Last weekend, both Australia and New Zealand crowned their national champions.
On the cross country side, Clinton Avery and Anja MacDonald claimed New Zealand titles to become new national champions after both the men's and women's defending champions were away overseas training and competing. Steady rain made the course difficult and caused several riders to withdraw. Avery was seeded first, based on UCI results at the end of 2006, and led from start to finish in an impressive run at Nelson. MacDonald beat a small, but strong field of elite female competitors.
Across the Tasman in Canberra, Tory Thomas proved herself again at national level by taking out another title. The 28-year-old from Mt Beauty in Victoria was determined to win the Olympic distance cross country. Thomas also holds the national marathon title and the 24 hour solo title. "I just really wanted to win today," she admitted. Her motivation came from narrowly missing selection in the last Commonwealth Games and World Championships. Fresh off the Tour down Under, Chris Jongewaard placed first in the national cross country elite men's race.
Jared Graves found two seconds was enough to win the 2007 Australian downhill championship. Riding against some of the world's best riders, the 24 year-old from Toowoomba had a clean run to finish in 3.19.86. Graves, the 2005 world silver medallist, has been focused on his specialty of mountain cross, but that didn't stop him from winning his first national downhill. Defending national champion, Nathan Rennie could not repeat last year's win but claimed second with 3.22.05. World downhill champion Sam Hill was unlucky when a slide in the final section put paid to the Perth rider's chances, forcing him to settle for a top 10 finish in eighth position.
The fastest time in the Australian elite women's category was posted by "local" Julia Boer. Unfortunately for Boer, she was unable to claim the champion's jersey as the Hungarian citizen is not eligible for a national placing. The citizenship technicality meant that second fastest on the day Joanne Fox took out the Elite Women's Australian Downhill Championship with a superb 4.13.
On the New Zealand side, Kieran Bennett and Scarlett Hagen won the elite downhill men's and women's titles.