Riders putting bikes on line

By Eric Cawte

The best of New Zealand's downhill mountainbiking athletes will be descending on Rotorua in preparation for the New Zealand mountainbike championships on the Taniwha track in the Whakarewarewa Forest tomorrow.

Along with overseas-based New Zealand professionals and other international riders, some exciting local talent will be putting bikes and bodies on the line for the honour of being crowned New Zealand champion.

Leading the local charge in the elite men's field are Descend Rotorua Club riders Matt Walker, of Kawerau, and Rotorua's Louis Hamilton.

Walker is fresh from a third placing in the New Zealand Downhill Cup Series, and 18-year-old Hamilton will be looking to make his mark after a stellar debut in this grade which has seen him finish the same series in fourth place among a strong field.

In the under-19 junior category Lawrence Cawte will be looking to continue his dominating form after taking out the New Zealand cup series with three wins from four races. However, he will need to pull out all the stops to head off a talented group of young riders including Rotorua's Connor Hamilton, Andrew Pittams and Keegan Wright.

Steven Pattle will be looking to carry on the form in the senior men's category which has seen him ride to third place in the cup series.

It is also likely one of last year's top juniors, Jake Robinson, will make an appearance in this grade.

The under-17 grade is well-represented with local up-and-comers Nathan Saunders, Kale Edwards, Blair McLeod, Jack Hale and Rhys Pittams lining up, as are Hamish McLeod, Patrick Hale and Robbie Wong-Toi in the under-15s.

At the other end of the age spectrum, Bike Culture co-owner Mike Metz makes a return to the national scene, racing in the highly-competitive Masters 2 category.

It will not only be riders carrying the flag for Rotorua, with the locally designed Zerode bikes being ridden by the Zerode Race Team.

As well as Cawte's junior series title, these machines have carried their riders to fifth, sixth and seventh series placing in the elite men's series this season, and have been prominent on podiums around the world recently.

Downhill practice starts this morning, and continues through to tomorrow morning.

Timed seeding runs starting at 11am tomorrow are followed by racing at 1pm to approximately 3pm.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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