New Zealand mountain bikers flying high ahead of Val di Sole World Cup

Mountain Bike
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Kiwi mountain bikers are flying high on the world stage ahead of the latest round of the UCI MTB World Series in Italy this weekend.

Eight New Zealand riders are currently ranked in the top 15 in their respective disciplines going into the latest round of the series at the famed venue of Vai di Sole in Trentino, for a combined round with cross-country and downhill.

The kiwi gravity riders are on fire and arguably in the highest overall rankings in their history across all four grades.

Rotorua star Lachie Stevens-McNab (Union-Steel City Media) has earned massive praise after his outstanding performance at Leogang in the elite men. Just 20 years old, Stevens-McNab finished third in the ultra-challenging conditions, which was the first downhill podium by a kiwi elite male since Sam Blenkinsop six years ago.

Kiwis are at the sharp end of the female elite ranks also with national champion Jess Blewitt (Cube Factory) currently seventh overall and in regular podium contention. After battling with several injury-affected seasons, Blewitt is at the top level of the sport, is still just 21 years of age.

In the junior women standings after three rounds, current world champion Erice van Leuven (Commencal les Orres) is second overall with rookie Eliana Hulsebosch (Union-Steel City Media) third and Sacha Earnest fourth. Earnest, the Trek Factory professional from Auckland, heads to the Val di Sole downhill course where she enjoyed her debut World Cup victory in a stunning performance last year.

In the junior men’s ranks, Christchurch’s Luke Wayman has been consistently strong. The Gravity Cartel rider lies third overall including second placing in the opener at Fort William in Scotland.

Alpecin-Deceununick professional, Sam Gaze is current fourth in the 2024 standings in cross-country with a win in the short-track where he is the current world champion, backed up with sixth and eighth in Brazil and 11th in Andorra in his three XCO starts.

There are nine kiwis in cross-country and 28 entered in downhill at Val di Sole. The cross-country track is a balance of testing and punchy climbs and technical descents with Gaze and Anton Cooper in the elite men’s competition, while U23 world champion Samara Maxwell has her first elite world cup start.

The short track race is scheduled for Friday evening (from 3.15am Saturday NZ time with the XCO races from 9am Sunday (7pm to Monday 2am NZT).

There are 13 kiwis in the elite men’s downhill headed by McNab, and three in the elite women with Blewitt chasing her a spot on the hot seat for the first time this season.

Qualifying runs for all grades is from noon on Friday (local time) followed by semifinals for elites from 3pm (Saturday 1am NZT).

The finals for all grades run from 9am on Sunday (7pm NZT) with junior women through to elite men from 4pm (Monday 2am NZT).

New Zealand riders entered are:

Downhill, Male Elite: Sam Blenkinsop, George Brannigan, Bryn Dickerson, Angus Ferguson, James Macdermid, Brook Macdonald, Ed Masters, Wyn Masters, Toby Meek, Tuhoto-Ariki Pene,  Lachlan Stevens-McNab, Hayden Stead, Matthew Walker.

Junior: Oli Clark, Rennie Falconer, Ryan Hastings, Rory Meek, Joe Millington, Oliver Nicholls, Seth Stylie, Wyatt Stevens-McNab, Luke Wayman,

Female Elite: Jess Blewitt, Jenna Hastings, Kalani Muirhead. Junior: Sacha Earnest, Eliana Hulsebosch, Erice Van Leuven. 

Cross-Country, Male Elite: Anton Cooper, Sam Gaze. Under-23: Bailey Fredericksen, Ethan Rose

Female, Elite: Mary Gray, Jess Manchester, Samara Maxwell, Mary-Ann Moller.Under-23: Amelie Mackay

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