The Yeti Trans NZ saved the best for last with a grand finale— spectacular panoramic views overlooking Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables, as racers plummeted down three stages to complete a monumental week of racing. Although it’s 18km felt short in distance, the final day’s course did not lack in scenery, roots or rocks— the three core essentials of an epic trail— leaving racers with a lasting impression of New Zealand’s premier mountain biking.
The event headquarters perched at the base of the Ben Lemond Reserve, provided the launching point for racers to pedal from their bunks at Pinewood Lodge, straight to the top of Queenstown Bike Park. Twenty-seven mountain bike trails create a tight fitting, intricate network of 30km down the steep side of the mountain averaging in grade of 37.1° along the Gondola vertical rise of 450m.
Rose upped the ante on the first transition with a hill climb challenge up Skyline Road. The time to beat— 25:21. Amy Krahenbuhl aka Big Red (Santa Cruz, CA), Open Women not only won, but she destroyed Rose’s PR with a time of 21:30, and was awarded a tandem paragliding trip from Gforce.
Stage 1 combined several trails in the bike park for a fast ride down the mountain. “The first stage was awesome. I liked all of the steep roots,” said Jack Menzies aka Jack the Ripper (Canmore, CAN), the 14 year old who ended up 26th in a competitive field of 60 Open Men.
Racers ended back at the bottom of Gondola and enjoyed a moment of reprieve and scenic ride from the Gondola cabin, before one more big climb to the Ben Lemond Saddle at 1326m. At about 800m, soft pedaling evolved into pushing along alpine tussocks and shrubs. Stage 2 paralleled parts of the transition, giving racers a view into what they would be flying down.
Halfway down the stage, racers peeled off onto the brand new Missing Link Track, finished literally the night before in headlamps, thanks to the Queenstown Mountain Bike Club’s “GSD” aka get shit done, mentality. The loam factor was at an all time high in the home stretch, eating unsuspecting racers’ front wheels meters before the finish line.
A short n’ sweet transition along Beeched As brought racers up to the third and final stage of the race— a fast and furious root assault along Fernhill Loop, and then back into the bike park for a swift finish through jumps to the finish line.
Flynn George (Colorado Springs, CO), Open Men won every single stage on Day 5, and ended up second overall behind Carl Jones (Rotorua, NZL).
Back at the event headquarters, riders cheers’d with special edition Yeti Trans NZ brews from Queenstown Brewers, and reveled in their week together. Adult summer camp was coming to a close, but in the meantime, more celebratory drinks were to be had downtown.
“The Trans NZ is a journey through all of the diverse landscape of New Zealand, and it offers the best ride ever. I had a ton of fun on the trail, meeting people, and learning about New Zealand,” said Tito Tomassi (Annecy, FRA), who ended up 8th overall in Open Men despite a massive mechanical on Day 3. “I would like to thank the Trans NZ crew for the awesome job they have done, the builders for the trails, and the community.”
This event would not have happened without the passionate energy coming from the volunteers. “I really like the atmosphere of the week, and all of the volunteers were great, always with a smile and cheering everyone on at the start line, and then everyone was at the finish line high fiving with each other,” said Deborah Motsch (Annecy, FRA) who took the top step in the Open Women’s category.
The media team also deserves a special shoutout for their tireless efforts running around the courses to capture the action, and staying up into the wee hours of the night to edit photos and push out daily updates.
Throughout the week there were a few casualties on the media team including a trampoline incident, separated AC joint, skinned up elbows, and multiple crashes. When queried on what was really going on behind the lens, Whelan said no further comment could be made.
Unfortunately Aaron Bradford (Seattle, USA) could not return as the crowd had hoped for on Days 4 or 5, as the injuries he sustained were more than superficial gashes. Bradford will have a skin graft on Monday in New Zealand, and then take it easy for a couple months which means cancelling his trip to Chile and Argentina for the first two rounds of the Enduro World Series (EWS).
“I had my biggest adventure and win of the week on Day 1. It was quite a monumental point in my life where I could feel like I could walk again without too much pain,” Bradford said. “But it’s been a good time here in Queenstown. The weather has been amazing, and there has been a a bunch of good racing. I came here with a bell on my bike, and I ended with a bell in my pocket so I could cheer everyone on.”
For those who missed out on this epic adventure, registration will open for the 2017 Yeti Trans NZ in mid-September. The field will be limited to 120 riders, so if you’ve been meaning to make the trip, stay tuned for future updates on Facebook and Instagram. Videos from Days 4 and 5 will be released next week, and photos will be made available directly from the photographers. 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 subscribe to the newsletter at www.transnz.com.
Day 5 Results
Day 5: Open Men
1. Flynn George 19:58
2. Lindsay Klein 20:25
3. Carl Jones 20:34
Day 5: Open Women
1. Deborah Motsch 24:10
2. Agata Bulska 25:06
3. Katie Oneill 25:29
Day 5: Master Men 40+
1. Randal Huntington 21:15
2. Christian Wingate 23:01
3. Damian Walsh 24:08
Click HERE for full Day 5 Results
Overall: Open Men
1. Carl Jones 1:57:26
2. Flynn George 1:58:29
3. Lindsay Klein 2:00:24
Overall: Open Women
1. Deborah Motsch 2:21:10
2. Katie Oneill 2:26:32
3. Sonya Looney 2:32:39
Overall: Master Men 40+
1. Randal Huntington 2:06:11
2. Christian Wingate 2:12:29
3. Damian Walsh 2:21:40
Click HERE for Overall Results
These recaps were brought to you through the real life experience of pedaling the entire 5-day race. It was a privilege to be out on course with the rest of the competitors to authentically portray the ins and outs of each day, and then collaborate with the media team who kept the comedy hour alive when the rest of the village was fast asleep. I can’t thank these guys enough for hustling all week long to make covering the event an absolute hoot.
- Sarah Rawley (Keystone USA), 4th Open Women