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New Zealand women's Olympic mountain bike team battle heats up

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Kiwi Karen Hanlen had a great ride before crashing, and still managed to finish eighth

Kiwi Karen Hanlen had a great ride before crashing, and still managed to finish eighth (Image credit: Tour of Japan)
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Karen Hanlen went down hard in the rocks

Karen Hanlen went down hard in the rocks (Image credit: Tour of Japan)
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Rosara Joseph

Rosara Joseph (Image credit: Xander van Ommen Photography)

Those who weren't paying attention to the 2012 New Zealand Cross Country Mountain Bike Cup might have been wondering who Karen Hanlen was during the elite women's cross country race at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup on Saturday in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.

Whakatane's Karen Hanlen raced to a surprising eighth at the first round of the World Cup. Hanlen put herself in a position to not only challenge for the race lead, but to claim a result that will allow her to build on what has already been a form summer.

Lining up beside Hanlen on the fourth row of the start grid was Wellington's Rosara Joseph, and with the London Olympics forefront in both athletes' minds also a very clear understanding of the importance of performing well in Pietermaritzburg.

Kiwi rival Joseph meanwhile worked steadily away after a slower start, and recovered course position to eventually finish 11th and 3:05 down on the winner.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in South Africa.