New Zealand riders competing in the Australian national mountain bike Championships earned mixed results in Canberra last weekend. Eleven of New Zealand's most promising junior and two elite female cross country athletes competed at Stromlo Forest Park on the outskirts against Australia's best. All, who were part of the Mountain Bike New Zealand Athlete Development Programme, enjoyed the chance to race on the same course that will be used for the 2009 World Mountain Bike Championships in September.
In the Under 19 junior men's race, Adrian Retief raced to a solid plan within a group of four riders trying to chase down winner Michael Baker. He was rewarded for his efforts with third place, while Rotorua's Sam Shaw was two minutes back in fifth. But attrition struck two of NZ's brightest talents; Patrick Avery withdrew on his second lap due to a possible broken wrist after a nasty crash while challenging for the race lead and Dirk Peters gambled on a lightweight set of race tires which punctured on the first lap and again later on the third lap.
In the Under 19 junior women's race, Sarah-Kate McDonald got her first taste of international competition when she diced with Queensland's Gillian Burgess for her entire three-lap race, finishing in third mere seconds behind Burgess. Her teammate Jesse Loe wasn't as fortunate and withdrew after two laps following an unplanned excursion off-course.
Nic Leary produced the team's best performance in the elite women's race with a ninth place.
The athletes returned to New Zealand with plans to contest the South Island Cross Country Cup, which will kick off this Sunday, February 1 in Dunedin.
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of Australian Mountain Bike Nationals.