New Zealand’s biggest mountain bike payday is only a day away - or is it? The Giant 2W Gravity Enduro in Rotorua’s Whakarewarewa Forest is one of the headline events of the Rotorua Bike Festival, and could make a couple of top riders even happier than usual to stand on the top step of the podium.
Based at the stunning location of Rotorua’s Blue Lake, the final round of this season’s event is a cliffhanger. Rotorua real estate company Ray White has put $10,000 up for grabs in the Ray White Ten Grand Slam, to be split between riders who can win all three rounds in either the mens or womens competition. If only one rider manages the triple, it is winner takes all! In the countdown to the big cheque, both genders have a competitor in the mix: Keegan Wright in the mens field, and Rae Morrison in the womens. They have each scored secure victories in the early rounds, but this is extreme mountain biking, over six tough stages, and all it will take is a small mistake or a mechanical issue and the big payout will disappear.
Both Wright and Morrison are confident they have what it takes.
Other riders in both fields are close behind, eager to take the lead at any opportunity. Rotorua’s Sam Shaw and Carl Jones are both seasoned competitors in cross-country events, and have turned their hands to enduro with success in the Giant 2w and other events. A possible dark horse is ex-pro and one time Junior World DH champion Cam Cole. Cam is only recently retired and will have to be watched.
The womens field includes placegetters from previous rounds Annika Smail and Vanessa Quin. Smail has won a stage in a previous round, so must be a threat.
The race is a sell-out, 450 riders will face the starter on Saturday. Riders will race four stages, or six in the premier event, and must complete all the stages and return to the race HQ within their event time limit. 6.5 hours for the six-stage event makes for a long day, so riders will need stamina along with speed.
A prize will be awarded in memory of Cole Walker, a local rider who died last year.
Riders will be keen to get home after prize giving and freshen up for the Mountain Bikers Ball on Saturday night, a fundraiser for the Dodzy Memorial Skills Park.