Saladini leads. World Cup 4X, Maribor, Slovenia

Name: Blenkinsop, Sam

Nickname: Blinky

Age: 21

PoB: New Zealand

Team: YetiFox Shox Factory Race Team

World Cup Overall 2008: 5

Career highlights: Winning 2008 Schladming World Cup.

Favourite food: Mum's Lasagne

Sam's somewhat modest objective for 2008 was to be in the top 10 at World Cup races. So it may have come as some surprise to the Kiwi ripper when he shot over the line in Schladming to take the last race of the 08 World Cup season. For anyone on the hill or in the pits over those few days in Schladming, a surprise it was not as Sam clocked the fastest times in practice and semis. He claims the bike was made for tracks like Schladming, but this detracts from his more general success in 08, and a natural ability on a bike.

Saladini leads. World Cup 4X, Maribor, Slovenia

Following a somewhat disappointing start to the 08 season, placing 31st at Maribor, Sam proceeded to make the top 10 at each of the remaining rounds of the World Cup, culminating in that first place at Schladming, ahead of the more established figures of Sam Hill, Greg Minnaar and Gee Atherton. Consistently finish in the top five of the World Cups, and you're in with a shout at the overall. Blinky was almost there this year, coming from nowhere in just his second season out of juniors.

Having done well at the World Championships in Fort William in 2007 and at Schladming in 2008, we could assume that the Kiwi rider is suited to the bigger, more demanding downhill tracks. It's no secret that Blinky loves a bit of motocross when he's not on the push bike, which undoubtedly helps with big hits and big jumps. At such an early stage in his career it would however, be wrong to make such judgments, and anyway, he did well at all but one round last year.

With a first world cup win under his belt, he will be hungry for success in 2009. The support and ambition of the Yeti team, coupled with some solid off season training and second at the NZ Nationals, will surely lead to big things in 2009.

Read Sam Blenkinsop uci downhill mountain bike world cup dirt fantasy league rider profile