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Napier Wraps up NZ MTB Cup
27 Feb, 2012 - Chris Mildon

NZ MTB Cup Final Round Wrap from Napier

 

The NZ MTB Cup, presented by Nature Valley was completed this weekend in Napier, with Cross Country and Downhill Cup champions crowned for 2012. Always a popular venue on the national series circuit, Napier added some real variability with weather and race course conditions over the three days of competition - the major rain storm covering NZ on Wednesday leaving very challenging conditions in the Pan Pac Eskdale Forest which didn't completely dry out. Adaptation was the key for all competitors, and all category winners displayed an ability to react quickly to the constantly changing race courses.

 

Downhill - Brannigan Bookends the Cup Series 

 

The Elite Mens category has provided close and extremely tight racing right through the NZ MTB Cup this summer, and Napier's race was no exception. The level and depth of the field was again high this weekend, despite several of NZ's World Cup athletes not competing - eight different nationalities represented with many of these athletes travelling onto South Africa for the start of the 2012 UCI World Cup. Local riders George Brannigan (Devinci Global Racing) and Brook MacDonald (MS Mondraker) are always strong on their home course, and both showed that they would be the riders to beat with top seeding times. The race followed a familiar theme, with successive riders chipping away at the best race time to briefly hold the leaders position - Brannigan was the rider able to make a gain that would be good enough for the win, but by the slimmest of margins from MacDonald. Kawerau's Matt Walker locked in third place, and the NZers were able to hold off the European challenge this weekend, Markus Pekoll (Austria) and Fabian Cousine (France) 4th and 6th respectively. With this win Brannigan was able to bookend the series - he started in Queenstown in early January with a win at the first Cup round and completes the series with this win at the final in Napier.

 

The North Island and NZ MTB Cup champion in the Elite Mens category was Brook MacDonald after racing with great consistency - in his best five races winning twice and second three times.

 

Sarah Atkin (Lower Hutt) raced the perfect NZ MTB Cup this summer, with a final win in Napier. Atkin is still unbeaten this season and although Napier's Madeline Taylor was able to challenge with a level of home track knowledge, Atkin is the runaway NZ MTB Cup champion in the Elite Women's category for 2012.

 

The U19 Junior Mens race in Napier produced a first time Cup winner this summer in Rotorua's Jake Robinson - racing a well calculated race to win over North Island and NZ MTB Cup champion Louis Hamilton (Rotorua) and Guillame Cavin (France).

 

Full Results NZ MTB Cup Downhill Napier

 

North Island Downhill Cup Results

 

NZ MTB (Downhill Cup) Results

 

 

Cross Country - Peters and Hanlen Shut Out the Cup

 

Sunday's Cross Country races in Napier were a repeat of the previous round in Wellington for the Elite winners. The Elite Women's field chased Whakatane's Karen Hanlen from the start gun, and quickly lost contact with the Cup leader during the first two laps. Hanlen simply stretched her lead throughout the rest of the five lap feature to win by a large margin from Rotorua's Samara Sheppard. Like her Downhill counterpart Atkin, Hanlen has not been beaten this summer, and took her perfect record through to a NZ MTB Cup championship title for 2012.

 

The Elite Mens race was a close contest between NZ's top three riders this summer, Dirk Peters (Rotorua), Carl Jones (Rotorua) and Mike Northcott (Tokoroa). The three were locked together through their first three laps, before Peters wound on the pressure early in the fourth to work his way out to a 30 second lead that stretched even further during the fifth. Peter's challenge prompted Northcott to crank into action, with the highly experienced Tokoroa plumber again finding late race pace to claw back at Peter's lead - however just a little too late with Peters winning again to take the NZ MTB Cup championship title for 2012.

 

Hanlen and Peters have both completed a coveted double this summer - winning the 2012 National Championship and NZ MTB Cup titles.

 

The U19 Junior Mens race was missing star attraction Anton Cooper, but this didn't diminish the quality of the race at all. Cambridge's Sam Gaze, who has been the revelation of this category in the north island rounds won easily, and just as Cooper has been doing all summer, Gaze produced the fastest lap time of the day while circulating at a pace comparable to the Elite leaders. Gaze has high asprirations and goals with this sport, and takes a fantastic level of confidence with him from Napier and into the rest of 2012.

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