Sweet, Sharp Trails In The Yeti Trans NZ

Day 4 of the Yeti Trans NZ transported everyone to an incredibly unique riding zone, a mountain bike oasis that locals call a little slice of Moab mixed with a bit of Colorado, right in the heart of Central Otago. Alexandra may be far off the map as a famed mountain bike destination, but take a closer look and you’ll find a cache of distinct trails with rocky features, and loose terrain found nowhere else in New Zealand.

This is the driest part of the country, and also one of the hottest in the summer, and one of the coldest in winter. We don’t get a lot of rain or mud, so it’s a bit unique to New Zealand
— Phil Oliver, owner of Altitude Bikes

Oliver has been the driving force for the past 25 years behind the up and coming mountain scene in Alexandra. His local guiding company, Altitude Bikes puts on the Linger & Die MTB Race Series. After Megan Rose, race organizer of the Trans NZ went riding with Oliver, she wanted to incorporate the trail network into her event to offer a one of a kind experience for participants.

The entire course was set on a private sheep farm nestled on the banks of the Clutha River. The land owners grant special access for local trail builders and the community to construct trails on their property. Two months out of the year, the trails are shut down for lambing season, but there are three other areas on public land that are provide additional mountain bike trails. If visitors are keen to check out the area, just swing by Altitude Bikes for more info.

It’s unique how the communities get behind the Trans NZ because they know that for one day, they get to showcase their pride and joy and all of their trails builders’ hard work to 18 different countries (...) We can’t thank Phil and those guys enough for setting the stage, marking courses, and most importantly sharing their trails with participants of the Trans NZ.
— Ted Morton, assistant event manger

Racers were also lucky to endure more temperate conditions compared to last year’s heatwave, however, they were able to enjoy the same jagged terrain and sandy conditions. Oliver and Rose decided to throw the longest, most technical stage at the beginning of the day while riders were the most fresh and hydrated.

It was way different than anything that I have ever ridden before. In Rotorua we don’t have rocks and I’ve only ever ridden a trail bike out of the North Island once, which was just two weeks ago.
— Carl Jones (Rotorua, NZL)

Jones held onto his lead today over Flynn George (Colorado Springs, USA) in the overall standings, but the gap is decreasing as the week goes on. “The trails are different each day, so it’s super hard to remain consistent,” Jones said.

A total of five stages meandered through the hills, for 30km and 1340m of climbing and descending. Each transition was infused by fields of wild thyme, which originated from the gold mining era in the 1860’s when miners from China migrated to New Zealand.

They had a bit of rotten meat and wanted it to taste better. So they planted a bit of wild thyme and it took over the hills in Central Otago. It’s quite neat when you’re riding in it. It’s all over your shoes and smells real nice.
— Phil Oliver, owner of Altitude Bikes

During the timed stages, the recipe for success was to follow the pink dots and arrows spray painted on rocks, pinning the wide open fields and climbs, and respecting the rocks and technical moves. A little too much speed may result in overshooting the backside of a rock roll into a serrated abyss. 

Stage 5, a hard and chicken line presented the opportunity for racers to choose their adventure. A sweeping go around with a quick climb back up to the direct route, or down the main line on Lemon Rock, a 13m rock roller that catapulted riders into a pedalfest towards the finish line.

The festivities continued into the late afternoon at a local brewery where racers, staff and volunteers were rewarded with pints of beer, and the podium wild card entries, local riders who participated on only Day 4, won special awards handmade by Melissa Newell, aka “Mops”.

Phoebe Coers (Dunedin, NZL) took the win for the “On the Day’ers” Open Women. “It’s so different from Dunedin, which is mainly rooty and wet riding through pine trees. Today was so fun to come out and join in on the race. I am definitely putting the full event on the calendar next year,” Coers said.

The fifth and final day of the Yeti Trans NZ will revolve around Queenstown Bike Park, and surrounding trails outside of the resort. Both Jones and Deborah Motsch (Annecy, FRA) have solid leads on their fields, but as with any stage race, standings can change after a day, a stage, or a blink of the eye.

“I’ve never ridden in a bike park either. I’m not 100% sure what to expect, but as long as it’s got a few berms and a few jumps, I hope to keep it up there,” Jones said.

Stay tuned to 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 Trans NZ’s Media HQ. For more information email megan@ridingbc.com or visit www.transnz.com.

DAY 3: OPEN MEN

1. Carl Jones 25:29
2. Eli Krahenbuhl 25:40
3. Flynn George 25:43

DAY 3: OPEN WOMEN

1. Deborah Motsch 30:58
2. Katie Oneill 32:18
3. Sonya Looney 32:40

DAY 3: MASTER MEN 40+

1. Randal Huntington 28:20
2. Christian Wingate 29:05
3. Damian Walsh 30:26


Click HERE for full Day 4 Results
Click HERE for Overall Results