Saturday's Downhill race produced some extremely tight racing in the quality Elite fields and also across all other age group categories. The Elite mens race was won by LaPierre professional Sam Blenkinsop (Wanganui) over Trek World Racing's Justin Leov (Dunedin). Christchurch's Cameron Cole (Maxxis) was nudged into third by 4/10ths of a second after posting a race time that looked like it would stand against all comers. However, Blenkinsop as second last man down the course put on a display of superb power and strength to set a time that fastest seed Leov could not match, to take the first win of the 2010 NZ MTB Cup.
The Elite Womens race was dominated by 2009 World Cup Champion Sabrina Jonnier from France, with a typical display of raw power on the long Living Springs course.
Friday's practice day for the Downhill field contained an unprecedented and controversial decision, with the original course being changed mid-day due to safety reasons. However, the substitute course, while lacking the usual level of technical challenge required at National level, produced tight racing through all age group categories.
Sunday's Cross Country race on the 6km Living Springs circuit produced two popular winners. In the 42km Mens Elite race, Christchurch's Brendon Sharratt (Bergamont) utilised new found motivation and determination to lead the seven lap race from start to finish with a crushing win over his Elite rivals. The Living Springs course allowed no opportunity for rest and required an extremely high intensity from competitiors - Sharratt delivering superbly.
The 30km Womens Elite race produced a front of the field duel that kept the suspense ramping up right through to the last lap. Former NZ Downhill MTB Team member Amy Laird (Christchurch) completed her rapid transition to Cross Country racing with a win in her first Elite appearance. Rotorua's Samara Sheppard challenged and swapped the lead with Laird several times during the first four laps, and a mechanical issue while chasing Laird on the final lap put paid to a final challenge for the line, Sheppard finally finishing 6th. However, Laird displayed a level of race craft to take the win which will boost her confidence for the rest of the NZ MTB Cup and confirm her decision to swap racing disciplines. Current Elite Downhill National Champion Harriet Harper was also racing her first Elite level Cross Country race and surprised the field to claim 3rd place, only Hokitika's Cathy Hamer able to work her way through the field after a slow start to split the Laird/Harper downhill influence with 2nd place.
The RaboPlus NZ MTB Cup now moves to Dunedin for Round 2 next weekend, with the Cross Country race taking place on Saturday Jan 16th and the Downhill race on Sunday Jan 17th.
Results, NZ MTB Cup Round 1, Christchurch Jan 9/10th
Elite Men Downhill
1 Sam Blenkinsop (Wanganui) 3:45.51; 2 Justin Leov (Dunedin) 3:46.54; 3 Cameron Cole (Christchurch) 3:46.93; 4 Brook MacDonald (Napier) 3:48.29; 5 Matt Scoles (Alexandra) 3:50.11
Elite Women Downhill
1 Sabrina Jonnier (France) 4:15.91; 2 Sophie Borderes (France) 4:43.06; 3 Rita Langley (Golden Bay) 5:09.60
Elite Men Cross Country
1 Brendon Sharratt (Christchurch) 2:14:31; 2 Brent Miller (Christchurch) 2:22:50; 3 Marc Metzler (Switzerland) 2:25:59; 4 Ethan Glover (Nelson) 2:27:07; 5 Oliver Whalley (Christchurch) 2:29:24
Elite Women Cross Country
1 Amy Laird (Christchurch) 1:57:40; 2 Cathy Hamer (Hokitika) 1:58:39; 3 Harriet Harper (Blenheim) 1:59:38; 4 Sara MacDonald (Dunedin) 2:00:23; 5 Sara Taylor (Christchurch) 2:00:26