Capital Enduro – Riders from across Aotearoa and beyond take on Waiu Park’s steep, native trails
After last year’s successful inaugural Capital Enduro race in Karori, Intrinsic Events is holding its sophomore event at Wainuiomata on February 10 and 11. Once world famous in NZ for a bogan blonde with fluffy, tiger-stripe slippers (ask your parents), Wainuiomata is now home to some of New Zealand’s best riding. Set in native forest, the trails are natural, tech, sometimes steep, and always a good time. We sat down with race director Craig Murray for some insight into the event.
So, how did the Capital Enduro come about?
I just wanted to show off Wellington’s awesome trails to a broader audience, nationally and globally. Initially I pitched the idea to WellingtonNZ, the region’s economic development agency, and they were keen for me to get Enduro World Series racers to the city. The first race was planned for 2022 but kept getting shifted around because of event restrictions due to Covid-19. Then, in December that year, the EWS announced that it was no longer doing qualifier events, so the focus changed from being a global-level race to a national race.
What other races has Intrinsic Events organised?
I was the event director and manager of the Giant 2W Gravity Enduro for four seasons. I grew that to be one of the largest enduro races in the world. We were getting 700 riders each race. With that experience, and having a really amazing operations team as well, who also deliver Crankworx around New Zealand, we thought let’s deliver what we’re doing here in Wellington. So, that was the pitch to the city with the goal of being in the running to host tier one enduro EWS race in the future.
I lived in Wellington for five years. I moved from Raglan, as a surfer, to Wellington and picked up mountain biking back in 2009 or 2010. So, I did a lot of riding around the city. I lived in Mt Victoria for a while, then right near Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park. Then I got a job in Rotorua. I did about 15 mountain bike races there and the idea popped up to recreate what racing in Rotorua is like, a globally recognised destination to ride bikes. Wellington is a great place to ride too, but it’s just less well known. Wellington is different to other riding destinations in New Zealand, because you can literally drop into a trail and then roll out into a craft brewery. It’s unusual how the mountain bike trails are so integrated into the city.
How was the vibe at the inaugural race last year in Karori?
I think it may have been the first time that all three peaks had been involved in an enduro race, specifically K Hole, which has some pretty gnarly features. It went really well. We had more than 300 people enter and we were blessed with epic weather, you know, the “you can’t beat Wellington on a good day” kind of weather, except we had it for a whole week. Interestingly, 72 per cent of the riders at that race came from outside of the city. The way we do our marketing and outreach is to try and get people from outside the region to come into Wellington and experience the trails first hand.
There were heaps from New Plymouth, Queenstown, Australia, people from Whangarei, and heaps from Rotorua as well. We had a few teams–a big contingent from Tauranga.
What was the feedback from the out-of-town riders?
They just didn’t realise how amazing the trails were. They had no idea.
Why did you pick Wainuiomata as the venue this year?
I’ve done quite a lot of riding in Wainuiomata, and I really enjoy the riding there. It’s also a really cool location in terms of the event hub and infrastructure around it. The Wainuiomata Trail Project, who are the custodians of the trail centre, have been super cool and have done quite a lot of work to get the trails ready.
There are two difficulty categories racers can enter–easy and hard. What’s the idea behind that?
It’s about having an option that caters to riders other than the elite competitors. If you just focus on the elite level, you leave behind a massive part of the mountain bike community. We actually have three race categories, so we have junior as well, which is for under-10s, and includes three flatter stages in the lower areas. Then we’ve got the easy category, which includes up to the harder grade four trails. And then, with the harder course, we’ve included trails in that wouldn’t usually be in an enduro race at club level. It just gives us an opportunity to throw really tricky trails at people. You might have 150 riders racing the hard course who’ll be giving it their best on the trickiest trails in Wainuiomata.
Why did you decide to add more age categories for this year?
The first time we did the Capital Enduro, the age categories were based on EWS rules only. That meant that 30 years old and above was the oldest grade, so a 55-year-old could be competing against a 30-year-old, which people thought wasn’t fair. So, we thought we’d just add some age categories to cater for more people.
Tell me about the cash prizes for the winning racers.
So, it’s $1100 each for the winners of the open hard course category. Second place gets $500 and third $300. For the Easy Open category, the winners take home $400, with $200 for second and $100 for third. Plus, there are lots of spot prizes. We’ve got some really good elite riders entered–we have Rae Morrison, one of the top EWS racers in the world, and there’s a big contingent from the Pivot team coming. Plus, of course, local racers like Jesse Cseh and Eliott Smith. They’ll be hard to beat at home.
What’s your vision for the Capital Enduro?
In an ideal world we’ll keep growing the event to host a tier one Enduro World Cup race in Wellington. It’s a big goal, but you’ve got to have a big one, don’t you?
For more information or to enter, go to capitalenduro.co.nz