The 2007 NZCT National Mountain Bike National Series kicked off with Wanganui's Samuel Blenkinsop following up his second placing in the world championships U19 category with a convincing elite men's win in sunny conditions at round one of the Downhill held in Wanaka.
On the eve of announcing his new pro-team deal for the 2007 world cup season, which kicks off in May, Blenkinsop had an emphatic pair of results in both the seeding run and the finals. The young Kiwi claimed the victory ahead of some well know international pros such as Fabien Pedemanaud (Fra), Justin Havukainen (Aus) and 2006 junior world champion Cameron Cole.
"I love racing down here in the mountains because the courses are so much steeper and therefore so much faster, they really suit my riding style," explained Blenkinsop, after his first official event in the elite men's category. "An added bonus is the chairlifts which all the riders appreciate. I always go hard in my seeding run because you never know what will happen in your race run, and this helps me push a little harder in the finals."
Queenstown's Scarlette Hagen took the elite women's title with a 4:08.10 in the race run to finish first in one of the largest, and strongest fields the series has seen for a number of years. Tauranga's Vanessa Quin was in second place (4:09.99 min), and 2006 National Champion Jennifer Makgill (Auckland) in 4:10.33 min).
The record 195 riders for the Treble Cone round was boosted by a number of internationals and the 73 riders who registered on practice day having been taking advantage of the ski fields opening for the summer mountain bike season. This weekend, the series moves to Coronet Peak in Queenstown. Riders will tackle a 1.6km track. The series will culminate with a one-off race for the New Zealand Championship being held in Nelson from January 26-28.
For a full report, photos, and results, click here.