Queenstown’s Kate Fluker paid tribute to close friend Kelly McGarry after winning the women’s cross-country mountain bike national champs on Saturday.
The win at Cardrona brought closer a place on the New Zealand mountain bike team for the Rio Olympics.
A punctured tyre in the first lap resulted in Fluker trailing 2min 30sec behind Samara Sheppard and Kim Hurst, both of Wellington.
Fluker quickly made up lost ground in the second lap, trailing by only 35sec, and took the lead the third time round.
Fluker finished with a win in 1:22.59sec, almost 2min in front of Hurst, while Sheppard finished in 1:27.33sec.
Fluker says McGarry, who died after collapsing on a Queenstown bike trail last month, inspired her win.
“I actually enjoyed the pain of fighting back because I feel very lucky to be able to do this sport.
“It was all for him.”
Cambridge’s Sam Gaze, 20, won the men’s champs.
Gaze was clear of under-23 world champion Anton Cooper, 21, of North Canterbury, in the second of five 4km laps of the cross-country circuit.
The pair, who have shared both first and second positions in the past two national championships, broke away from the field on the first lap.
By the second lap, Gaze had secured a 1min lead over Cooper and capitalised on a slow puncture suffered by Cooper to add another 2min to his lead by the middle of the race.
Cooper says while changing his front wheel cost him more than a minute, he was already struggling to keep up with Gaze.
“But for sure, the race was probably done for me by then, anyway.
“Sam attacked hard on the second lap and I couldn’t go with that.”
Gaze finished in 1:19.53sec, with a comfortable 3min lead on Cooper.
Ben Oliver, of North Canterbury finished third, 90sec behind Cooper.
Gaze says he was disappointed Cooper didn’t have his best race.
“I really wanted a big battle with both of us at our best, but I will take the win how it comes.”
Yesterday the downhill riders took to the track.
Queenstown’s Alanna Columb won the elite women’s downhill race in 4min 22sec.
The only other female contender, Agata Bulska, of Christchurch, finished in 5min 41sec.
Rupert Chapman, of Christchurch, finished in 3min 21sec to claim the elite men’s downhill title.
Cardrona sport manager Graham Dunbar says despite patches of rain throughout the weekend, the event was a success.
“I think it has shown that mountain biking is an all-weather sport and it is ‘mountain’ biking.”
Otago Daily Times