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George Brannigan and Sarah Atkin claim New Zealand downhill titles

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George Brannigan flying high on his way to the men's national title

George Brannigan flying high on his way to the men's national title (Image credit: Fotoengineers)
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Sarah Atkin on her way to her maiden NZ downhill title

Sarah Atkin on her way to her maiden NZ downhill title (Image credit: Fotoengineers)

Sarah Atkin won her first national women’s New Zealand downhill crown while in the men's event, George Brannigan also won his first national title. The elite field was forced to wait for more than an hour after three crashes in the under 19 competition forced delays on the famed Taniwha national track on Sunday.


Twenty-one-year-old Brannigan (Trek Factory Team) had an indifferent start through the technical part of the track but his 3:01:40 was the fastest of the day, as the final rider, Lapierre International rider Sam Blenkinsop, was unable to pip the time as he came in second just over half a second behind the young winner.

"We were waiting for so long, the mind was not ready for it. I didn't ride the top section well but then got into it. So I was surprised to go faster than my seeding but that is pretty cool," Brannigan said.

"I am really happy. I wanted to win this and so I am really pleased with that."

Brannigan, struggled last year after coming back from a serious injury, said the victory showed that he is fit and healthy again. "It is amazing to be feeling how I was a year or so ago. I have put in a huge amount of work to get back. So this makes me so happy."

Brannigan spoke about the benefits of his move from his family home in Hawkes Bay to Queenstown in the off-season. "It has been the best thing for me. The riding and training are excellent and now I am really looking forward to the first World Cup."

Defending champion Brook MacDonald (Trek World Racing) could only manage fifth place ahead of Kawerau’s Matt Walker and Christchurch’s Cam Cole while Swiss visitor Nick Beer was third with 3:04:26.


Sarah Atkin, 20 years-old, had come to Rotorua chasing a top three place but came away with the win as favourite Alanna Columb grabbed the hot seat with a 3:51:85 in the third to last run.  However, Atkin was in a class of her own winning with the final run in 3:45:83.

Like all the elite riders, Atkin found it a test to cope with the unavoidable race delays.

"I got hungry, thirsty, warmed up, cooled down, warmed up again, cooled down, got bored," Atkin said. "It is part of racing though. You get mentally tired so I was really pleased with that effort."

"I am really stoked to win the national elite title. I was going to be thrilled to get in the top three so to win my first elite national title is unreal."


Men's results
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1George Brannigan0:00:03:01
2Sam Blenkinsop0:00:00.61
3Nick Beer0:00:02.87
4Rupert Chapman0:00:05.11
5Brook Macdonald
6Matt Walker0:00:05.83
7Cam Cole0:00:07.38
8Reuben Olorenshaw0:00:09.19
9Louis Hamilton0:00:09.92
10Matt Scoles0:00:10.32
11Harry Molloy0:00:11.79
12Lawrence Cawte0:00:12.17
13Max Chapuis0:00:13.84
14Felix Klee0:00:15.72
15Nick McConachie0:00:16.20
16Wyn Masters0:00:16.66
17Josh Lowe0:00:17.23
18Carl Edmondson0:00:19.41
19Ben Deakin0:00:20.12
20Kieran Thompson0:00:20.75
21Kyle Lockwood0:00:21.50
22Cam Johnson0:00:21.71
23Mat Prior0:00:26.32
24Sam Perry0:00:27.09
25Jamie Lyall0:01:47.64
DNFTom Matthews

Women's result
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Sarah Atkin0:03:46.00
2Alanna Columb0:00:06.01
3Harriet Latchem0:00:06.76
4Gabby Molloy0:00:12.30
5Amanda Monk0:00:23.18
6Meg Bichard0:00:42.95
7Philippa Rostan0:01:03.13
DNSAmy Cole
DNSSophie Tyas


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