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12 Jul, 2010
Avalanche Cup and Mega Avalanche, France 
The hugely popular Avalanche Series of events in Oz en Osains and Alp d'Heuz filled a week long period between July 5th and July 11th. Cameron Cole (Christchurch) and Sam Blenkinsop (Wanganui) led NZ's charge for the downhill events, and were joined this year by former Cross Country Olympian Kashi Leuchs (Dunedin) competing in this format for the first time.
Cole (Maxxis Rocky Mountain) started his racing week off in the best possible way, winning the downhill standard format Oz en Osains Avalanche Cup against a World Cup calibre field. Seven other NZers competed, with a stand-out performance coming from Oamaru's Jed Rooney to finish 13th, and as first Junior. Rupert Chapman (Christchurch) in 17th was second in the Junior category.
The Mega Avalanche was the next event to run - this event draws thousands of entrants who compete in ten mass start heats on a shortened course in order to qualify for the Alp d'Heuz final. Cole, Blenkinsop and Leuchs all raced strongly in the heats and went on to qualify for Sunday's 320 starter final. The final run on the mountain would see the quickest riders completing the rocky, undulating descent down Alpe d'Heuz in just under an hour. Blenkinsop (Lapierre International) got away to a good start and finished in third, right behind his Lapierre team manager and multi-time Downhill World Champion Nicolas Vouilloz. Cole was caught up with the leading bunch of riders to a 27th, with Leuchs a further eight minutes back in 91st.
Amy Laird (Christchurch) was competing at her first European event this season, and claimed a 10th in the Mega Avalanche women's race. Laird is in Europe to further her Cross Country career, but couldn't resist competing at this event which is a brutal test of fitness, technical handling and downhill skills - all qualities Laird is well versed in.
iXS German Downhill Cup, Rittershausen
The four round iXS German Downhill Cup continued in Rittershausen on Sunday - Richard Leacock (Wellington) raced to an 8th position in the UCI Category Two event, and Joseph Nation (Christchuch) was only fractions of a second outside the top ten in 11th. 
US Pro XCT #5, Colorado Springs
The USA's top ranked World Cup racers were at the Sand Creek International Classic for this fifth round of the Pro XCT Series. Two NZ athletes competed in the Elite women's race, eager to test themselves against the US's form athletes on the challenging Cheyenne Mountain race course. US based Jenny Smith has forged a successful career in X-Terra racing in recent years, and was back into the cut and thrust of multi-lap cross country racing in a bid to press her claims for World Championship selection. Smith pushed hard to a 10th place finish in the four lap race, with Michelle Bellamy (Tokoroa) competing at her first US event this season after a short period training at altitude, to 15th.

Click to enlarge...
Jenny Smith

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