The cross country, downhill and four-cross courses in Rotorua, New Zealand got a test run in preparation for this August's UCI World Championships when they hosted the Oceania Championships this past weekend. Under mostly dry and warm skies (barring the odd flash shower), the region's finest did battle for championship honours (with New Zealand coming out on top in all categories) while carpetbaggers from as far away as Canada and France stole the spotlight by winning key individual races.
John Kirkcaldie took the first continental championship of the weekend in four cross. He won the all-Kiwi final ahead of countrymen Tom Holland, Craig Pattle and Scott Geater. In the non-championship all-comers event, Cedric Gracia (Oakley - Commencal) put enough dirt between him and the other three finalists to pull air tricks off the jumps on his way to a win.
Kiwis Kashi Leuchs (Cannondale) and Rosara Joseph (Giant) swept the cross country championships. Joseph took her win with more than a two-minute margin over countrywoman Annika Smail. In the men's race, outsider Geoff Kabush (Maxxis/Turner) proved that even in his first dirt race of the year, he could still put the hurt to Leuchs, Australian National Champion Sid Taberlay and Chris Jongewaard (both Avanti-SRAM-Rock Shox).
Breaking New Zealand's championship streak, Aussie Sam Hill (Iron Horse - SRAM - Rock Shox) took the downhill; but only after finishing second to Frenchman Fabien Barel (Kona Les-Gets). The pairing was a chance for both racers to relive last year's world championships but no matter how clean a final run Hill put down, he couldn't change his fate. New Zealander Vanessa Quinn (Intense) won both the women's race and the Oceania downhill championship.
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