An eerie mist filtered through the canopy of the Whakarewarewa forest as 450 riders set off with six hours to complete six Race Stages on a course that would challenge riders of all abilities. A thrilling course was set by race director Neil Gellatly and in the spirit of Enduro it was a course intended to test riders' fitness and technical ability. Hosted on the 2nd weekend of the Rotorua Bike Festival, the event started and finished outside Brew Craft Beer Pub on Eat Streat.
Though the drizzle may have been relief from the relentless summer sun it also laid down a layer of moisture that would turn some trails into slick, greasy ‘just hold on and enjoy the ride’ race stages. But through the mist at the bottom of each race stage came riders dripping from humidity with tales of crazy near misses, wild rides and that wide-eyed look that someone has when adrenaline is pumping through their bodies.
Shuttle pick-up points were abuzz with chatter as riders caught up with one another while refuelling on R-line nutrition, Mistress of Cakes baking and coffee from Flying Espresso. At the busiest shuttle pick up point shuttle queues moved quickly as Southstar Shuttles delivered 129 riders every half hour to the top of Race Stages A,B,C and D. Race Director Neil Gellatly commented, “it’s just great to come out and see everyone enjoying the riding and the camaraderie of the event. It really is the spirit of the riders and volunteers out on the course that make it such a great day”.
In a stacked men’s field there was close racing from the top ten overall riders. But Trek Racing rider Justin Leov (Christchurch) outclassed the field to finish with a total time of 35:06, with Matt Walker (Rotorua) just 26 seconds behind with 35:32 and Ben Robson (Rotorua) at 36:04. As well as taking the prize money for overall winner Justin Leov also won cash for five out of six race stages. Justin heads overseas in April to compete for Trek at the Enduro World Series. He commented, “of all the New Zealand events I’ve done this is the best. Well organised, great trails–I’ll definitely be back”.
Again in the women’s field there were plenty of top riders from different mountain bike disciplines fighting for honours. Continuing her form from recent wins Rosara Joseph (Wellington) recorded the fastest overall time with 40:35 and winning cash for four out of six race stages, with Meg Bichard (Nelson) at 41:13 and Jenna Makgill (Auckland) at 42:10 finishing second and third respectively.
The winners of the grade results were:
Female under 19 Harriet Beaven (Auckland), Female 19–29 Meg Bichard (Nelson), Female 30–39 Rosara Joseph (Wellington), Female 40–49 Simone McGregor (Rotorua) and Female 50+ Sarah Beadel (Rotorua).
Male under 19 Keegan Wright (Rotorua), Male 19–29 Justin Leov (Christchurch), Male 30–39 Ben Robson (Rotorua), Male 40–49 Mike Metz (Rotorua), and Male 50+ Gary Sullivan (Rotorua).
Race Director Neil Gellatly will turn his attention to the Cardrona Giant 2W Gravity Enduro which will be held on April 12 2014. He had this to say about the new event:“The new Cardrona event is epic in size and nature. With the 4500 metres of vertical descent in four special race stages, it’s higher than descending from the summit of Mt Cook to sea level in a day's riding. From range summit and mountain top down to the valley floor over a variety of alpine, sub alpine and high country terrain, this Enduro echoes the World Series Events in Europe.
For full event results, photos and video, from all past Giant 2W Gravity Enduro’s, check out the event website on www.2w.co.nz.
Written by Katrine Gellatly.
Photography by www.meadnorton.com