Rainbow stripes no guarantee for mountain bike world champion

Mountain Bike
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Teenage MTB  World Champion, Erice van Leuven is expecting a testing time when she sports her rainbow jersey at the Torpedo7 MTB National Championships in Queenstown this weekend.

The Under-19 Downhill World Champion believes her competition among the junior gravity riders at Coronet Peak on Sunday will be akin to a world cup contest.

Van Leuven will compete against fellow kiwis Poppy Lane and Sacha Earnest, who joined her on the world championship podium in Glasgow last year.

The trio have all been signed by professional teams to compete on the UCI MTB Downhill circuit this year, with van Leuven also tipping the emergence of Eliana Hulsebosch from Tauranga who will ride for The Alliance internationally this year.

“It is pretty special to be able to compete in the rainbow jersey for sure, but it is going to have a bit of pressure,” said van Leuven. “There is the three of us and there is Ali as well who will be one of the top riders this year. This weekend is going to be like a world cup competition.”

While van Leuven prevailed at the world championships, she finished runner-up to Earnest at the nationals last year, and was third overall in the world cup.

“The goal this year is to be more consistent. Last year there was some obvious highs but a lot of lows with a few big crashes. One race I didn’t start, one I didn’t finish and one I crashed out, so I only completed two-thirds of the season.

“For me it is figuring where I stack up against the other girls and finding that really fine line between racing your hardest and crashing.”

The immediate focus is on the weekend, racing the same track at Coronet Peak as last year.

“It’s not super-technical but it is blown out and fast – and the challenge is going super-fast. The top is a little technical but the test is the fast corners and jumps. It is a fun track.”

The cross-country racing is on Saturday, with downhill on Sunday, along with a short-track XCC race.

There are 170 riders entered the gravity races and at the sharp end there are 13 riders from professional UCI teams.

Local rider Toby Meek will defend the elite downhill title while hometown star Jess Blewitt is chasing her fourth straight elite women’s downhill honours. Earnest defends her junior women’s title from her fellow world champion podium teammates while Canterbury’s Luke Wayman defends his men’s under-19 crown.

The XCO elite, under-19 and Under-17 racing is from 10am on Saturday, with under-15, Masters, and Sport from 1.30pm with the XCO short-track and all downhill racing on Sunday.

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