Sunday 27th Feb
The six event 2011 Mountain Bike National Championships programme finished today with the Short Track Cross Country and Downhill races, both at Signal Hill, Dunedin. Slippery conditions which had caused major issues for racers during practice sessions had finally eased off by race day morning – the Signal Hill course drying just enough to take the unpredictable factor out of the picture. Seeding showed no real surprises, with form riders all at the top of the age group and Elite start lists for the 2pm race start.
In the feature Elite Men’s race, Nathan Rankin (Monster Energy, Levin) had seeded poorly but put together a race run that looked to be competitive enough to take the title. Rankin’s time held until 6th seed George Brannigan (from Havelock North, who will be racing 2011 with Stevie Smith on Devinci Global Racing) peeled nearly two seconds out of him to take the leader’s hotseat. Five riders were still capable of going quicker than Brannigan – Rupert Chapman (Christchurch) couldn’t improve on his 5th seed time; Matthew Scoles (Cingolani-Protone, Alexandra) went four seconds quicker than his seeding time but this was only good enough for 8th; Justin Leov (Trek World Racing, Dunedin) also improved but not enough; former Elite World Champion Gee Atherton (Commencal, Great Britain) crashed heavily in the top part of the course and couldn’t finish, so the final starter and fastest seed Cameron Cole was the only rider who had a shot at beating Brannigan for the title. 2006 Junior World Champion Cole was composed, lightening fast and up to the task, stopping the clock at 2:58.13 – the only rider to race a sub 3 minute run to take the prized Elite National Championship title.
Cole’s race run completed a busy domestic competitive race season for New Zealand’s top mountain bikers, with many moving north to begin 2011 World Cup campaigns after competing at the Oceania Mountain Bike Championships March 17-20 in Shepparton, Australia.