Mountain biking: Blenkinsop beats tough field

Rotorua downhill mountainbiker Louis Hamilton finished fourth in the second round of the BikeNZ downhill Mountain Bike Cup series on Mt Hutt, Canterbury, yesterday.

Hamilton finished behind Christchurch mountain biker Sam Blenkinsop who secured his first big win since breaking his leg a year ago.

Blenkinsop, 24, beat out a strong international field, including riders from the US, Britain, Japan, Canada, France and New Zealand to win in a time of 2:28.21.

"It's good to be riding again in New Zealand. I always seem to be injured and miss out on races here so it's good to be back and it's always fun," he said.

"I try to race [in New Zealand] at least once each year but the last three years I've always been injured or waiting for a bike or something that's made me miss out, so this is my first year here in a while.

"I didn't really have many expectations for this race because I had planned for it to be more for good training, but then you always want to win so I'm happy."

Blenkinsop broke his leg in January 2012 and has struggled to find his best form since then, but took a great step in the right direction with victory yesterday.

"It took a while to get my strength back in the leg. I had some good results in some smaller races overseas but otherwise I struggled a bit last year having come into that season unfit from injury and we had a few mechanical problems as well, but I feel good coming into this season," said the Wanganui-born rider.

Neko Mulally (US) recorded the second fastest time on the Mt Hutt circuit, with pre-race favourite Cam Cole (Christchurch) in third.

In the elite women's race, UK rider Jess Stone produced her second winning ride in as many weeks to take a solid grasp of the overall series lead.

Stone, 22, is enjoying her overseas adventure and won in 3:03.29, ahead of Alanna Columb (Queenstown) and Sophie Tyas (Christchurch).

"I didn't really expect to get two wins first up but it's been great fun and I'm really pleased so far," she said.

"The trails here are awesome and every track is a bit different as well which is good.

'It's nice to be getting some riding experience in the harder dust, whereas back in the UK it's just muddy all the time.

"The competition here is great as well. Everyone is so nice and they all encourage each other. It's a nice competition, and they're all really good riders as well - we push each other along.

"I wanted to get away from the UK weather and I'd heard about the series over here so I thought I'd give it a go. I've got to see more of New Zealand which is great as well, so the series is a good excuse to have a look around and a holiday, too."

The Downhill MTB Cup series moves to the North Island for round three on February 2-3 in Levin, Manawatu.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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