean Lucas is the man to beat, but based on results at the national championships, Thomas Crimmins won't be far behind. After another set of solid results at the Crankworks Festival at Whistler Danielle Beecroft looks like she'll be well and truly in the mix for the junior women's downhill title.

With the senior men it's a case of age and experience versus youthful determination as the team features names that have been racing for over a decade, four-time world champion Sam Hill and "Sik" Mick Hannah. Both have shown a great return to form this year, Hill the most consistent and now sitting in fourth overall in the downhill World Cup, with Troy Brosnan keen to steal the show despite a shoulder dislocation at the Crankworks festival just a few weeks ago, which may hinder his performance.

The elite women's downhill is probably the most intriguing race all year with recently crowned BMX world champion Caroline Buchanan set to roll out of the start house.

This will be the second leg of Buchanan's triple crown campaign, and while I commend her ambition, the physiological differences required between BMX and downhill, especially on the very pedally 3.12km long course at Pietermaritzburg are pretty huge. I'd love to hear more about the change in training between the two but I'd guess the reason she's been fairly quiet on Twitter is that she's been training her butt off to get her endurance up.

Also rolling off the start in the green and gold is former junior world champion Tracy Hannah who has has a bit of a horror run with injuries over the past couple of years and the world champs will be her first race back after breaking a collarbone.

Finally the discipline that I continually fantasise about being at least semi-proficient, the Observed Trials. In this we have a genuine medal contender in Janine Jungfels. She's been based in Europe this winter to get more time on world cup level sections and challenges. With silver and bronze medals from the two previous world cup rounds she's showing she can mix it with the worlds best.

So upgrade your internet plan, turn the espresso machine on and get ready for a big weekend of mountain bike thrills, inevitable spills and as I predict, a couple of nice shiny medals with Australia inscribed into them.

Cycling Central will be live streaming the elite men's and women's cross country events on Saturday 31 August from 2015 to 0100 AEST followed by the elite men's and women's downhill on Sunday 1 September, 2145 to 0100 AEST.