While Dirk Peters fired out an early warning shot to his rivals ahead of the upcoming NZ National MTB season, it was the debut of the yet-to-be-named rock garden that drew all the attention during Sunday’s final of the Mid-North Island MTB series.
Over the previous month Rotorua locals had watched with interest as an evil looking trail began to take shape plunging off the side of Nursery Rd. The brainchild of Pete Calnan (and thanks to numerous hours of volunteer labour) the yet-to-be-named trail was conceived to add real challenge to the upcoming Oceania Championship; a signature element to remember on the already famous trails.
While the much loved Rotorua trails reward technically competent riders with a smooth flowing style, there was nothing to strike fear and doubt into an XC rider’s heart. Nothing that made a rider stop to really consider and calculate the risk versus reward equation. With trail development progress consistently leaked out via Facebook, a large crowd of both riders and spectators assembled to put the challenge to the test and perhaps witness the consequences of those making an ill-advised choice to try the A-Line.
In front of a large and vocal crowd the course produced close and hard fought racing. Perhaps none so close as the Open Men where Carl Jones, Mike Northcott and Dirk Peters (Current NZ Elite # 1 & 2 and U23 #1 respectively) waged a race-long battle which was only decided on the final lap when Peters pushed clear for a deserved victory. Junior standouts Nigel McDowell (U19) and Brad Jones (U17) dominated their respective categories as they chased down many of the Open field.
In the women’s race it was a dominant display from Katie O’Neill, while Raewyn Morrison impressed many as she bombed the A-Line to keep things close. Impressive also was local junior Amber Johnston (U19) who was kept honest by the efforts of Jemma Manchester, racing U15 but having such a good time she charged off for an extra lap to chase Johnston. Exciting to see such enthusiasm in the younger ranks.
It was a fitting conclusion to a very successful 7th running of the Mid-NI series. Congratulations to the series winners listed below. No doubt all now looking ahead to a successful National season and a return to Whakarewarewa in March for the 2012 Oceania Championship.
• Open Men Mike Northcott
• Open Women Kathryn Campbell
• Junior Men (U19) Nigel McDowell
• Junior Women (U19) Amber Johnston
• Junior Men (U17) Brad Jones
• Junior Men (U15) Lewis Eccles
• Junior Women (u15) Jemma Manchester
• Vet 1 Men Garth Weinberg
• Vet 2 Men Bryce Giddy
• Vet 3 Men Paul McDowell
• Vet Women Sarah Beadal