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Bennett finds success at Oceanias

New Zealander Kieran Bennett won the downhill

New Zealander Kieran Bennett won the downhill (Image credit: Dylan Dean)

By Dylan Dean

Kieran Bennett marked a major milestone in his career with his recent win at the 2008 UCI Oceania Championship downhill last weekend in front of his hometown crowd in Nelson, New Zealand.

Bennett started off the weekend by qualifying third in Saturday's seeding run, even after sustaining a rear flat in the last corners of the course. With extremely fierce competitors just ahead of him, Bennett knew that he needed to bring a fast, but mistake-free run come race day.

"I was feeling pretty confident going into Sunday's race," said Bennett. "I didn't feel that great during morning's practice on race day. I was riding really tight and was starting to feel a bit of pressure."

Even with the pressure starting to build on Bennett, he knew he had a shot at the title and he settled in and rode the perfect race. Hitting all his lines and staying true to form, he bested his competition for the win.

Only two riders joined Bennett in breaking the three-minute mark during the finals. In fact, each of the three riders was within the same second of each other. Bennett clipped fellow countrymen Justin Leov's time of 2.57.20 by a scant one-tenth of a second. Rounding out the trio was yet another New Zealander, Nathan Rankin, who was only three-tenths of a second behind Leov with a 2.57.50.

"It was great to have all of the top NZ downhillers together at the race in the weekend as a build up to the international race season, the track was fast and rocky with barely any pedaling so staying off the brakes was a big part of having a good run," said Bennett. "I'm really stoked to take the Oceania Title as it's a huge confidence booster heading into the World Cup series!"

With his victory at the Oceanias, Bennett automatically qualifies for a spot on the New Zealand National Team for the World Championships to be held in Italy later this season. Bennett's schedule also consists of all the UCI World Cup rounds, select NMBS events in the US, and Crankworx.

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