Now the coronavirus lockdown is just a memory for those of us lucky enough to live in New Zealand, racing is starting up again, with Middle Hill’s Mud Buster Enduro on Saturday one of the first events off the mark.
Nestled down the Clarence Valley on the King Family farm, Middle Hill is the passionate project of Great New Zealanders G and Morgz, who have been quietly building kilometres of beautiful single-track through the regenerating kānuka blanketing a hillside above the Clarence/Waiau Toa River basin.
More than 100 people showed up to the park’s first race, the Mud Buster Enduro, which offered four stages mixing techy and flowing singletrack – with the elite field heading back up to take on the bonus stage Honey Pot, a “triple black”.
Neighbours from around the valley came along to cheer the racers on and help empty the kegs at the after-match function.
Trail conditions were all time, with several days of dry weather following a wet spell in the run up to the race.
Some big names showed up hungry to get back between the tape, with the likes of Ed Masters, Sam Blenkinsop, Rae Morrison, Cole Lucas and Charlie Murray all on the start line.
Murray put in a dominant display in the men’s category, taking out four of the five stages and finishing 30 seconds clear of Bradley Harris and Ed Masters.
Murray said the racing was tight and loose with some decent climbs to blow out the Covid-19 cobwebs.
He was impressed by the relaxed feel of the event. Murray said it was great to see everyone smiling and chatting in the sun after a challenging five months of coronavirus affecting people’s lifestyles.
In the women’s field, Morrison cleared the course more than a minute ahead of Louise Kelly and Melissa Newell.
Morrison said she had a blast, with the amazing tracks offering a great mix of flow and technical riding in one of the most stunning parts of the country.
She said she loved the blind racing and the chilled-out vibe of the event and was already dreaming of heading back to Middle Hill to explore the rest of the trails.
Race organiser Will Keay said a primo few days of weather before the event meant the trails were perfect and everyone seemed chuffed to be out riding at such a sick spot.
“G, Morgz and the King family have created a paradise and seeing more than 100 people show up from all over the South Island is a true testament to the trails and the location.”