It's just as well a bit of water doesn't faze Rotorua mountain biker Sam Shaw, although the snow that hit yesterday's Giant 2W Gravity Enduro race was definitely something of a novelty. More than 300 hardy riders hit the Whakarewarewa Forest for the first 2W event of the season, undaunted by a southerly blast which slammed the region and sent temperatures plummeting to 0.2degC at one stage. Snow flurries hit the top trails mid-morning, while gales, hail and downpours alternated with glorious spring sunshine for the rest of the day, turning the pristine trails into a slippery mud-fest.
All of which was fine by Shaw, the 21-year-old former competitive swimmer and water polo player, who logged a combined run time of 33mins 21secs over the five-stage, 5hr event to add to the inaugural title he captured last year. "That was my first time riding up the hill in snow - I was always away with water polo tournaments when I was younger when it snowed so I was pretty stoked to finally be here for it," Shaw said. "Today was all about holding on for dear life. You just had to commit to the corners - the bike was sliding but you had to have faith in your wheels and wait for them to hook back up with firm ground. It was definitely a whole lot of fun though and I'm pretty happy with the win."
Shaw, who is studying ecology at Massey University in Palmerston North, was 46secs clear of fellow cross-country specialist Carl Jones, with another local, Ben Robson, third in 34.26. He recorded the fastest time on three of the five stages, with Jones topping the 2.4km stage linking Gunna Gotta with Paddy's Run, and 17-year-old Aucklander Keegan Wright topping the 3.7km stage which started on Huckleberry Hound. Nelson's Raewyn Morrison also took out her second 2W win in the women's division, after winning the October race last year. She was also second in the Cardrona round in April, where competitors had to battle an overnight hoarfrost. "Cardrona was probably colder but we prepared for it more - we had warmer clothes, a full-face helmet and plus we weren't wet," Morrison explained, after collecting her winner's cheque. You don't expect to have snow in Rotorua in October and the thing that got to me as well was being wet and having the strong wind. It was still heaps of fun and it all adds to these sort of events. I was just riding it like it was dry and not using the front brake - there were a few hairy moments but managed to ride out of them."
Morrison admits she hasn't tasted much mud lately, after spending much of the winter riding in Canada, but her fitness helped head off the challenge of Rotorua's Annika Smail, with another Nelsonian, Meg Bichard, third. Like Shaw, she took line honours in three of the five stages, with Smail and Bichard winning one each. Morrison is very keen to get more time on the Rotorua trails ahead of the Crankworx and Enduro World Series event in late March, with 2W events in December and February providing the ideal lead-in.