Italy's Val di Sole was host to the fifth round of the UCI MTB World Cup over the weekend - 20 NZers were competing in Saturday's Cross Country and Sunday's Downhill events.
Junior Men Cross Country - Anderson 7th
Richard Anderson (Avanti, Blenhiem) raced to a fighting 7th place at his second World Cup. Anderson had a strong start position at Val di Sole, called up to the front line of the start grid and was aiming to compete at the front of the field from the gun. A slipped pedal off the line had Anderson fighting back from 28th after the start loop, and the Marlborough flyer then worked his way through the World Cup field to his best result to date on the international race scene."Even though I got caught up in some of the start carnage it wasn’t so bad because the course was quite open and I was able to make up a bit of time in the first full lap. Over each lap I was picking riders off which I was really happy with. I was determined to get a better result than last week and I felt that I did go a lot better here in Italy".
Elite Women Cross Country
Rosara Joseph (Christchurch) and Samara Sheppard (Wide Open, Rotorua) were in action in Saturday's four lap Elite Women's race. With 102 starters, Beijing Olympian Joseph charged off the start line to hold a strong position within sight of the top ten going into the first lap, but from there slipped steadily through the field in the 22km race, which climbed a total of 850 metres. Sheppard employed a slightly different race strategy - from a start position 10 rows back, Sheppard attacked hard on the first first lap and then steadily worked her way forward, to finish 45th, and 40 seconds behind Joseph. Sheppard summed up her Val di Sole performance as the 11th Under 23 across the line in a few short words - "I'm pretty stoked!"
Elite Men Cross Country
Dirk Peters (Santa Cruz, Rotorua) lined up at Val di Sole with a straight forward race plan - to carry on improving amongst the world best. This steady improvement saw Peters called up two rows better than his previous World Cup start in Switzerland last weekend. However, Peters was left with nowhere to go when a rider went down right in front of him on the start loop. Loosing valuable racing position so early, Peters attacked with everything he had through the first two laps, clawing his way back through the 189 strong field. Finishing 96th and as 27th Under 23 rider, Peters was philosophical about his performance: "It wasn’t quite what I was aiming for but on a positive note it was an improvement from last week and I did make up plenty of places from the poor first lap. Only five weeks left to go till World Championships in Canada so the next few weeks will be packed with plenty of quality training".
Mens Downhill - Blenkinsop 8th
Sam Blenkinsop (Lapierre International, Wanganui) continued his strong run of World Cup form at Val di Sole, qualifying 2nd, and racing to a top ten 8th on a course that suited his aggressive and instinctive riding style. 2009 Junior World Champion Brook MacDonald (MS Evil, Hawkes Bay) backed up from his 6th at the last weekend's Swiss World Cup to claim a 13th this weekend, both Kiwis looking good for the run-in to September's Canadian World Championships. However, their race runs went ahead knowing that good friend Justin Leov (Trek World Racing, Dunedin) had been helicoptered off the course during his last practice run before the finals. Leov had a massive crash while putting the final touches on his race run preparation - aiming for an airborne line between two huge rocks, but getting his approach slightly wrong. Enough to send him spiralling away down the Val di Sole mountain to a massive impact - Leov is OK this morning however - nothing broken but dazed none the less. Leov is happy to put the less than ideal last two weeks behind him now, and concentrate on coming right for September.
In the Junior World Cup standings, the contest between George Brannigan (Ancillotti, Hawkes Bay) and Australia's Troy Brosnan continued its intrigue. Brannigan took back the Junior World Cup Leaders jersey this weekend, after qualifying well and collecting points from his 60th placing. Brosnan missed the top 80 qualifying mark, and Brannigan now holds a slim two point advantage over his rival. Brannigan was also joined in the top 80 for the first time this World Cup by two other NZ Juniors - Jed Rooney (Oamaru) and Rupert Chapman (Christchurch). Rooney and Chapman found the speed and composure to make the exclusive top 80 for the first time, and raced strongly to 64th and 69th places respectively.
The UCI MTB World Cup now has a four week break before the sixth and final round at Windham in New York, USA.
Junior Men Cross Country
1 Jens Schuermans (BEL) 1:15:56; 2 Max Veider (ITA) +00:33; 3 Jeff Luyten (BEL) +01:15; 7 Richard Anderson (NZL) +02:42
Elite Women Cross Country
1 Maja Wloszczowska (POL) 1:23:00; 2 Catharine Pendrel (CAN) +00:05; 3 Irina Kalentieva (RUS) +00:14; 42 Rosara Joseph (NZL) +10:11; 45 Samara Sheppard (NZL) +10:51
Elite Men Cross Country
1 Nino Schurter (SUI) 1:44:09; 2 Julien Absalon (FRA) +00:04; 3 Florian Vogel (SUI) +00:20; 96 Dirk Peters (NZL)
Elite Men Downhill
1 Marc Beaumont (GBR) 3:17.85; 2 Greg Minaar (RSA) 3:19.25; 3 Gee Atherton (GBR) 3:20.51; 8 Sam Blenkinsop (NZL) 3:22.51; 13 Brook MacDonald (NZL) 3:25.44; 41 Wyn Masters (NZL) 3:36.75; 46 Mat Scoles (NZL) 3:37.86; 60 George Brannigan (NZL) 3:42.18; Jed Rooney (NZL) 3:44.42; 69 Rupert Chapman (NZL) 3:47.13; 77 Nathan Rankin (NZL) 4:20.77.
Other NZL from Qualifying:
92 Sam Baker (Auckland); 129 Tom Matthews (Christchurch); 132 Richard Leacock (Wellington); 140 James Rennie (Christchurch); 147 Dan Simms (Christchurch); 170 Nick McConachie (Christchuch); 173 Freddie King (Christchuch)