Hawkes Bay rider Brook Macdonald aggression paid dividends in qualifying for the UCI mountain bike world cup downhill in Canada today.
Macdonald (MS Mondraker), not satisfied with his 20th in the last round in Scotland two weeks ago, was fourth fastest in qualifying down the extremely fast and long course at Mont Sainte Anne near Quebec City.
Right behind him was fellow kiwi and national champion Justin Leov (Trek World Racing), who was another who was disappointed with his form in Europe. The national champion from Dunedin was under a second behind Macdonald.
Mont Sainte Anne has been a popular venue for world cup action for many years, and again hosts both downhill and crosscountry action this weekend. It has attracted a big contingent of New Zealand riders, with 20 in all contesting across both disciplines.
Six kiwi riders qualified for the elite men's downhill competition today led by Macdonald, with Leov (fifth), Cameron Cole 16th, Sam Blenkinsop 18th and George Brannigan 20th protected through to the finals.
There was good news for Nelson's Kieran Bennett who qualified for his first world cup final this year when he was just inside the top 80 riders clocking 4:36.263 in today's timed run.
Those kiwis to miss out were Ed Masters (New Plymouth), Tom Matthews (Christchurch), James Rennie (Palmerston North), Jamie Lyall (Kapiti Coast) and Daniel Aiken (Wanaka).
The in-form American Aaron Gwin (Trek World Racing), chasing a third straight World Cup win, was fastest in qualifying from opening round winner Greg Minnaar (South Africa).
The downhill final is set for Monday (NZ time).
Meanwhile organisers have stiffened up the crosscountry course, making the traditionally tough and technical terrain more testing with a harder opening climb that now includes a section of singletrack, while it will be more demanding given expected hot and humid conditions.
Leading the way is Rotorua-based rider Samara Sheppard (Wheeler IXS) who is enjoying an outstanding season with a fourth and third placings in her last two world cup races in the women's under-23 division.
Brad Hudson (Christchurch), Tom Bradshaw (Wellington) and Mathew Waghorn (Palmerston North) will contest the men's under-23 class, while Oceania champion Amber Johnson (Rotorua) and Samantha Hope (Dunedin) will race in the junior women's race, all set for Sunday (NZ time).
World championship medallist Anton Cooper returns to world cup action in the junior men's division after winning the opening round in South Africa two months ago.
The Christchurch-based Trek World Racing rider will be joined in this race by two other strong kiwi juniors in Nigel McDowell (Rotorua) and Tom Filmer (Nelson), with the junior men racing on Monday (NZ time).
Results, elite men downhill qualifying: Aaron Gwin (USA, Trek World) 4:12.303, 1; Greg Minnaar (SAF) 4:14.357, 2; Danny Hart (GBR) 4:15.498. Also New Zealanders: Brook Macdonald (MS Mondraker) 4:18.698, 4; Justin Leov (Trek World Racing) 4:19.302, 5; Cameron Cole (Lapierre International) 4:23.564, 16; Sam Blenkinsop (Lapierre International) 4:23.693, 18; George Brannigan (DeVinci Global) 4:24.170, 20; Kieran Bennett 4:36.263, 71. (All qualified)
Did not qualify: Ed Masters 4:46.610, 114; Tom Matthews 4:47.907, 116; James Rennie 5:00.361, 137; Jamie Lyall 6:39.842, 145; Daniel Aitken 6:54.422, 147.
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