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Making her mark: Queenstown's Jess Blewitt has leapt straight into international elite mountain biking ranks. THE PERFECT LINE

By GUY WILLIAMS

National elite champion, tick.

After dominating the junior ranks for the past two seasons, Queenstown’s downhill mountain bike queen Jess Blewitt took out the elite title at the Mountain Bike National Champs in Christchurch recently.

Her victory by almost nine seconds comes on the back of winning the MTBNZ national downhill series over four legs, including at Coronet Peak.

Blewitt, who switched to the elite category in December as a result of turning 18 last July, tells Mountain Scene she had to adjust her approach in the dusty conditions at Christchurch Adventure Park, riding conservatively to ‘‘just stay on the bike’’.

You could say it was a home event for Blewitt, who finished at Wakatipu High School last year and is now studying for a Bachelor of Architecture at Christchurch’s Ara polytechnic.

The two-time national downhill under-19 champ says winning the elite title was important because it opens the door to representing NZ at the world champs in Italy in August.

It was ‘‘incredibly disappointing’’ to have her hopes of competing overseas as a junior last year dashed by Covid-19, and she’s desperate to contest world cup downhills and enduro world series events in Europe this year.

Whether she goes will depend on Cycling NZ deciding it’s safe to send Kiwi riders to a continent still grappling with the pandemic.

The big picture for her remains turning pro, and if she can get to Europe this year and succeed, it boosts her chances of clinching a sponsorship deal for 2022.

Blewitt, who only took up the sport in 2018, has just added a new discipline to her repertoire, competing in her first enduro race in January.

‘‘I’ve always been into my fitness for the downhill, but I’ve definitely picked it up for the enduro.

‘‘The gym work’s stayed the same, but I’m doing heaps of pedalling.’’

She has two enduro rounds remaining in her domestic season: the first in Dunedin, which started yesterday, and in Nelson next month.

guy.williams@scene.co.nz