Rotorua rising star Tuhoto-Ariki Pene has claimed victory in the junior male downhill at the latest UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Italy.
Pene, part of Cycling New Zealand's Subway National Performance Hub, produced a stunning run down one of the sport's toughest trails at Val di Sole, winning by just 0.33 seconds.
Teammate and fellow Hub rider Sam Gale finished in fourth place, only 0.7s off his first World Cup podium.
The pair proved the highlight for New Zealand riders in the third-to-last round of the Mercedes Benz World Cup with Brook MacDonald the best of the elite males in 30th after a fall at the top end of the course while national champion Kate Weatherly was sixth in the elite women.
Both remain in the top-10 with two rounds remaining in Switzerland and the US.
Pene, who did not qualify for the final in his first World Cup in France last month, has rocketed into the top-10 rankings, one of only three junior men's World Cup winners this year along with French riders Thibaut Daprela and Matteo Iniguez.
The teenager qualified fifth-fastest with Gale (Nelson) sixth and fellow Kiwi Finn Hawkesby-Browne (Christchurch) seventh on a rain-sodden track which dried out for the final.
The track is regarded as one of the toughest, littered with big holes, and loose rocks and roots strewn throughout its 2000m.
Australian Kye Ahern set the standard in the junior elite men's final in 4m 10.044s which stood for some time until Pene's superb run edged him into the lead by half a second. Pene was only fifth-fastest at the first time-check but moved to the top of the standings with a brilliant finish.
Slovakia's Zak Gomilscek, third-fastest in qualifying, made a flying start and was fastest throughout all four checkpoints but could not match the Kiwi in the open section near the finish, falling just 0.3s short.
New Zealand officials believe it is the first junior men's World Cup victory since MacDonald was a junior rider.
Meanwhile, New Zealand's cross-country stars struggled in their race at the same event. Anton Cooper finished 13th, Sam Gaze 47th and Ben Oliver 61st.
The riders head to Switzerland for the final European World Cup at Lenzerheide this weekend before the world championships in Canada and final World Cup in the US.
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