Cross-country venue change finds favour with Young

The New Zealand Mountain Bike Championships will be held at two separate locations in Wanaka this weekend due to the lingering effects of former tropical cyclone Gita.

Organisers confirmed yesterday that today's cross-country race would be held at Wright's Farm at Hawea Flat rather than Cardrona, as snow earlier in the week had made the original course unsuitable.

However, the downhill race tomorrow would still be held at Cardrona.

The late change of venue could prove to be advantageous to local riders, including 17-year-old national performance hub rider Phoebe Young.

She said she had ridden the Hawea Flat course SEVERALtimes and was looking forward to racing there, having crashed on the Cardrona course last year.

''It has some awesome rock gardens, climbs that are challenging but will definitely not put me on the red-line as much as Cardrona would.

''I now no longer have to contend with the altitude, steep climbs and the rock garden I crashed on last year. This change will definitely be more of an advantage to me than if the race was at Cardrona,'' she said.

Young is the current female under-19 Oceania champion, having been victorious in Dunedin two weeks ago, and is looking to ''prove it wasn't just luck'' this time around.

She said she had been struggling with confidence after a crash at the World Championships last year left her with a broken arm.

''I am gradually improving. I think that this change in course will help with my current state of confidence. I seem to never be overly confident entering a race but I will always have personal belief and what happens, will happen.''

Young will be joined on the course by several big names, including defending national champions Anton Cooper and Samara Sheppard, both of whom are hoping to find some form and defend their titles ahead of the Commonwealth Games in April.

Meanwhile, the downhill race at Cardrona tomorrow is set to be spectacular.

A spokesman for Cycling New Zealand said the field was ''arguably stronger'' than the one seen at the Oceania Championships.

The men's elite race looks set to be a clash of the titans as defending national champion Keegan Wright and reigning Oceania champion Sam Blenkinsop go head to head.

World U19 silver medallist Shania Rawson is favoured for the female elite race.


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