Mountainbike gold and silver for NZ pair

New Zealanders Sam Gaze and Ben Oliver have blitzed the mountain biking cross-country final at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, taking gold and silver in a dominant performance.


Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Gaze attacked with two laps of the eight-lap course to go, opening out a 40-second over Oliver with one lap remaining.

The 26-year-old defending champion cruised home for back-to-back titles in 1hr 34min 19sec, with Oliver second in 1:34.50.

Gaze said he had poured everything into the race over a course which was technical and challenging.

“I just wanted to empty the tank today – I really wanted to start out solid and separate ourselves from the rest of the race,” he said.

“I just rode a consistent tempo. This course is hard, there a lot of accelerations and corners. I rode my speed and tried to finish strong and I’m just really happy with the way I delivered my performance and also felt during it.”

Oliver, who finished fourth at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, was satisified with the silver behind the in-form Gaze.

“It was actually a real long race – just trying to keep the momentum up and not back off,” he said.

“Sam really stepped on the gas with two-and-a-half laps to go. I kept my pace all the way to the line, hoping he was going to fade a bit but obviously he didn’t.”

Teammate Anton Cooper, who took silver behind Gaze at the Gold Coast Games four years ago, was yesterday forced out of the race after contracting covid.

Both Gaze and Oliver said Cooper’s absence was a blow, as New Zealand had a good chance of completing a clean sweep.

“Gutted that Anton couldn’t compete to try and go one-two-three,” Oliver said.

“I had a real strong day and we had quite a big gap on everyone else so it showed just how strong we were.”

Gaze agreed: ” We deserved three people on the podium today, and I think all of New Zealand is gutted – Ben and myself are gutted – that Anton isn’t here, with covid.

“I hope that we did him proud.”

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