A thrilling race in the UCI Oceania Mountain Bike Championships four cross final on Friday evening in Dunedin, New Zealand, saw seasoned World Cup racer and New Zealand downhill champion Wyn Masters of New Zealand clash with 16-year-old Daniel Franks, also of New Zealand, to win the top medal. The other two riders in the men's final were Kieran Bennett (New Zealand) and Matt Walker (New Zealand).
Franks, riding for Yeti NZ, dominated the start and looked comfortable in the lead through the straights at the top of the course. "I was anticipating the gate as the starter was dropping it at the same time every time, and I got an awesome start and was a bike length ahead and feeling pretty good," Franks said.
But in the third-to-last turn Masters played his hand. "There was no way that I wasn't going to do it," Masters said afterward. Masters leapt into the inside line, collided at full-speed with Franks and pushed him up onto the top of the berm.
"When I was a young rider, that happened to me and I learned from it. It's good for him - he won't leave the gate open like that again, he won't take the outside line in that situation again," Masters grinned.
Franks did everything he could to avoid from going right over the berm and managed to regain control of his Yeti DJ and secure second place in the event.
"I wasn't able to turn as tight as I wanted on the hardtail and I lost a bit of traction and Wyn played his tactics well and managed to get underneath me. We had some contact - I knew it was going to happen - he kind of smashed me," Franks said.
"I had both feet on and was just trying to hold myself on the berm - my foot was right on the edge and I managed to get back on and hold onto second place."
Franks conceded that Masters' pass was a valuable learning experience for him. "You have to go through these things to learn them and to make you a better rider," Franks offered later with a smile. "I'm happy with second place today."
The four cross track at Signal Hill in Dunedin is the second biggest track in the world after a track in Pietermaritzburg in South Africa. The Signal Hill track has approximately 90m of vertical and is 800m long. Race times on the all-new $20,000 course hovered about the 50-second mark.
Franks won the UCI Oceania junior dual slalom event on Thursday night and Masters won the open dual slalom on the same night, so it was fitting that they would trade blows in today's four cross final.
The next event for Franks is the Under 19 downhill on Sunday - an event he is looking forward to.
"The track's good," Franks said. "We have Troy Brosnan here and he's on the same factory team as Sam Hill [Monster Energy Specialized] and has a lot of expectation behind him." Brosnan, of Adelaide, is slightly older than Franks and will be his biggest threat in Sunday's downhill race at Signal Hill.
In the women's race, three New Zealand riders Sarah Atkin, Madeline Taylor and Kaytee Campbell were out to keep Australia's Sarsha Huntington honest. The final produced some drama, but at the front of the race, Huntington cleared out from the start to win by a large margin.
Sarah Atkin went down in turn two while in second place and by the time she got back on her bike and underway, there was a huge gap ahead to Campbell and Taylor. Atkin reeled them both in and sneaked through to second place right on the line giving the crowd a display of why to never give up in a race.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Wyn Masters (NZl)|
|2||Matthew Walker (NZl)|
|3||Daniel Franks (NZl)|
|4||Kieran Bennett (NZl)|
|5||Daniel Heads (NZl)|
|6||Hayden Mcgregor (NZl)|
|7||Graeme Mudd (Aus)|
|8||Reon Boe (NZl)|
|9||Richard Leacock (NZl)|
|10||Richard Levinson (Aus)|
|11||Randal Huntington (Aus)|
|12||Reece Potter (NZl)|
|13||Rupert Chapman (NZl)|
|14||Tom Matthews (NZl)|
|15||Ryan Hunt (Aus)|
|16||Will Kemp (NZl)|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Sarsha Huntington (Aus)|
|2||Sarah Atkin (NZl)|
|3||Madeline Taylor (NZl)|
|4||Kaytee Campbell (NZl)|