Mountain Biking: Otago riders on podium at national champs

Kate Fluker
Kate Fluker
Otago riders had some good results at the national championships in Rotorua over the weekend.

Queenstown's Kate Fluker produced one of the best performances by pushing Olympian Karen Hanlen hard in the elite women's cross-country on Saturday.

Hanlen, the Whakatane mother of two, fell behind Fluker after a crash on the second lap, but Hanlen then turned it up a notch to reclaim the lead and push clear.

Hanlen won in 1hr 34.26sec for the six laps, with Fluker second, nearly 3min behind.

Dunedin rider Shannon Hope finished second in the three-lap under-17 cross-country, and Wanaka rider Alex Young was third in the under-15 event.

In downhill racing, promising Wanaka rider Phoebe Coers won the under-19 women's title with a time of 4min 4.16sec, finishing clear of the field by 15sec.

Chris Mancey (Queenstown) won the masters men 30-39 years title, with Dunedin's Dylan Sanchez-Pinsent finishing second.

Dunedin's Joshua McCombie was second in the under-19 men's race, Queenstown's Stephen Gillen was second in the men's masters 50-plus race, and Queenstown's Alanna Columb was fourth in the elite women's race.

World No 5 Brook McDonald (Hawkes Bay) claimed his first national downhill title, recovering from a near-crash on the national track in the Whakarewarewa Forest.

''I made one pretty big mistake up the top,'' McDonald said.

''I was pretty sure I was going down. I don't know how I rode out. I was pretty lucky and I knew from there I had to make up time.

''For the amount of training I've been able to do with a back issue and a lot of travelling, I still have my fitness so it is super-cool and great to be back on the top step.''

Christchurch lawyer Amy Laird was a surprise winner of the women's title. Two-time world champion Emmeline Ragot (France), ranked No 2 in the world, was in a class of her own in the women's race, with England's Jess Stone second-fastest.

But the title fell to Christchurch-based Laird, ironically after deciding to limit her riding to domestic competition. On Saturday, world junior champion Anton Cooper recovered from a crash on the final lap to edge home town rider Dirk Peters to win the national cross-country title.

The pair spreadeagled the combined field of elite and under-23 riders on the arduous seven-lap contest.

Cooper fell on the downhill, but Peters could not slip ahead on the single track.