Running a downhill race in the depths of winter can be tricky, especially when it's pouring with rain, so it was awesome to see over 50 riders turn out for the Descend Rotorua Winter Downhill Champs in Whakarewarewa Forest this past weekend. Saturday was the official practice day and after all the rain the steep course quickly turned in to a mess with huge ruts forming and one steep part of the track barely had a rideable line! The format for the race was two race runs followed by a top 10 shootout for cash which attracted some fast out of town riders in Kieran Bennett (Zerode bikes, Nelson) Nathan Rankin (Monster Energy Racing, Levin) and James Rennie (Red Dog Racing, Christchurch). Kieran Bennett was looking at home in the mud during practice but locals like Matt Walker, Connor Hamilton and Dan Heads were riding hard to try to keep the title in the North Island.
Once Sunday's race runs started though, Kieran Bennett came into a class of his own and schooled the field by 14 seconds! He sure wasn't letting the mud hold him back and from the pace he was managing to hold through some of the trickier parts of the course, it's no surprise he won by such a margin! Nathan Rankin came in at second place with Matt Walker another eight seconds behind; the difficulty of the track really separated the great riders from the rest in this race, with most riders struggling just to keep their feet up. Kieran also took out the top 10 shootout, and with Rankin needing to head home, Matt Walker slotted into 2nd place and making up a small amount of time but still 20 seconds behind the Nelson ripper!
Kieran Bennett 71 4:01.28
Nathan Rankin 99 4:15.27 +0:13.99 2
Matt Walker 111 4:23.60 +0:22.32 3
Daniel Heads 79 4:56.35 +0:55.07 7
Aari Barrett 94 5:01.84 +1:00.56 10
- Adam Lawrence 92 4:29.38
- Carl Edmondson 113 4:59.08 +0:29.69 9
- Ryan Williamson 84 5:06.57 +0:37.19
- Sarah Atkin 120 5:27.05
- Sophie Tyas 91 7:51.37 +2:24.32 45
- Pippa Holdom 68 9:37.68 +4:10.63 48
Full results at - http://descenddh.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/winter-champs-final-run.pdf