There was a strong Kiwi presence at the Oceania Mountain Bike Championships in Australia this week and it was the junior divisions in which Rotorua athletes in particular shone.

While Canterbury's Anton Cooper was his dominant self in the elite men's cross-country race, claiming his fourth consecutive gold medal, there was some fierce racing produced by young Rotorua and Taupō women in the age-group races.

In the under-23 women's race, a sprint finish decided the title with Australian Sarah Tucknott and dual under-19 champion Jessica Manchester evenly matched throughout the four-lap race. Coming in to the line, Tucknott had the faster sprint to claim a maiden Oceania title.

For Manchester, who hails from Auckland but recently relocated to Rotorua to work for Nduro Events, the result completed a successful week of racing, having claimed Australian Championship silver the week before.


"I am so happy I can't even put it in to words," Manchester said.

Tucknott said: "Honestly, just getting to race so closely with Jess, in previous years she has really been just miles ahead of us so just so stoked to have been able to race with her."

In the under-19 women's cross-country race, regular rivals Sammie Maxwell, of Taupō, and Rotorua's Ruby Ryan finished second and third respectively behind Australia's Zoe Cuthbert.

Cuthbert went clear on the first of three laps and set her own tempo. A slow start by Maxwell left her chasing for much of the racing. A regrouping on the final lap saw a sprint finish and the race go down to the wire with Cuthbert just having the edge.

Anton Cooper, who recently claimed gold at the New Zealand Mountain Bike Championships in Rotorua, was pleased with the way he rode in the men's elite race.

"It was good, I am really happy. I felt quite good, actually, a lot better than at nationals. I had a bit of a cold there, it was one of the hardest races I have ever done probably. This one just felt fresh from the start and the second lap I felt really good and just able to keep a consistent pace the whole race.

"There is nothing, like, really hard on it but there is a lot of sections which could catch you out or you could puncture.

"It is where I want to be. I haven't focused specifically on these races [Nationals and Oceanias] so far it has been racing where, obviously, I want to defend my titles and get the maximum points but the big goal is World Cups, which are five weeks away now."

Rotorua's Tuhoto-Ariki Pene claimed the under-19 title in the Oceania Downhill Mountain Bike Championship. Photo / Matt Rousu
Rotorua's Tuhoto-Ariki Pene claimed the under-19 title in the Oceania Downhill Mountain Bike Championship. Photo / Matt Rousu

Meanwhile, in the Oceania Downhill mountain Bike Championship, Rotorua's Tuhoto-Ariki Pene took a dominant win in the under-19 men's race. He stopped the clock in 3m 25.440s, nearly five seconds clear of silver medallist Australian Ethan Corney and with Luke Meier-Smith, also of Australia, rounding out the top three.

"It is unreal. It was loose the whole way down. It was different to New Zealand I don't have rocks in my home town. It has been fun. The whole week has been awesome," Pene said.