Blenkinsop, 24, won the elite men’s race in a time of 2:31.61, two seconds ahead of fellow professional Brook MacDonald (Hawkes Bay) in 2:33.61. Matt Walker, brother of Olympic BMX medallist Sarah, took third place in 2:33.33.
France’s Emmeline Ragot showed her class to blitz the rest of the field in a time of 2:53.34 to win the elite women’s race with the UK’s Jess Stone second in 2:58.31. Alanna Columb was the first New Zealander home in third place, with a time of 3:00.59.
Ragot, the two-time World Champion, was happy with her run, but wasn’t taking any risks before her professional season starts in Europe soon. “It was my first race in a while and first proper ride on my bike. I was really enjoying it, and it was a fast track,” Ragot said.
“I didn’t try the big jumps, they were a bit scary and it’s not prime season right now. If it were a World Cup then maybe I would try, but not here. I’m trying to stay safe.”
Hot, dry conditions combined with a fast track made for exciting racing, however it also wasn’t without casualty. Local teenager Aaron Ewen was airlifted to hospital after sustaining serious injuries as a result of a crash during his practice run yesterday.
The round served as the final showdown before the Mountain Bike National Championships next weekend in Rotorua, the feature event of the inaugural Rotorua Bike Festival.
Elite Men: Sam Blenkinsop (Christchurch) 2:31.61, 1. Brook MacDonald (Napier) 2:33.61, 2. Matt Walker (Kawerau) 2:33.33.
Elite Women: Emmeline Ragot (France) 2:53.34, 1. Jess Stone (GBR) 2:58.31, 2. Alanna Columb (Queenstown) 3:00.59, 3.
Full results www.bikenz.org.nz