An intimidating name for an intimidating race, this weekend The Mammoth Enduro in Nelson took on the namesake of the grueling races before it. The races, which had given the Mammoth Series it's well deserved reputation, were dubbed, the hardest, the longest and the toughest, this was to be no different. Building up, riders were warned to be ready for the hardest tracks the orgainsers could lay pickaxe to, two days full of grade 5 plus singletrack, of which Nelson has plenty to choose from. In years previously The Mammoth has seen many incarnations from cross-country challenge to adventure race but this was to be the inaugural enduro.
The Mammoth was set to be huge, for anyone who has ridden Nelson, these trail names will be recognisable, with both days containing 1,350m of climbing and 2000m of descending. With credentials like this The Mammoth wouldn’t look out of place alongside the races often seen on the Enduro World Circuit, entries filled up and all that was left to do was wait and pray the ground would dry up.
Bright and early on Mammoth day one, the air at sign on was almost palpable. Bikes were tentatively loaded onto shuttles whilst discussion mostly surrounded track choice and how late it was possible to return home. After a spout of heavy rain in the week before the event, mother nature treated riders to a day and a half of sun in the days preceding the race and in true Nelson style the ground dried perfectly allowing riders a brief sigh of relief.
By 10am Saturday morning riders were 850m above sea level and dropping into stage one. A brutal first stage, Black Diamond interspersed short periods of downhill with some technical climbs that would have left more than one rider on their feet and sweating inside their helmets. The rooty tech of Black Diamond was just a taste of what was to come, with racers following the trail further along sunshine ridge and eventually to Peaking Ridge and stage two. This is a stage to test endurance to the maximum, with more than one rider left a shadow of their former riding selves after over 6 minutes of arm pumping technical riding. This trail in amongst native bush is a blast to ride, smashing high lines over root pits that the laws of physics say shouldn’t work. Staying smooth to conserve energy wins the day here and local rider Mike Cowlin took the stage win by five seconds, making sure Canyon Factory rider Justin Leov didn’t get a clean sweep all weekend.
Staying on the same hill, riders pushed and rode their way back from the Maitai Valley floor up to 660m and stage three; ‘Krankenstein’. Moss covered rocks was the order of the day and I think most racers will probably feel that the less said about this stage the better. The sun and breeze hadn’t quite penetrated the canopy enough to dry the slick mud lying between the rocks. Justin Leov ruled the roost here on this stage with the top three riders (Brad Collins and Kieran Bennett) all inside three seconds of each other. Over in the women EWS and multiday enduro racer, Meggie Bichard was again dominant taking her third stage win of the day.
The sun was in full force now though as the riders, once again hit the arduous climb up a firebreak to ‘629’. The trail is a world of steep chutes and switchbacks, snaking down from native bush to the pines, this weekend getting gradually more greasy as the trail loses elevation. Here Juliana rider Anja McDonald swooped in to take the stage win from Bichard whilst Justin Leov remained a few seconds ahead of the local riders hot on his tail. The final push up to the last stage of the day, riders had now sweated their body weight and minds would have been firmly on a finish line beer. Maitai Face in its steepest sections is well over 65% with steep corners in to catch berms time and time again as riders descended to the line and the final dib out of the day. At the end of play Meggie and Justin left with day one wins against their opponents, times close in all categories, tomorrow would see who had the stamina to hold on.
Nelson finally turned on the good weather this weekend and Sunday dawned another bluebird day. Knowing what was in store for them, Racers loaded bikes onto shuttles promptly, all eager to get started on another big day in the saddle. Again atop Fringed Hill by 10am, stage one and a run down the Fringe DH track would have been an assault to the senses to all those not quite awake yet. Rough and fast this downhill track would have been over far too soon with Anja Macdonald and Kieran Bennett showing dominance here, Kieran a full 21 seconds ahead of the rest of the men’s field in this stage alone. A cool breeze greeted the riders with a relatively short transition to stage two ‘Smasher’, a quick blast down the hill (all over in 3:42 for stage winner Kieran) and a trail which all told was in ‘prime condition’ after the rain.
A long and steep liaison up a punishing fire road followed bring riders to the start of stage 3 ‘Rimu’. Officially beginning life as a walker’s track, this trail is the epitome of natural singletrack, narrow with steep switch backs, each one better than the last as you find your flow through them. King and Queen of the hill here were Leov and Sasha Smith. Transitioning up the opposite side of the valley round to a point not too far away on the same ridge line, the riders dropped into Putakari at stage four. Newly dug and with more than a few surprises for some, this trail will become a Nelson favourite for sure. The stage flowed into another downhill trail, making for a fast and furious finish. Amanda Pearce showed her skills here, taking the top spot for the women with Kieran Bennett taking it over in the mens.
It was great to see racing was still so close at the last stage where a crash could be the difference between a podium and bitter disappointment in all categories. Stage five took riders up again to 415m of elevation to meet the entrance of Keyboard Warrior, a track lovingly crafted and well maintained until race day, making the most of the loose loamy topsoil. Weaving through the pines, the roost was flying as racers smashed down the smooth corners and into another new trail, really mixing it up for the locals, Leov and Bichard were again the winners here.
Stage five finished at the event base meaning those tired and relieved legs didn’t have far to go to hand in the chips and claim their all important times. Kieran Bennett snatched back the overall from Leov, leaving him in second and local pinner Loui Harvey in third. In the women, Meggie Bichard took the win after some close fought stages with Anja Macdonld in second and Sasha Smith in third.
The atmosphere was wildly different to that which began the weekend, most pleased with their results, some happy just to survive. This was a race of many goals, riders raced hard, as fast as they could, others happy just to keep in touch with the pack, a personal target just to make it round each day. Its safe to say the inaugural Mammoth Enduro was a resounding success, get your entries in early next year – you’re not going to want to miss out!