Columb takes Oceania title


Queenstown rider Alanna Columb is Oceania downhill mountain bike champ – despite crashing twice in her finals run.

Columb recovered to edge out Rotorua’s Ronja Hill-Wright by just 0.18secs at the Queenstown Bike Park on Saturday.

Columb finished the run in 4min 50.61sec. Australia-based New Zealander Victoria Armstrong was third in 5min 13.48sec.

Columb had posted a dominant time of 4min 35.40sec in the seeding run and decided to push harder in the final, hoping to take more than 10sec off that time.

“The track had changed a lot and was quite a bit rougher,” she says.

“I had a small crash early and then got caught unexpectedly and had a pretty big crash near the end of the run.

“I broke my peak on the helmet and everyone thought it was quite funny because I had to finish basically blind.”

Columb’s win followed her successful defence of the New Zealand downhill title at Cardrona, Wanaka,  last weekend.

The two wins in two weeks was a “good confidence boost”, she says.

The former motocross rider has only been in the sport three years.

During last year’s world cup and world championship competition she was never further back than 12th and hopes a full campaign this year will push her into the world’s top 10 downhill riders.

“The focus for me in the next few weeks will be to chase some sponsorship support so I can do the whole circuit this year.”

Columb’s brother, Scott, finished second in the masters division, edged out by less than 1sec for the win by former seven-time New Zealand champion Nathan Rankin, of Levin.

Porirua’s Bryn Dickerson claimed the elite men’s division in 3min 51.84sec, nearly 3sec faster than his seeding run.

Last year’s national champion and Commencal Vallnord professional, Queenstown-based rider George Brannigan, recovered from a crash but had to settle for second place in 3min 54.37sec.

Queenstown riders continued to prosper, dominating the Stonewood Homes Oceania Mountain Bike Championships.

Simon Read won the junior men in 3min 57.5sec, Sam Robbie took the under-17 title in 4min 6.64sec, Cameron McLeod won the masters 3 division and Kathy Morris the senior women.

Yesterday, under-23 world champion Anton Cooper, from North Canterbury, claimed the elite men’s cross-country honours, beating world No8 Dan McConnell, of Australia.

Last weekend he was beaten by Sam Gaze in the New Zealand Championships and attributing his win to training only twice in the past week.

“Having a rest week made all the difference.

“It was a very tactical race and we all had a turn at the front. I wanted to be in front before the last downhill as I sensed I was stronger there. I had to dig deep for that one, so I’m very happy.”

Earlier Australian Rebecca Henderson, ranked 19th in the world, held off the challenge from Queenstown’s Kate Fluker – riding on home turf at a major event for the first time – to defend the women’s title she won in Queensland last year.

However, Fluker was not disappointed with second place, as the major qualifying points for the Rio Olympics went to Henderson.

Australia is currently in a qualifying spot under world ranking and if that is maintained, the Oceania spot it holds will drop down to New Zealand.