New Zealand mountainbikers go into tomorrow’s downhill competition in buoyant mood after encouraging performances in timed practice at the UCI World Championships in Canberra.
There were three kiwis inside the top 15 times in the elite men’s competition with three juniors in the top six on the Mt Stromlo course yesterday.
Twenty-one year old Christchurch rider Cameron Cole surprised his more illustrious teammates to be the quickest of the New Zealanders in training, ripping down the course in a lightning 2:32.12 which was fourth fastest with the pace set by Australians Michael Hannah and two-time world champion Sam Hill.
Fellow Cantabrian and world No 8 Justin Leov was seventh fastest in 2:35.47 with world No 7 Sam Blenkinsop (Wanganui) 15th fastest ahead of tomorrow’s competition that brings a curtain down on the week-long world championships.
Christchurch’s Olivia Johnston was the best of the kiwi elite women in training with 16th best time. In the junior timed practice Georgia Wight (Alexandra) was fourth fastest while in the junior men the Hawkes Bay pairing of Brook McDonald and George Brannigan were third and sixth fastest respectively.
It was not so good for another Hawkes Bay rider and medal prospect Aari Barrett (Havelock North) who broke a finger in qualifying and was been forced to withdraw.
Last night New Zealand qualifiers Matt Walker and Eddie Masters (Dunedin) were knocked out in the first elimination round in the Four Cross competition. Walker was third in his moto and Masters fourth in the final heat after qualifying in the top 32 riders.
In-form Australian Jared Graves took out the world title over Frenchman Romain Saladini in an exciting final.
Today’s competition is likely to see a return to the European dominance in crosscountry in the elite men’s and women’s competition ahead of the downhill tomorrow.
Results, UCI Mountainbike World Championships, Canberra:
Four-Cross, Main Final: Jared Graves (AUS) 1, Romain Saladini (FRA) 2, Jakub Riha (CZE) 3.
First round elimination: Matt Walker (Kawerau) 3, Eddie Masters (Dunedin) 4.
Downhill timed practice:
Elite men: Michael Hannah (AUS) 2:29.68, 1; Sam Hill (AUS) 2:31.42, 2; Greg Minnaar (SAF) 2:31.56, 3. New Zealanders: Cameron Cole 2:32.12, 4; Justin Leov 2:35.47, 7; Sam Blenkinsop 2:37.61, 15; Wyn Masters 2:39.25, 24; Kieran Bennett 2:39.45, 26; Nathan Rankin 2:40.15, 29; Matthew Scoles 2:41.07, 33.
Junior men, New Zealanders: Brook McDonald 2:39.45, 3; George Brannigan 2:42.42, 6.