North Canterbury teenager Trent Jones was the best of the New Zealand riders in seventh place at the Oceania BMX Championships in Brisbane last night.
The former Northland rider, fifth in the junior elite final at last year’s world championships, impressed with a strong showing at the Sleeman Sports Complex, with the Oceania title going to 2011 world champion Sam Willoughby (AUS).
The event drew all of Australia’s leading riders as well as some of the BikeNZ High Performance team as a valuable racing opportunity in the lead-up to July’s UCI World Championships in Auckland.
London Olympian Kurt Pickard aggravated a back aliment after a crash in the time trial. He impressed with a win and two second placings in the heats but a lengthy break was less than helpful for his injured back and the Tauranga rider missed the gate to finish eighth in the semifinal.
Waikato-based Cantabrian Daniel Franks did not make the semifinals while Te Awamutu rider Cody Hobbs was fifth in the junior elite final.
“This was a good opportunity for racing experience,” said BikeNZ BMX Coach Ryan Hollows. “The riders are all in a heavy training phase so we were not expecting too much.
“Trent is an outstanding prospect who raced well but was slightly disappointed with seventh in the final although he drew a bad gate.
“Kurt had nursed his back issue throughout but the crash aggravated things and he struggled out of the gate after the break in racing.
“Daniel has been in some heavy work and his result was not unexpected and Cody showed he can foot it with this company and will be a real force at the world championships.”
Jones, 19, from Kaiapoi won his opening heat with a sixth and third placings in the other two races qualifying him for the semifinals where he finished third.
Pickard (Tauranga) grabbed a win and two second placings to top his moto while Franks drew a tough moto and could not progress with two fifths and a sixth placing.
The US-based Willoughby, one of the early favourites for the world championships in Auckland, was in a class of his own. He was fastest in the time trial qualifying, and won all three motos, his semifinal and final to set the benchmark.
Top qualifier at the London Olympics, Caroline Buchanan (AUS) took out the women’s title from former junior world champion Melinda McLeod and fellow Olympian Lauren Reynolds.
The quartet return to New Zealand tomorrow with the full squad, including Olympic silver medallist, to head for training and racing in the USA in two weeks time as they prepare for the world championships, to be held on home turn at Vector Arena on 24-28 July.
Tickets go on sale for the public later this month.
Oceania BMX Championships, elite men final: Sam Willoughby (AUS) 1, Joshua Callan (AUS) 2, Anthony Dean (AUS) 3. Also: Trent Jones (NZL) 7.
Elite women: Caroline Buchanan (AUS) 1, Melinda McLeod (AUS) 2, Lauren Reynolds (AUS) 3.
Junior men: Aaron Nottle (AUS) 1, Kerrod Connors (AUS) 2, Kai Sakakibara (AUS) 3. Also: Cody Hobbs (NZL) 5.