CORONA DIRTMASTERS DH RACE

Reon Boe crushed the competition with understated style to take out the win at the very first Corona Dirt Masters downhill race on Sunday. His time was seven seconds faster than the next fastest riders, Jed Rooney and Eddie Masters, who were divided by hundredths of a second. Amazing considering the three and half kilometre course was on the plus side of five minutes.

[The following is taken from the official press release but garnished with a few added details for entertainment's sake]...

Spectacular action highlighted the inaugural Corona Dirtmasters Downhill in the Ben Lomond Forest at the Queenstown Bike Festival today (April 24), as 80 competitors took on the challenge with top honours going to national downhill exponent Reon Boe of Queenstown, in a time 5.08.50 minutes.

Boe was the fastest qualifier and the top seed, and a big crowd gathered at the Brecon Street steps to watch him put in the quickest run of the day ousting from the hot seat second fastest rider Rupert Chapman of Christchurch, who clocked 5.13.56. Boe walked away with $200 for his efforts as fastest time of the day.

“This was an awesome race and it's such a good thing for Queenstown,” says Boe. “I am sure we can get lots more people to come here in summer and hopefully one day we can hold a World Cup downhill.”

One of the stars of the day was 17-year-old Reuben Olorenshaw of Nelson who held the hot seat against many older competitors with his blistering time of 5.18. Rupert Chapman won the under-20 section followed by Christchurch’s Nick McConachie in 5.23.

The veteran (which should have been called Masters not Veteran because we aren't that old yet) men’s title went to Seb Kemp of the Sovereign Republic of No Fixed Address in a sizzling 5.22.44 that must have made him lose a few more hairs. Seb Kemp has both Corona and Vertigo Bikes to thank hugely for helping him out with a bike and a cool refreshing beverage for the weekend. The skidding one headed off local guru Jim Hawkridge who clocked 5.29.20 and Vertigo’s Tim Ceci who was left rocking the baby with a 5.31.59. Tim Ceci has been the local old man to beat for years so this begs the question, does having kids slow you down or is there a new generation of super human old fogies coming through the ranks after floundering mid-pack in seniors for years?

The master’s title went to well known Queenstown rider Graeme (Morg) Morgan, who put on a top performance recording 5.33.08. Morgs has been terrorising the trails on Skyline all summer and has had his eyes on this prize for some time. Tony 'T-Man' Moore did a 5.47.23 but still had enough breath to announce the riders as they came down the Brecon Street steps. Thanks to T-Man for being a bloody good chap and a great ambassador for mountain bikers.

The fastest woman of the day was junior Veronique Sandler of Nelson competing in the under 16 section and clocking 6.27.35. Veteran Teresa Blanpain of Dunedin won her category in 6.39.28 while the open women’s title went to Canadian Amy Freedman Davies who made her debut in the event. She recorded 6.59.18 despite crashing on the course to beat national women’s mountain bike champion Kate Fluker, also competing in her first ever downhill event. She timed out at 7.15.88, placing second, and says she will be riding in more downhill events in the future. Kate Fluker (Reon's missus) also won the Tour De Wakatipu XC endurance race the day before, as well as competing in last week's Outside Sports Super D.

“It was awesome and I was stoked because I shaved a minute off my qualifying time. This is such a great event for Queenstown, everyone’s loving it.”

Ok, that's the (sort of) official press release, but now time for some spit and gristle...

The above photo was taken at the finish line. Sort of. Riders were whisked up to the start line by the gondola and then swooped and pedalled their way down to the finish line just out of view of this shot. Once they crossed the bottom beam they had to carry on to the top of the Brecon Street steps and 'parade' down them and across a second line. This was an excellent concept as it brought non-bikers into the party, and non-bikers means more coverage which means mountain biking perhaps gaining some legitimacy in the eyes of Joe Public AND more people means outside sponsorship. Usually mountain bike events take place high upon some wind blown ski field or in the middle of some ruddy field, which isn't much of a draw for spectators. However, all it takes is switching things around and bringing mountain bikers into the town. Unlike those bonkers urban downhill events that actually take place in towns, mountain bikers can be kept happy by still riding their mountain bike in the actual mountains. Queenstown is fantastically placed to do such a thing as it has a network of existing DH trails that feed pretty much right into Fergburger.

Massive props has to go to Geoff Hunt (Southern Traverse organiser) for having a vision of mountain biking and doing something about it. Often mountain bikers have a pretty close-minded idea of how an event should be or how to promote it, but Geoff sees the larger picture and can harness resources that a mountain bike club or $2 race organiser could not harness.

There were some early quiet complainers who tried to put a dampener on this event, but I think they have been shown up as small town small-minded granny pant wearing moochers. Some people were perhaps nervous that someone was going to come from outside of the closed community of mountain bikers and put on an event just to make money. Well, money has got to be made and I don't yet see any negative effect of that. Two days after the event all I can see is the gleam of a well organised event which in its first year may have done more for wider mountain biking than numerous other events that have been held for years but only accessible by nerdy bikers in the know.

The course wasn't the most electric but it sure as hell was fun. Five minutes is a long course, so even though there weren't too many sections that obviously required line choice, getting down in one piece fast required other skills too. To really divide the sprayers from the players, there were several lengthy pedal sections, most notably at the very end. If you had the fitness, or in some cases, the depth of character to hurt your lungs and legs, then you were rewarded. Those that sat down found that with the rest of the course being pretty straightforward they weren't able to make up enough time in the 'technical sections' to compensate. The organisers and Nathan Greenwood decided that in the first year of the event it would be best to run the course on a (relatively speaking) straightforward track, so as to encourage less experienced riders to have a go at racing for the first time. This worked and also meant that the race was not held up by endless back boarding delays. Except one unlucky fella who tried to core sample a Ponderosa on the step-up. In the future the tracks will be a little more demanding, and with the development of trails up on Skyline we should have some very interesting racing for years to come.

The Queenstown Bike Festival was hinged on three big events (Outside Sports Super D, Tour De Wakitipu, and DirtMasters DH) but was stacked with other less competitive reasons to ride (night rides with R&R staff, Skipper Canyon shuttles subsidised by Vertigo Bikes, kids rides, road rides etc etc). There have been plenty of riders from around New Zealand and Australia that have visited this week and had a blast. I hope next year more riders will travel from further afield to take part in the events here. I don't think people will be disappointed. It would be great for Queenstown to have all the visiting racers and riders back here again, like a few years ago when the Nationals brought downhillers into town for a week of summer riding. Those weeks were some of the most fun weeks of the summer as the visiting circus used to bring a different energy into the town and make it a party atmosphere, on the trails and Shotover Street.

One final thing, please please please, will people stop referring to anything Queenstown does as 'like Whistler'. Yes, Queenstown has a gondola and lots of great trails, but it isn't Whistler. Yes, Queenstown just had a ten day festival, but it isn't like Whistler's Crankworx. Please New Zealand, take inspiration from around the world, but don't deliberately stand in the shadow of giants. What you have is an incredible infrastructure for riding, relatively speaking, a large riding community, and the potential energy to do great things that the rest of the world's riding communities will be inspired by. So please drop the Whistler this, Whistler that. Rant over.

The results HERE.