A 20-year-old amateur Keegan Wright upset a pack of powerful professionals to win the elite men’s downhill title at the Altherm Mountain Bike National Championships near Wanaka today. Meanwhile Queenstown’s Alanna Columb defended her national honours in the elite women’s race at the Cardrona Alpine Resort as she looks for a big year on the international stage.
Wright from Rotorua sped down the rocky track in 3:02.51 to edge out world-ranked stars Brook Macdonald and Sam Blenkinsop by a second to claim the honours. The young Rotorua rider was blown away with his efforts which he hopes will spark interest in him as he plots his first international season. “I am totally stoked. It was a good gnarly track and most of the big professional Kiwi riders were here,” Wright said. “I received a scholarship after the Giant 2W Gravity Enduro in Rotorua and that has allowed me to spend more time training, but also to look at going overseas this year.”
The former junior elite champion works as a builder’s apprentice but his focus is on securing a full time ride with a professional team. “To win the New Zealand title has always been a goal of mine but it has happened earlier than I thought. So wearing the New Zealand colours on my riding gear hopefully will help get me noticed.”
He will line-up in the Oceania Championships in two weeks and the Crankworx event in Rotorua, hoping to secure some valuable UCI points in both events to get inside the top 80 on the World Cup downhill circuit to aid his opportunities at the major events.
Meanwhile Columb was all class in defending her women’s elite title, clocking 3:44.38 as she also builds towards her international season. A lack of funds means she won’t be able to defend her Oceania title next month but will instead focus on key European World Cups with the major goal of the world championships in Cairns later in the year.
“It’s great to be healthy and feel good. I rode well and pushed it for sure, but at the same time it is a rocky track and I wanted to make sure I got down the hill,” Columb said. “Last year was one to forget but I feel that I am in good shape and looking forward to doing well. I’ve not touched my downhill bike much, as I have mostly been on the trails and building my fitness.”
“Cairns is the big goal. I like the track and I qualified sixth there in the World Cup last year.”
Her closest rival was the under-19 winner Shania Rawson-Pickard from Descend Rotorua club and a member of the MTB National Performance Hub. She was only just over a second slower than Columb.
The attention now turns to the Oceania Championships in Toowoomba, Queensland on 10-12 March.
Altherm Downhill Championships results:
Elite men: Keegan Wright (Descend Rotorua) 3:02.53, 1; Brook Macdonald (Hawkes Bay, GT Factory) 3:03.45, 2; Sam Blenkinsop (Gravity Canterbury, NORCO Factory Racing) 3:04.23, 3; Rupert Chapman (Gravity Canterbury, Pivot Factory Racing) 3:04.66, 4; Wyn Masters (Descend Rotorua, GT Factory Racing) 3.04.82, 5.
Under 19: Josh Oxenham (Pohutukawa Club, Auckland) 3:10.59, 1; Hamish McLod (Queenstown) 3:15.09, 2; Sam Robbie (Queenstown) 3:15.71, 3; Liam Bethell (Auckland Downhill) 3:16.75, 4; Charles Makea (Hawkes Bay) 3:17.21, 5.
Senior: Connor Sandri (North Otago) 3:11.37, 1; Troy Stewart (Queenstown) 3:15.79, 2; Anton Cousins (Wanaka) 3:16.13, 3.
Under-17: Alex Barke (Queenstown) 3:20.79, 1; Finn Parsons (Descnd Rotorua) 3:22.13, 2; Blake Ross (Pohutukawa Club Auckland) 3:23.55, 3.
Under 15: Guy Johnston (Wanaka) 3:29.70, 1; James Macdermid (Descend Rotorua) 3:33.71, 2; Riley Adlam (Queenstown) 3:39.51, 3.
Masters 30: Scott Columb 3:22:83, 1; James Hampton 3:26:26, 2; Pete Long 3:31.71, 3.
Masters 40 plus: Aaron Fernandez 3:56.25, 1; Vaughan Love 4:01.56, 2; Mike Inwood 4:24.38, 3.
Masters 50 plus: Jon Parsons 4:39.60, 1; Cameron McLeod 4:56.52, 2.
Elite women: Alanna Columb (Queenstown) 3:44.38, 1; Agata Bulska (Gravity Canterbury) 4:05.75, 2; Amanda Monk (Whakatane) 4:16.99.
Under-19: Shania Rawson-Pickard (Descend Rotorua, MTB Performance Hub) 3:45.68, 1; Emma Bateup (Bike Methven) 4:32.74, 2.
Senior: Ashley Bond (Descend Rotorua) 5:19.23, 1.
Under-17: Nikki Clarke (Wellington) 5:25.78, 1.