Mt Hutt Bike Park update
There were thrill, spills and flying finishes as more than 150 riders contested the New Zealand Mountain bike Downhill Cup at the Mt Hutt Bike Park on Saturday.
After spending all Friday learning the challenging downhill course, it was all about putting caution to the wind and being the fastest down the mountain on Saturday.
That honour went to Brook MacDonald of Napier, who blitzed the course in 2 minutes 24.18 seconds to win the elite men class, beating Australian Jared Graves by 0.98 seconds.
The big guns were showing how it was done as the top 15 times were all recorded in the elite men class, with only three of the top 20 times by other class riders.
Lower Hutt's Sarah Atkin took out the elite women with 2.53.92, which was the 71st fastest time overall.
Of the local boys, it was course creator Cam Bisset who recorded the fastest time, clocking 2.43.86, which was the 43rd fastest time and good enough for second in the master 1 men.
Sheldon Kneale was the next fastest with 2.45.20, 46th overall and 10th in the under 19 men.
In the senior men, Paul Johns finished in 2.51.52 to be 16th in the senior men and 65th overall, getting the better of his older brother by Mark who was 25th with a time of 3.02.82.
In the under 17 men Gareth Burgess achieved his goal of a top three finish and cracking the three minute barrier as his time of 2.52.91 earned him third, 68th overall.
The third place finish on his home track also saw Burgess finish third in the South Island Downhill Cup, the three combined South Island legs.
His younger brother Caleb came third in the under 15 boys' race.
At the lower end of the time scale, Jackson and Rose Green had predicted they would be the slowest on the mountain, but the tandem mountain bike couple set a better time than one of the elite men.
The Greens covered the course on their custom-built tandem mountainbike in 3.48.55, better than the American Chris Patton who finished in 10.39.64 after suffering an early puncture.
Mt Hutt Bike Park hosts stage three of the New Zealand national downhill championships
There is no snow and the skifield is shut, but Mt Hutt will be busy this summer. Bike Methven opened its mountain bike season with a shuttle day yesterday which saw more than 40 enthusiasts take to the sub-alpine slopes to have a skid on the Mt Hutt Bike Park.
"The rain on Saturday may have put a few people off but we still have a reasonable turnout for our first day of the season," Bike Methven President Mark Johns said.
The weather meant it was a low-key opening for what is set to be a big summer for the emerging mountain bike club.
"We have five more shuttle days planned and our diggler race weekend which is the most we have had on our calendar.
"We are also hosting a couple of events for the Gravity Club from Christchurch because they don't have access to their usual trails," Mr Johns said.
The biggest date on the club's calendar comes in January when the Mt Hutt Bike Park hosts stage three of the New Zealand national downhill championships.
"It's pretty big for us to be included in the national championship series.
"We will have around 150 of the country's top mountain bikers here and maybe some internationals as well with a lot of our locals entering.
"We have the trail all ready to go and a few of the guys were testing it out but the rain made parts of it a bit sketchy."
In just its fourth season as a club they have come a long way from a bunch of mate's pioneering down the mountainside.
"From when we started we now have a busy trail network on Mt Hutt which caters to all abilities.
"We have now been really working on developing our cross-country park and are hoping to have that up and running by the end of the season."
After getting access to the flatter land adjacent to the downhill trails, the club has been hard at work carving its way through dense scrub to shape a cross-country course.
"It's pretty messy in there with really thick broom and gorse but we finally got a digger and bulldozer in to do some heavy duty work and it's starting to take shape," Mr Johns said.