The RaboDirect NZ Mountainbike Championships have now run for the first two days of three, with Super D racing completed last night and Cross Country today, in the Codgers MTB Park in the Brook Valley, Nelson.
Competitors have been wrapped in hot, windy weather, and bone dry trails have been the norm so far delivering fast and brutal racing.
Last nights Super D was the first time this event has been held at a national level and was a great success, with a broad range of entrants including World Cup top ten athletes, former World Championship medalists, local trail chargers and international dark horses all being part of this inaugural event.
Best described as a mongrel mix of the best components of downhill and cross country race courses, the Super D is a downhill endurance event, designed to bring cross country and downhill racers onto an even footing. Justin Leov (Dunedin) had the pace right through the evening, and demolished the field with a blistering run of 7 minutes 15 seconds.
No-one got close, with the gap back to second place Kieran Bennett (Nelson) 13 seconds. Leov was absolutely complementary of this style of racing "this suits my strengths, and I think is more enjoyable for me than downhill racing. I look forward to seeing more of these types of events offerred".
Women's winner Harriet Harper (Nelson) also put daylight between herself and the rest of the women's field. Harper is racing with solid form despite having training and racing time minimised with work committments, but blitzed to a time that placed her 21st overall in the 48 strong mens and womens entry list.
Cross Country racing took place today and some fantastic racing in the morning age group categories warmed an enthusiastic crowd up for the main event at 2pm - the Elites and U19 Juniors.
The contest between Wellington riders Gavin McCarthy and Tony Keith in the Masters 30-39 going right down to the wire. Only a slight slip on the last descent by McCarthy preventing what was sure to be an all out sprint for the line, both riders inseparable for their four laps. Keith eventually took the title by 18 seconds.
Other racers that shone and took home championship titles were Garth Weinberg (Rotorua, Masters 40-49), Eden Cruise (Wellington, U15 Men), and Ben Oliver (Christchurch) and Shannon Hope (Dunedin) in the U17 Mens and Womens.
The Elite races provided great excitment and anticipation for the very vocal crowd watching on a race course designed in part to allow fantastic viewing options. Dirk Peters rode like a man possesed today in the six lap Elite Mens race, and led from start to finish to win by over two minutes.
Any slight threat of a challenge and Peters had the perfect answer - more pace and aggression which carried him to his first National Championship title as an Elite athlete. Peters couldn't have been happier, and clearly enjoyed his win against the deepest field of competition seen at a National Championship for many years.
In the Womens race, the contest was always going to be between Beijing Olympian Rosara Joseph (Wellington) and in form NZ MTB Cup leader Karen Hanlen (Whakatane). Hanlen sat on Joseph's wheel for the first two laps, before applying the throttle during lap three to hammer home an unbeatable lead.
Hanlen stretched her legs for the remainder of the race to win by a stunning three minutes, and the smiling ex multi-sporter reinforced her form with her first National Championship title. Both Hanlen and Joseph are gunning for the 2012 London Olympics spot, and Hanlen's early season challenge to what has been Joseph's domain in recent years is providing a fascinating prelude to the upcoming Olympics selection process.
Anton Cooper (Woodend) is fast becoming a drawcard at these events, and his race craft and domination of his Junior rivals something of a talking point. Starting two minutes behind the Elites, Cooper first paced away from his U19 competiton, and steadily clawed back the outright leader on course (Peters), before passing him on the fouth lap.
Cooper won comfortably from surprise package Sam Gaze (Cambridge) today claiming back to back National Championship wins in the Juniors. Like Cooper, Mary Gray (Dunedin) also won her second Junior National Championship title today, in a led from the front win.
The National Mountainbike Championship programme concludes tomorrow with the Downhill and Cross Country Eliminator races in Nelson.
Full Results Super D
Images Super D (courtesy Shuttersport)
Full Results Cross Country
Images Cross Country (courtesy Shuttersport)