Sarah Walker has returned to the top of the podium at the New Zealand BMX Championships - and she had to work for it.
Walker qualified second behind defending champion and local club rider Rebecca Petch in Te Awamutu on Friday. Walker had to use all her experience to hold off her rival in a closely-fought final to claim the national title.
While her priority for 2019 is to accumulate Olympic qualification points at World Cup events, the win at the weekend was a good confidence boost for Walker and served as a marker of where her preparation is at.
"It was such a good battle and I think the hardest national title ever. Massive kudos to Rebecca. It was great for New Zealand in terms of Olympic qualifications," she said.
Europe-based Baylee Luttrell, of Hamilton, was third in the women's race, but claimed the women's junior elite title ahead of Ella Hansen, of North Canterbury.
In the men's elite race Maynard Peel, the 2016 junior world champion, took first place in an impressive display. The teenager from the Sunset Coast club enjoyed a perfect day, winning all three of his motos and dominated the final to hold off fellow New Zealand representative Cole McOnie, of Te Awamutu.
"My racing felt smooth with some great competition between myself and Cole. Overall, I am stoked and happy to be here and hope to inspire kids to get out and ride."
Hamilton's Ryan Jordan, a member of the National Performance Hub, held off the experienced Daniel Franks for third.
The junior men's podium comprised riders who are all part of the national hub, with Cambridge rider Tasman Wakelin completing a perfect day with three qualifying wins and the final victory. He finished clear of Cailen Calkin, of Hamilton, and Mason James, of Te Awamutu.
"It was a good win. I am definitely happy with how I performed today. Today the top podium were all Schick Civil Hub riders and I pretty much raced with who I train with which was cool. It shows that the hub is working well," Wakelin said.
On Saturday, the riders were back on the track - this time against international competitors in the Oceania BMX Championships. Walker got one over her Kiwi rival Petch again, but had to settle for second place behind Australian Saya Sakakibara, who is the current world number two. It was Walker's fifth consecutive medal in the event.
In the men's elite race, Sakakibara's brother Kai finished first ahead of fellow Australians Brandon Te Hiko and Brad Game.
New Zealand riders claimed the Oceania junior elite crowns with Wakelin backing up his national win with the male Oceania title and Hamilton's Jessie Smith winning he women's.
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