Day two of the Yeti Trans NZ danced a fine line of an adrenaline pumping pucker factor, and super fast, super flowy tracks that entertained riders through four stages, up and down trails at the foot of Craigieburn Valley Ski Field. This was a new route for 2016, as last year’s course on Mt. Hutt was decommissioned due to logging shortly after the inaugural event.
A bit of fatigue is beginning to set in as the initial race nerves have worn off, and riders faced 815m of climbing, and 907m of descending over 26km, all by Noon, so the enduro circus could pack up midday and traverse the South Island to the Pinewood Lodge in Queenstown by dinner time.
The early morning wake up call made Stage 1 a fresh start, featuring locally built jumps and drops down the Dickson Trail. A fine mist settled into the valley with cool temps for the big 500m climb to follow. The road incrementally steepened, and one by one riders fell off of the horse and began marching up towards the Edge Trail, the portion that Ted Morton, assistant event manager, described as the “highest pucker factor of the day”.
Riders emerged above tree line, feeling slightly victorious, but only momentarily until they headed directly into avalanche scoured terrain, passing the sleepy base area of the ski field on the way. The Edge fully lived up to it’s name; even the transition required forging through a couple of scree fields before entering the starting corral.
While some riders thoroughly enjoyed teetering on the edge of a cliff with fast, tight, squared-off corners, a punchy climb through scree, followed by a steep, slippery path back into the beech forest, others found their limits out on the track.
The Edge dropped directly into Anti-Luge, where riders could ease their minds and flow the trail in reverse of what they transitioned on Day 1.
The fourth and final stage sent riders down Coal Pit Spur, almost directly into Flock Hill Station, to quickly grab lunch and pack their bags before being whisked away in buses. The Trans NZ evolved into a scenic tour for the afternoon, as shuttles weaved through the Mackenzie Country, internationally acclaimed as a dark sky reserve, where the quality of air makes star gazing some of finest in the world. Mt. Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand offered stunning views as the troops rounded Lake Tekapo and headed towards Central Otago.
Tomorrow ushers in a big challenge with the longest day distance wise, 1550m of ascending, and 65 percent more descending that climbing. “We’re headed to really different terrain, and it’s going to be really tough; it’s a huge epic ride. You drop a long way down from the peaks, and the climb back out is just as big,” Leuchs said.
The lead in the Open fields remain consistent with Carl Jones (Rotorua, NZL) keeping a strong margin over his competitors with 12 seconds on Flynn George (Colorado Springs, USA) for Day 2, and 51 seconds overall. Aaron Bradford (Seattle, USA) had to drop out today due to surgery to repair his severe road rash, but rumor has it he will return to ride Days 4 and 5. Deborah Motsch (Annecy, FRA) has widened the gap to 1 min 42 seconds over Katie Oneill (Rotorua, NZL).
Three more days and 13 stages remain, integrating in even more aggressive terrain and longer descents. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.transnz.com.