Kiwi gravity riders impress at World Championships

New Zealand gravity riders completed arguably their best performance across the board at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Andorra today.

Former Wanganui professional Sam Blenkinsop again led the way, showing his liking for the slippery conditions to finish seventh in the elite men’s downhill, with all seven Kiwi elite men finishing in the top 35 from nearly 100 starters.

Added to that were best-ever world championship performances from Coatsville’s Sophie Tyas andQueenstown’s national champion Alanna Columb finishing 11th and 12th respectively in the elite women while Oamaru’s Connor Sandri was seventh in the junior men’s final.

Blenkinsop, who rides for the Norco Factory Team, podiumed four years ago on a wet world championship downhill track, and was again in form on the tacky and rutted track at Vallnord, qualifying fourth fastest and speeding down the track in 4:36.748.

He pushed into the reckoning but could not match brilliant young Frenchman Loic Bruni who took out his first elite downhill world title ahead of top qualifier Greg Minnaar.

The Trek World Racing duo of George Brannigan and Brook MacDonald were 15th and 20th respectively ahead of a bunch of Kiwi riders who all finished inside the top third of the field, including 28th placed Matt Walker (Rotorua) who registered the fastest speed of all riders at a tick under 53kph.

Great Britain superstar Rachael Atherton was again in a class of her won to win the elite women’s title with excellent performances from Tyas and Columb to push into the pointy end of the competition.

Sandri showed he is a talent for the future with an eye-catching seventh placing in the junior men.

Results:

Elite men: Loic Bruni (FRA) 4:19.585, 1; Greg Minnaar (RSA) 4:21.950, 2; Josh Bryceland (GBR) 4:24.361, 3. Also New Zealanders: Sam Blenkinsop 4:26.748, 7; George Brannigan 4:31.458, 15; Brook MacDonald 4:33.837, 20; Wyn Masters 4:35.192, 23; Matt Walker 4:39.021, 28; Ed Masters 4:39.122, 29; Rupert Chapman 4:41.959, 35

Elite women: Rachel Atherton (GBR) 5:08.488, 1; Manon Carpenter (GBR) 5:11.726, 2; Tracey Hannah (AUS) 5:18.461, 3. Also New Zealanders: Sophie Tyas 5:54.100, 11; Alanna Columb 5:59.175, 12; Veronique Sandler 6:29.586, 24; Amanda Monk 7:16.483, 30.

Junior Men: Laurie Greenland 9GBR) 4:32.839, 1; Martin Maes (BEL) 4:36.103, 2; Jackson Frew (AUS) 4:44.424, 3. Also New Zealanders: Connor Sandri 4:48.439, 7; Cole Lucas 5:05.525, 23; Kim Squire 5:10.781, 27; Jack Humphries 5:11.962, 29; Gareth Burgess 5:18.599, 35; Matt Lawton 5:30.864, 45.