Masters best of Kiwi mountain bikers in opening UCI World Cup

Taranaki rider Ed Masters was the best of the Kiwis in the opening round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup downhill competition in France.

The Bergamont Hayes Team rider was 16th on a demanding downhill course at Lourdes, sodden throughout practice and qualifying before drying and rutting on race day, in conditions that claimed a number of more illustrious riders.

Former national champion George Bennett was one who suffered, with crashes and a mechanical on the treacherous qualifying day, forcing him out of the competition for his new Commencal Vallnord Racing Team.

Former teammate and fellow Hawkes Bay rider, Brook MacDonald, now with GT Factory Racing, also struggled with three crashes in his four practice and qualifying rides hampering his preparations, finishing 37th on race day, 15 seconds behind the winner.

It proved a good day for the Kiwi riders in the Bergamont Hayes team, with new national champion Rupert Chapman finishing 24th while Sam Blenkinsop (Norco Factory Racing) was 35th and Wyn Masters (GT Factory Racing) 72nd.

American Aaron Gwin won in his first ride for the new YT Mob downhill team run by Martin Whiteley, who manages MacDonald, Brannigan and under-23 cross-country world champion Anton Cooper.

Britain’s Rachel Atherton took up 2016 where she left off last year with a commanding win in the elite women’s division.

The world cup heads down under with the second round for downhill and opening round for cross-country to be staged at Cairns on 23-24 May.

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