The Southern Hemisphere racing calendar ticked off another stop this weekend with the 2020 edition of the NZ Open DH returning to the Christchurch Adventure Park. Hosted by local MTB club, Gravity Canterbury, the event typically attracts World Cup pros and fast-paced locals alike. This year was no different with several World Cup riders in attendance. In total, 91 riders took to the track in the blistering 36-degree heat.
The event had a prize pool of nearly $4000 thanks to support from the Christchurch Adventure Park and Allied Envirotech. This meant that the winners of the Open Mens and Open Womens categories would take home $1000 with prize money across the entire 5 place podium.
Built by Gravity Canterbury volunteers over the past few years, the GC track was once again taped up for some racing action. With very little rain in Christchurch over the last month, the track conditions were loose and unpredictable. The hot temperatures and gusty high winds meant it was a tough day on the hill for riders and volunteers alike. Thankfully the winds didn’t shut the chairlift, keeping the event running smoothly.
Times were exceptionally tight, with Scottish rider Greg Williamson taking the win in the Open Men by a 0.09-second margin over Kiwi ripper Sam Gale. Sam Blenkinsop slotted into third place a mere 0.32 seconds back, with George Brannigan and Kieran Bennett in fourth and fifth place respectively.
Local Christchurch U15 rider Leah Smith moved up into Open Women after some peer pressure and excelled, taking the win in Open Women. Five seconds behind Leah was Mel Bloomfield, followed by Nelson local Emma Bateup. Shawnee Westerman and Agata Bulska rounded out the Womens podium.
Gravity Canterbury extends a massive thanks to all the volunteers, sponsors and riders who helped make the event what it was. We also wish healing vibes to the riders that were injured over the course of both practice and race days. We'll see you all next year for the 2021 edition!
Using a lift for a DH race in New Zealand was a novelty that riders made the most of.
After a consistent showing in Dunedin, winning both Oceania Champs and NZ Nationals, Sam Blenkinsop kept the pressure on for third place, just 0.32 back.