New Zealand National Champs Crowned

Dark skies and a fierce winds greeted racers of the 2018 New Zealand National Mountain Bike Championships on Sunday morning high in the Crown Range atop Cardrona, New Zealand. Looking west into Queenstown and east toward Wanaka didn't show an inkling of sun. Heavy rain was predicated for the afternoon and read was looming over the parking lot.  Wind shut down the lift and the top third of the track was cut out so riders could push up an access road to the new start.  A small hiccup in the day, but the riders persevered and got on with practice.

Seeding gave a glimpse of what was to come, notably with Sam Blenkinsop going fastest.  At that point, he'd won the preceding two National rounds in very different conditions, so his speed was clearly not track-specific. He had a nasty crash, clipping a pedal not far from the finish and went down hard, eliminating any chance of podium contention.

Finals were pushed forward in hopes of beating the weather, which was a smart choice as the rain came during the last podium presentation.  The race itself was wild and exciting, with a small-but-enthusiastic crown gathered among the tussocks cheering on the riders flying by.  Most excitingly, Eddie Masters took the Elite win, and a new face to DH, Tuhoto-Ariki Pene took the U19 win in his first year of racing!  Cardrona delivered this year and the 2018 season is off to a wicked start.

Eddie Masters in Audio

Kiwi tradition is all about the "shoey, "but Eddie decided to up the ante with a cranial champange luge for Matt, as Brook laughed along with the rest of us.

Eddie! Masters!  A Vital favorite and friend, it was too cool watching him win the title.
He wasn't really expecting the result, but it has been a long time coming if you ask us - plus a little redemption from last year.

Across the line! Eddie, the moment he became National Champ.

Brook MacDonald brought out Bulldog this weekend and was sending and smashing everything.

The fire is burning hot for Brook in 2018, and while winning is always the goal, silver in a field of talented mates/competitors is still a solid start to the season.

Brook MacDonald in audio

One of the first DH riders to commit to riding a 29er, Matt Walker makes the big wheels look effortless. His raw speed is a sign of what's to come for the rest of 2018, and with 3rd on the day, it's off to a strong start!

Matt Walker in Audio

Reigning National Champ Keegan Wright wasn't able to keep the crown this year, but he was still happy with 4th on the day, as his plans are more focused towards international events.

Keegan Wright in Audio

Wyn Masters was riding with aggression and intensity. With a solid 5th in Elite, he was just happy to race a proper race on the new bike [read: not a muddy mess like Dunedin].

Wyn was National Champ in 2010, and now that Eddie has the sleeve, the Masters family has two National Champs! Surely there won't be any banter over dinner about this...not at all.

Wyn Masters in Audio

Russ Paver is the head of trail crew at Cardrona and he and his team put in a noteable effort with this event. Standing around after the event, there were musings from racers about the venue being of World Cup caliber and capable of hosting...hmmm.

Russ Paver in Audio

Kate Weatherly took the Elite Women's victory by a convincing 12-second margin.

Shania Rawson is the next up-and-coming Elite woman. Her Roots and Rain page is just a blue of wins.

Silver on the day, she's looking ahead to the overseas race season and pumped to get into it!

Shania Rawson in Audio

Taking the Gold in Sport Women, Ashley Bond laughs as she is the only woman in her category, but a win is a win, and at the end of the day it was all about good times with friends!

New to DH, Ash Bond has been making steady progress astride a DH bike.
With a background in Moto, she's got the basics down, it's just about turning up the speed now!

Ashley Bond in Audio

U19 Podium [LtR]: Josh Oxenham, Tuhoto-Ariki Pene, Charlie Makea

Tuhoto-Ariki Pene is not someone you've read about. He's a Rotorua local with heaps of talent, and he's a first-year U19/Junior...

The fact that he is so new to DH is a surpise to most, as he looks pretty effortless on a bike.
Like most of the current fast Kiwis (Eddie, Sam, Brook, etc), he is aboard a Zerode G2 and it is of course in dire need of some mechanical TLC.

To say that he was surprised to take the win by a sizeable 2.17 seconds would be an understatement. But, all of his mates and those of us trackside just nodded knowing - he has speed and talent. Watch this space.

Tuhoto-Ariki Pene in Audio

2017 U19 National Champ, Josh Oxenham was storming down the hill trying to keep the sleeve, but got pipped and landed in 2nd - not bad though!

Charlie Makea is an absolute house, and he rides like his bike owes him money. This moment was loose, as he basically just slammed into the right-to-left after this air and rode off like it was a straight line. Big Man power for 3rd in U19!

The Champman family now has another medal for the trophy cabinate, with Harry taking the win in Sport Men!

The number of fast NZ siblings seems disproportionately high. Harry Chapman, keeping the family tradition of shredding alive and well!

For his efforts, Laurie Greenland was rewarded with a different kind of gold, a liquid form specifically.

Nearly usurping the National Champs crown, Laurie Greenland was 2nd fastest on the day!

Laurie Greenland in Audio

U17 Podium [LtR]: Finn Parsons, Alex Barke, Blake Ross.

Alex Barke has spent the summer smashing laps at Skyline in Queenstown, and it paid off, taking the win in U17!

Racing is hard work. What do you reckon he ordered post-race?

Full race results can be found on Cycling New Zealand.

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