Commonwealth showdown


Gold, silver and bronze mountain bike medallists from the last Commonwealth Games are facing off in Queenstown.

Kiwi cross country stars Anton Cooper, Sam Gaze and Australian rider Dan McConnell will compete in this weekend’s Oceania champs.

The trio were the top three at the 2014 Games in Glasgow.

The Oceanias are part of this year’s Queenstown Bike Festival - with both cross country and downhill races held at the resort’s bike park.

Organiser Sean McCarroll says it’s a chance to get ranking points ahead of next month’s world cup in Cairns.

“We’ve got the best in New Zealand and riders from Australia coming.

“It’s also the final event of the mountain bike calendar in NZ and open to everyone, both riders and spectators.”

Waikato’s Gaze, 20, is fresh from victory at the nationals held in Cardrona last weekend.

The Specialized team pro broke clear on the second lap to win emphatically after 21-year-old rival Cooper, under-23 world champion, suffered a puncture and had to change his wheel.

Both men are contesting what’s likely to be one place for Rio in August - and the Oceanias is one of the selection races.

Queenstowner Kate Fluker also suffered a puncture on her first lap at Cardrona.

But the tireless rider stormed back to retain her elite women’s title.

She’ll be looking to impress the selectors with a strong run in the Oceanias.

She’s up against Commonwealth bronze medallist and Australian champ Bec Henderson, and Kiwi Samara Sheppard who finished third at the nationals.

Fluker: “It’s a very important race.

“I’ll be racing as hard as I can and getting the result I can on the day.

“I’m feeling really good. There’s still some room to move in terms of top-end speed, so I’m pretty excited about what I can achieve through the season.”

Fluker, who’s recently won the Motatapu for a fifth time and inaugural The Pioneer, will make Cairns her first world cup race of the season.

She’ll be racing in Europe mid-May, when she’ll find out whether NZ gets a place at Rio, and whether she’ll represent the country.

In the downhill race, national champion Alanna Columb, Queenstown star George Brannigan, and under-17 men’s national champ Sam Robbie will be looking for wins.

Sponsored by the Queenstown branch of Stonewood Homes, the Oceanias are held at the bike park from tomorrow to Sunday.

Both races are open entry, $125 for downhill and $85 for cross country, with no licence fees.