Blenkinsop hoping for lucky year 13 as he chases first Oceania title

Sam Blenkinsop flies through the air on his bike on the world tour last year. PHOTO: NORCO...
Sam Blenkinsop flies through the air on his bike on the world tour last year. PHOTO: NORCO FACTORY TEAM
Enduring downhill mountain biker Sam Blenkinsop is hoping 2018 will be lucky 13 as he begins his year with the Oceania Championships in Dunedin this weekend.

The 29-year-old begins his 13th year at the sharp end of the global professional sport after first stepping on to the podium for a silver medal in the junior division when the UCI world championships were held in Rotorua.

Blenkinsop, originally from Whanganui but now based in Christchurch, has been the country's best male gravity rider in that time, finishing in the top 10 at the world championships seven times. including his bronze medal at Champery in France in 2011.

He is the only New Zealand male downhiller to win a world championship medal.

While he has been consistently competitive, ``Blenky'' has not won a national elite title nor the Oceania crown, although it is something he is not that fazed about.

``They always fall at the start of my year and I am really just building up, so it is more like a training race,'' Blenkinsop said.

``Don't get me wrong. I want to win every time I get on my bike and that will be the case at the weekend.

``I never hold back whenever I race; there's no point in racing if you are not going to go full out. But at the same time my preparation has been more in the gym and with the development of the bike.''

He returns to the Norco Factory Team on the world cup circuit again this year, excited about the new bike he has been an integral part of developing.

``Unfortunately, I won't have the new 29er this weekend but I will have it for the nationals. I am excited about it.''

He believes the 29-inch wheels are the future with downhill tracks less technically tight than in previous years.

``I have my old 650 this weekend but I will be giving it everything. I have always liked racing at Signal Hill.''

While Blenkinsop has lived nearly half his life out of a suitcase on the international mountain bike scene, he is still endeared to the lifestyle.

``I love being on my bike and in the outdoors. I love the speed and the rush. I think I am a bit ADD so I get bored if I am in one place too long.

``So I enjoy the travelling life on the circuit. At the end of the year I am looking forward to getting back home to Christchurch and at the end of the summer I can't wait to get on the road.''

The competition will come mostly from other New Zealanders including fellow Cantabrian Rupert Chapman who returns to his Pivot Action team this year after a top-10 finish at the world championships.

He will be joined in the pro team by the experienced Ed Masters who will be a rider to beat this weekend, along with his ebullient brother, Wyn, who will again ride for the GT Factory team this year.

Wellington's Bryn Dickerson, from Funn Patrol pro team, won the Oceania title in New Zealand two years ago and was runner-up in Australia last year, while Louis Hamilton (Rotorua) and Matt Walker (Kawerau) are both well performed on the international circuit.

There will also be interest in the rise of talented young riders Lucas Cole (Hamilton) and Billy Meaclem (Christchurch).

Shania Rawson, second in the under-19 world championships in Cairns last year, moves to the elite women's ranks for the first time where she takes on the likes of defending champion Danielle Beecroft from Australia, Ronja Hill-Wright, who was runner-up in this event two years ago, and Sophie Tyas, who makes a welcome return after to the top ranks.

There is practice tomorrow afternoon and early Sunday, before timed seeding runs from 11am and competition from 1pm at Signal Hill.

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