Trail blazing

JONATHAN MCKEOWN
Last updated 13:05 21/01/2013
sport

THIS IS OUR LAND: Local knowledge proved a key element as Nelson's Jamie Nicoll and former Nelson resident Harriet Harper claimed the overall honours after the tally-up from the three events.

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The Nelson Mountain Bike Club Top Gun event crowned two champions well qualified to "ride into the danger zone" at Codgers Mountain Bike Park yesterday.

Local knowledge proved a key element as Nelson's Jamie Nicoll and former Nelson resident Harriet Harper claimed the overall honours after the tally-up from the three events; Saturday's downhill and the cross country and super D yesterday.

Harper, a three-time national downhill champion, won both the downhill and super D in the elite women's series. Harper, an emergency doctor, said riding in the event was tantamount to a holiday, though she said it was a fine line between glory and calamity.

"You do have to ride into the danger zone," she said, quoting the tagline from the 1986 film Top Gun. "It's all about not going too hard and falling off the side of the track; that always costs you time."

Harper, who moved to Christchurch from Nelson five weeks ago, said familiarity with the Brook Valley trails was invaluable.

"I helped build the downhill track, so that helps."

What didn't help was having the movie's theme song repeating in her head as she completed her race runs, she said.

Nicoll, a former New Zealand rep, had spent last winter riding enduro (super D) events around Europe. He won the master 1 super D, recording the fastest overall time (8min 47.7sec), and claimed fourth in the downhill to take the Tom Cruise-Maverick status.

In 2010 Nicoll was pushed to the limits of human endurance after a jack hammer explosion while building a trail in Chile left him with third-degree burns to 35 per cent of his body.

Blown off a ledge, Nicoll used his harness to swing to safety, immersed himself in a nearby creek and then ran 3km to be picked up by a military helicopter.

Nicoll told the Nelson Mail that getting back to "fighting fit" on a bike was one of his major drivers during recovery. Since then he has embraced the enduro format, which he believes is under-rated in New Zealand.

"It is definitely a growing scene; it's really big in Europe," said Nicoll.

"There is an enduro world series for the first time ever [this year], and people do rumour it to be the new up-and-coming discipline.

"Super D is essentially a single stage of an enduro race. It's a merging of the two disciplines; you have to be a fast downhiller, and you have to be fit enough to crank the uphill."

Both riders, who ride Santa Cruz bikes, said the event had been run in great spirit and the format had been an attraction, as it caters to an emerging group of mountainbikers.

With competitors from around New Zealand, and from Australia, Switzerland and the UK, organiser and Nelson MTB Club president Chris Mildon reiterated that sentiment.

"It's been a pretty good format and has generated a lot of excitement, and I think you'll find the winners today were worthy of those two awards," said Mildon at the prizegiving yesterday.

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- Nelson

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