The complete NZ Mountain Bike Championships wrap up with, as per usual, no photos. Just use your imagination…
Super D and Cross Country Wrap
The RaboDirect NZ Mountain Bike Championships have now run for the first two days of three, with Super D racing completed last night and Cross Country today, at Codgers MTB Park in the Brook Valley, Nelson. Competitors have been wrapped in hot, windy weather, and bone dry trails have been the norm so far, delivering fast and brutal racing.
Last night’s Super D was the first time this event has been held at a national level and was a great success, with a broad range of entrants including World Cup top ten athletes, former World Championship medalists, local trail chargers and international dark horses all part of this inaugural event. Best described as a mongrel mix of the best components of downhill and cross-country race courses, the Super D is a downhill endurance event, designed to bring cross-country and downhill racers onto an even footing. Justin Leov (Dunedin) had the pace right through the evening, and demolished the field with a blistering run of 7 minutes 15 seconds. No one got close, with the gap back to second place Kieran Bennett (Nelson) 13 seconds. Leov was complementary of this style of racing: “This suits my strengths, and I think is more enjoyable for me than downhill racing. I look forward to seeing more of these types of events offered”. Women’s winner Harriet Harper (Nelson) also put daylight between herself and the rest of the women’s field. Harper is racing with solid form despite having training and racing time minimised with work commitments, but blitzed to a time that placed her 21st overall in the 48 strong men’s and women’s entry list.
Cross Country racing took place today and some fantastic racing in the morning age group categories warmed an enthusiastic crowd up for the main event at 2pm – the Elites and U19 Juniors. The contest between Wellington riders Gavin McCarthy and Tony Keith in the Masters 30-39 going right down to the wire. Only a slight slip on the last descent by McCarthy preventing what was sure to be an all out sprint for the line, both riders inseparable for their four laps. Keith eventually took the title by 18 seconds. Other racers that shone and took home championship titles were Garth Weinberg (Rotorua, Masters 40-49), Eden Cruise (Wellington, U15 Men), and Ben Oliver (Christchurch) and Shannon Hope (Dunedin) in the U17 Mens and Womens.
The Elite races provided great excitement and anticipation for the very vocal crowd watching on a race course designed in part to allow fantastic viewing options. Dirk Peters rode like a man possesed today in the six lap Elite Mens race, and led from start to finish to win by over two minutes. Any slight threat of a challenge and Peters had the perfect answer – more pace and aggression which carried him to his first National Championship title as an Elite athlete. Peters couldn’t have been happier, and clearly enjoyed his win against the deepest field of competition seen at a National Championship for many years. In the Womens race, the contest was always going to be between Beijing Olympian Rosara Joseph (Wellington) and in form NZ MTB Cup leader Karen Hanlen (Whakatane). Hanlen sat on Joseph’s wheel for the first two laps, before applying the throttle during lap three to hammer home an unbeatable lead. Hanlen stretched her legs for the remainder of the race to win by a stunning three minutes, and the smiling ex multi-sporter reinforced her form with her first National Championship title. Both Hanlen and Joseph are gunning for the 2012 London Olympics spot, and Hanlen’s early season challenge to what has been Joseph’s domain in recent years is providing a fascinating prelude to the upcoming Olympics selection process.
Anton Cooper (Woodend) is fast becoming a drawcard at these events, and his race craft and domination of his Junior rivals something of a talking point. Starting two minutes behind the Elites, Cooper first paced away from his U19 competition, and steadily clawed back the outright leader on course (Peters), before passing him on the fouth lap. Cooper won comfortably from surprise package Sam Gaze (Cambridge) today claiming back to back National Championship wins in the Juniors. Like Cooper, Mary Gray (Dunedin) also won her second Junior National Championship title today, in a led from the front win.
The National Mountain bike Championship programme concludes tomorrow with the Downhill and Cross Country Eliminator races in Nelson.
NZ Mountainbike Championships Cross Country Eliminator and Downhill Wrap
Waghorn Survives the Eliminator; Leov Doubles Title Haul
The RaboDirect NZ Mountainbike Championships finished today with the Cross Country Eliminator and Downhill events contested on the slopes of Fringed Hill in the Brook Valley, Nelson. The hot, windy weather continued and the sunshine heralded new National Champions in two very tough cycling disciplines – one new and one well established.
The Cross Country Eliminator (XCE) drew 16 competitors for its first showing on the national circuit. A mix of Junior U17, U19 and Elite athletes took the challenge during a midday break in the downhill schedule. Raced on a short 500m long course around and through the event village, the knock-out style competiton, where four man heats delivered first and second placed riders through to the next round (while 3rd and 4th were eliminated) had a huge crowd lining the course and urging riders through their heats. The crucial part of each lap proved to be the short gravel track climb, and in the early heats the only clear favourite seemed to be Anton Cooper (Woodend) with his explosive power off the start line. The final four riders were Cooper, Mathew Waghorn (Palmerston North), Craig Oliver (Christchurch) and Harley Going (Whangarei). Off the line it was an elbow to elbox wrestle between Waghorn and Cooper going into the short climb, with Waghorn able to leverage just enough advantage to turn through the top of the course in the front. Despite a massive sprint from Cooper, Waghorn won the inaugural XCE national championship title by half a wheel. Oliver kept his nerve from a charging Harley Going to win the bronze medal.
The Downhill event drew a huge crowd, with a win on the Fringed Hill course considered one of the ultimate prizes in NZ downhill racing. Right through the lead-up age group categories, the form riders from the early part of the NZ MTB Cup seemed to hold advantages over their chasing rivals. Two Nelson riders who hadn’t yet made NZ Cup appearances upset the form book by winning their categories – Hayden McKay in the 30-39 Master Men, and Tania Carson in the Open Women. McKay’s win giving him back to back championship titles in this very competitive category. Another Nelson rider, Leo Sandler in his first year in the Junior U19’s won the gold, and in a stunning time that placed him within the top ten Elite times.
But it was the Elite contest that captivated the Fringed Hill crowd. Multi-time National Champion Harriet Harper (Nelson) held the fastest seeding time in this category by a mile, but had to settle for second place today after a truly inspired race by Sarah Atkin. Any doubt that the young Lower Hutt downhill exponent could foot it with Harper (the fastest female rider in NZ over recent years) was put to rest with her National Championship title today. The Mens Elite race was incredibly close. Matt Walker (Kawerau) attacked from an early start position to lead for some time before Bryn Dickerson (Wellington) unseated him from the top of the leaderboard. NZ based amateur Dickerson put the bike down on the last corner as well, loosing valuable seconds which he would rue while nervously watching the last starters come to the line one by one. George Brannigan (Havelock North) snuck past Dickerson, but Justin Leov confirmed his liking and success history with Nelson race courses to win by just over a second. The Downhill National Championship win made it two titles for Leov for the weekend, joining his Super D gold from Friday night. Leov and Atkin will now proudly wear their race jerseys this year on the world stage with right sleeves constructed as a NZ flag, the internationally recognised downhill National Champions identification.
The Downhill medallists presentation wrapped up a busy weekend for NZ’s top mountainbikers in Nelson. Quality fields in all categories were an absolute highlight, and all title winners were justly deserved. The NZ MTB Cup resumes for Downhill riders in Rotorua Feb 11/12th, and for Cross Country riders in Wellington Feb 19th.
Issued for MTBNZ Events