Words Gary Sullivan Photos Jason Beacham
HECTIC ACTION PRODUCES A SENSE OF DEJA VU AT 2W SECOND ROUND
The courses were in pristine shape for the second round of this seasons’s Giant 2W Gravity Enduro in Rotorua - right up until the night before race day. Then the heavens opened, and while the conditions were not too bad for the event a decision was made to change the steepest course to a more mellow option.
The stage most competitors in the six-stage premium event were talking about took in the trails built for the Enduro World Series: Riff Raff and Rocky Horror. Because the overnight rain created the possibility of a treacherous course, and the potential damage that could be done to a wet track by several hundred riders, the stage was changed to include a very different trail, the cruisy flow of Split Enz, one of the iconic trails in the huge Whakarewarewa Forest network.
In the end it made little difference to the result, as reigning champions from the first round held their nerve, and both took out their respective events.
Keegan Wright and Rae Morrison took another step each toward collecting their share of a ten thousand dollar payday in the Ray White Ten Grand Slam. Should either of them falter the other could scoop the entire prize, so all eyes will be on what happens in the final round during the Rotorua Bike Festival on February 13, 2016. The big question is whether some new competition will arrive for the Festival and steal the day, but on their current form both riders look solidly in control.
In the Mens event Wright held a good margin over the much better performing Carl Jones. Wright finished the six stages with a good half minute in hand, while Jones fired well to be over a minute clear of third placed Sam Shaw, who must be feeling like history repeats with another third. The next few placings were much tighter, with ex-downhiller Nathan Rankin just clear of XC star Dirk Peters.
Last time around Keegan Wright was fastest in every stage, but this time Jones won two, and Wright was only fourth in one stage. But it's the fastest overall that counts for the win, and Wright’s combined times won out.
Raewyn Morrison had a much more emphatic victory to back up her first round success, winning all six stages and putting Annika Smail two minutes in arrears by the end of the sixth stage. Smail repeated her second place from the first round, while Tauranga’s Vanessa Quin stepped up a place into third.
The racers take a break now until February, when a new set of courses will test them again. Will the Ray White Ten Grand Slam be claimed by one or both of the riders who are in with a chance? One thing is for sure, anybody beating them will have to be right on their game.
Visit www.2w.co.nz for all event details and to enter.