Thumb injury fails to slow performance
Dislocating a thumb just before the finish line was not about to stop Nathan Rankin from claiming third place in the Levin downhill event of the New Zealand Mountain Bike Cup series on Saturday.
Riding on home ground in Kohitere Forest east of Levin, Rankin posted a time of 2mins 55s, within three seconds of professional riders Sam Blenkinsop, Wanganui, (2:52) and Nelson's Kieran Bennett (2:54).
Rankin said he dislocated his right thumb landing after a jump while approaching the finish line.
''I was all pumped up so it was a quick fix to push it back into place while the adrenaline was still going.''
Rankin, who works up to 11 hours a day as a machine operator for an earthmoving company, said he cannot afford to go ''too hard'' during competition.
''I hold back a bit because I know I've got to be at work on Monday.''
He was satisfied with his third place, having finished close behind two full-time riders.
''After two years of not much racing and to finish that close, I can't complain.''
Rankin rode professionally for about 10 years, until an ankle injury two years ago forced him to give it up.
''I ride more or less socially now. But I still love going fast and downhill racing is where my heart is, mixed in with a bit of motocross - as long as I'm on a bike really.''
The New Zealand MTB Cup series continues this weekend, with downhill and cross-country races at Hunua in West Auckland.
Rankin was likely to skip that event to allow his thumb to heal in time for the national championships in Rotorua from February 17 to 19.
The championships also serve as the feature event of the inaugural Rotorua Bike Festival.
Saturday's elite men's downhill race winner Sam Blenkinsop, who rides for professional team Lapierre International, also won the previous round of the series at Mt Hutt a fortnight ago.
Blenkinsop said he relished the chance to ride in his home country, before returning overseas to start the European mountain bike season.
''I always have fun riding in New Zealand. It's always a good thing to do before the European season. We're a lot luckier, all the other riders over there are in winter, so we get an advantage to be able to ride at this time of year and have beautiful weather.''
The Levin downhill elite women's race was won by Queenstown's Alanna Columb (3:34), with Christchurch's Amy Laird second (3:42) and United Kingdom's Jess Stone third (3:44).
- Horowhenua Mail