of the Otago Daily Times
The best mountain bikers in New Zealand and Australia will test their skills on Signal Hill in early next year.
The city will host the 2018 UCI Oceania Continental Mountain Bike Championships from February 9-11.
The championships are expected to attract more than 200 competitors and 500 to 700 support staff.
It is a post-Christmas bonanza for the city and a coup for Mountain Biking Otago, which is hosting the event in partnership with Cycling New Zealand and Mountain Bike New Zealand.
“This is a big deal,” Mountain Biking Otago president Kristy Booth said.
“It is a week before O Week . . . when the students are rocking back into town. And the Dunedin City Council have been so supportive of all the work we do on the hill. So to have an event like this and showcase mountain biking in Dunedin at its best is pretty good.
“It is the last big race for the cross-country guys going into the Commonwealth Games. And for the downhillers, we’ve got a lot of guys overseas at the moment, so it will be good to have riders of that calibre right here in Dunedin.”
Dunedin last hosted the event in 2010. On that occasion the downhill was at Signal Hill and the cross-country at Forrester Park.
“Our plan is to stage both races at Signal Hill, which means we will be constructing a new cross-country track there, which is exciting. It is great to attract an event of this size to our city.”
Former junior and under-23 world champion Anton Cooper will defend his elite Oceania title in Dunedin. He has also been asked to help design the course.
“I’m really excited to be racing Oceania champs in New Zealand again, and on a new course in Dunedin,” Cooper said.
“As far as international mountain bike events go in New Zealand, this is as big as we’ve had in recent memory. With lots of top Aussie competition bound to come to our shores, it will be an exciting spectacle also.”
Booth said the Signal Hill tracks had held up well in the recent rain, and most of the damage from the fire in February had been repaired.
_ ODT PIC High-flier . . . Otago downhill champion Calum Booth (Dunedin) takes a jump on the Signal Hill downhill track as Chris Garmonsway looks on. Booth will race in the elite field in the UCI event.PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSO