Trek World Racing professional George Brannigan pulled out a superb ride to break the three minute barrier and retain his elite men’s downhill title at the National Mountain Bike Championships in Rotorua today, as part of the opening weekend of the annual Rotorua Bike Festival.
Brannigan was the only rider to clock under three minutes on the new course at the Skyline Rotorua Mountain Bike Gravity Park, finishing in 2:59.85. He finished ahead of his Trek World Racing teammate Brook Macdonald in second (3:03.35) and world number five ranked Sam Blenkinsop in third (3:05.82).
Meanwhile Queenstown’s Alanna Columb took out the elite women’s honours ahead of last year’s winner Sarah Atkin from Lower Hutt.
Brannigan, from Havelock North, said he didn’t let the fact he was defending champion play on his mind or change his tactics. “To be honest I just treated it like another national because in New Zealand everyone is so laid back it doesn’t get too serious, and I think that helped because I didn’t feel any pressure,” said Brannigan.
He also enjoyed the chance to retain his jersey on the new course. “Everyone had to adapt to this new course, but it’s the style of track I like – fast and rough. “Coming down I had a couple of moments, but that’s just natural because the track is so loose, so I was like ‘man I hope I stay on’, and I did.”
Brannigan had earlier set the fastest seeding time, with a 3:00.69 run, nearly five seconds better than his closest rival. “I got three [minutes] flat in seeding and didn’t pedal too hard, so I knew I could break it. So I just pedalled hard and it worked out”.
Last year’s women’s runner-up Columb turned the tables on last year’s winner, Atkin, to claim her maiden title. The 26-year-old was one second faster than Atkin which was an outstanding result for the Queenstown rider who showed the benefits of a solid season on the World Cup circuit last year.
“I’ve been coming second for a little bit now, so it’s nice to have a change,” said the Queenstown rider. “To win actually boggles the mind a bit.”
Twenty-year-old prospect Sophie Tyas from Auckland claimed third in the elite women’s downhill.
Elite: George Brannigan (Havelock North) 2:59:85, 1; Brook Macdonald (Napier) 3:03:35, 2; Sam Blenkinsop (Christchurch) 3:05:82, 3; Rupert Chapman (Christchurch) 3:07:62, 4; Bernard Kerr (UK) 3:08:85, 5 - Not eligible for medal.
Senior: Leonard Sonntag (Rotorua) 3:25:54, 1; Tom Humphries (Palmerston North) 3:37:28, 2; Oliver Knight (Palmerston North) 3:41:51, 3; Tristian Ratcliffe (Kapiti) 3:49:67, 4; Mathew Hunt (Rotorua) 3:50.52, 5.
Under-19: Connor Sandri (Oamaru) 3:14:61, 1; Jack Humphries (Palmerston North) 3:23:41, 2; Cole Lucas (Hamilton) 3:28:91, 3; Kim Newton (Nelson) 3:32:94, 4; Oliver Jarman (Christchurch) 3:34:21, 5.
Under-17: Liam Bethell (Auckland) 3:39:69, 1; Sam Robbie (Queenstown) 3:40:01, 2; Nils Heiniger (Christchurch) 3:44:29, 3; Billy Meaclem (Christchurch) 3:48:88, 4; Charlie Makea (Napier) 3:50:64, 5
Under-15: Finn Parsons (Rotorua) 4:04:45, 1; Isaac Ewen (Tuakau) 4:26:96, 2; Tom O’Brien (Katikati) 4:29:56, 3; Hamish Mackie (Lower Hutt) 4:42:98, 4; Hunter Paull (Christchurch) 4:45:05 5.
Masters 1: Michael Evans (Wellington) 3:47:75, 1; Tim Hunter (Auckland) 3:48:76, 2; Nathan Timoko (Wellington) 4:01:35, 3; Clinton Williams (Auckland) 4:08:70, 4; Iain Burgon (Wellington) 4:34:91, 5.
Masters 2: Edd James (Auckland) 5:02:82, 1; Cameron McLeod (Rotorua) 5:18:72, 2; Daniel Burgess (Rakaia) 6:01:36, 3.
Elite: Alanna Columb (Queenstown) 3:51:38, 1; Sarah Atkin (Lower Hutt) 3:52:45, 2; Sophie Tyas (Auckland) 4:18:68, 3; Amanda Monk (Whakatane) 6:02:48, 4.
Under-17: Shania Rawson (Papamoa) 5:27:76, 1.
Masters 1: Philippa Rostan (Australia) 7:18:11, 1 – Not eligible for medal.