Young kiwi gravity riders excite in Europe, Brown wins MTB eliminator

Mountain Bike
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New Zealand riders earned mountain bike podiums and turned heads at UCI World Cups across Asia and Europe over the weekend.

The outstanding trio of junior women’s downhill racers finished second, third and fourth in the UCI MTB World Cup final at Bielsko-Biala in Poland, while national champion Lochlan Brown claimed victory on debut at the UCI MTB  Eliminator World Cup in Borneo, Indonesia.

The gravity action turned to a new venue of Bielsko-Biala in southern Poland where Hutt Valley junior women’s world champion Erice van Leuven (Commencal Les Orres) finished second. Kiwi compatriots Sasha Earnest (Trek Factory) placed third and Tauranga rookie Eliana Hulsebosch (Union) fourth in the challenging conditions.

After Van Leuven set the new mark of 3:28.708 to grab the hot seat, rising Scottish rider Heather Wilson managed to slide down the course with skill and fortitude to edge the kiwi by just 0.69s and claim back-to-back wins after her victory on home soil at Fort William.

Earnest impressed with her smooth and stylish performance to claim second place overall on the world cup standings behind Wilson with van Leuven third and Hulsebosch, again impressing in just her second World Cup, fourth overall.

Rotorua’s Lachie Stevens-McNab finished 33rd in the elite men – the only kiwi to qualify – but not before he turned heads with a stunning ride. The Union-Steel Media professional was fifth fastest in the earlier semifinal and started brilliantly in the final to be fastest across the top and at the halfway mark. But a mistake in the blown-out and slippery bottom section, with rain making things more challenging, saw him wash out, eventually finishing 19 seconds behind winner.

Queenstown’s Jess Blewitt showed she is back at the sharp end of the competition, less than a second off the podium in elite women, finishing fourth. The Cube Factory rider was outstanding on the demanding bottom section in challenging conditions to move into the top-10 in the overall standings.

Gravity Cartel rider Luke Wayman from Christchurch enjoyed another strong performance, finishing sixth in the junior men, less than a second off the podium, to move into second place in the world cup standings after two rounds.

Compatriot Rory Meek from Queenstown was 17th.

In vastly differing conditions, with blazing heat and humidity, Cambridge rider Brown made a massive start to his campaign in the UCI Eliminator World Cup with victory in Indonesian city of Palangkaraya in Borneo.

After strong performances in qualifying and the early rounds, the young kiwi rider took full advantage with series leader Lorenzo Sorres crashed after the start. Brown pushed hard over the bridge on the second lap to claim the lead, as Austrian champion Theo Hauser flatted, and pushed on to claim the win on debut.

“I struggled early to get out of the gate. But in the final it was better and I got lucky as a few things went wrong for the other boys,” said Brown

“I was able to stay patient and come through at the end. I consider that beginner’s luck but we will see what happens next week.

“This was my first world cup but I have been working hard back home in New Zealand including heat training and things like that to make sure I was best prepared to come here to Borneo and be able to do my best.”

Brown will head to Sakarya in Turkey for the fourth round of the series, after opening rounds in Paris and Barcelona.

Mountain bike action returns to cross-country this weekend in Nove Mesto na Morave in the Czech Republic, the final event for qualifying towards the Paris Olympic Games, and the fourth round of the Eliminator World Cup in Turkey. The next round of the MTB Downhill World Cup and Enduro World Series is in Leogang, Austria on 7-9 June.

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