Taranaki’s Ed Masters led the Kiwi charge in a career-best 12th placing in a closely-fought downhill that brought the curtain down on the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Switzerland. Masters spent much of the day in third place on the hot seat after an excellent run on the 2.2km course in the Swiss Alps resort of Lenzerheide, until the final group of elite men powered down the course to push the New Zealander back to 12th place.
There was disappointment for super-popular Kiwi Brook Macdonald, the fastest qualifier, who fell after being on podium-threatening pace, to finish 35th.
Masters was thrilled with his effort to lead the Altherm New Zealand team performances. “I am over the moon. It is so good to end the season on a high. I am stoked,” said Masters. “At the sharp end it was pretty gnarly with just a few 10ths of a second between those last few. But I managed to get some face time on the hot seat for a while which was fun.”
Masters said the drying track made for a challenging run, and very different to the soft conditions in qualifying. “The course had dried out a lot which made it quite tricky and slippery in places where the track had dusted up on top. I had a few moments but managed to right the ship.”
He heads to New Zealand this week but won’t be seen on the slopes much this summer as he goes in for surgery on an injured knee that has hindered his racing for the last few years.
There was real hope for Macdonald with the 26-year-old coming off a podium in the final World Cup two weeks ago in France, and after setting the fastest qualifying run on a course he enjoys and with real confidence back with his MS Mondraker team.
He was 0.6s down on the then-leader Martin Maes (BEL) at the second time-check before he lost the back wheel, and while trying to self-correct, his front wheel hit an exposed tree root. Macdonald got back on his bike quickly but for him his hope of a medal was dashed, and he slapped his handlebars in disappointment after crossing the line.
Frenchman Loic Bruni’s late run saw him claim his third world elite title in four years, winning today by only 0.2s from Maes with Great Britain’s Danny Hart third 0.1s behind. Of the Kiwis Sam Blenkinsop was 26th, Wyn Masters 41st and Keegan Wright 51st.
Tauranga’s Shania Rawson, a medallist in the junior elite last year, placed 21st in her first venture into the elite ranks, with Virginia Armstrong 26th in the race dominated by Great Britain’s Rachel Atherton who won her fifth elite rainbow jersey.
A strong contingent of junior elite riders including a group from the Subway National Performance Hub, were prominent. Former BMX rider Tuhoto-Ariki Pene from Maketu was the best of the Kiwi riders in his first year at elite junior level, finishing seventh with Queenstown’s Sam Robbie 12th, Charles Makea 16th and Hamish McLeod 19th.
Male elite: Loic Bruni (FRA) 2:55.114, 1; Martin Maes (BEL) 2:55.327, 2; Danny Hart (GBR) 3:55.419, 3; Loris Vergier (FRA) 2:55:863, 4; Aaron Gwin (USA) 2:56.455, 5. Also NZers: Ed Masters 2:58.548, 12; Sam Blenkinsop 3:01.986, 26; Brook Macdonald 3:03.483, 35; Wyn Masters 3:05.357, 41; Keegan Wright 3:08.067, 51; Matt Walker dns.
Female elite: Rachel Atherton (GBR) 3:15.738, 1; Tahnee Seagrave (GBR) 3:25.721, 2; Myriam Nicole (FRA) 3:26.414, 3; Marine Cabirou (FRA) 3:31.701, 4; Tracey Hannah (AUS) 3:31.704, 5. Also NZers: Shania Rawson 5:54.921, 21; Virginia Armstrong 4:03.929, 26.
Male junior: Kade Edwards (GBR) 3:03.225, 1; Kyle Ahern (AUS) 3:07.635, 2; Elliot Jamieson (CAN) 3:08.663,3; Thibaut Daprela (FRA) 3:09.036, 4; Giacomo Masiero (ITA) 3:09.514, 5. Also NZers: Tuhoto-Ariki Pene 3:10.128, 7; Sam Robbie 3:12.612, 12; Charles Makea 3:14.569, 16; Hamish McLeod 3:16.534, 19; Sam Gale 3:20.345, 31; Nico Fernandez 3:36.606, 55; Josh Oxenham dns.