New Zealand’s emerging young downhill mountain bikers were on top of the world without racing after storms forced the cancellation of junior finals at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in France.
Overnight storms and significant rainfall in the Loudenvielle-Peyragudes region of the French Pyrenees made for unsafe conditions on the course, with the junior downhill racing cancelled.
Results were declared based on qualifying times, which meant that national junior champion Sacha Earnest was awarded the victory ahead of fellow kiwi and junior world champion Erice van Leuven.
Despite missing the opening round, van Leuven, the Commencal Orres professional from Wellington, moves to third in the overall junior women’s rankings, now only 15 points behind leader Lisa Bouladou from France.
It is the second World Cup victory for Earnest in her first year on the World Cup circuit after she won in Val di Sole, with the young Aucklander fifth on the World Cup rankings.
The World Championship silver medallist, Poppy Lane from Mt Maunganui, did not finish qualifying after a fall and is in 14th on the overall rankings.
There are three rounds remaining, next weekend at Les Gets in the French Alps, before heading across the Atlantic to Snowshoe in USA and Mont Sainte Anne in Canada for van Leuven in her quest to add the World Cup season title to her rainbow jersey.
The junior men’s race was also cancelled, with the Alliance rider Luke Wayman the leading New Zealander in 17th.
Organisers plan to race the elite categories tomorrow with Queenstown’s Toby Meek and his fellow MS Mondraker pro teammate Brook MacDonald (Hawkes Bay) the only kiwi gravity riders to qualify for the semifinals.
Last year’s junior world champion, Jenna Hastings (Pivot Factory) from Rotorua was 11th fastest in qualifying in the elite women, to make it through to the final tomorrow, with the competition led by German Valentina Hoell.