Race Report: NZ Open 2020

Feb 3, 2020
by Ben Karalus  

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!

Volunteers getting briefed for a big day on the exposed hillside in 36-degree weather.

Using a lift for a DH race in New Zealand was a novelty that riders made the most of.

Dropping in with some epic views over the Canterbury Plains.

Charlie Murray, one of New Zealand's top EWS racers, bringing the fight to the downhillers.

Adain Limmer making the trek down from Nelson for a top ten finish.

Max Hides was another local who pulled the trail bike out of the shed this morning, piloting it to 10th.

Greg Williamson making the most of the t-shirt weather.

Sam Gale flying down the course.

Matthew Fairbrother hanging one out for the camera at the start of the motorway section.

Joe Nation didn't let a recent elbow reconstruction get in the way of a 7th place.

Guy Gibbs is back in town, 6th place for the fast local.

The new rhythm section on course left many riders scratching their heads. Was it best to stay low...

or pull up for the quad? George Brannigan putting it away with no trouble.

The hot dusty conditions left racers hanging out at the bottom of the track.

Agata Bulska ducking and weaving for fifth place in Open Womens.

Shawnee Westerman keeping the pressure on for fourth.

Emma Bateup has spent most of her time the past few years riding in Nelson and Christchurch, and it showed with a third on the day.

Local legend Mel Bloomfield on her way to second place.

Leah Smith, a local 14-year old, got talked into entering in Open Womens. The decision paid off and she took home $1000 with a flawless run.

Kieran Bennett on his way to a fifth-place finish, rounding out the Open Mens podium.

George Brannigan putting his injuries in the past with a fourth place, just 1.55 seconds back.

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.

Blenki looking back up at the timing board for confirmation he was on a good one.

Sam Gale has been on a tear recently in his first year as an Elite and was only a hair off the win.

Groundskeeper Willie doing Scotland proud in the Antipodes, taking the win and the $1000 cash prize.

The Adventure Park's lawns proving the perfect place for the after-match function.

Your Open Womens podium, stacked with local talent.

Your Open Mens podium, stacked with heavy hitters.

Taking a champagne shower in the afternoon heat.

Your NZ Open Champion, Greg Williamson.


  • 8 0
 Nice one Leah Smith. Now pay attention world, THAT is how you announce yourself. Great result Greg, am guessing you are enjoying the new rig then!
  • 8 0
 Meh, I guess that looks like a good time...I mean if you're into baller AF tracks, great scenery and cool people.
  • 5 0
 Big ups to all the racers and spectators! Was 36c/97f to 38c/100f all day long and extremely dry and dusty conditions, Christchurch has only had 4cm of rain in the last 75 days so traction was hard to find.
  • 4 0
 Full respect to everyone who showed up in any capacity, it was unbelievable hot on Sunday. And props to Greg, I wouldn't have thought a Scotsman would be very comfortable in the dust!
  • 3 0
 really looking forward to williamson's season, his results were rapidly improving last season and now hes on one of the most proven race bikes on the circuit - could be some big things ahead for the man!
  • 3 0
 sick shots Alec!! minta of a race
  • 1 0
 Cheers mate! What a day!!
  • 3 0
 link to results?
  • 2 0
 results can be found on the Gravity Canterbury FB Page
  • 2 0
 awesome low depth of field photography!
  • 2 0
 I guess gloves aren't that popular in NZ
  • 2 0
  • 2 0
 Good on ya mate
  • 3 0
 this link is not the same race. results can be found on the Gravity Canterbury FB Page
  • 1 1
 Nice nipple shot!

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