Yeti Trans NZ Enduro Kicks Off

“Today was a whole lot bigger than last year with a good mixture, even within each stage,” said Zac Williams (Dunedin, NZL), currently sitting 8th in Open Men. “We had a mixture of three to eight minutes in length on the timed stages, and liaisons between 15 minutes and an hour and a half. The start of the Trans NZ was definitely a whole lot better, getting to see the terrain for what it really can be. Simply amazing.”

Queenstown, New Zealand— The second annual Yeti Trans NZ greeted 120 racers with unparalleled kiwi conditions on February 28, 2016— sunny skies, temps in the 80’s (26°C), and a quintessential combination of rocky terrain paired with loamy, grippy, root infested trails. Quite the contrast to last year’s deluge on Day 1, which shortened the day and deprived racers of experiencing the finest of Craigieburn Forest Park’s trails.

Adjacent to the eastern flanks of the Southern Alps, Craigieburn is an environment of extremes— alpine trails crisscross through eroding scree fields, tussock grasslands, and rugged mountain peaks looking down from 2300m, and dive down into the dense mountain beech forests on the lower slopes.

“I have always wanted to come to New Zealand, and I love stage racing to begin with, so I figure an enduro stage race would be a really fun way to see the South Island, and try a new discipline,” said Sonya Looney (Kelowna, CAN), Open Women. “I like how the landscape is really dramatic, and everyone’s so chill and having a great time.”

Straight out of the gate, it was a fast and furious start with the most technical bit within the first 100m of Luge Trail. Race organizer, Megan Rose forewarned everyone not to “blow their gasket” whereas her counterpart Ted Morton, assistant event manager, left riders with the advice at last night’s briefing “when in doubt, throttle it out.” It became a game of pacing on the transitions, and letting it hang out on the timed descents, as the day unfolded over 27km, 1200m of untimed climbs, and equal part timed descending.

Stage 3 was a favourite among racers. Widely known as Cheeseman DH, this stage presented many opportunities for racers to show off their style on the drifty motocross turns before the track dipped below treeline and in alignment with the fall line.

“Any stage that makes your legs burn when you’re not pedaling is a good stage,” said Luke Sheehan (Camborough, AUS), Master 40+ Men.

Stages characteristically finished on the opposite side of a stream crossing. A chicken wire bridge was a luxury, however, three out of the five stages concluded with a scramble through a flowing stream to find the control station and scan in. Afterwards, water bottles were refilled with a quick dip in the creek to enjoy pure (giardia free) New Zealand water. 

Stage 5 ended on the Hogs Back, dropping into Castle Hill Village. No water fording was necessary to beep in, but for those who wanted to keep their journey consistent, a ground level water slide was available immediately after the finish line to cool off after 4 to 6 hours in the intense sun. Less ozone, less pollution and closer proximity to sun means 7 percent more UV radiation than the northern hemisphere in the summer.

The Open fields are already heating up with 74 men and 13 women vying for the top spots (and rightly so, bragging rights). The range of mountain bike discipline backgrounds is impressive— a former Olympian, 24 Hour World Champion, several accomplished enduro champions, and downhill retirees from across the pond, all here to battle it out with local knowledge. Carl Jones (Rotorua, NZL) is leading the Pro Men with only a 28 second lead on Aaron Bradford (Seattle, USA). Bradford had quite the finale on the last stage about seven seconds from the finish line.

Deborah Motsch (Annecy, FRA) leads the open women with a comfortable gap of a minute over the rest of the field. “It’s my first enduro stage race, and it’s new for me to race five days straight. So we have to manage every day— mechanically and physically. It’s a great experience to discover this kind of race, and meet people from all around the world.”

“I lawn darted onto the only concrete in the stage pretty sensationally, and got my money’s worth and left some skin out there. We’re looking at a couple stitches. I’ve got quite the gaping wound. I actually can’t see it, but I see everyone’s reaction and that says more than enough,” Bradford said. “This whole ordeal cuts into the caving and swimming I had planned for this afternoon. But that’s okay, we’ll keep charging.”

The vibe is already at an all time high with competitors converging at Flock Hill Station for cold beers, farm fresh food, and a relaxing atmosphere to swap stories, work on bikes, and prepare for Day 2 which will round out the full experience of Craigieburn Forest Park with four stages before this enduro village heads to a world renowned mecca of mountain biking, over 500km away.

The Yeti Trans NZ will be posting regular updates on Facebook and Instagram throughout the week, and daily video recaps on Vimeo. Hashtag your photos #transnzenduro to make their way onto the live stream of the Yeti Trans NZ’s Media HQ. For more information email megan@ridingbc.com or visit www.transnz.com.

DAY 1: OPEN MEN

  1. Carl Jones 24:22
  2. Aaron Bradford 24:50
  3. Flynn George 25:01

DAY 1: OPEN WOMEN

  1. Deborah Motsch 29:20
  2. Katie Oneill 30:20
  3. Sarah Rawley 30:45

Click HERE for full Day 1 Results