This year MTBA opted for an official split Mountain Bike National Championships. With weather in 2017 changing plans for Canungra, and downhill racing therefore postponed, for 2018 the XCO National Titles (and XCE and Team Relay) are taking place in Armidale, while the DH and Trials National Championships move to Bright.

The course at Armidale is on the University of New England's grounds, and has mostly been purpose-built to be of national standing. There are built rock sections, lines over techincal, sharp rocky outcrops, fast trails in the pine forest, switch backs and berms in the open, and a tight and twisty section called The Poplars, in - you guessed it, poplars.

It's a varied course without any feature that is overly committing. Mars Attacks would be the stand out techincal descent, but the step up climbs earlier in the lap are likely to create just as much impact as whether a rider takes the A or B line on Mars Attacks.

The Team Relays were raced today at lunch time, giving riders a chance to attack the course at race pace, to see how their lines are working, and if they have their bikes setup just right.

So what better time to take a lok at a few bikes?

Luke Brame: Scott Spark 900 SL

Luke Brame is on the 29" Scott Spark SL. It's murdered out look belies the fact it's a race winning machine. Sure the pilots help, but don't forget this bike was designed to win the Olympics. And it won two gold medals.
The Spark is super-light, and with a 12sp SRAM Eagle drivetrain it's got the best 1x gear range, combined with Fox Factory suspension using Scott's patented TwinLoc, which does more than just lock out, it changes the damping in the rear unit to limit travel and give the rider more options when under pressure.

Luke runs the DT XRC 1200 wheels, a little different to the XMC 1200 we have on test, namely due to a 25mm not 30mm internal width. This actually pairs better with the Maxxis tyres Luke uses - and he has upped the pressure a little for the rocky course.

Luke is also running a Quarq power meter - to monitor his training, and track his race efforts.