Blenkinsop’s time of 2:52.89 was enough to take the lead from Kieran Bennett, Nelson, who was just over one second behind in 2:54.17. Hometown rider Nathan Rankin took third with 2:55.18.
The twenty-four year-old Blenkinsop was relishing the chance to ride in his home country, before he heads back overseas to start the European mountain bike season.
“I always have fun riding in New Zealand; it’s just like riding with your friends and having a fun time. It was good out there today, I didn’t really want to race, I just wanted to keep doing runs. I was having fun the whole weekend. It’s always a good thing to do before the (European) season. We’re a lot luckier, all the other riders over there are in winter, so we get an advantage to be able to ride at this time of year and have beautiful weather.”
Blenkinsop, who hails from Wanganui and rides for professional mountain bike team Lapierre International, won the previous round of the series at Mt Hutt two weeks ago. It was his first major win after breaking his leg 12 months ago.
Blenkinsop’s previous results include third at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in 2011, and numerous UCI Mountain Bike World Cup podiums.
Alanna Columb, 24, of Queenstown, also retained her top spot after qualifying to win the elite women’s race in a time of 3:34.86. Christchurch’s Amy Laird took second with 3:42.73, and UK rider Jess Stone was denied a third consecutive win with a time of 3:44.04 to take third place.
“I’m really happy. The track was pretty rough, and things came up in the race run like new blown-out corners, so I’m really happy with how I went.”
Hot and dry conditions had proved challenging for the riders, and elite racing was delayed by over an hour due to a serious crash on the track earlier in the day.
The series continues tomorrow, with round two of the cross-country on Mt Victoria in Wellington.
For more information and full results please see www.bikenz.org.nz.
Results: Elite Men: 1: Sam Blenkinsop (Christchuch), 2:52.89 2: Kieran Bennett (Nelson), 2:54.17 3: Nathan Rankin (Levin), 2:55.18 4: Brook Macdonald (Napier), 2:55.83 5: Bernard Kerr (United Kingdom), 2:56.26
Elite Women: 1: Alanna Columb (Queenstown), 3:34.86 2: Amy Laird (Christchurch), 3:42.73 3: Jess Stone (United Kingdom) 4: Veronique Sandler (Nelson), 3:48.95 5: Sophie Tyas (Christchurch), 3:59.74