Persistent rain fell from last night which caused the track to become muddy and slippery, with officials running the elite downhill races first in case worsening weather forced a cancellation.
With current National Champion George Brannigan out with injury, top seeds Cameron Cole, Brook MacDonald, Sam Blenkinsop and Edward Masters negotiated the slippery track, with times 30 seconds slower than qualifying in dry conditions.
World number five ranked Blenkinsop, who rides for Lapierre International, was well-pleased with his 3.21.23 win in the miserable conditions.
“It was pretty gnarly. Even after yesterday’s practice I thought the last section was pretty sketchy. I didn’t know how half the field was getting down it,” said Blenkinsop.
“For all this rain the top was fine, it was pretty much the same as riding in the dry, but just this last bit on the hard clay was hard to judge where you could push it.
“I just kinda rode easy, tried not to make any mistakes at the bottom, I knew that was the place where I could either win or lose the race, so I just tried to ride smooth, and it worked out for me.”
With both Cole and MacDonald achieving faster qualifying times, Blenkinsop knew he had to produce a top effort today.
“Cam rode really good yesterday, put two seconds into me and Brook, I knew he was feeling comfortable on his bike again.”
Blenkinsop’s next goal is to podium at the first round of the World Cup in South Africa before the World Cup moves to Cairns.
Masters was second with 3.23.78 ahead of Cole on 3.24.26. Strong contender MacDonald was just a fraction slower, earning fourth place with 3.24.66.
Having recently earned her first national title, Sarah Atkin was once again in a class of her own with a time of 4.25.43, 30 seconds ahead of her closest rival, Queenstown’s Veronique Sandler.
“It was good fun as long as you weren’t taking it too seriously, I was just pretty much trying to get down without crashing,” said Atkin.
“Yesterday was awesome, today was just slippery. Above the bridge it was all good, but then down here was just mud, just trying to hold on pretty much.”
Sandler was second with 4.55.27 ahead of Queenstown compatriot Sophie Tyas on 4.59.51.
Wanganui’s Ben Watkins took the U19 title in 3.50.17, with Christchurch’s Georgia Petrie taking the U19 women’s title in 5.28.11.
Australians prevailed in the cross-country eliminator event, with Shaun Lewis winning the men’s title and Rowena Fry the women.
Provisional Downhill Results:
Men: Elite: Samuel Blenkinsop (Wanganui, Lapierre International) 3.21.23, 1; Edward Masters (New Plymouth) 3.23.78, 2; Cameron Cole (Christchurch, Commencal Riding Addiction) 3.24.26, 3; Brook MacDonald (Napier, Trek World Racing) 3.24.66, 4; Rupert Chapman (Christchurch) 3.27.75, 5.
U19: Ben Watkins (Wanganui) 3.50.17, 1; Connor Hamilton (Rotorua) 3.52.90, 2; Keegan Wright (Rotorua) 3.56.71, 3; Josh McCombie (Dunedin) 4.00.49, 4; Connor Sandri (Oamaru) 4.03.67, 5.
U17: Cole Lucas (Hamilton) 4.16.09, 1; Blair McLeod (Rotorua) 4.22.21, 2; Riley Harman (Wivenhoe Pocket, QLD) 4.27.20, 3.
U15: Boaz Hebblethwaite (Christchurch) 5.18.76, 1; Liam Goodwin (Woodend) 6.17.50, 2; Hamish McLeod (Rotorua) 7.43.17, 3.
Senior: Jonas Meier (Christchurch) 4.01.88, 1; Harry Chapman (Christchurch) 4.02.37, 2; Tom Humphries (Palmerston North) 4.04.60, 3.
Master 1: Scott Fellers (Christchurch) 4.13.79, 1; Nicholas Sutcliffe (Christchurch) 4.22.49, 2; Sean Kennedy (Christchurch) 4.34.76, 3.
Master 2: Tony Holland (Christchurch) 9.00.55, 1.
Women: Elite: Sarah Atkin (Wellington) 4.25.43, 1; Veronique Sandler (Queenstown) 4.55.27, 2; Sophie Tyas (Queenstown) 4.59.51, 3; Alanna Columb (Queenstown) 5.04.79, 4; Amanda Monk (Whakatane) 8.20.58, 5.
U19: Georgia Petrie (Christchurch) 5.28.11, 1.
CAPTION: Sam Blenkinsop and Sarah Atkin in action at the Oceania Mountain Bike Championships at Mt Hutt today.