The New Zealand Mountainbike Team assembled in Italy this week to compete at the final round of the UCI World Cup, in the lead in to the World Championships at the end of the month. Beautiful weather has been a constant all week in the northern Italian venue, with temperatures soaring to 40 degrees plus for the main Cross Country race day today.
First event on the Cross Country programme was the Under 23 Mens. As the temperature rose Dirk Peters (Rotorua) emerged as the best of the Kiwis after a tough start in the 100 strong field. Peters recovered from being bunched in the pack after the start loop to work his way into a 39thplace finish, five minutes down of the leader. Brad Hudson (Christchurch 61st) and Sam Shaw (Rotorua, 71st ) also finished on the lead lap after five tough laps. Dominic Furkett struggled after a strong start, withdrawing after two.
The Elite Women were next off the start grid late morning, and the race start was full of drama. Karen Hanlen (Whakatane) colliding with a photographer positioned inside the start/finish barriers within the first 50m of the race, bringing down another three riders. Hanlen kept her composure however, and worked her way back from dead last of the 66 starters to claw back a fighting and inspiring 26th place finish. Rosara Joseph raced at a constant level, just out of touch with the leaders but protecting her position to a 20th place finish.
The Elite Mens race went at 2pm, with Carl Jones (Whakatane) NZ's sole representative. From what looked like a strong start, Jones faded in the early stages of the race in the high temperatures, withdrawing after three laps.
The last race on the Cross Country programme today was the Under 23 Womens, with Rotorua's Samara Sheppard and Katie O'Neil expected to do well after solid European campaigns this year. Both struggled to fire however, 13th and 15th respectively, with the two ladies clearly dissappointed not to break through into the front of the field contest.
After Four Cross qualifying on Friday night, Daniel Franks (Christchurch) was looking confident on the Commezzadura course, seeding 28th of the 78 starters. The knock out, elimination style event took place under lights tonight, with Franks easily winning his first heat to the delight of the strong NZ support crew. The second round was not so kind – Franks not getting the best start but working into some clear air challenging for 2ndriding into the first corner. The rider in Franks' sights unexpectedly slid out right in front of the flying Franks, leaving him nowhere to go, and knocked out of the contest.