|Sign up now!|
Wellington was the host for Round Five of the NZ MTB Cup Downhill and Round Three of the Cross Country Series' over the weekend. The Wellington leg of the national mountainbike series presented by Nature Valley completed the penultimate rounds for both disciplines, with all athletes now focussing on the final Cup races this coming weekend in Napier.
NZ MTB Cup Downhill Round Five - European Ambush
The Long Gulley race course in Brooklyn has a long pedigree of racing at a national level, and always provides challenging and variable conditions to add to the challenge of one of the fastest and shortest courses on the national circuit. Weather did play its part, but stayed largely settled for both days of practice and competition to give a dry, dusty and fast platform for what turned out to be incredibly close racing across all categories.
The Elite Womens race delivered another win for Lower Hutt's Sarah Atkin. Fresh off winning the National Championships, Atkin was never threatened on her home course and she posted a race time that had daylight back to the rest of the field.
The Elite Mens race turned up some real surprises. Several visiting international athletes joined the NZ MTB Cup series in Wellington to sharpen up their race fitness before the 2012 World Cup series begins in the middle of March. The Elite Mens field contained riders from nine different countries, giving NZ's athletes a serious challenge on their home turf. Fabian Cousinie (France) provided the real excitement with a seeding result at number three. Even then, the local crowd weren't prepared to accept the possibility that a visiting international would win at Long Gulley, but that is exactly the scenario that played out in the afternoon race run. Cousinie raced a flawless run to win from NZ MTB Cup leader Brook MacDonald (Napier) by less than half a second. MacDonald's 2012 World Cup teamate also nearly got the better of him, but the slimmest of margins (1/100th of a second) had Markus Pekoll (Austria) back in third spot. The rest of the Elite Mens podium were two seconds further back, Richard Leacock and Bryn Dickerson (both Wellington) not able to turn a home track advantage to their benefit, but doing more than enough to head the rest of the field.
Across the age group categories the form NZ MTB Cup riders all shone. Louis Hamilton (Rotorua) in the U19 Juniors, Josh McCombie (Dunedin) in the U17 Juniors, Carl Edmondson (Whakatane) in Senior, Jamie Nicoll (Nelson) and Darryn Henderson (Christchurch) in the Masters all taking wins this week in Wellington.
Full Results NZ MTB Cup Downhill Round Five
NZ MTB Cup Cross Country Round Three - Peters and Hanlen Dominant
The Cross Country portion of the NZ MTB Cup got back into gear on the inner city slopes of Mt. Victoria on Sunday. A tough course, again with a long pedigree of national level competiton was set for competitors, with the morning age group race setting the tone for the Elite and U19 Junior races in the afternoon.
The Elite Mens field was at top strength on Sunday, and like the downhill contained several visiting international riders having a shot at NZ's best and also the Category 2 UCI points on offer. But just as at the National Championships two weeks ago, Rotorua's Dirk Peters wound on the urgency and aggression to lead from start to finish in the six lap feature. Peters was reasonably comfortable during the mid stages of the race, but a fast finishing Mike Northcott (Tokoroa) provided some suspense over the last two laps. Northcott rapidly worked away at National Champion Peters' lead, first passing Carl Jones (Rotorua) and then chipping away at the one minute buffer that Peters had built over the first four laps. By race finish, Northcott was only 22 seconds back, but Peters wrapped up another win on the circuit to head into the Cup final in Napier with some dominance over the rest of his competition.
The Elite Womens race was missing Rosara Joseph (Wellington), however the absence of the Beijing Olympian seemed to only spur on Whakatane's Karen Hanlen, who demolished the Women's field to win by nearly 10 minutes. The recently crowned National Champion was never threatened and showed pace and poise to simply outpace and outrace the rest of her competition - Samara Sheppard (Wellington) holding down second place and the best of the chasers.
Woodend's Anton Cooper again cleaned out the U19 Junior race, winning by three minutes from Te Awamutu's Sam Gaze. Gaze was happy to limit the gap to the 2011 Junior World Championships silver medalist to a margin this close, and both Cooper and Gaze lapped the tough Mt. Victoria course in times that would have had them circulating within the top five Elite Men. Cooper displayed his outright speed during the last lap for the four lap U19 race, to post the quickest lap time and only sub 15 minute lap by any rider. Rotorua's Amber Johnston easily won the U19 Women's three lap race.
Full Results NZ MTB Cup Cross Country Round Three
Downhill and Cross Country come together again this weekend Feb 24-26th for the finals of the NZ MTB Cup events in Napier.