Kiwi gravity riders line-up for mountain bike world championships

By CyclingNZ High Performance

New Zealand’s best gravity riders shape up for the toughest competition at the toughest test in the UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Championships in Italy this week.

After several seasons of powerful performances, the Kiwi riders come into the world championships without a podium in the 2016 UCI World Cup season as they attack the famed Blake Snake course at Val di Sole, rated as one o f the toughest technical tests.

Fifteen Kiwi riders are competing at Val di Sole, the most remarkable is expected to be Christchurch-based Sam Blenkinsop, a former podium placegetter at the world championships. The NORCO Factory Racing rider suffered a serious crash in the final round of the World Cup in Vallnord which required hospitalisation. But his team has announced he has recovered sufficiently and hopes to line-up this weekend.

The 2015 national champion George Brannigan is the top ranked New Zealander in 18th on the World Cup ratings on the back of three top-10 finishes this year. The Commencal Vallnord professional comes in on good form after placing 10th at Lenzerheide (Switzerland) and a season-best seventh at Mont St Anne (Canada).
Brook MacDonald in World Cup action. (Credit: GT Factory Team)

His fellow Hawkes Bay professional Brook MacDonald was 19th in the World Cup this year with just one top-10 performance and off the back of an ordinary final round at Vallnord. But the explosive and exciting GT Factory Team rider is back at a circuit that is one of his favourites.

The other Kiwis in the elite men include Wyn Masters (GT Factory Team), who has been handicapped with a knee injury this season, his brother Ed Masters (Bergamont Hayes Factory Team), his teammate and national champion Rupert Chapman, and Oceania champion Bryn Dickerson.

New Zealand and Oceania winner, Alanna Columb (Queenstown), the sole elite female representative, finished 18th overall in the World Cup after competing in just four of the eight events with one top 10 to her credit.

Tauranga’s Shania Rawson will compete in the junior women along with six starters in the junior men led by Rotorua’s Lucas Cole, the national junior champion, who was 10th in last week’s world cup.

There is practice on Friday (local time – 10 hrs behind NZ), timed runs on Saturday with racing from 11am on Sunday. The elite races will be live on Sky Sport Pop-Up channel.

The full New Zealand team is:
Elite men:
George Brannigan (Hawkes Bay), Brook MacDonald (Hawkes Bay), Sam Blenkinsop (Christchurch), Rupert Chapman (Christchurch), Ed Masters (New Plymouth), Wyn Masters (New Plymouth), Bryn Dickerson (Porirua).

Elite women: Alanna Columb (Queenstown).

Junior men: Simon Read (Queenstown), Lucas Cole (Rotorua), Ben Karalus (Nelson), Oscar Perks (Nelson), Liam Bethell (Auckland), Billy Meaclem (Christchurch).

Junior women: Shania Rawson (Tauranga)
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