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With more and more DH teams making the switch to 27.5-inch wheels, it's fairly obvious that there are performance benefits to the bigger hoops. Trek rolled out a prototype Session 27.5 for the NZ National Champs this past weekend, and if this first race is anything to judge by, they've obviously done their homework. George Brannigan takes his first ever senior national title, in the process becoming the first ever elite rider to take a national championship title on 27.5 wheels. It's also worth pointing out that this makes it three years in a row that a Trek rider wins the NZ National Champs.

New Zealand DH National Championships 2014 Results

1st: George Brannigan (Havelock North, Trek World Racing) 3:01:40
2nd: Sam Blenkinsop (Wanganui, Lapierre International) 3:02:00
3rd: Nick Beer (Switzerland) 3:04:26,
4th: Rupert Chapman (Christchurch) 3:06:50
5th: Brook MacDonald (Hawkes Bay, Trek World Racing) 3:06:51

To celebrate, take a look back at George's 2013 season thanks to this sweet video from Trek:

Official press release from Trek World Racing:

Last year it was Brook MacDonald, and the year before that it was Justin Leov, but this year the Trek World Racing rider to win the New Zealand National Downhill Title was George Brannigan, aboard his brand new Prototype 650B Trek Session.

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The race was held in Rotorua, site of the 2006 World Championships, and in good weather. Some red flag course holds delayed the start of the final but George was feeling good on his new bike and ready to try and win his first Elite Title. Both Brook and George received their prototypes just the week before and had the option of riding these or their 26 inch bikes for this important race. Both opted for the new bike.

Brook said: "I felt comfortable on this bike from the beginning. It's crazy the difference to the 26, as a race bike it's a lot faster for sure! I'm really looking forward to racing it on the World Cup this year."

This was Brook's first week back on a DH bike, so his 5th place confirms he's on track and his recovery from shoulder surgery is on target.

For George this was a very important race. After spending all of 2013 coming back from major knee surgery, this is the first time that he's felt 100% in a race for a long time. Despite winning the Junior National Title in 2010, this was the title he was after. In winning he not only achieved his first Elite Title, but became the first rider to win a National DH Title on a 650B bike.

George said: "It's good to win that race and show the new bike is where it's at! It's 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. I'm really stoked to take the win, can’t wait for Oceania's next."

The Oceania Continental Championships are being held at Mt Hutt (NZL) on March 15 and 16.

If you're in California this weekend, be sure to get to Fontana where Neko Mulally and Greg Williamson will be aboard their new 650B Prototypes as well.

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Update: Trek has also chimed in with their plans to evaluate the use of 27.5 in a downhill application, but says they'll continue to offer the Session in the tried and true 26-inch variety.

Trek’s athlete-driven development philosophy of racing to make bikes better will be put into action as the team publicly explores the merits of the slightly larger 650b wheels in downhill. Throughout this research period, Trek will continue to offer riders around the world the 26” wheeled Session 8, 88, 9.8, 9.9, and the recently announced Park edition. According to Trek’s MTB Product Manager, John Riley “After all of the research we’ve invested in wheel size performance characteristics at Trek, we believe 26” wheels absolutely still have a place in the gravity category. We’re keen on understanding the possibilities of 650b as well, so we’re evaluating that option with some of the world’s best riders on Trek World Racing.”

Through two highly popular new product offerings over the past year, along with a significant research effort, Trek has become a leader in 650b wheel development. In 2013, the brand unveiled two new 650b wheel platforms in the technical trail category with the Remedy and Slash. “Our hope is that the new 650b Session will provide a performance advantage to our riders and continue to keep them on the podium,” continued Riley. “We also know that these athletes will test the extreme limits of the bike and provide us with invaluable feedback as we continuously evaluate and refine the Session.” The full line of Sessions will continue to be available including the Race Shop Limited Session Park, a model with shorter chainstays and reduced travel perfect for gravity park riding. Trek encourages riders to watch as the bike evolves throughout the season. The team will begin testing the prototype at this weekend’s New Zealand National Championships.

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