To get a different perspective on the Giant 2W Gravity Enduro Series we sent along Nelson based pinner, Loui Harvey, to put his tyres to the tracks and pen to paper for round three in what proved to be a great weekend of classic Rotorua riding.
As the 2017 season moves closer many riders use race three of the Giant 2W Gravity Enduro Series as a check point to help gauge where they are at. This race was also recently announced as an EWS qualifier for 2018 so people were keen to get along in the hope of gaining some early points for next season.
It seemed the weather was going to play ball for round three as we looked forward to what locals were calling the best trails in Rotorua. The flat, highly scenic, fresh-scone-filled sail on the Interislander ferry to the North Island early Friday morning made for a great start to the trip and we continued northbound from Wellington in good spirit. It was a long haul arrived with just enough time to sneak a lap of one of the race trails before steak and fries at The Pig and Whistle.
We woke to a perfect day for racing with sunny skies and no wind. This meant all dry stages chosen by race organsier Neil Gellatly and his crew would go ahead. Arriving at the beautiful Blue Lake for briefing helped raise the excitement levels and riders began planning their route for the day. It was once again a stacked field including Justin Leov, Keegan Wright, Joe Nation and Wyn Masters.
Shortly after the briefing, all the 6-stage riders were set free in waves of 4. We teamed up with local pinner Ronja Hill-Wright, who not only turned out to be a great guide, but also killed it during her race, winning the women’s overall. Putting all our faith in Ronja we arrived at our first stage for the day ‘Te Rua’. Getting on this one early was a good idea as it was dry and dusty with tight, technical sections which made for an epic decent but had the potential to blow out as the day went on.
With a long day ahead we wasted no time heading back up to the top. Firstly, a forestry road followed by a well built climbing track that snaked its way through native bush and pine allowing for easy climbing to the top. Arriving at the start of ‘Tuhoto Ariki’ meant that we had the longest and gnarliest stage ahead of us. It seemed many riders had the same idea, opting to get this one out of the way early. Skipping your way along roots made for a great intro before reaching ‘Kataore’, also known by the locals as ‘Cutties’. From here the stage changed suit with some steeper technical sections that began to take its toll on the energy levels. The trail ended right on Blue Lake we had a short time to enjoy the view and refuel.
A bit of a pedal took us to our next stage but having a local with us ensured maximal time efficiency when finding our way to the top of ‘Hot X’. Talk of the local’s lines left us asking a few questions before attacking it. Conditions were perfect making this one a fast decent with a few pinch climbs to keep you honest. With our legs beginning to hurt and the odd hint of cramp we began a slow liasion to the top of ‘Te Tihi O Tawa’ (another local favourite). This stage traversed along classic Rotorua rooty terrain before hitting ‘Billy T’ where riders could really open it up.
The final two stages stringed some beauties together, starting at the top of ‘Hatu Patu’, into ‘Dammit Janet’ followed by ‘Rocky Horror’ became a definite weekend favourite. Linking these three trails together gave you a taste of everything that Rotorua has to offer, it was smiles all round as we reached the bottom. Planning our route to finish with ‘Kung Fu Walrus’ meant that although we would end on a technical stage, we had a nice pedal back around the lake to finish, this was an awesome venue for a summer race! Failing to check our watches we were forced to rush down after reaching the top of the stage as none of us wished to receive a time penalty, brutal sprinting!
Whilst full results can be found here, the winners of the 6-stage races were as follows: the fastest Senior Woman was Ronja Hill-Wright who was looking in good form following a good off season, whilst fastest Senior male was taken by local pinner Keegan Wright. The Master male and female categories were won by EWS racer Justin Leov and Janine Kavanagh respectively. Vanessa Quinn and Sean Mccarroll took the Classic female and male titles. Following their good form the previous 2W, Mike Spanbrook and Sarah Beadel took the top step again in the Legends category. Mitch Armstrong took out the male youth category with Kayla Russell and Cole Lucas winning their respective classes.
Fastest man on the hill went to Keegan Wright, in a time 0:34:01, only seconds ahead of second place finisher Justin Leov with a time of 0:34:07 and third place Joesph Nation who also was close finishing with a time of 0:34:14. The women’s class was tightly contested with the fastest female Ronja Hill-Wright with a time of 0:40:39 finishing just two seconds in front of Janine Kavanagh. Scotland’s Katy Winton rounded out the top 3 in the women’s class.
The day finished with a swim in the lake followed by prizegiving. If your name was one of the first three called during the spot prizes you were in for a race, literally! Starting at the top of the beach three contestants raced down to the lake where they had to fully submerge before racing back up the beach to receive their prize. One lucky contestant left with a bike whilst the others got dibs on the other great prizes up for grabs. The Local U23 Enduro Scholarship was also handed out to the lucky recipient, Daniel Self who received $5000 to help him pursue his goals overseas on the world scene.
Words - Loui Harvey
Photos - Jason Beacham
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