Cathro upsets New Zealand downhill favorite Blenkinsop

Blenkinsop racing the World Cup in Austria last September

Blenkinsop racing the World Cup in Austria last September (Image credit: Luke Weber)

Ragot tops women's podium again

The crowd watched in anticipation as Yeti/Fox rider Sam Blenkinsop raced down the fast-paced track in the Whakarewarewa Forest at round two of the New Zealand North Island Downhill Cup last weekend.

It was Blenkinsop's first race since winning the final round of the 2008 UCI World Cup round in Austria in September last year. The New Zealander placed second in his seeding run and was hoping to knock off some time in his race run which he did, but, Ben Cathro of Scotland took the win in the elite men's category. Another Scottish rider, Joe Barnes, who is travelling around New Zealand for the NZ MTB Cups, earned third place.

Frenchwoman Emmeline Ragot kept her place at the top of the podium in the elite women's category with Harriet Harper in second and Rita Langley third. The senior women's category saw a growing field, with a noteworthy 12 women entering this round's competition. Madeline Taylor won the senior women's race, an impressive feat at age 15. She has been riding mountain bikes for just one year, having quickly become addicted to the sport.

"It's awesome to be riding with so many other girls. It makes us ride faster and more competitive. We all get along really well, but when it comes to the race, it's all on," said Taylor.

Race Organiser Dave Hamilton had a lot on his plate, with a huge race to run as well as both his sons entered and also racing himself. Hamilton placed first in the Masters 2 Men (over 40) whilst sons Louis won the Under 17 men and Connor placed fifth in the Under 15 men.

"It was amazing to see the top guys letting loose on the fast-paced summer course, with it being described as a wild roller coaster ride from top to bottom," said Hamilton.

This was the second race in the downhill series of three, with the final round being held in Levin this coming weekend. The action then moves to the South Island for three rounds before the New Zealand National Mountain Bike Championships in Nelson from February 26 to March 1.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the North Island Cup downhill round two and cross country round three from this past weekend.

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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.