By Andrew Willmott | Posted: Monday March 15, 2021
Fingers were crossed as the South Island moved to Level Two just weeks before the event.
Last year’s iteration was cancelled due to Covid so anxiety levels were pretty high. However, the risk passed and another great event was able to be held on the slopes of Mount Hutt.
After huge initial interest we only had six riders travel up. Half of these boys entered to do all three events though! This tests a range of riding skills and requires real stamina and mental strength to back-up over three consecutive days. Congratulations to Ciaran Darwen, James Howard and James Gardner for managing this feat.
The first event was the Cross Country (XC). On tracks that were still wet from the previous day’s rain, just staying upright was a challenge. These conditions were also tough on equipment, as James Howard and Ciaran Darwen can attest to. James lost his rear axle early (when placed highly) and Ciaran had an issue with his front derailleur that eventually took him out of his race too. James Gardner was left to fly the OB’s flag. He placed a very respectable 2nd behind his nemesis, Ethan Woods (Motueka High School).
With improving weather the tracks were drying nicely for the Downhill event on day two. While the practice runs saw plenty of carnage as boys slid and bounced down the course, the seeding and timed runs allowed for big time improvements as the track dried and riders became more familiar with it. All six OB’s riders were entered in the downhill. Alex Gilchrist was one to watch after winning the Otago Championships. Unfortunately he had suspension issues and had to ride a borrowed bike. This action (and many similar acts of kindness) shows the amicable nature of the Mountain Biking community. They race hard but want everyone to have the same opportunity to compete. On an unfamiliar bike he went on to place 7th (out of 38). A huge effort having also taken a major fall in his seeding run.
In the U-17s you could hardly separate the OB’s boys who all placed respectively, mid field. James Gardner was the best positioned in 20th (out of 37). All the boys though showed big improvement on what was a very challenging trail.
Bruised, but still in good spirits, the team (with the exception of Josh Harris who couldn’t get in off the waitlist) competed in the Enduro event on the Sunday. This was the biggest event of the Championships, with more than 300 riders! James Gardner was again our best performed rider, finishing 26th (out of 46). The improving James Howard and Matthew Sebelin weren’t far behind James. Ciaran Darwen made big progress throughout the weekend and would be pleased with his result in the Enduro given the mechanical issues that plagued his weekend.
The School placed a respectable 18th out of 70 schools overall. Of our 3 students who rode all three events, James Gardner was the best placed. He finished 3rd equal in the U17s but missed out on the podium due to a countback that looked at his Enduro time compared with the other rider. James Howard and Ciaran Darwen finished 18th and 17th, respectively, in their age groups. Their results heavily effected by their DNF’s in the XC race.
It was great to have the parent support there (and from afar). A big thank you also to Mark Howard and Fiona Darwen for marshalling.