The morning race start for the women’s categories had a strong contigent of Kiwis eager to assert some dominance over their Australian hosts. In the Elite Women’s race, Rosara Joseph (Giant-RaboBank, Christchurch) overcame some pre-race nerves to take a lead from the gun. A lead the Beijing Olympian never looked in danger of relinquishing over the tough five lap race. Australia’s Rowena Fry chased hard, but in vain as Karen Hanlen (Whakatane) reeled her in over the closing stages of the race to claim a well deserved 2nd place, a result that keeps the ex-multisporter continuing her rapid development in her new sport. Fiona MacDermid and Eloise Fry had forgettable races. MacDermid having drivetrain problems off the line and Fry being rammed off the course during a passing manouvre mid race. Joseph’s win confirms a New Zealand qualification spot for the Elite Women for the 2012 London Olympics.

The Under 23 Women’s race was a one way affair for Australia’s Rebecca Henderson, with Katie O’Neill and Samara Sheppard (both Rotorua) in the chase all race, finally claiming 2nd and 3rd respectively.

The Elite and Under 23 Men were on course at 12pm. From the gun Australia’s Chris Jondewaard wound on the power to take a start to finish win over compatriot Sid Taberlay. But Tokoroa’s Mike Northcott produced his best form of the year to storm home to a third place finish, in the process producing improving lap times over the six lap feature. National Champion Carl Jones didn’t have the legs today, fading to 10th and clearly tired and disappointed.

The Under 23 Men’s race had drama from the start. Dirk Peters (Rotorua) was caught out by the advanced start gun, and had to fight hard to remain in touch with Australian leader Paul van der Ploeg on the narrow Mt Major course. Peters gained all race but couldn’t bridge the gap to van der Ploeg who claimed an impressive back to back Oceania Championship title in this category. Brad Hudson (Christchurch) worked his way into third outright on course, but suffered a similar fate as Fry earlier in the day, being railroaded off course during a passing manouvre. Hudson badly damaged his front wheel in the crash, and couldn’t complete the race. Sam Shaw (Rotorua) benefited from Hudson’s withdrawl, but also worked his way into third on his own fighting merits.
The Under 17 and 19 Men were last on course mid afternoon as the heat started to build. Defending Oceania Champion Mathew Waghorn (Palmerston North) led for the first two laps, with Anton Cooper (Christchurch) right on his wheel. Cooper made a characteristic power move past Waghorn on lap three of four, and went on to win his first international title. Chasing hard and in touch with the leaders were Nigel McDowell (Rotorua) and Tom Bradshaw (Wellington), who showed fantastic staying power to race to 4th and 5th respectively. In the Under 17 race, New Zealand’s only representative and the smallest rider in this category, Craig Oliver showed that size wasn’t an issue today. Oliver displayed some sublime technical riding skills to win this category, to the absolute delight of his supporters.

The Oceanias Four Cross race was completed in the evening, with two NZ riders taking on the Australian challenge. Dan Franks (Christchurch) seeded 2nd and won his elimination heats right through to the final. Dan McCombie (Dunedin) made his way into the quarter finals, and ended up finishing a creditable 6th with the pass of the day on the last straight. Franks tried at every opportunity in the major final to put a move on early race leader Graeme Mudd (Australia), but had to settle for second place with Mudd cleverly protecting his lead at every corner and jump.

The Oceanias mountain bike programme continues tomorrow (Saturday) with Downhill practice, and the Short Track Cross Country race in Shepparton in the early evening. The Oceanias Downhill race takes place on Sunday.

Chris Mildon

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