Sam Blenkinsop (LaPierre) on his way to winning the first round of the New Zealand downhill cup.
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Round two draws international cross country, downhill racers to Dunedin
Round two of the RaboPlus New Zealand Mountain Bike Cup heads to Dunedin this weekend, January 16-17. Both cross country and downhill racers will get their turn again in the six-event national series. Racers will compete on the courses that will also be used later in March for the 2010 Oceania Mountain Bike Championships.
Strong fields are anticipated in all age group categories and especially in the elite fields, with athletes seeking a preview of what they will be up for in March against Oceania's best.
The cross country racing takes place at Forrester Park on Saturday, and the Downhill will happen at Signal Hill on Sunday.
Sunday's downhill event will feature New Zealand's best gravity racers, with round one winner Sam Blenkinsop squaring off against Dunedin's Justin Leov, who will be racing on his home track. Both athletes are world-ranked top ten athletes and will be competing against a top notch elite New Zealand field including current Junior World Champion Brook MacDonald, former Junior World Champion Cameron Cole and former Junior World Championship bronze medalist Matt Scoles.
Visiting internationals Fabien Pedemenaud (France), Tim Eaton (Australia), Sam Shucksmith (United Kingdom), David Reinhardt (Germany) and Eolo Fronco (Italy) will add flavour to the field this weekend, and they will all be looking to mix it up at the front after finding their pace in Christchurch last weekend.
Cole's French teammate Sabrina Jonnier will be competing in the elite women's downhill again this weekend and brings a strong pedigree with her. Jonnier is the current World Cup champion and a former World Champion. The French downhill star showed her strength and pace in Christchurch last weekend to post a massive win in the elite women's race, and the more technical nature of the Dunedin course is sure to suit her even more. Last weekend, she also made an appearance in the cross country round, winning the senior women's race.
The Signal Hill downhill course has previously been used at national level and is a favourite among competitors, with several new sections having been added for 2010.
In the elite men's cross country race, Brendon Sharratt will be aiming to repeat his round one win from last weekend. Brent Miller is one of his most likely challengers.
In the elite women's race, surprise round one winner Amy Laird will be up against Samara Sheppard and top locals Erin Greene and Sara MacDonald along with Christchurch's Sara Taylor. Laird is reasonably inexperienced at this level of cross country racing after having switched from the downhill discipline last year. The race between the more seasoned cross country racers and Laird, as the new pace setter, promises to be one to watch.
The Forrester Park cross country race course was previously used at the national level several years ago, but in terrible weather conditions. Competitors will be hoping for better weather and a dry course this time around.