The final round of this summer’s 2W Gravity Enduro in Rotorua started from a race HQ that could have been designed for it: Lake Tikitapu, or the Blue Lake. The sold-out field pedalled out in to the forest to race six stages on gruelling downhill trails, and while conditions on the day were hot and dry, there were plenty of challenges on the steep and root-infested courses, still slick from recent rain.
The big question was whether the two riders in the hunt for the Ray White Ten Grand Slam would be able to claim New Zealand mountain biking’s biggest payday, with $10,000 up for grabs to anybody able to take a clean sweep of the three rounds as overall winner in their gender. Rotorua’s Keegan Wright and Raewyn Morrison from Wellington had made themselves contenders by winning the first two rounds, and had to be favourites for the final. Many things can go wrong on a long day in the forest, but on the day both riders stamped their authority on the event with clear wins.
Both riders won every stage of their competitions, and both even backed up a few stages by taking another crack at them and recording the second fastest times as well! Wright’s total time of 38’40” was almost a minute clear of second man Carl Jones, who also had a minute in hand over the solid third place of downhill specialist Louis Hamilton. Veteran downhiller Nathan Rankin pulled out an impressive fourth place and Connor Hamilton rounded out the top 5. All are from Rotorua except Levin’s Rankin.
The womens race was even more clear-cut, with Morrison dominating in 45’13”. Her lead over Australian import Ronja Hill-Wright was well over three minutes, and third place Lisa Horlor was another minute back. 2005 downhill World Champion Vanessa Quin was fourth, and former NZ XC representative Katie O’Neill was fifth.
Tough competitor James Alexander was joined by his ray White colleague Anita Martelli to present the $10,000 cheque to the winners, and it was ceremonially dissected so the winners could have half each.
The Giant 2W Gravity Enduro is already the biggest race of its type in Australasia, and now it is the richest for prizemoney as well: as well as over $40,000 worth of merchandise taken home by riders, the event paid out over $20,000 in cash over the three rounds.