In hot and still conditions this weekend in New Zealand, Scarlett Hagen and Nathan Rankin won the opening round of the elite women's and men's races at the Subaru South Island Downhill Cup series while Eric Drower and Jeanette Gerrie rode to wins in round two of the South Island Cross Country Cup. The cross country field was of modest size, but the downhill race drew 265 racers, one of the largest fields ever seen at a Mountain Bike New Zealand downhill race. Both rounds were held at Coronet Peak.
A retired Rankin, who formerly represented New Zealand in competition, was still in good enough shape to take a tight victory over Justin Leov of Team Yeti by just 0.6 seconds. Hagen's win came with a much more comfortable 12.9-second margin over Sheryl MacLeod.
Drower lead the entire elite men's cross country race and finished with a convincing nine minute and six second gap over Dayle McLauchlan. Jon Richardson was another two minutes and 40 seconds back. With his good form, Drower also set the fastest lap time (19'06").
Gerrie and Cathy Hamer battled it out in the elite women's race although Gerrie assumed the lead on the opening lap of five total laps and held it until her win. Hamer finished second, 22 seconds behind. Each of them now has one win in the South Island Cup Series, with the up and coming third and final round to determine the winner.
The racing continued just a few days later on the South Island with another round of the Downhill Cup at Dirt Park, in the Pisa Mountain Range, in Wanaka on January 8-9. Hagan and Rankin both collected wins, taking an insurmountable lead in the series.
The final downhill wraps up in Nelson on January 12-13 and the next and final round of the Cross Country Cup is scheduled for January 20 in Omihi in North Canterbury.