The 600m vertical drop Fringed Hill course on Nelson's backdrop had been eagerly anticipated by the New Zealand Mountain Bike Cup competitors for some time. In what is a rare opportunity to race on such a long course, the level of competition in all categories showed a quality and depth which represents the strength of this popular sport in New Zealand.
Friday's practice day was tough - Trek World Racing's Justin Leov summed up the approach needed for such a draining challenge.
"Again it's super hot here, and there's dust a foot deep covering a lot of the steeper sections of the course," said Leov. "Arm pump was an issue today and managing energy tomorrow will be key. It's going to be a sketchy race run in these conditions and over five minutes for the winning time I'd say."
Leov's prediction on time wasn't far off, but sub-five minute race run times became the revised target when six riders went quicker than that benchmark after their first opportunity to post seeding times against the clock.
Leov seeded quickest in the Elite Men's category with times extremely tight given the massive race course, and Brook MacDonald (MS Evil) was nipping at his heels only fractions of a second off his pace.
Leov backed his fast seeding time up in the race run, going three seconds quicker and holding off a pack of quality riders for the win. 2007 Junior World Championship bronze medalist Mat Scoles (Cingolani Protone) rode to his best result of the season to finish second, and 2009 Junior World Champion MacDonald was right in the mix again this week in third.
In the elite women's race, Harriet Harper (Santa Cruz) couldn't convert her fast seeding time to a race win after failing to finish, with Emilie Siegenthaler (Scott 11) seizing the opportunity to win at this Nelson double header.
Junior under 19 winner Reuben Olorenshaw impressed all weekend to crush his competition, and continues to show the kind of form through this series that may signal a big future in the sport. Seeding fifth quickest from all competitors, Olorenshaw raced to an overall sixth in his race run which deservedly placed him in the prize money pool among vastly more experienced elite riders.
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