Brits show a head for downhill challenge

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 06/01/2013

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British Riders claimed both elite titles in the opening downhill round of the New Zealand MTB Cup at Bluff yesterday.

Bernard Kerr, 21, improved almost 8sec on his qualifying time to edge out former world champion and New Zealand representative Cam Cole, of Christchurch, by just .04sec.

"I'm really happy, it's my first-ever national win, whether it be in England or anywhere," said Kerr, who is in his third year as a professional rider with Pivot Cycles "It's my first year here. I'm staying with my girlfriend in Nelson and travelling around doing the races."

Rotorua's Louis Hamilton was third in the elite men, just over 3sec slower than Kerr, whose compatriot, Jess Stone, rolled her way down Bluff Hill in dominant fashion to win the elite women's race by more than 13sec from Queenstown's Alanna Columb and Christchurch's Amy Laird.

"I've just come over for a couple of months, just to do the national series so it's pretty cool to come down to Bluff - which I've been told is the southern-most town in the world - and race," Kerr said. "It's just a shame the weather turned over the week and ruined the track."

While the temperature approached 30 degrees Celsius yesterday, heavy rain last week made for a soft course and made life difficult for the riders to carry their speed through the jumps. Gusting wind added to the challenge. "It made it very difficult but everyone just cracked on and got it done," Stone said.

It's only the second time the Southland Mountain Bike Club has staged a round of the national series, and the first time it has been held at Bluff.

Invercargill's Connor Harvey was a popular winner in the under-19 men's section with what was his first national title.

The first round of the national cross-country series will be staged across the road on Bluff Hill today, with world under-19 champion Anton Cooper, of Christchurch, expected to continue the dominant form he showed domestically last year. Cooper, who has signed with the Cannondale Factory Racing team and will be based in Germany this year, faces competition from Rotorua's Dirk Peters while junior star Mary Gray, of Dunedin, is favoured to excel in the women's racing.

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