The new venue of Mt Hutt provided an exciting addition to the NZ MTB Cup national series this weekend. Holding a top level downhill event for the first time proved a very popular attraction for the 175 competitors and a vocal, partisan Ashburton district crowd.
Competition was furious across all categories, with a Friday practice day giving all competitors ample opportunity to dial the course in, and set themselves up for todays race. The Mens Elite category again this week displayed just how close racing at this level is, and provided an excellent showcase for NZ’s world class athletes, racing against a number of international visitors.
In the Women’s Elite race, Sarah Atkin (Wellington) was in a class of her own today – seeding first and racing to a massive 20 second win over the rest of the women’s field. Atkin raced all the ‘A’ lines on course today – the only female competitor to do so and the difference in her level of aggression showed directly on the clock, with a comfortable buffer back to Alanna Columb (Queenstown) and the rest of the womens field.
Like Atkin, Brook MacDonald (Napier) doubled up today with a fastest seeding result and the race win. Although by very tight margins, with Australian Jared Graves pouring on the power to almost snatch the win in his best result to date in his NZ visit. Only six seconds separated the top ten, and the tension was plain to see as rider after rider first tried to beat early leader Matt Walker (Kawerau), and then gain enough time to try to keep MacDonald from winning his second NZ MTB Cup event on the trot. Graves looked to have done enough, however MacDonald clearly knew he could gain enough time to win – which he did by improving on his seeding time by three seconds. For the 2009 Junior World Champion, two Cup wins in a row underlines his early season form and pace.
Most other categories held true to NZ Cup form, but new winners in the U17 and U19 Juniors and the Senior classes provided confidence boosting results for Carl Goodwin (Kaiapoi), Lawrence Cawte (Rotorua) and Kyle Wilson (Christchurch). All three won for the first time at this level and will be sure to kick on from here as the series moves north.
The Mt Hutt race also wrapped up the South Island Downhill Cup, the island portion of the NZ MTB Cup. Mat Scoles (Alexandra) was rewarded for his results through the first three cup events being never outside the top five, to claim the South Island title for the Elite Men. Atkin was never in doubt for her overall win, and all other category winners posted reasonably comfortable margins to claim their titles. In terms of regional representation, Dunedin and Nelson riders claimed three South Island Cup titles each, Auckland riders two, and Christchurch, Wellington and Alexandra riders one apiece.
The NZ MTB Cup continues tomorrow (Sunday 22nd Jan) with the second round of the Cross Country series at the living Springs Farm park in Governors Bay, Christchurch, before riders move north to Nelson for the National Mountainbike Championships next weekend.