Oceania Champs isn't an event that rolls into town every day. Run once a year, but alternating between Australia and NZ, the event provides an opportunity to race against off-shore riders that many wouldn't usually get. For 2018, the circus rolled into the student and party mecca of Dunedin, New Zealand, but this time with an apparent lack of Australian riders.
In the weeks leading up the race weekend, the start lists began to look something like a World Cup with all the big name Kiwi riders signed up to race. However, as the weather forecasts became more reliable, the invites for a street race in Chile came in, injuries started happening, the and the Pro Elite field started dwindling.
Signal Hill has long been the main trail centre in Dunedin, boasting some 300m of elevation and home to one of the better DH tracks on the Kiwi roster. It was a well-welcomed venue for such a prolific event and provided more than enough challenge for the riders.
With the sun out on the first day of practice, spirits were high.
The course boasted many rock gardens, often easier to ride than walk.
Offering up a huge amount lines, a lot of track walking and stopping was done to work it all out.
Wyn Masters was charging everywhere during practice.
Cole Lucas made very short work of the rock gardens here in Dunedin.
Louis Hamilton was at home in the dust.
Jumps that were easily hittable on Saturday were to become very hard work on Sunday
Josh Oxenham charged those sneaky inside lines.
Shania Rawson felt strong and up to speed during practice on Saturday, but after a few crashes on Sunday things didn't go her way.
Rupert Chapman held things down for team Pivot this weekend. With Eddie Masters nursing a hurt knee, it was up to Rupert to get after it.
Sophie Tyas made a rare appearance this weekend to race in Sport (Open) Women, but with no-one else in her field, she could just have fun.
The battle of Josh Oxenham and Sam Robbie continued this weekend with many asking who would have it.
Finn Hawkesby-Brown had the advantage in U17 of being used to this kind of terrain, whereas the majority of his competitors are from the north and not used to this much rock.
Patrick Hale didn't care about what was beneath his wheels and proceeded to just pull up and get loose just about everywhere.
At home on dry, dusty and rocky courses, Recce Potter was looking tapped.
A dry track and an in-form Blenki, good luck to the others!
Billy Meaclem laying it over to close out practice.
The course conditions between practice and race day were complete opposites. As the forecast suggested, the rains came in overnight and on Sunday riders were meet by an almost entirely different track. With the track on Signal Hill being a mix of rock and clay, but also extremely hard packed, the course turned into a complete mudslide.
The only place that was dry was underneath the tents on race day.
Big clean-up jobs were on the cards.
Thankfully the local fire department were on hand to provide suitable wash down facilities
Riders thought they could go about riding the same lines as they did during practice, but the overnight rains made all the roots and rocks incredibly slick.
The only thing riders could do was let it go, there wasn't any hope of trying to control it.
"Hey Jonty... you've got a bit of mud on your face.."
As per usual, Patrick Hale let it all hang out, even in the mud.
Hucking through a wet rock garden!? Some juniors have no fear.
Wyn's new GT rig parked up.
Despite the treacherous conditions, Sophie Tyas had a great weekend back racing and it showed.
If you didn't bring your roll-offs then it was either run no goggles or punch the lens out.
You're doing it wrong...
Louis Vuleta reaching for a penny.
Reece Potter seeded close to 30 seconds up on 2nd place in Sport Men and managed to hold onto it for his race run and take the win.
After Shania crashed and was struggling with the pain, all Vinny Armstrong had to do was not crash too much and was able to take the Elite Women's win.
Blake Ross couldn't put a good run together when it counted and finished up 8th in U17's. I suspect his run was riddled with crashes.
Guy Johnston demolished the U17 field and claimed that number one spot.
Isaac Ewen crashed coming into the wild chute and slid on his stomach the whole way down.
Isaac Ewen has had easier days on the bike.
Sam Robbie made short work of the slippery course and laid down a time that would have placed him 3rd in Elite.
Sam Robbie has been hunting hard all season for a win, and today finally tasted that glory by taking the U19 title.
Rupert Chapman looked far from comfortable in these conditions today.
Rupert managed to piece together a safe enough run and landed himself on the 5th step in elites.
Bryn Dickerson is one of the most underrated riders in NZ. Quietly going about his business all weekend, he slipped into 4th place in Elites.
Jamie Lyall crashed hard during his race run and snapped his ankle causing a course closure and re-runs for the top 6 elite men. Healing vibes going out to him!
Wyn rode smart and safe all weekend, but after Jamie Lyall crashed during the race runs, Wyn (along with five others) had to do a re-run and didn't seem very happy with his run.
Blenki didn't appear to bothered by the rain and made short work of the wet upper rock garden during morning practice.
Blenki getting out of shape in the greasy open turns and then proceeded to ride the bull all the way to line to clinch his first Oceania Title.
Elite Men's Podium
Elite Women's Podium
1st - Sam Blenkinsop ( 3:13.65 )
2nd - Wyn Masters ( 3:29.77 )
3rd - Gareth Burgess ( 3:30.63 )
4th - Bryn Dickenson ( 3:31.74 )
5th - Rupert Chapman ( 3:35.34 )
1st - Vinny Armstrong ( 5:28.60 )
2nd - Shania Rawson ( 5:42.91 )