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Whakatane’s Karen Hanlen raced to a stunning 8th at the first round of the 2012 UCI Mountainbike World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa overnight. In a world class quality field of competitors, containing every Olympic nations top Elite cross country athletes Hanlen put herself in a position to not only challenge for the race lead, but to claim a result that will allow her to build on what has already been a form summer.
Hanlen leading Joseph at Oceanias

After winning every national level event in New Zealand this summer, including the National and Oceania Championship titles Hanlen travelled to South Africa with building form on her side. This first World Cup of 2012 has been her first opportunity since the 2011 World Championships to benchmark her rapid progress in this sport against the world’s best – and at the end of the first lap Hanlen was not only in the lead group on course, but outright second. Lining up beside Hanlen on the fourth row of the start grid was Wellington’s Rosara Joseph, and with the London Olympics forefront in both athletes minds also a very clear understanding of the importance of performing well in Pietermaritzburg.

Hanlen’s aggressive start rocketed her into contention at the front of the field, and after the second lap and some settling on the very technical race course she solidified a position behind the lead group of 8th, which she protected and held through to the end of the five lap race. Hanlen had been targeting a breakthrough into the top 12 at this first World Cup, and was delighted to finish inside the top ten and only 2:17 behind the race winner, Maja Wloszczowska (Poland). Joseph meanwhile worked steadily away after a slower start, and recovered course position to eventually finish 11th and 3:05 down on the winner.

Hanlen returns to Whakatane on Wednesday to continue preparations for the next Mountainbike World Cup event at Houffalize, Belguim on the 14th April where she will again line up against Joseph at this World Cup venue – one which both athletes are very familiar with.

Results Pietermaritzburg MTB World Cup:
Maja Wloszczowska (Poland) 1:34:01 1; Emily Batty (Canada) 1:34:05 2; Catharine Pendrel (Canada) 1:34:24 3; Karen Hanlen (NZL) 1:36:18 8;Rosara Joseph (NZL) 1:37:06 11.
Full Results