New Zealand Downhill National Cup - Round 1

Jan 8, 2017
by Cameron Mackenzie  


Make New Zealand Downhill racing great again. That has been the unanimous call from clubs and racers alike throughout the NZ Downhill community.

Disaster struck late 2016 when the governing body for Mountain Biking in New Zealand, MTBNZ, communicated that they were canceling all National Series / National Cup racing going forward effective immediately. The news was a shock, coming the very evening of a successful start to the season where over 150 keen racers had turned out for a NZDH North Island Series race, in late winter Rotorua conditions. Hopes were high already for what the end of 2016 and summer of 2017 racing would be like, but it was not to be.

Leading into the 2017 season, MTBNZ took on the task of rethinking and overhauling the National series. As a whole, across both DH and XC, interest in the series and its perceived value had been on a steady decline for years. Following a public survey and subsequent executive meetings, MTBNZ proposed a new format. Clubs and venues were approached and asked for an expression of interest as to who would be willing to host a national cup round for Downhill and XC in early 2017.

Proposed format changes:

Old Format
- Two day event per round
- Run over the weekend
- Adjacent or close together weekends
- Practice Saturday / Racing Sunday
- Two events per Island (Four Races Total)
New Format
- Two day event
- Separate races each day
- Suggested that it was to be during the weekdays and two rounds within the same week.
- Two events per Island (Four Races Total)

The response to the proposed format was not met favourably by clubs, organisers, or riders. For riders, there would be no time between races to repair broken bikes or bodies plus there were severe demands on travel time between races. For clubs, the new format would be restrictive and logistically challenging. The format proposed was unworkable for most and as a result, only one club put their hand up to host a race.

With no word on reforming the proposed format, MTBNZ declared that without club interest, the series would be canceled.

After the initial shock, Kieran Bennett, ex-world cup racer and one of the fastest men in country, suggested the clubs unite and create their own national series and utilize the same successful single day format as the NZDH North Island series. The movers and shakers of DH agreed, and less than 3 days after the MTBNZ announcement, 9 clubs had put their hands up to host the independent community driven series.

Quietly supporting in the background was the services of NZ Crown, a comprehensive national ranking system developed back in 2013, and funded by ex-Olympic XC rider Kashi Leuchs. Currently, the NZ Crown is managed by Mark 'Cabin' Leishman, a passionate and still competitive XC racer who has been part of the New Zealand Mountain biking scene for the last 25+ years. Leishman and his team set up a non-profit organisation as a way to recognise and reward the efforts of riders, clubs, and event organisers across the country. Registering and tabulating all results, from all forms of racing, to create a comprehensive points based national ranking system.

And thus the plan was forged for the DH Clubs of New Zealand (DHCoNZ) National tour. A club collaboration, run on a single day format with minimised load on the hosts. Significant event and series prize money, a logistically friendly schedule, and a nationally recognised and respected ranking system.

A high-quality nationwide series by the people, for the people!

The single day format mean t that it was an early start for riders. Rego opened at 8am and practise kicking off from 9am.
The single day format meant that it was an early start for riders. Rego opened at 8 am and practice kicking off from 9 am.

Riders traveled from all over the country this weekend in preparation for what was to be the biggest change in New Zealand Downhill Racing thus far. A totally reworked series, over a single day and put together by riders. The first round of the series saw FourForty MTB Park in Auckland turn it on with stunning weather, dry and dusty trails and a course full of features and variation. 119 riders entered on the day with a 19 rider strong elite men's field.

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
Lloyd Jenks showing off what would have to be the ugliest race plate in the history of NZ downhill racing.
Lucky 13 Plate for Liam Jackson
Lucky #13 Plate for Liam Jackson.

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
All smiles, all day long from everyone. This was the second dry and dusty race we have had this summer out of six races.

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
The Bulldog was proudly repping his #Vanzacs sticker.

Chainless for the get go for this brave racer.
Chainless from the get go for this brave racer.
New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
True kiwi-style shuttles.

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
The hecklers were slow to get start in the morning, but were in full force by late afternoon.

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
Nathan Rankin letting the back hang out in early morning practise.

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
Lloyd Jenks is one of the men responsible for many of NZ's finest trails, and is lightning quick on a big bike. He rode a safe race in the dust and finished just short of a podium step.

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
Louis Hamilton has been racing since he was a young ankle biter and has developed a name for himself due to his consistency season after season. Once again Louis had a strong day on the bike and would finish in 4th place.

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
Keegan up high in the natives early morning. Keegan is known for going 100% all day long, and that clearly helped him get the result he had today.

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
Brook and Wyn tearing through the natives.

With both Brook MacDonald and Wyn Masters turning up to race, most expected that the two would be dueling it out for first place. However, the current standard of elite level local racers isn't to be taken lightly. The bar is constantly being pushed higher and if you make a tiny mistake or have an off day then your not going to be able to challenge for a podium step. Brook didn't have the day he wanted and would finish the day off the podium in 6th Place, Only seven seconds back on Wyn who took first.

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
Peter Bethell, local Aucklander has been a consistent top five finisher previously. To see him out there riding sections of trail faster than World Cup racers was impressive and looked like he was on form to place well.

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
Amanda Monk is at home on steep, native tracks. She and partner Logan Jensen build their own, wildly steep trails on their property in Whakatane so the light gradient at FourForty was of little challenge.

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1

Liam Jackson putting the dark days of MTBNZ drama behind him and riding into the light.
Liam Jackson putting the dark days of MTBNZ drama behind him and riding into the light.

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
Masters men and U15 boys heading up for their seeding run.

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
Patrick Hale entering the steepest part of the track.

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
Finn Parsons continued his unstoppable run and cleaned up U17 Boys.

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
Guy Johnston may only be 13 but his BMX race background has helped him with a smooth transition over to racing downhill. He finished the day 1st in U15 boys, expect to see him take out the series overall, he is quick!

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
James Carley ripping his way to a credible 6th Place in U19 Men's.

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
Ross Flexman broke his hand late last year but came back this weekend.

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
As expected Peter Bethell rode a smart and well-calculated race and finished the day 3rd overall.

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
Josh Reilly is one of New Zealand's fastest rising enduro stars and likes to keep race downhill also to keep his pace up! One of few men racing a trail bike on the day.


New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
Connor Hamilton has never been one to shy away from good showmanship.

Carson has always been a threat on the hill at FourForty. He is the local park rat last season breakthrough talent from U19 and has more fire in his belly for racing than most. Not his day today racing up a grade in elite men but will for sure be one to watch over the rest of the season.
Carson has always been a threat on the hill at FourForty. He is the local park rat, last season's breakthrough talent from U19 and has more fire in his belly for racing than most. Not his day today, though, racing up a grade in elite men but will for sure be one to watch over the rest of the season.

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
Jack Fisher KO'd himself a month ago at the 2W Enduro in Rotorua and this was his first race back. He still smashed all the race lines, but his fitness was not there and he struggled to push hard on the physical sections of the track.

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
Skye Follas breaking the beam and getting the afternoon's race runs underway.

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
Shania Rawson raced her first international race last year, World Champs in Val di Sole and placed first in the last timed training before finals. Not able to put a clean run together during finals she finished off the box but came home faster than ever. This weekend was Shania's first Elite Womens win at a National race and I'm sure it won't be her last! She has bright future ahead of her.

bigquotesI had clean practise runs all morning, got all my lines dialed and was feeling strong. The track changed a lot over the course of the day because of the dust and I came unstuck in my first race run. I still placed first though so knew I just had to have a solid second run and not crash to take it out. Stoked to take my first Elite Nationals win and kick the season off on a high note! - Shania Rawson

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
When you haven't ridden for a year and your mates pressure you into racing on a borrowed bike, your chances of doing well aren't great, but you can still tweak it out for the media.

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
Cam Dodd ripping the finish berm to pieces.

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
Ashley Bond dug deep and gave it her all today. It's her first season racing downhill and to be mixing it up with some of the countries fast women is no easy task.

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
Brook destroyed every high line in site.

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
It was just not Cole Lucas's day, He crashed in his first race run after hitting a tree in the native section and then rode too conservative during his second.

bigquotesI liked the race and the new format. Good vibes from everyone and pretty decent numbers made for a good race. More prize money up for grabs for everyone and way cheaper entry fees makes it good haha. - Cole Lucas

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
Keegan Wright laid down an absolute blinder of a first run and was only one second back on Wyn going into their second race run.

bigquotesI think the one day race format is awesome, gives the people who work another day to do stuff and hangout before Monday rolls around. I had a wicked fun day, just tried riding smooth and having fun. Taking this season slower and not push it to hard before the overseas season. The track was fun, not a whole lot of lines to choose from but it was good fun. Was good to have some more competition come up for this race, lets hope it stays like this throughout the rest of the series to help make for some wicked racing. - Keegan Wright

New Zealand Downhill National Cup Round 1
Wyn Masters found an extra 3.1 seconds on Keegan in his second race run and would deny Keegan of the top step.

bigquotesAmazing conditions out there today, it was a bit slippery in sections with all of the dust but I managed to hold it together. Keegan was only a second back on me after the first race run so I had to turn up the dial a few notches and hang it out. We got it done, though. - Wyn Masters

Louis Hamilton committing the biggest fashion crime off the day Socks and Jandals.
Louis Hamilton committing the biggest fashion crime of the day, socks and jandals.
The next Joe Bowman. I d say it will still be a few years before his raw videos are up to standard though and he point the camera in the direction of the action.
The next Joe Bowman. I'd say it will still be a few years before his #raw videos are up to standard though and he points the camera in the direction of the action.
Wyn was more than happy to sign and give away an old front triangle he had in his van for a group of young fans.
Wyn was more than happy to sign and give away an old front triangle he had in his van for a group of young fans.

Elite Mens Podium
Elite Mens Podium.
Elite Womens Podium
Elite Womens Podium.

Elite Men
1st - Wyn Masters
2nd - Keegan Wright
3rd - Peter Bethell
4th - Louis Hamilton
5th - Emyr Davis
Elite Women
1st - Shania Rawson
2nd - Amanda Monk
3rd - Agata Bulska

bigquotesLong day... The day ran smooth, the transport side of the race is easy for us as it's something we do every weekend anyway so we have that pretty sorted. The FourForty staff know how to keep shuttles running fast and efficient. Great to have a solid elite category with good depth of field. The new DHCONZ series is proof that DH is alive and kicking in NZ, it's a real pity MTBNZ cannot see this potential and how important it is to continue the series to help support a new generation of keen downhillers. With some tweaking we will have an awesome series we can deliver to the riders every summer and help grow the sport. - Byron Scott, FourForty MTB Park Owner

Next weekend we head to Napier for the second round of the Series for what should be a very interesting race. The track is the most pedally on the circuit and takes no prisoners, forget the legs or lungs and riders can kiss their dreams of a podium place finish goodbye.

Full results here.


MENTIONS: @cameronmackenzie


Must Read This Week

65 Comments

  • + 66
 I love the podium steps, a perfectly good picnic table!!! That gets points for multi-use, efficiency style...
  • + 7
 I think you've noticed something that could become a new tradition that would better the fun-loving, light-hearted nature of mountain biking, or at least what we'd like to see stay that way. Why not always use a picnic table for all the podiums and the top racers could, post awards, get to share the table for a great post race meal or brew(s)? Just a thought. I think it could go a long way in keeping a healthy comraderie. Not that it's needed per se, just that it sounds like a cool idea. They could then add a few more tables and turn it into a party. Whatever helps to keep mountain biking, mountain biking, right?
  • + 4
 And not one rider doing the 2 empty hands up superman thang..2017 off to a great start!
  • + 2
 If you're not aware of leverage, it is a bitch. Have a picnic table podium. We flipped it. Hah Smile
  • + 2
 What's with the microphone.... "SPEECH!" chants a big thing in en-zed?
  • + 3
 @captainspaulding: I picture a certain formsr KHS rider dropping some Supercross style promos interspersed with a choice selection of F-bombs!!!
  • + 31
 Fantastic photos & in depth coverage. Great stuff!!
  • + 5
 Just what I was going to say, plus the fact it has all been organised set up and supported by the fans for the fans, spot on. Twelve outta ten for all involved!
  • + 30
 5th for Emyr Davies on an Orange 29er trail bike! Da iawn Ems!
  • - 2
 Did you have a spaz at the end of that sentence?
  • + 2
 @zorba73: My fingers came alive on the keyboard,as soon as i typed 29 er !! Razz
  • + 4
 @Beicpinc: I just thought it was Welsh.
  • + 2
 @iamamodel: Yes
Da iawn - Very good
  • + 3
 @Beicpinc: See you can bring a knife to a gun fight, you just gotta damn well know how to use it.
  • + 17
 can't wait for wyn tv.
  • + 9
 Great pictures. Weather looked considerably better than the mud fest enduro round. Every time I see racers with no gloves I think they're either a pro, or unemployed. Who needs skin on their hands come Monday morning!
  • + 9
 "Suggested that it was to be during the weekdays and two rounds within the same week." WTF!
  • + 3
 Yea that's a real workable option right there (sarcasm) MTBNZ have once again proven themselves to be bunch of idiots.
  • + 9
 How pathetic it is that MTBNZ couldn't even put together a bike race... Go DHCoNZ!
  • + 8
 Still the same few people doing all the work running the events...
  • + 3
 @Otago: Yip everyone wants more races, but no one is willing to step up and help run them
  • + 8
 By the riders, for the riders. Sounds like a good idea to me.
  • + 8
 It was a Wyn-Win situation for GT!
  • + 3
 Great recap. Can i make a reco to race promotors. PLEASE GIVE SPONSORS MORE COVERAGE. 1. Show logos on riders jerseys. 2. Show Pitt banners, etc 3. SHOW SPONSORS ON RACE RESULTS.
  • + 2
 I wonder this also. I mean if a bike company sponsors someone then you would think that their name would be in easy to see lettering.
  • + 1
 @RLEnglish: agree. But two faults i see over and over. Editors using pictures that don't show sponsors, wether it be the racer or the pits and race results, why don't they highlight the sponsors! At least for the top 5 if they don't have a system in place for all racers
  • + 2
 @da1994canucks: not sure they've had time to figure all that shit out yet bro. it's their first race ever under this banner - give em a break eh, if the sponsors have a problem with the coverage they'll say something.
  • + 1
 @coney: something for them and all other promotors to improve on. In regards to sponsors saying something...they do by not sponsor us. They talk with their wallet and support.
  • + 1
 How is it, that NZ riders are so good with such a small national series? 1 Day Events and 19 Elite riders?
In Germany it's a 3 Day Event, 450-600 riders and more than 100 Elite riders.
Some of the tracks suck (not all!) but still it's booked out every season.
  • + 3
 I believe it is due to our world cup riders giving back at a grassroots level, helping to develop and grow the next generation of future elite racers! Smaller fields mean more one on one experiences.
  • + 1
 Also 80 million, sorry, 81 million people, is a lot more than 4 million.
  • + 4
 Perceived decline in value. For mountain biking. In NZ.... Fuck I never thought I would read that sentence.
  • + 4
 very very very nice pictures. and well written
  • + 4
 Love the older guys on the bus.
  • + 2
 that pic of Liam Jackson coming out of the dark is a banger, should be POD

What is it with NZ riders, or are there no importers of gloves there?
  • + 2
 What are these "gloves" things you talk of? Is that a made up word???
  • + 3
 Now if we only had this kind of coverage for regional racing in Canada/US
  • + 4
 Wyn for the win!
  • + 0
 WYN YEAH !!!! So What he s gonna interview himself as the race winner in the wyntv episode ? Big Grin just kidding there s no time for interviews when fully concentrated on racing i guess.. normal!
  • + 1
 any particular reason why Nathan Rankin is wearing an VERY old D2? I had that very helmet with that design on it and pretty sure its over 10 years old..
  • - 1
 He doesn't have a helmet sponsor and he knows the old ones work just as well as the new ones. he also knows the new ones are hideously overpriced.
  • + 3
 @jaame: hmmm source? Not so sure.. a racer with no helmet sponsor-if that is the case- I can understand of course, but to use a helmet of that age.. assuming its had NO damage at all in 10 years use by a racer, is still peculiar. I would also dispute the point about old/vs new. The same D2 that i just retired feels like a salad bowl on my head compared to the newer helmet I own. I find it weird that he wouldn't have access to- or own- a more modern helmet for the sake of a race. If it was a temporary last minute crash replacement before the race or something then I can understand that..but choosing to use such an old helmet because "he knows new ones are hideously overpriced" come on now. Sure they are, it just seemed odd seeing such an old helmet in a 2017 race report along side mostly contemporary gear, wondered what the story was there that's all.
  • + 0
 I was being facetious!
  • + 1
 @jaame: ah well. wasn't clear at all, for all I knew you might have known the guy!
  • + 0
 Not at all. I just thought about why someone professional might use an old helmet. If you're used to getting everything for free, you might balk at the thought of having to buy something. The one pro rider I know will not buy anything! Also, helmets are not exactly cheap. I mean not like a saddle or tyres or something.
  • + 2
 these pics are super sweet - nice work @cameronmackenzie
  • + 3
 2017 is gonna kickass
  • + 2
 F the north America winter
  • + 1
 New format for British Enduro?
  • + 1
 Sick photos, looked like an absolute stunner of a day!
  • + 1
 What happened to Bulldog?
  • + 1
 Love it! My home kicking arse. MTB all the way kids!
  • + 1
 I miss seeing dry dirt - and that is some dry hard pack dirt there!
  • + 1
 NICE but what about Blenki?
  • + 1
 @pavelssaveljevs: No it's not Blenki Big Grin
  • + 8
 Blenki didn't come up for this race. Im sure we will see him down in the South Island. Word is he may have a new Norco that isnt ready for its close up.
  • + 1
 hahahah pure class Wyn Msters sits as the head at the picnic table
  • + 1
 Track looks mint !!
  • + 1
 Yewwwww Wyn
  • + 1
 Wynning!!!
  • + 1
 Good on ya NZ!
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