The first two days of competition have been completed at the UCI Oceania Mountainbike Championships in Dunedin. The support events of Hillclimb and Dual Slalom were contested on Thursday, and relatively small but enthusiastic fields tackled both on the slopes of Signal Hill on a changeable weather day. Last night, the first of the three feature races of the Championships, Four Cross took place before a large crowd also at Signal Hill.
The Hillclimb was an intense grunt up the riding trails on Signal Hill from Logan High School to the summit. Gavin McCarthy (Lower Hutt) is considered something of a Hillclimb expert and took the Senior Mens title in style, covering the climb in 13 minutes 32 seconds. The Junior Mens race contained two Austalian Juniors having their first race of the Championships, but neither could head off Auckland's Locky McArthur who won in 13 minutes 38 seconds. Local athlete Anja McDonald used her local experience to claim the senior Womens title after a 16 minute climb.
Dual Slalom racing started at 2pm on a short and dusty course on the slopes of Signal Hill. Some torrid head to head elimination heats were contested between New Zealand and Australian racers who needed every bit of skill they could muster to match the unpredictability of the race course. In the Senior Mens competition, clear favourites were emerging through the heats, which led to a final between National Downhill Champion Wyn Masters (New Plymouth) and Australia's Haden Lester. Masters was dominant however, shutting Lester right out and winning both finals heats to take the title. In Junior Mens, a similar pattern was being followed - Daniel Franks (Christchurch) and Richard Scott (Dunedin) racing cleanly through the heats to go head to head in the final. Like Masters, Franks won both finals heats. Australia did salvage a win from the Dual Slalom, and it came through the efforts of Brisbane's Sarsha Huntington in the Senior Womens class who bettered Christchurch's Rita Langley in both finals heats.
Four Cross racing on Friday afternoon featured a high quality field of athletes in both the Mens and Womens Open classes. After qualifying on the monster Signal Hill Four Cross course, the Mens field was trimmed down to the fastest 16 riders, and the Womens to four. A large crowd flanking the race course was treated to a fine display of aggressive and cunning riding in the Mens final, which was contested by four New Zealand riders - current Four Cross National Champ Matt Walker (Kawerau), Wyn Masters, Kieran Bennett (Nelson) and Daniel Franks. Franks got the snap out of the gate to lead through the first two turns, with Masters right on his tail while Walker and Bennett were elbow to elbow right behind. In turn three Franks left a very slight inside line open, and Masters put on the pass of the event to take the lead which he wasn't to relinquish. For the charasmatic New Plymouth charger, the Oceania Four Cross title is another to add to his already successful summer of racing. In the Open Womens class, three New Zealand riders Sarah Atkin (Wellington), Madeline Taylor (Hawkes Bay) and Kaytee Campbell (Hamilton) were out to keep Sarsha Huntington honest. The Women's final produced some drama but at the front of the race Huntington cleared out from the start to win by a large margin to her Oceania Four Cross title. Sarah Atkin went down in turn two while in 2nd place and by the time she got back on her bike and underway, had a huge gap ahead to Campbell and Taylor. Atkin reeled them both in and sneaked through to 2nd place right on the line in a display of never give up racing.
The UCI Oceania Mountainbike Championships continue today with Cross Country racing at Forrester Park, Bethunes Gulley, Dunedin. Age group categories are on a 10.30am race start, and U19 Juniors and U23/Elite categories on a 2pm race start.
Tomrrow, Sunday March 21st has Downhill racing at Signal Hill, Dunedin (event base behind Logan High School). Seeding starts at 11am, with the race run starting at 1.30pm
Sunday March 21st also has Short Track Cross Country racing at the Downhill event base at Signall Hill between 12.30pm and 1.30pm.
1 Gavin McCarthy (Lower Hutt, NZ) 13.32; 2 Scott Lytlle (Dunedin, NZ) 14.09
1 Locky McArthur (Auckland, NZ) 13.38; 2 Casper Oxlee (New South Wales, Aus) 14.08; 3 Tane Crosby (Channon, Aus) 15.58
1 Anja McDonald (Dunedin, NZ) 16.15
1 Wyn Msaters (New Plymouth, NZ); 2 Haden Lester (Aus); 3 Hayden McGregor (Tauranga); 4 Randal Huntington (Brisbane, Aus)
1 Daniel Franks (Christchurch, NZ); 2 Richard Scott (Dunedin, NZ); 3 Mitchell Scammell (Dunedin, NZ); 4 Cory Prutton (Christchurch, NZ)
1 Sarsha Huntington (Brisbane, Aus); 2 Rita Langley (Christchurch, NZ)
1 Wyn Masters (New Plymouth); 2 Daniel Franks (Christchurch); 3 Kieran Bennett (Nelson); 4 Matt Walker (Kawerau)
1 Sarsha Huntington (Brisbane, Aus); 2 Srah Atkin (Wellington, NZ); 3 Madeline Taylor (Hawkes Bay, NZ); 4 Kaytee Campbell (Hamilton, NZ)