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Titles Decider Down to the Wire
22 Feb, 2010
The RaboPlus 2010 NZ MTB Cup was completed over the weekend in Rotorua's Whakarewarewa Forest. The six event national series in MTB Cross Country and Downhill was wrapped up in style at the world famous Rotorua MTB mecca, with tough racing across all Elite and age group categories.

Saturday's Cross Country race was held in perfect conditions, on a multi-lap race course that couldn't have been any better. Technically challenging, with tough climbs all worthy of a national series final the Whaka course stretched riders to the limit. Local Rotorua riders shone through across the age group categories on the morning race start, notable race winners being Garth Weinberg (Masters 1), Marcello Ojerio (Masters 2) and Nigel McDowell (Under 17 Mens). The feature Elite/U23 and U19 race in the afternoon kept the crowds enthralled, with tactical exchanges happening right through both mens and womens events.

The Elite Womens race was dominated again this week by Eloise Fry (Rotorua) who while riding to her own race plan at the front of the field, had to deal with constant and building pressure in the five lapper. Monique Avery (Rotorua) and Michelle Bellamy (Tokoroa) were locked in a two way duel right through the race and used their own tussle to exert pressure on Fry. However, to no avail with Fry riding too smart to be reeled in, eventually riding away to a three minute victory.

In the Elite Mens race, it was a similar story, however winner Mike Northcott (Tokoroa) didn't have this one securely sewn up until he had the finish line in sight. A group of four determined athletes stalked Northcott from start to finish but just couldn't break his hold on controlling the race off the front. Dirk Peters (Rotorua) saw off the challenges from Carl Jones (Rotorua), Brendon Sharratt (Wellington) and Stu Houltham (Wellington) and maintained contact with Northcott through to the fifth lap to secure second place, with Carl Jones recovering from a mid race slump to grasp a battling third place finish. Sharratt rode consistently to fourth, and did enough with this result to claim the NZ MTB Cup Elite Mens XC title for 2010.

The Under 19 mens race provided a lesson on how to destroy your opposition - Richard Anderson (Blenheim) exploded out of a tight, leading bunch of five to attack the race on the fourth and fifth laps, opening a gap he would hold through to the finish for an emphatic win. Sam Shaw (Rotorua) just held off Christchurch's Logan Horn for the second podium step, with the chasing riders clearly exhausted.

Across the other side of Whaka Forest for the Sunday Downhill race, the 180 gravity aligned competitors were also treated to perfect racing conditions. Racing was always going to be tight, with the Rotorua race course not only a tough challenge but an ideal leveller for the high quality fields. Like the Cross Country, the country's best downhillers were all at this event, chasing NZ MTB Cup titles and trying to haul as many points from this event as they could to secure overall placings.

The results sheet tells a story of form riders in all categories doing the job and winning. Especially in the Under 17 and Under 19 categories, pressure was extremely high - however the top two riders coming into Rotorua on NZ Cup form shone through to take those wins. Rupert Chapman (Christchurch) and Jay Barrett (Havelock North) also secured overall NZ MTB Cup series wins on the back of their dominance at this final event.

The major draw card and feature class for the day was the Elite Mens race. Several riders could have taken this win with all the top contenders having clean race runs and doing everything they could to post the fastest time on course. Fastest seed Nathan Rankin (Levin) wanted this win badly, but Rankin just fell short by only 0.13 seconds to visiting US Pro Luke Strobel. For Strobel, this win completes his racing visit to NZ on a high note, and he was glowing in his praise for the quality of the events he has competed in and the high quality competition. New Plymouth's Wyn Masters rounded out the podium with a third, a slim 0.07 seconds back from Rankin. For Rankin however, glory was to come with securing the NZ MTB Cup Elite Men's DH title for 2010 on the back of his strong seeding and race results - another national title to add to his long list of accomplishments in this sport.

With the RaboPlus 2010 NZ MTB Cup now completed and in the bag, riders have a short turnaround to prepare for the RaboPlus National Mountainbike Champs starting this Friday Feb 26th in Wellington - this is the one event during the domestic racing season where internationally recognised National Champions are crowned in Cross Country, Downhill and Four Cross.

Round Six Results
NZ MTB Cup Cross Country Round Six results here
NZ MTB Cup Downhill Round Six results here

Series Results
North Island Cup Cross Country results here
North Island Cup Downhill results here

NZ MTB Cup Cross Country results here
NZ MTB Cup Downhill results here

Click to enlarge...
Mike Northcott

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