Race Report: NZ Championship – Whakarewarewa Forest , Rotorua, 16/17-Feb-2013

By Nigel Craggs

Race startThe magnificent redwoods of Rotorua were the venue for this year’s National MTB Championships.  The weekend consisted of the XC Racing on the Saturday with Downhill on Sunday both of which we had interests in.  The XC race promised some excellent racing both from the juniors in the morning and from the Seniors and Elites in the afternoon.
A single lap took the riders from the bottom of Long Mile Road into a hill-climb sprint up Nursery Hill Road gaining about 30m in altitude and then instead of turning with the road, straight on and up an even  steeper incline into the Genesis trail.  Once up the initial tricky ascent, the trail wound its way up to exit onto Radio Hut Road.  Riders then had a quick blatt down Radio Hut Road, straight across Nursery Hill Road and back into more climbing to the highest point on Katore Road.  The course marker tape then directed riders down Grinder, a Grade 4 trail, which weaved its way down between the trees with multiple “hot-line” choices keeping life interesting.  Grinder took the riders down the hill away from the start village and dropped another 60 metres in altitude all of which needed to be made back up by climbing up the aptly named Pig Track.  Back on Katore Road briefly, the riders then swung into a small section of Turkish Delight exiting further down Nursery Road and taking Coach Phil’s “Boulder” trail (ask Phil about the name) to join the Old Exit trail which wound and dropped its way back down to the start / finish area.

A relatively short 4.6km lap which made for some pretty high energy sprinting.

Course Map

Racing got underway in the morning.  Sadly, a few of our high performance athletes were still sick or recovering which kept both
Kim Wright and Isaac Schuurman at home.  Ryan Craggs was also sick but was dragged along because his brother Jake wanted to
compete.  Nevertheless, the U17 boys starting grid included Josh Reilly, Aaron Carr, Robin Page, Alex Beaven, Kalen Weir, and
Ryan making up a good number on the starting grid of a particularly large field comprising 27 riders.
The U17 Boys were first away being led up the hill by Scott Barr, showing his prowess at sprinting up the hill chased by the rest of
the field.
Next race started for the juniors combining the U17 and U15 Girls with Jemma and Jessica Manchester, and the U15 Boys with Jake
Craggs.  The race start was predictably dominated by Eden Cruise in the U15 boys who simply demolished the rest of the field
as he set about his work of catching the U17 riders.

Eden Cruise lays down some rubber, chased by Jemma and JakeEden Cruise lays down some rubber, chased by Jemma and Jake

The first lap saw some casualties, one of them was sadly Ryan who crashed and pulled out with a broken helmet.  Another that fell
was third placed rider Robert Stannard which meant that by the end of the first lap we had Robin and Aaron competing up front for third
and fourth places.  Josh was in tenth, leading a pocket of riders round which included Kalen with Alex less than a minute

Robin  riding hard

With the lap being relatively short and fast, the U17 Girls and U15 Boys were already having to do a lot of overtaking of the slower U17 riders, even on the first lap. Eden Cruise emerged first of this group – some have likened him to the next Anton Cooper and it’s easy to see why and equally easy to forget he is still just 13. As the U15 Boy riders sped through, Jake emerged after a difficult first lap in fifth place about a minute down on first place. Jake took on coke as he started his second lap with the hope of finding some much needed energy. Next was Jemma leading her race with about a 30 second gap back to Jessica, who was not only leading her U15 Girls race but was also ahead of the second and third placed U17 Girls as well.

The end of the second lap saw Jessica come in after a relatively short race of just 36 minutes to finish in first place to lift the U15 Girls title.

Jemma was steadily increasing her lead by about a minute a lap in the U17 Girls pulling out almost a two minute lead over second placed girl Shannon Hope from Dunedin.

In the U17 Boys, the pace was still hot at the front with local rider Nathan Johnston trying to pull a gap on Scott Barr but not managing to break away in the battle for first and second. Aaron and Robin were still locked together in third and fourth. Josh was still holding a top ten position with Alex and Kalen having fallen off the back of the chasing bunch.

In the U15 Boys, Eden Cruise was starting to be able to ride a little easier without all the traffic of the first lap and had now passed all but the top two riders in the U17 race. Jake was still struggling but was in third place 32 seconds behind second placed rider Alex Young from Wanaka.

The third lap saw Eden finish his daily work by comprehensively winning the race but as we waited for the second place rider it was Jake that emerged after having put in a scorching last lap where he pulled back almost 45 seconds on the Wanaka rider to finish 15 seconds ahead in second place.

Although we talk casually about big winning margins it has to be remembered that every second has to be paid for by training and effort on the day, and so it was no mean feat for Jemma to come home first in her U17 category after putting over three minutes on a very good Shannon Hope from Dunedin.

All attention now turned to the U17 Boy’s race which was now in its final lap with Aaron just ahead of Robin. Traffic and overtaking were to be crucial factors on this final lap. With local lad Nathan Johnston flying along in first and Scott Barr chasing furiously no one knew how this battle would end. Calling for an overtaking move, Nathan managed to overtake a back marker, who didn’t realise there were two riders coming through. As a result, Nathan sailed through with Scott temporarily blocked. At the end Scott was philosophical and was happy with his silver though I suspect he’ll return for another stab at gold sometime soon.  Josh Reilly came in with a highly credible tenth place after a hard fought last lap, and was followed in by Alex who finished the race and Kalen who didn’t. An unfortunate story emerged of Kalen having discovered his tyre going a bit flat but decided to just pump it up harder. This might have worked in the race itself, as an emergency measure but it had actually happened in the morning before the race, so could possibly have been saved. We all live and learn on this stuff – hey maybe there’s a Jafakids “preparedness” award in there somewhere for the XMAS party! Kalen still has another year in this age group and will no doubt return next year with fiery desire to win… … and an inner tube.

At the presentations, Anton Cooper stepped up to the podium to offer some hard cool cash to help the Junior riders along. Bike NZ thanked him – presumably because it meant they didn’t have to stump up with any cash or spotties. Actually to be fair, Bike NZ, need all the cash they can get to spend it on making their newly upgraded and improved web site re-upgraded and improved a bit more. If you have been on it you will understand.

Jessica Manchester Jemma Manchester
U15 Girls:  Jessica Manchester 1st U17 Girls:  Jemma Manchester 1st
Jake Craggs Robin Page
U15 Boys: Jake Craggs 2nd U17 Boys: Robin (4th place) on the left
picking up some cash from Anton Cooper

In the afternoon, most Jafakids and parents gathered in the forest to watch the U19 racing against the U23 and Elites. The last NZ cup race at Hunua saw Anton Cooper and Dirk Peters battle it out with Anton taking the win, but this was Dirk’s home patch and he was determined – really determined that if Anton wanted a win here, he would have to work for it. Lining up behind Anton and Dirk were Sam Dakin and Tom Coombes in the U19 field with Elliot Pearce in the U23 / Elite class. In the Women’s race Harriet Beaven and Charlotte Rayner lined up as U19 riders with Sasha Smith in the U23 / Elite category alongside Olympian, Karen Hanlen.

Jafakid Charlotte (behind) hoping to catch Karen Hanlen nappingit didn’t happen though!


Hrriet Beaven Charlotte Rayner
Harriet Beaven Charlotte Rayner

As the U19 races drew to a close after about an hour, there was a fair bit of counting up in heads – so how many laps have they done. The Elite men were lapping so quickly some riders had been lapped twice and it really was tricky for spectators to know who was who. Luckily the time keepers had it all in hand so the best vantage point turned out to be near the finish where Ra from N-DURO would announce over the mic exactly who was where from his very useful cheat sheet kindly provided by the timekeepers. For the record, Sam Gaze won a very impressive victory in the U19 men. Sam Dakin had a bit of an off which cost him his battle with Tom, with Tom finishing in tenth and a dusty and grazed Sam eleventh. Amber Johnston took out the U19 Women’s race with Jafakids Harriet and Charlotte coming in second and third – a brilliant result.

Harriet Beaven (2nd) and Charlotte Rayner (3rd)


Sasha Coombes
Sam Dakin Elliot Pearce

Sunday saw the downhill event get underway with the seeding runs in the morning. Once again the temperature quickly rose and as the little early morning dew evaporated, the dust swirled around the event village at the base of the National Downhill course. The course was basically dangerous but for the most part not fatal – this seems to be standard fare for the recent downhill events I have attended. Josh Reilly was back from the U17 XC event the day before along with Jafakids members, Liam and Sophiemarie Bethell. Peter Bethell was watching on the side-line nursing an injured shoulder from a fall a few weeks ago. All were fired up though and there were some truly world class riders to inspire with Emmeline Ragot of France blitzing the women’s field, but not the NZ championship – that one’s just for New Zealanders. The U15 race saw Liam post a great time which took 8 seconds off his seeding time and get on the podium in third place. Not the last time we’ll see him on a podium I suspect. Josh had a lot of competition in the U17 with a field of 31 riders. The downhill is a tricky event, very unforgiving and hard to make up for any mistake. Josh still had a good run but his time was just a little shy of his seeding run which probably means there’s more to come from Josh – watch this space! Sophiemarie was again racing her old team mate Sophie Tyas and this time had to settle for a respectable fifth place with “Team Tyas” taking the bronze medal.

Results below with Jafakids highlighted in Blue

Male – XC Under 15

1          Eden Cruise
2          Jake Craggs
3          Alex Young

Female – XC Under 15

1          Jessica Manchester
2          Zia McDermott
3          Kaylee Mudgway

Male – XC Under 17

1           Nathan Johnston
2           Scott Barr
3           Josh Lee
4           Robin Page
17         Dylan Lee
18         Alex Beaven
DNF      Kalen Weir
DNF      Ryan Craggs
DQ        Aaron Carr

Female-XC Under 17

1      Jemma Manchester
2      Shannon Hope
3      Lydia Kinsman

Female – XC Under 19

1         Amber Johnston
2         Harriet Beaven
3         Charlotte Rayner

Male – XC Under19

1        Sam Gaze
2        Brad Jones
3        Ben Oliver
10      Tom Coombes
11      Sam Dakin
12      Elliot Wright
13      Cosmo Bloor

Male – XC Under 23

1       Anton Cooper
2       Dirk Peters
3       Sam Shaw
9       Elliot Pearce (ex)

Female – XC Under 23

1      Sasha Smith (Coach Piki)

Coach Piki
 Sasha – modelling the 2013 U23 NZ
Champions jersey

Male DH –  Under 15

1      Robbie Wong-Toi
2     Billy Meaclem
3     Liam Bethell

Male DH –  Under 17

1       Jack Humphries
2       Corey Milne
3       Jonathon Kennett
11     Jack Fisher  (AGS)
22     Josh Reilly
25     Jack Boyd (AGS)
30     Tyler Morunga  (AGS)

Female DH – Elite

1        Amy Laird
2       Alanna Columb
3       Sophie Tyas ( Ex Jafakid)
5       Sophiemarie Bethell    (Ex Jafakid)

Full XC and DH  Results can be found here

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.