Fierce competition between Marcus Roy and Clinton Avery, the reemergence of Brendan Sharratt as a competitive cross country rider and an injury to Tim Wilding were the key features of the elite men's cross country race in the first round of the 2006 New Zealand Community Trust Mountain Bike National Series held in Dunedin on Sunday.
The 20-year-old Avery had a fast start and took an early lead but Marcus Roy caught up mid way through the fist lap, and a tussle for first place continued throughout the six laps of the race. Wanganui rider Sharratt, having his first race back in the national series for a number of years, showed he was still a contender for selection in the Oceania and world championships to be held in Rotorua later this year with a comfortable third placing.
With a field of 28 proven elite riders, strong competition was expected, and the riders didn't disappoint. In an exciting finish to the race, Avery came back from a 33-second deficit midway through the final lap to sprint to an eight second win over Roy.
Former Commonwealth Games and Olympic representative Robyn Wong (Wellington) had a fantastic start with Annika Smail, ranked number two in the series, in close pursuit. Local rider Erin Greene has plenty of crowd support and delivered with a formidable third placing. In keeping with the format of the day, a sprint finish also decided the elite women's winner, with Smail overtaking Wong on the final lap to start the 2006 season with a win.
Next week's race at Coronet Peak will see an even bigger field in both the Elite Men and Women with national representative Kashi Leuchs returning to the series and Sonia Foote making her first appearance.
For complete New Zealand National Series #1 results, click here.