The RaboPlus NZ MTB Cup completed Round Two of the six race series today in Dunedin. Wet and changeable weather in the week leading up to the event, and threatening rain right through the weekend didn't prevent some close racing in both Saturday's Cross Country event and todays Downhill race.
The age group categories racing in Saturday morning's Forrester Park Cross Country race encountered a greasy track which dried significantly during their two hour race - by 2pm and the Elite/U23 and U19 race, the race course was in perfect condition and produced two exciting features. The women's Elite/U23 race was dominated from the start again this week by Christchurch's downhill convert Amy Laird, proving her first round victory in Christchurch was no fluke. Rotorua's Samara Sheppard couldn't hold Laird's pace after the first of the four lap 25km race, and Dunedin's Sara MacDonald gamely tried to stay in touch to finish only 48 seconds behind Laird.
Brendon Sharratt (Wellington) also won again in the Mens Elite/U23 event. Producing another start to finish win, Sharratt gapped second place U23 athlete Ethan Glover (Nelson) by six minutes and was never seriously challenged during the men's six lap 38km race. With the U19 athletes on course at the same time as the Elite/U23's there was a display of brutal and exceptional racing in this Junior grade. Winner Brad Hudson (Christchurch) kept pace with Sharratt during the U19 five lap trace, with the first three U19 finishers all within 3 minutes of Hudson by the end of their race.
Today's action was at Signal Hill with the Downhill event. Unfortunately an injury to first round winner Sam Blenkinsop (Wanganui) during practice day robbed the field of the close competitive rivalry Blenkinsop has with former teammate Justin Leov (Dunedin). Leov won the Elite race this weekend, but by a tight margin, with 2006 Junior World Champion Cameron Cole (Christchurch) taking the second podium step. Current Junior World Champion Brook MacDonald put on a great display of controlled riding to seed first and ride as last starter for the afternoon race start, but dispite shaving four seconds off his seeding time had to settle for third place. Sabrina Jonnier (France) again showed her 2009 World Cup winning pedigree to comfortably win the Elite Womens race, this time over Rotorua's Gabby Molloy.
Event hosts Mountainbike Otago were happy with the way the event rolled out, and very relieved they didn't have to deal with weather that could have made the action quite different. As a dress rehearsal and shake down for March's Oceania Mountainbike Champs the event ticked all the boxes, and the club can now fine tune their preparations for the Oceanias with good confidence.
The next round of the RaboPlus NZ MTB Cup moves north to Nelson next weekend, with Cross Country racing taking place on Saturday Jan 23rd, and Downhill racing on Sunday Jan 24th.
Results NZ MTB Cup Rounmd Two:
1 Brendan Sharratt (Christchurch) 2:16; 2 Ethan Glover (U23 Nelson) 2:22; 3 Brent Miller (Christchurch) 2:27
1 Amy Laird (Christchurch) 1:47; 2 Sara MacDonald (Dunedin) 1:48; 3 Samara Sheppard (U23 Rotorua) 1:49
1 Justin Leov (Dunedin) 2:43.07; 2 Cameron Cole (Christchurch) 2:45.17; 3 Brook MacDonald (Napier) 2:45.61, 4 Matt Scoles (Alexandra) 2:47.99; 5 Wyn Masters (New Plymouth) 2:49.36
1 Sabrina Jonnier (France) 3:14.28; 2 Gabby Molloy (Rotorua) 3:30.63; 3 Sophie Borderes (France) 3:41.60
Full results available shortly at MTBNZ