Action on day four of the Queenstown Bike Festival returned to Queenstown Bike Park for the Vertigo Bikes Dirtmasters Downhill, New Zealand’s only gondola-assisted downhill race.
The morning session was a steamy affair with mist lifting from the wilding pines on Bob’s Peak. Nearly fifty riders ranging from Under-15s to the solo 40+ Masters representative – event MC Tony ‘T-Man’ Moore – laid down some epic practice and seeding runs.
Even at this early stage, the locals watching at the Rowdy Roots reported they’d never seen riding like it. A big crowd at this halfway point created a party atmosphere clanging bike frames with spanners, shouting through loud halers and starting up chainsaws to send competitors through in a blur of mud and noise.
The best was yet to come after the break with the final run in reverse order to decide who would share the $1,800 total prize money. Support from naming sponsor, Vertigo Bikes plus Jowett Architects ensured an equal split for men and women.
The Open Women’s comp was settled first with Harriet ‘Bob’ Latchem taking the win in 3:52.76, less than five seconds ahead of fellow Queenstowner, Alanna Columb with Harriet Harper third, ten seconds further back.
Bob was still breathless as she took her place on the leader’s throne.
“That was awesome. I can’t breath though! Good track, awesome day – thanks guys,” she said.
The lead then changed hands frequently as the men continued to huck off the concrete steps down into the town centre finish area. It came down to the fastest two seeds with Daniel Meilink from Wellington edging Swiss pro, Dominik Gspan by just 2.63 seconds with local Quentin Chanydet third, a further four seconds behind.
Daniel Meilink’s mind-blowing time of 3:17.35 was more than four seconds faster than his seeding run. He said he’d been living and riding in Queenstown over the summer.
“It’s a friendly town with some awesome locals. I’m stoked – there’ll be a big party tonight! My run was pretty tidy and there was plenty of loam off the main line to grip into. I couldn’t really concentrate through Rowdy Roots – there was a lot of heckling,” he said.
Both Meilink and Gspan are off to Cairns later this month for the 2014 UCI World Cup series event but in different roles – Dominik as a competitor but Daniel as a mechanic for the Bergamont works team.
Set by event manager Paul Haysom, today’s downhill course linked several of Queenstown Bike Park’s epic tracks. A rowdy start straight down World Cup went into a rooty section on Grundy before riders headed down Unleaded Link and Thunder Goat to the finish on Battle Stag.
“We threw in a few sneaky detours to mess with the locals’ heads and give the out-of-towners half a chance. It was a more technical, harder track than normal designed to offer no respite even for elite riders. With a bit of rain overnight the conditions threw in an extra challenge but everything held up pretty well and we had a great comp,” said Paul.
Queenstown Bike Festival continues tomorrow (Wednesday) with practice for Thursday’s downtown Slopestyle comp and Devil Burger Airbag Jam plus the ‘Through the Lens’ bike film showcase at The Find.