NZ MTB Cup Cross Country Wrap from Christchurch - Elite and Junior Winners Two from Two
The Living Springs Farm Park in Governors Bay, Christchurch hosted the second round of the NZ MTB Cross Country Cup today. Weather conditions ranged from bitterly cold and rainy southerlies during the morning age group race to periods of sunshine in the afternoon Elite and Junior race, with all entrants being kept right on their toes dealing with the sudden and brutal changes in racing conditions.
The Elite and U19 Junior race this afternoon delivered the same four winners from the Cups first round last weekend in Dunedin. Mary Gray (Dunedin) faced a greater depth of competition than on her home track last weekend, but the 2011 National Junior champion still won comfortably from Amber Johnston (Rotorua). Likewise Anton Cooper (Woodend) who rode through the whole Elite field again this week to win the U19 Juniors - Cooper was in a class of his own at Living Springs and continues to delight spectators and competitors alike with his devastating pace and hunger for the front of the race.
The Womens Elite race was without Beijing Olympian Rosara Joseph this week however Karen Hanlen (Whakatane) seemed on a mission to win this race with as much style as possible, and Hanlen put daylight between her win and second placed Katie O'Neill (Rotorua). Switzerland's Jolanda Neff challenged O'Neill for that second position from the gun, but could not find that elusive burst of pace to catch and pass.
The Mens Elite race was a tough contest. Christchurch's Brad Hudson led for the first three laps, but slipped back to third mid race when Carl Jones (Whakatane) launched an aggressive attack for the lead. Dirk Peters (Rotorua) tussled with Hudson through the last three laps and the two riders rapidly chipped away at Jones's lead to bring them within striking distance at the end of their six laps. Only 10 seconds separated the three at the line, with Jones clearly relieved to have clung onto the lead and the win at the NZ Cup second round. These three had paced themselves right away from the rest of the Elite field, eventually ending nearly eight minutes ahead of Patrick Luthi (Switzerland) who outsprinted Rotorua's Sam Shaw for fourth.
Racing for the first time at a national level Olympic format cross country race were the adventure racing dream team of Richard and Elina Ussher. Both athletes are in final preparation mode for the upcoming Coast to Coast event, however were out to enjoy some cross code multi tasking today in the Elite races. Both found the experience tougher than expected with the XCO sprint format, but should be back again based on their first shot at this.
The mornings age group categories raced in terrible conditions, but put on a real show for the crowd of spectators at Living Springs. Master 30-39 rider Phil Patterson (Christchurch) rode his wheels off for that category win, and also to try to maintain lead rider position on course from U17 rider Ben Oliver (Christchurch). Oliver eventually passed Patterson and moved through to outright leader on course with super consistent and fast lap times, to win his category again this week.
The NZ MTB Cup now takes a break before resuming for its final rounds in February in the north island. All riders are now converging on Nelson for the National Mountainbike Championships which begin on Friday 27th January and finish on Sunday afternoon 29th January. Four events and championship titles will be contested next weekend - the Super D and Cross Country Eliminator events making their first appearances at national level in NZ, joining the traditional downhill and cross country standards.
NZ MTB Cup Round Two Christchurch Cross Country Results