More than 300 riders will flock to Christchurch which will host the 2021 Torpedo7 Mountain Bike National Championships this weekend, for the first time in over two decades.
The two-day event comprises cross-country racing at Crocodile Mountain Bike Park in Halswell, staged in conjunction with Christchurch Singletrack Club on Saturday, before attention turns to the Design Windows Downhill at the nearby Christchurch Adventure Park on Sunday, supported by Gravity Canterbury Club.
Cycling New Zealand said it was more poignant to return to the region for the championships at the time when the city is commemorating 10 years since the Christchurch earthquakes.
The organisation is thrilled to have attracted 175 riders for the cross-country racing on Saturday and 150 competitors to compete in the spectacular downhill competition on Sunday.
The two clubs and Cycling New Zealand are working together with an eye to further potential events in the future, with two of Christchurch’s most accomplished international professionals rich in their praise for the facilities.
Six-time New Zealand cross-country elite champion Anton Cooper and downhill defending champion Sam Blenkinsop believe the facilities at both venues are world class.
“It is a great place to watch because there are so many trails that are tightly condensed – and it is on the city doorstep. It is so handy for those travelling and it will be a cool atmosphere in there come race day,” said Cooper.
“Hosting nationals is the first step as there are big goals here and no reason why the city can’t host a big event. It is due time that nationals are here in Christchurch and the cross-country will provide great racing and will be exciting for spectators., said the Trek Racing team professional.
Blenkinsop, who has six top-10 world championship finishes in downhill racing, is about to begin his 17th year as a professional.
“A key reason I moved to Christchurch was because I needed to learn to get better on the types of surface at the Adventure Park and grow on it. It is a surface we race on overseas sometimes and not one I have been at my best on,” said the Norco Team pro rider.
“They could definitely hold a World Cup here for sure. It has the length, the technical aspects and the terrain. With surfaces with the rock and dust would be really hard. With World Cup races, you don’t want the courses easy.
“It would be awesome to have a World Cup back in our country and no reason why not here in Christchurch.”
Firstly, the city will focus on hosting the Torpedo7 Mountain Bike Nationals with cross-country practice and downhill course walk on Friday.
Race action begins with under-15 and under-17 grades from 8am on Saturday at Crocodile Park through to elite females racing from 1pm and elite males from 3pm, while gravity riders practise at Christchurch Adventure Park.
On Sunday downhill riders have a seeding run from 12noon with racing from 2pm.
Image Caption: Sam Blenkinsop is looking forward to racing on his home track this weekend. (credit: Cam McKenzie)