Brook Macdonald (MS Mondraker), sixth in last week’s world cup action in Mont Sainte Anne in Canada, was sixth fastest in qualifying at Windham today.
Havelock North’s George Brannigan (DeVinci Global), one of the most improved gravity riders on the circuit this year, was one spot back as seventh fastest.
Five kiwis qualified for racing with Sam Blenkinsop 11th fastest, his Lapierre International teammate Cameron Cole 19th and national champion Justin Leov (Trek World Racing) 28th.
The course, relatively short by world cup standards, retains much of the track from previous years aside from some small sections that were washed out from Hurricane Irene, which threatened the staging of the event this year.
The other four kiwi riders missed out on a place in the top 80 to qualify for Monday’s finals (NZ time) including Nelson’s Keiran Bennett, who finished in the top 60 last week.
Leov’s in-form American teammate Aaron Gwin, chasing a fourth straight World Cup win, was fastest in qualifying.
The downhill final is set for Monday (NZ time).
The cross country course has only minor changes from last year including the start of the 5.5kms course moved to the town centre, and features a long climb to the highest point and then fast descent.
Last week’s winning world cup pair, Samara Sheppard and Anton Cooper are chasing more podium honours in the crosscountry this weekend.
Sheppard (Wheeler IXS), the Rotorua-based Wellington rider, achieved a breakthrough victory at Mont Sainte Anne to move her to number three in the world in the women’s under-23 category.
Cooper (Christchurch, Trek World Racing) devastated the junior men’s field to win emphatically, and is now leading the world cup standings.
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), third last week, and Samantha Hope (Dunedin) will compete in the junior women’s race tomorrow. Cooper is joined by Nigel McDowell (Rotorua) and Tom Filmer (Nelson) in the junior men.
Downhill qualifying - Aaron Gwin (USA, Trek World Racing) 2:27.803, 1; Steve Smith (CAN, DeVinci Global) 2:28.399, 2; Damien Spagnolo (FRA, MS Mondraker) 2:29.379, 3. Also New Zealanders: Brook Macdonald (MS Mondraker) 2:31.867, 6; George Brannigan (DeVinci Global) 2:32.590, 7; Sam Blenkinsop (Lapierre International) 2:33.104, 11; Cameron Cole (Lapierre International) 2:34.160, 19; Justin Leov (Trek World Racing) 2:35.454, 28 (all qualified); Tom Matthews 2:48.083, 109; James Rennie 2:52.371, 132; Kieran Bennett 2:53.606, 135; Edward Masters dnf; Daniel Aitken dns.