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Three podiums for NZ riders in Scotland

Mixed emotion for New Zealand at the UCI MTB Downhill in Scotland
Luke Wayman in action for New Zealand in the 2023 UCI MTB World Championships at Fort William in Scotland. PHOTO: SWPIX

There were mixed fortunes for young Kiwi gravity riders at the opening round of the UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Series in Scotland.


Three New Zealand junior riders – Sacha Earnest, Eliana Hulsebosch and Luke Wayman - earned podium placings to cap an outstanding start to the downhill round of the world series.


It was a happy return to the famed Fort William course in the north west of Scotland, where Earnest won the world championship bronze medal last year. This time the Trek Factory gravity rider went one better with second place.


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She was joined on the junior women’s podium by Tauranga’s Eliana Hulsebosch, who celebrated her world cup debut with third place for her Union professional team, while Christchurch’s Luke Wayman was second in the junior men’s final, riding for the Union-Sinter Factory team.


Meanwhile, world champion Erice van Leuven, sporting the rainbow jersey in her return to Fort William where she won the junior honours last August, suffered a flat tyre while holding a significant lead in the junior women’s final.


The teen was 2.8 seconds up through the second timing point but screamed in anguish with realisation that her deflating tyre would end her podium hopes.


Van Leuven showed remarkable skills to complete the 2.8km rocky course with a flat rear tyre to finish miraculously in fifth place.


Van Leuven’s despair was countered with the podiums for Earnest and Hulsebosch who both rode with poise and purpose on the rocky course, run in foggy but dry conditions without the usual strong winds sweeping through the Nevis Range.


Hulsebosch, the Tauranga 17-year-old, enjoyed an outstanding world cup debut for her Union professional team, after impressing in the summer including recording the fastest time for all females at the national championships.


Scottish rider Heather Wilson took advantage of van Leuven’s misfortune to win in 4:56.675 and claim the opening round honours ahead of Earnest and Hulsebosch.


The junior men’s finish was keenly fought, with two Cantabrians Oli Clark and Wayman showing their intentions when they qualified fourth and fifth fastest respectively.


It was Wayman, who has been in superb form over the New Zealand summer, who produced an outstanding run down the 2.8km course to finish second with Clark eighth on debut.


Wayman clocked fastest times on every timing point on the challenging course sit on the hot seat until American Asa Vermette (Framework Racing) tore down the track to win in 4:10.550.


The elite men’s honours went to Frenchman Loic Bruni convincingly from Australian Troy Brosnan while Austria’s Valentina Holl edged out German Nina Hoffman in a close contest in the elite women, with no kiwis making the elite finals.


The next round for downhill is in Poland in two weeks, with the Enduro World Series getting underway next weekend in Italy.


NEW ZEALAND RESULTS


Junior women: Heather Wilson (GBR) 4:56.675, 1; Sacha Earnest (NZL, Trek Factory) 5:00.272, 2; Eliana Hulsebosch( NZL, Union) 5:00.287, 3. Also: Erice van Leuven (NZL, Commencal les Orres) 5:19.103, 5


Junior men: Asa Vermette (USA) 4:10.550, 1; Luke Wayman (NZL, Gravity Cartel)  4:16.637, 2; Daniel Parfitt (GBR) 4:16.758, 3. Also: Oli Clark (NZL, Union-Sinter Factory) 4:19.407, 8

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