Hawkes Bay mountain biker Brook MacDonald led the Kiwi charge with a podium placing at the European Cup downhill in Austria today. The IXS European Cup drew a world class field to the Leogang course which will host the World Championships later in the year. Three New Zealanders finished in the top 10 with MacDonald (MS Mondraker) finishing third, Havelock North rider George Brannigan (Devinci Global) was seventh with Whanganui’s Sam Blenkinsop (Lapierre International) 10th.
Former World Champion and World Cup winner Greg Minnaar claimed the win to back up his victory in the opening round of the World Cup on home turf in South Africa in March.
It proved an outstanding performance from MacDonald who whipped down the demanding course in the Leogang Bikepark in 3:25.504, just under four seconds behind the winner.
“Leogang done. I was third behind Greg and Steve and stoked to be back racing,” MacDonald said. “I am looking forward to Val di Sole.”
Brannigan, 22, who races for the Canadian Devinci Global alongside Smith, impressed with his run in 3:27.597 while it proved an exceptional effort from Blenkinsop who is coming back after breaking his leg in New Zealand in January.
Blenkinsop’s fellow teammate at Lapierre, Cameron Cole (Christchurch), was an encouraging 24th as he also returns from injury, after breaking his forearm at last year’s World Championships.
It was the first major outing since Pietermaritzberg in March and is a lead-in to a busy run of World Cup action on both sides of the Atlantic with Italy hosting this weekend’s action at Val di Sole, before moving to Fort William in Scotland the following week, Mont Sainte Anne in Canada on 23-24 June and Windham in USA on 30 June.
Meanwhile across the Atlantic, New Zealand downhill champion Justin Leov has finished runner-up in the Fox Pro Gravity Tour event at Plattekill, New York. Leov (Dunedin) finished behind his Trek World Racing teammate Aaron Gwin.
IXS European Cup Downhill, Leogang, Austria: Greg Minnaar (SAF, Santa Cruz Syndicate) 3:21.571, 1; Steve Smith (CAN, Devinci Global) 3:23.287, 2; Brook MacDonald (NZL, MS Mondraker) 3:25.504, 3. Also New Zealanders: George Brannigan (Devinci Global, NZL) 3:27.597, 7; Sam Blenkinsop (Lapierre International) 3:30.086, 10; Cameron Cole (Lapierre International) 3:36.026, 24.
US Fox Pro Gravity Tour, Plattekill, New York: Aaron Gwin (USA, Trek World Racing) 2:18.06, 1; Justin Leov (NZL, Trek World Racing) 2:19.57, 2; Phillip Kmetz (USA, Von Cooper) 2:21.76, 3.