Oceania Mountainbike Championships, Final Day Wrap The 2012 Oceania Mountainbike Championships finished today with the Downhill and Cross Country Eliminator races in the Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua. Weather was very changeable, with just enough rain falling on and off all day to keep competitors guessing and gambling with the variable conditions. Competition was tough, and the strong international presence was felt again today in both feature races.
Cross Country Eliminator - Taberlay and Quin take the Titles
Evergreen Sid Taberlay (Australia) won the Men's XCE event today ahead of the best New Zealanders on a very tough circuit in the knock-out format race, on a course that rewarded a good dose of nerve on the downhill section, and a strong pair of legs and a tolerance to sprinting burn on the uphill. Taberlay was beaten for outright honours by Switzerland's Patrick Luthi, who was ineligible for the title having Swiss residency. Tauranga's Vanessa Quin, the 2004 World Downhill Champion made a successful return to MTB racing with a win in the Women's race, and loved every second of the experience. Quin revelled in the dirt racing atmosphere and clearly enjoyed herself with this new dirt criterium style event, and expressed a strong desire to chase some more events in a sport that saw her international career span several years through the late 90s through to 2006.
Downhill - Atkin Remains Unbeaten, Scoles Breaks his Title Drought
The largest field of entrants this 2012 summer took on the Whaka Downhill course for the afternoon race. Seeding showed that the Australian challenge was going to be the strongest in the Junior U19 Men's race, and that is exactly the way the race panned out. Local hopes rested with Louis Hamilton and Jake Robinson, who know this hill and the course itself intimately, however they were beaten by an ecstatic Brent Smith (Australia) albeit by the slimmest of margins. Smith knew he had raced clean and fast from his 5th seed position, and his time held right through for his first Oceania Championship title.
In the Elite Women's race, Sarah Atkin (Lower Hutt) added the Oceania title to her stellar 2012 achievements, ahead of a disappointed Gabby Molloy (Rotorua) who lost just enough time with a mid course crash to prevent her challenge taking her to the win.
The Men's Elite race was a cracker. Napier's Brook MacDonald was a late entry to the race, after confirming late flights to the first UCI World Cup in South Africa for Monday. 2009 Junior World Champion MacDonald held a massive advantage with the quickest seeding time, but couldn't improve on that time during his race, while four other athletes did. Matt Walker (Kawerau) set the benchmark time from a deep seed position, and Wyn Masters (New Plymouth) locked in his best result of this summer with a third. Only Alexandra's Matt Scoles had the pace to better Walker's time. Scoles, who raced a quality season in Europe last year that saw him finishing in top ten positions during late season World Cups, and winning everything he raced at the next tier of competition in Italy, has been on a steady upward rise in this sport since working his way back from injury after his 2007 Junior World Championship bronze medal. The Oceanias Championship title this year represents a real coming of age for the Alexandra builder, his first major title win in this sport in New Zealand at an Elite level.
Event hosts, the Rotorua MTB Club were extremely happy with how the Oceanias ran this year, with the quality of race courses and the level of competition evenly matched. MTBNZ thanks RaboDirect and Nature Valley for their sponsorship and support of the 2012 Oceania Mountainbike Championships, and wishes those athletes embarking on northern hemisphere racing campaigns all the best for the rest of 2012.
Oceania Mountainbike Championships Day 2, Cross Country Wrap Hanlen and McConnell Double up Championship Titles
Cross Country racing took place at the Oceania Mountainbike Championships today in the Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua. The multi-lap, Olympic format races drew a strong presence from Australia, and at the end of the day across the six UCI categories (U19, U23 and Elite) Australian athletes claimed two championship titles while New Zealand athletes kept four for their own.
In the morning age group category races the best athletes this summer all came together again to try to claim the coveted Oceania titles. Form athletes took wins today, with stand-out performances coming from especially the three Masters Men category winners. Karl Patterson admitted having a very strong premonition of winning this event overnight, and for the ex-Elite downhiller following through on that for the win was an empowering experience, taking the Masters 30-40 title. Rotorua legend Garth Weinberg owned the Masters 40-50 category, and Wellington's Ian Paintin, like Weinberg, followed through on his recent National Championship win to also take the Oceanias 50 plus win.
The afternoon races were a feast of action, and national pride was on the line through U19, 23 and Elite races. The Under 19 Men's race delivered a breakthrough win for Rotorua local Nigel McDowell, after Sam Gaze had to withdraw due to a collision at the end of the first lap, with a ruined drivetrain. McDowell was pushed all the way by Nelson's Tom Filmer and Australia's Ben Bradley, and he held on for a very popular win. Another Rotorua local, Amber Johnston, won the Women's Under 19 race.
In the Under 23s, Australia's Rebecca Henderson was too strong for the New Zealand challenge, while in the Under 23 Men's race, Rotorua's Dirk Peters again showed the aggression and raw desire for winning he has finely developed this summer for another Championship win.
The Elite races were pure excitement. New Zealand's male athletes couldn't stay with the pace set by Australia's best exponents of this brutal sport, with Dan McConnell winning this year's Oceania title, to add to his Australian National Championship win earlier this summer. Rotorua's Carl Jones was the best of the New Zealanders with 5th place. In the Elite Women's race, the head to head contest between Rosara Joseph (Wellington) and Karen Hanlen (Whakatane) drew a large crowd, with an increasing understanding forming of the pure quality of these two athletes. The two were stuck tightly together through the first three laps, both having some issues with a very difficult technical section of the course. However, as she has done several times this summer already, Hanlen applied the blowtorch on the third lap, gapping out to a lead that she stretched and then protected through to the win. Hanlen, like Australian McConnell, doubled her championship haul with this Oceanias win, adding this to her 2012 National Championship title. Both Hanlen and Joseph now pack up for the long trip to South Africa for the first round of the UCI World Cup next weekend, where they will continue their rivalry in the lead-up to potential selection for the London Olympics.
Oceania Mountainbike Championships Day 1, Super D Wrap Sam Shaw Cleans Out
The first day of Oceania Mountainbike Championship action finished today in the Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua. The afternoon Super D event was run in brilliant conditions, with a varied, quality field taking on some of Whaka's best and most well-known trails. A wide range of racers were represented, with several of NZ's top Cross Country athletes getting a chance to stretch their legs against some of the areas best trail riders and downhillers before racing the XCO tomorrow.
U23 local Sam Shaw won the Senior Men's race in style in the quickest overall time of the evening. Shaw had dealt with some mechanical issues during practice, but raced a clean, calculated run to outpace his competition on a course that turned out to be a superb test of fitness and nerve. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th placed athletes contained a vast amount of combined experience between them - Byron Scott (Auckland), Craig Pattle (Rotorua) ex Elite and international class downhill athletes, and John Kirkcaldie (Taupo) returning from a six year retirement after a stellar career on the US NORBA circuit. Shaw was more than a match for their experience however, and a five second margin was his buffer for the inaugural Oceanias Super D.
Raewyn Morrison (Kapiti) had already claimed the National Championship Super D title earlier this summer, and added the Oceania Senior Women's title to her swag today in Rotorua. Morrison withstood a strong challenge from Auckland's Sasha Smith, taking a solid ten second win. Other category winners of note were Jamie Nicoll (Nelson) who like Morrison added the Oceania title to his National Championship title in the Masters 30-40, and locals Pete Calnan (Masters 40+) and Connor Hamilton (Juniors) winning well in their respective classes.
Tomorrow's Cross Country racing features a very strong Australian presence, with major challenges in store for New Zealand's best multi-lap athletes across all categories. Racing starts at 10.30am for age group categories, with the U19 Men/Women, and U23 Women racing at a rescheduled time of 1pm, with the Elite Men/Women, and U23 Men racing at 3pm.