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Winning downhill trio return to Scotland

Podium finishers Kiwi riders Erice van Leuven, Poppy Lane and Sasha Earnest
The medal-winning New Zealand trio return to Fort William in Scotland for the UCI MTB Downhill World Series starter. PHOTO: SWPIX

New Zealand’s talented trio of mountain bike gravity riders return to the scene of their triple triumph for the opening round of the UCI MTB downhill World Cup in Scotland.


Kiwi riders Erice van Leuven, Poppy Lane and Sasha Earnest created history on the slopes of Fort William with a podium lock-out for the trio at the UCI World Championships in August.


They are among 25 Kiwi gravity riders competing in the first round of the 2024 UCI World Cup, returning to the famed slopes of Fort William, set in the Nevis Range north-west of Glasgow.

Fort William has been hosting UCI MTB World Cups since 2002 and has been the setting of some of the most iconic moments in downhill mountain biking history.

It is one of the longest courses (2.8km) on the circuit, and pits competitors against a brutal, energy-sapping race run, while unpredictable and changeable conditions can often lead to surprising results. 

The teen trio have all progressed to contracts with professional teams and on the circuit fulltime, with van Leuven (Hutt Valley) in her second year with Commencal Les Orres, while Earnest (Auckland) has joined Trek Factory and Lane (Mt Maunganui) rides with High Country.

The trio might well need to watch for another rising kiwi in Tauranga’s Eliana Hulsebosch, just 17 years, who claimed the national junior title and rides for the Union professional team.

There are 13 Kiwi men lining up in the elite competition, with old hands like Brook MacDonald, Wyn Masters and Sam Blenkinsop all returning with new teams.

Last year’s top ranked men’s elite Kiwi gravity rider was Rotorua’s Tuhoto-Ariki Pene (MS Intense) who leads the Kiwi charge, while there is expectation in the return from injury for the outstanding Lachie Stevens-McNab (Union) after dominating the domestic scene this summer.

Queenstown’s multi-national champion Jess Blewitt has returned after an injury-plagued 2023 with Cube Factory, keen to make her mark in the elite women’s competition. She is the sole New Zealand rider in the elite start list, with former junior world champion Jenna Hastings recovering from a leg injury.

There are seven New Zealand riders on the junior men’s start list this weekend, led by the exciting Hawke's Bay rider Tyler Waite, who has been picked up by the strong Yeti-Fox Factory team, while Christchurch’s Luke Wayman returns to the junior circuit, joining the Gravity Cartel.

There is a change to the format this season with qualification for all four grades on the first day, followed by semifinals for elites, with the select few only to move through to the finals on the second day.

The qualifying is from noon on Saturday local time (11pm NZT) and semifinals from 3pm (2am NZT Sunday), with finals from 11.30am (10.30pm) on Sunday through to elite men’s final at 2pm (1am Monday).


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