With five riders in the top-10 in the world, Cycling New Zealand and MTBNZ have named arguably their strongest ever team for the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships. The 14-strong squad comprises nine downhill and five cross-country riders for the championships to be held at Lenzerheide, Switzerland from 5 to 9 September.
The Commonwealth Games medallists Anton Cooper (North Canterbury, Trek Factory Racing) and Sam Gaze (Cambridge, Specialized Pro Racing) are currently ranked eighth and 10th respectively on the UCI World Rankings in elite cross-country with the Subway National Performance Hub rider Ben Oliver (North Canterbury) sixth in the under-23 rankings.
Brook Macdonald (Napier, MS Mondraker Team), fresh from his brilliant podium at the latest round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, and veteran Sam Blenkinsop (Christchurch, NORCO Factory Team) are currently ranked seventh and ninth respectively on the UCI World Rankings for gravity riders.
Multi-national age group champion Wellington’s Eden Cruise (Subway National Performance Hub) will make his first appearance stepping up to the under-23 cross-country division, while Samara Sheppard, ninth in the Commonwealth Games, is the sole female representative.
In downhill, Oceania Champion Virginia Armstrong (Auckland) and Subway National Performance Hub rider Shania Rawson, a silver medallist in the junior women last year, are the female representatives.
There is a strong group of seven Kiwi riders in the downhill team, all well-performed professionals on the world circuit, led by the in-form Blenkinsop and Macdonald.
The team is:
Cross-Country, Male, Elite: Sam Gaze (Cambridge, Specialized Pro Racing), Anton Cooper (North Canterbury, Trek Factory Racing). Under-23: Ben Oliver (North Canterbury, MTB National Performance Hub), Eden Cruise (Wellington, Subway National Performance Hub). Female, Elite: Samara Sheppard (Wellington).
Downhill, female: Virginia Armstrong (Auckland), Shania Rawson (Tauranga, Subway National Performance Hub). Male: Sam Blenkinsop (Christchurch, NORCO Factory Team), Brook Macdonald (Napier, MS Mondraker Team), Ed Masters (New Plymouth, Pivot Factory Racing), Wyn Masters (New Plymouth, GT Factory Racing), Bryn Dickerson (Wellington, FS Funn Team), Matthew Walker (Rotorua, Cube Global Squad), Keegan Wright (Rotorua). Reserve: Cole Lucas (Hamilton).