For those of you that don't know Nelson is in the midst of the annual Nelson Mountain Bike Club Top Gun, it's a three day, three discipline event and one designed to find the ultimate mountain bike racer. Forget just riding enduro, this rider will need to ride downhill like a god, have the brains for an efficient enduro and be able to get deep in the pain cave on the cross country course!
Round four of the NZ National Downhill Series arrived in town yesterday (you can read about that here) where Brit, Phil Atwill took the win from the locals. Not entered in the enduro Phil looked to be in town just for the DH, so as far as the Top Gun is concerned, second place Wyn Masters and third place Kieran Bennett staked their claim on top points to get the weekend rolling. With $1,000 prize money on offer, it's a game worth playing.
Day two in 'sunny' Nelson didn't disappoint, although huddled in the Maitai valley at 8am for registration riders in jackets belied the truth of the day. Out of the gates and 50m up the first climb and it was a different story though, the sun was beating down, the day was set to be a scorcher.
Typically, over the last few years the Top Gun Enduro has been three big classic Nelson trails, this year was a little different with the day being split into 5 shorter but by no means less fun stages. Stage one, Top Dog in Codgers Mountain Bike Park, eased riders in gently with just a hint of the steeps which lay ahead. Top Dog is your old favourite 'after work' type of trail, limited pedalling and a perfect warm up for the day.
A swift liason back up to the top of the park saw riders staring down the barrel of 'Smasher', one of Nelsons steeper creations. Smasher makes it's way down the hill in a series of straight lines into catches followed by short traverses, it's a trail that keeps you on your toes and your fingers on the brakes!
After barely climbing (in Nelson terms) riders set out to the top of stage three, 'Supplejack', a natural trail of hairpins from the very top until the creek, ending in a game changing singletrack pedal to the car park. Here was a stage where fitter riders and those willing to put pedal to the metal could stake a claim on some extra seconds. Supplejack was a real change of pace after the sculpted trails at the beginning of the day, this trail, in the native bush, is raw, river ravaged goodness!
The stage 4 start of 'Putakari' topped out at 457m of elevation, baking in the heat of the day riders took the chance to admire the view of the sea and the city as they recharged after a brutal climb. Putakari means 'battle' and for those riding this trail blind, it may well have been! Fortunately most racers were present for the Mammoth Enduro a few weeks back so will have had a taster of this new trail. For the locals though, Putakari is becoming a firm favourite due to it's diverse and technical nature. Get this one right and you'll feel like you have conquered mountain biking, get it wrong and you'll be thrown around and spat out on the rocks like a babies dummy.
With just 160m of vertical ascending and descending to go, riders turned up the fire road and back into the forest towards 'Mr Chomper' and the last stage of the day. Mr Chomper is another new addition to the growing Nelson network, built in the pine as an off camber slide fest, it has since been benched in a little, the jury is still out on the necessity of that one! The defining feature of the trail through are two huge berms, which by the height of them would have taken some serious man power. Well worth it though, if any racer didn't ride those berms with a smile then they aren't fit to be biking.
With results calculated on the golf course green at the end of the day, Kieran Bennett took the Elite Mens win, Loui Harvey came in just a few second behind proving his EWS training is obviously going well, then Wyn Masters rounded out third place. In the ladies, fastest of the day was Masters Female winner Amanda Pearce, not far off her was second fastest lady on the hill, Anja McDonald and then downhiller, Sarah Atkin took Elite Female winner and third overall. Full results can be found here.
Kieran Bennett, Loui Harvey, Wyn Masters, Amanda Pearce and Anja Macdonald will be amongst those rounding out their Top Gun weekend by racing the 20km XC loop tomorrow, let's see who can let out their inner lycra clad self and get their hands on the moollah!