The much anticipated opening round of the UCI Mountainbike World Cup Downhill was contested over the weekend in Maribor, Slovenia. Relentless rain during the race programme, which started before the official practice day made racing conditions treacherous, and the usually popular venue for riders and spectators will go down in the books as the toughest yet faced at the Maribor World Cup Round.
12 New Zealanders were in action at Maribor anongst the 256 strong field. Cameron Cole (Maxxis - Rocky Mountain Christchurch), Justin Leov (Trek World Racing, Dunedin), Sam Blenkinsop (Lapierre International, Wanganui), Matt Scoles (Cingolani-Proton, Alexandra), Brook MacDonald (MS - Evil, Hawkes Bay), Wyn Masters (Kenda - Playbiker, New Plymouth), George Brannigan (Ancillotti, Hawkes Bay) and Nathan Rankin (Kenda - Playbiker, Levin) all made the top 80 finals cut from their qualifying runs. Blenkinsop, Leov and Cole were well placed and within striking distance of the top ten for their race runs, but would have to contend with ankle deep mud, poor visibility and severely slippery conditions to do well.
Cole and Leov went on to break the top ten in their Sunday race runs, and also posted a rare result on the World Cup curcuit by dead heating on time, finishing ninth equal. Blenkinsop, in his first race back after recovering from an early summer broken wrist, showed he can slot straight back into top level World Cup contention with a 12th. Current Junior World Champion Brook MacDonald, now racing in the Elites was also back after a summer broken ankle - and showed he hasn't lost the pace that took him to the World Championship title nine months ago with an improving 38th. George Brannigan qualified as the fastest Junior, but faded slightly during his race to finish 67th and second in the Junior rankings.
The UCI Mountainbike World Cup continues this weekend in Offenburg, Germany, with World Cup Cross Country Round 3, and the next Downhill (Round 2) will be in Fort William, Scotland on June 5 and 6.
Men's Results DH Final, Maribor, Slovenia:
1. Greg Minnaar (RSA) 3m 23.42secs; 2. Gee Atherton (GBR) 3m 23.67secs; 3. Brendan Fairclough (GBR) 3m 25.24secs; 9=. Cameron Cole (NZL) 3m 30.65secs; 9=. Justin Leov (Trek World Racing) 3m 30.65secs; 12=. Sam Blenkinsop (NZL) 3m 30.73secs;
Other NZL Results:
36 Matthew Scoles 3m 37.02 secs; 38 Brook MacDonald 3m 37.33 secs; 54 Wyn Masters 3m 44.72 secs; 67 George Brannigan 3m 51.31 secs; DNF Nathan Rankin.