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The New Zealand Mountain Bike Championships finished today with the downhill and cross country eliminator events contested on the slopes of Fringed Hill in the Brook Valley, Nelson. The hot, windy weather continued and the sunshine heralded new national champions in two very tough cycling disciplines - one new and one well established.
The cross country eliminator drew 16 competitors for its first showing on the national circuit. A mix of junior U17, U19 and elite athletes took the challenge during a midday break in the downhill schedule. Raced on a short 500m long course around and through the event village, the knock-out style competition, where four-man heats delivered first and second placed riders through to the next round (while third and fourth were eliminated) had a huge crowd lining the course and urging riders through their heats.
The crucial part of each lap proved to be the short gravel track climb, and in the early heats the only clear favourite seemed to be Anton Cooper with his explosive power off the start line. The final four riders were Cooper, Mathew Waghorn, Craig Oliver and Harley Going.
Off the line, it was an elbow to elbow wrestle between Waghorn and Cooper going into the short climb, with Waghorn able to leverage just enough advantage to turn through the top of the course in the front. Despite a massive sprint from Cooper, Waghorn won the inaugural cross country eliminator national championship title by half a wheel. Oliver kept his nerve from a charging Harley Going to win the bronze medal.
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