Great Britain’s Bernard Kerr edged out Christchurch downhill superstar Cam Cole by the narrowest of margins to win the first round of the BikeNZ Mountain Bike Cup Series in Bluff today.

Kerr claimed victory in the Elite Men’s race with a time of 2:52.35, a mere 0.04 of a second ahead of Cole on the 1.37km track descending the iconic Bluff Hill.

Louis Hamilton from Rotorua took third place with 2:55.43.

Kerr won ahead a start-studded line up with riders from France, Japan, Brazil, Canada, and New Zealand.

“My race run wasn’t perfect, it was really windy, which made it difficult to do all of the jumps, but overall I’m really happy,” Kerr said. “It was really fun, and I’m looking forward to the next races in the series before I leave in February”

Another UK rider, Jess Stone, outrode her opponents to claim the Elite Women’s victory.

Stone rode a time of 3:29.16, over 13 seconds faster than second place Alanna Columb (Queenstown), 3:42.75, and former Oceania Champion Amy Laird (Christchurch), in third place with 3:45.06.

Local knowledge proved valuable for Connor Harvey (Invercargill) winning the under-19 men’s category in 3:07.06, with Raphael Kammlein-Cutler (Dunedin) and Lawrence Cawte in second and third respectively.

Conditions had improved drastically after unseasonably cold weather mid-week, with the track drying out after five days of rain, and should continue to improve for the Cross Country racing tomorrow.

The under-15, under-17, senior, and masters are set to race from 10.30am, with the under-19, under-23, and elites from 2pm.

Anton Cooper is likely to dominate the challenging cross country course on Bluff Hill, as he prepares for his first full season on the UCI World Cup scene in the under-23 division, with fellow Kiwis Dirk Peters and Mary Gray also expected to be tough competitors in the elite men and under-23 category.

Cross country riders will face two more rounds in the Mountain Bike Cup series at Mt Victoria in Wellington on 1-3 February, and Hunua in Auckland on 8-9 February, ahead of the National Championships in Rotorua on 15-17 February.

Downhill riders have three more rounds; Mt Hutt next weekend, Levin on 1-2 February, and Hunua in Auckland on 8-9 February, before the National Championships in Rotorua on the 15-17 February.

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