The 2012 NZ MTB Cup presented by Nature Valley got off to a scorching start today in the blistering heat of Queenstown. The new Remarkables downhill venue overlooking Queenstown Airport, Frankton and Lake Wakatipu delivered dry, dusty, and very hot racing conditions for the multi-national field of 151 starters today.
Competition was fierce across all categories, with the new downhill race course cutting up during the two days of practice and competition to become worthy of this level of contest. Huge braking bumps and multiple choice lines including long off-camber sections provided plenty of challenge for all on the hill.
In the Elite races today, the women's field was always playing catch-up to Wellington's Sarah Atkin, who had the measure of her competitors in both seeding and race. Atkin won by a massive 15 second margin over recent UK immigrant Harriet Latchem, with Nelson's Veronique Sandler in third. Both Atkin and Sandler have progressed through to the Elite field this year after stellar 2011 seasons in the U19 ranks, and having represented New Zealand last year at the World Championships.
The men's Elite race had a number of international racers taking on a very strong New Zealand field. George Brannigan (Havelock North) was last starter today, having seeded fastest in the morning's shakedown. The Devinci Global professional waited for his race start with the knowledge that he'd have to put down the same speed on the Remarks course to claim the win, having seen his competiton one by one post times that could easily take the podium top step; any mistake would be punished on the clock. Christchurch's Joseph Nation had set the time to beat early in the race order, with a brace of solid competition only just behind him. Brannigan held his nerve however, and went slightly faster than his seeding run to take the win by a comfortable 2.5 seconds. Of note today in the Elite men's results list was French visitor Jerome Clementz who is a Downhill Super Enduro maestro, winning every major European Enduro event last year. Clementz switched to the downhill bike for this weekend and showed that he is also multi-talented, with a fourth place finish. (Editor's Note:It's actually a freeride bike; the Cannondale Claymore has only 180mm of travel and was designed by Aaron Chase not for DH, but for bike park riding.)
The Junior races were also exciting to watch, with riders moving between categories with the new year. Second year U19 racer Reece Potter (Golden Bay) won the tough U19 class, but by the slimmest of margins over Leo Sandler (Nelson) who had his first start as an U19 rider. In the U17s, Josh McCombie (Dunedin) cleaned the field out with a solid display of consistency.
The biggest fields racing today were in the Senior Men and Masters 30-39 categories - both highly competitive at the top end and right on through the middle order. Fastest seeds in both categories followed through to take the win, with Nelson's Jake Boylett and Derek Winwood claiming top step of the podium. Fastest seed in the Masters 40+ Darryn Henderson also took the win. The Open Women's category had good numbers racing today, with a good contingent of local Queenstown riders taking to the Remarks hill. But none could match Auckland's Adrienne Hooper, who with today's win completes a rapid transition from a national level cross-country racing career to the vastly different downhill discipline. Other category winners were Sophie Tyas (Auckland) in the Junior Women, and Oliver Jarman (Christchurch) in the U15 men.
The NZ MTB Cup continues this coming weekend in Dunedin, with the second round of the Downhill series on Friday/Saturday the 13th and 14th, and the first round of the Cross-Country Series on Sunday the 15th. Both races are taking place at Logan High School at the base of Signal Hill.
Brief results: Elite Men 1 George Brannigan (Havelock North) 2:26.25; 2 Joseph Nation (Christchurch) 2:28.82; 3 Matthew Scoles (Alexandra) 2:28.93 Elite Women 1 Sarah Atkin (Wellington) 2:51.08; 2 Harriet Latchem (Queenstown) 3:04.61; 3 Veronique Sandler (Nelson) 3:13.63 U19 Men 1 Reece Potter (Golden Bay) 2:32.29; 2 Leo Sandler (Nelson) 2:32.99; 3 Loius Hamilton (Rotorua) 2:34.21 U17 Men 1 Josh McCombie (Dunedin) 2:38.54; 2 Carl Goodwin (Kaiapoi) 2:52.07; 3 James Minty (Christchurch) 2:52.67 Senior Men 1 Jake Boylett (Nelson) 2:32.89; 2 Scott McGregor (Te Puke) 2:33.06; 3 Carl Edmonson (Whakatane) 2:36.01 Masters 30-39 Men 1 Derek Winwood (Nelson) 2:34.32; 2 Kelly McGarry (Nelson/Queenstown) 2:39.12; 3 Jamie Nicoll (Nelson) 2:40.04 Masters 40+ Men 1 Darryn Henderson (Christchurch) 2:46.26; 2 Mike Williamson (Wellington) 2:56.38; 3 Vaughan Love (wellington) 3:01.87 Open Women 1 Adrienne Hooper (Waitakere City) 3:07.94; 2 Naomi Wilson (Queenstown) 3:08.80; 3 Alanna Columb (Queenstown) 3:10.78 Junior Women 1 Sophie Tyas (Auckland) 3:00.12; 2 Phoebe Coers (Wanaka) 3:35.03 U15 Men 1 Oliver Jarman (Christchurch) 3:00.28; 2 Carlos Wilson (Dunedin) 3:04.20; 3 Mathew Gilan (Queenstown) 3:13.46
Issued by MTBNZ Events Chris Mildon