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The RaboPlus NZ MTB Cup presented by Nature Valley continues this weekend (Jan 24/25) in Levin. The NZ MTB Cup comprises six Cross Country and Six Downhill events (three in each of the North and South Islands) during January and February, wrapping up with the RaboPlus National Mountain bike Championships presented by Nature Valley in Nelson between February 26 and March 1st.
Levin hosts NZCT Round 3 (and final of the North Island Downhill Cup) round of the NZ MTB Downhill Cup on Saturday in the Kohitere Forest, 4km from the centre of town. Some exciting mountain bike race locations around the country are still to come for competitors with Dunedin, Timaru, Coronet Peak, Blenheim, and finally Nelson all hosting events for NZ's mountain bikers in their quest for National competitive and internationally recognised titles.
Sunday's Downhill race has attracted a high number of pre-entries, with a large number of on the day riders also expected to take part. Hosts the Levin Mountain bike Club have the experience to cope with the expected number of competitors, having previously organised successful NZCT National Secondary Schools Mountain bike Championships, and other National level events.
In the Elite Mens competition, a group of Scottish invaders led by Ben Cathro have been racing consistently at the head of the field, and have been setting the pace at the two previous NZ Cup rounds in Rotorua. However, this weekend sees the return to competition of current Oceania Downhill Champion Kieran Bennett (Nelson) who will add to the number of experienced Kiwis wanting to avoid a Scottish clean sweep of podium results so far this summer. World Cup winner and world ranked #7 professional Sam Blenkinsop (Wanganui) will be smarting from his second place to Cathro last weekend, and will be aiming for nothing less than top spot in Levin. Juniors Aari Barrett and Brook MacDonald (both Hawkes Bay) are also competing in the Elite field and are showing consistent form, well amongst the Elite top ten this summer.
The Elite Womens competition follows a similar story - Emmeline Ragot (France) is also competing in NZ this summer, and so far has shown a clean set of wheels to her NZ competition, winning NZ Cup rounds one and two. Harriet Harper (Blenheim) and Gabby Molloy (Rotorua) know that Ragot is setting the standard this year so far, and will be keen to close the gap on the French star, if not best her. One rider scheduled for an appearance but who won't be competing is current National Downhill Champion Sheryl MacLeod (Dunedin), who is recovering from a serious injury, suffered while training.
Additionally to the premier Elite level competition, age group categories from Masters 50+ through to the emerging U15 age groups in their first national events will be just as hotly contested in Levin and at all NZ MTB Cup events. The U19 and U17 races are two to watch for spectators this weekend with 65 pre-entries already registered, and NZ's emerging downhill talent all on hand looking for that perfect run and podium glory.
To access the Levin race venue, head inland from the Levin Post Office on Queen St East for approximately 4km - event village is signposted from the Denton Rd/Gladstone Rd intersection.