Kiwi MTB riders look to continue World Cup momentum in Austria

Mountain Bike
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An in-form experienced performer and some shining young riders are set to carry the kiwi hopes into the latest round of the UCI MTB World Cup for enduro and downhill in Austria this weekend.

National champion Charles Murray returns for the third round of the Enduro World Cup after his outstanding victory in the last event in Poland, while a gang of young kiwi chargers were outstanding in the downhill.

Enduro leads the way at Saalfelden-Leogang on Saturday (NZ time) after Murray (Specialized Enduro Team) spoilt the Polish party in the last round, and is the current series leader going into what is shaping as a huge test.

“The course is super long, over 75kms with six stages,” said Murray. “It’s going to be a big day out on the bike. There’s a huge liaison that goes right across the valley from Leogang to Saalfelden where we do two stages which are quite techy and natural.

“Then we spin around and have the massive liaison back across the valley which is about two hours, then we smash out four stages at Leogang for the six stages.”

It has been raining during the week which could make for an additional challenge on to an already long day, with 15 kiwi riders in the pro enduro ranks.

Over the weekend the attention turns to the third round of the downhill world cup, with the Epic Bike Park is home to some well-trodden paths for most gravity riders, with the venue one of the mainstays on the UCI Downhill World Cup circuit since 2010, along with host for two world championships in 2012 and 2020.

There are 26 New Zealand riders in gravity racing with particular interest in the young brigade where elite national champion Lachlan Stevens-McNab (Union-Steel Media) was super-impressive in the elite men, although his run in the final could not match his brilliant fifth fastest effort in the semifinals.

 Christchurch rider Luke Wayman (Gravity Cartel) is second overall in the rankings in junior men, after a strong sixth in the last round while world champion Erice van Leuven (Commencal Les Orres), Sasha Earnest (Trek Factory) and rookie Eliana Hulsebosch (Union) were second to fourth in junior women.

Multi national champion Jess Blewitt (Cube Factory) was less than a second off the podium in elite women as she returns from a lengthy layoff.

The enduro test gets under way on Friday evening (NZ Time) though to early on Saturday.

Qualifying for downhill for all grades plus semifinals for elites runs from Saturday 10pm (NZT) through to Sunday around 3am with finals from 10.30pm (NZT).

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