A cold, crisp morning and the infamous Cardrona cloud greeted the riders at Sunday’s DH Nationals. 

Things were looking gloomy first thing

But as the seeding runs started at 11am the claggy cloud began to lift, the sun broke through and the course began to dry and get faster. After last year’s shocker with the weather the teams from Cardrona and Bike Wanaka had put a lot of work into getting the course looking good and were relieved to hear that the riders were pumped on the track and that the weather behaved itself.

The riders and organisers were stoked to see the sun come out

Seeding runs went well and a good crowd lined the prime vantage points on the course for the main event. With over 110 riders in the field it promised to be an entertaining day.

Heckler’s rock was a bit more subdued than it’s Whistler cousin

Start gate nerves

Kicking things off were the elder statesman as the masters men threw back the years and laid down times for their younger rivals to better. Then into the hotly contested U15 division were Bike Wanaka’s Guy Johnston took 4 secs out of his nearest rival to grab the title.

Guy Johnston U15 national champ

The Under 17 field was stacked and tightly fought for with only 2.7 secs separating the top 3 but in the end Queenstown’s Alex Barke earned top spot.  In the girls division it was Wellington’s Nikki Clarke who stood atop the podium.

Alex Barke winner of the U17 national title

Nikki Clarke is your U17 women’s champ 

U19’s was probably the most impressive age group of the day. Tauranga’s Shania Rawson-Pickard was in superb form as she won the U19 title, in fact she was the 2nd fastest women of the day only 1.3 secs off taking the overall win. In the men’s class it was Josh Oxenham from Auckland who triumphed by 4.5secs from his nearest rival with a time that would have seen him 14th in Elite men. Both Shania and Josh are part of the National Performance Hub showing what an asset that is for the future of our sport.

The impressive Shania Rawson-Pickard dominated the U19 division

Josh Oxenham’s National Performance Hub training paid off as he earned himself U19 title

The Open categories went to Ashley Bond and Connor Sandri

Ashley Bond was the Open women's winner

Ashley Bond was the Open women’s winner

Connor Sandri took out the Men’s Open race

The main show was of course the Elite’s and first up it was the women, were Queenstown’s Alanna Columb reigned supreme and completed a three-peat of nationals titles.

Women’s National DH Champ – Alanna Columb

The men’s elite was always going to be a closely fought battle with a stacked line up of big hitters. The seeding run saw Eddie Masters set the pace, with Keegan Wright nipping at his heels.  The big question though was could the mercurial Masters stay on his bike in his race run.

Alas not, Eddie’s run of inconsistency and bad luck continues as mid run spill saw him slip to 7th overall, over 2 secs slower than his seeding. Looking forward to the race when Eddie puts it all together!

This left the door open for the hard charging Keegan to snag himself his first National DH title at just 20 years of age, as he held off Brook MacDonald and Sam Blenkinsop to take the win by nearly a second.

The mercurial Eddie Masters 

Kenny Blenkinsop still dialling in his new bike took 4th overall (3rd Kiwi)

Bulldog was looking sharp in 2nd spot

The frothing grommet Keegan Wright with his unmistakable lemon lid stole the show

Big shout out to Bike Wanaka and Cardrona for putting on an amazing event and great to see DH racing looking so healthy in New Zealand.

Full results are available here

Check out this gallery of other shots from Sunday

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