Some of the top performing cross country mountain bike riders in New Zealand lined up at the Kona Colville Connection last Saturday to use the event as their last hit out before the Oceania Championships in Victoria next weekend. Colville did its part and turned on a day with close to perfect conditions for the 10th anniversary of the event – bright sunshine, hard and fast tracks, sun, spectacular views and a very light southerly breeze to stop riders overheating.
In the premier 72km marathon Bike Barn Blast ride, four riders cleared out on the early hills to form a breakaway group, Carl Jones current NZ Cross Country Champion, Scott Thorne NZ triathlete rep and winner of the event in 2009, Gordon McCauley ex NZ road champion / top performed international road rider and Nick Miller. McCauley had raised eyebrows by declaring publically before the event that the current record didn’t look that fast..... He further raised the stakes by sprinting out to climb the King of The Mountain jersey at the top of the long Port Charles hill early in the race. But on the single track around the end of the peninsula Thorne and Jones made their break and then worked together to get away from the rest of the field on the way home. Jones has had a great season in the mid length Bike NZ National Cross Country Series and Championship races but Thorne showed his superior endurance to sprint away from Jones in the final couple of kilometres to win by 20 seconds. McCauley and Miller faded to 6th and 14th respectively with Josh Page coming home in 3rd.
The womens endurance race was robbed of some interest by the late withdrawal of last year’s winner and current NZ Cross Country Cup Series winner Karen Hanlen. On the day veteran Marguerite Ritchie rode a very strong race to claim Queen of the Mountain jersey and the overall win by over 4 minutes from 2009 winner and consistent performer Pam Hewlett.
In the Ground Effect Get on Yer Bike 40km event Josh Parkin and Katie ONeill were too strong for their opposition, winning both the overall titles and King / Queen of the Mountain jerseys from Mark LeFevre (single speed) and Samara Sheppard respectively. Parkin reported some of his speed was from being chased by two young riders in one of the bush sections!
Graeme Johnston of Thames had a comfortable win in the Jungle Safari 24km as did Janet Spillman of Waiheke Island.
The event is based at Colville School – a major beneficiary of the event and involves tremendous input from the local community. The relative remoteness of the event, the tremendous scenery and top rider support have all combined to make it one of the iconic touring ride events in New Zealand.