One of the showpiece events of Queenstown Bike Festival went off big time this evening as top Kiwi and international riders soared high above hundreds of boisterous spectators at the annual Slopestyle comp, New Zealand’s only Freeride Mountain Bike (FMB) World Tour 2014 event.
An icy wind whipped the huge crowd into a frenzy as the downtown Ballarat Street parking lot came alive with floodlights, beats and thrilling moves from both the amateur and pro fields. Riders were battling for a share of the $5,250 total prize pool including $2,000 provided by Veolia Water for best trick.
Conor Macfarlane, described by event MC Tony ‘T-Man’ Moore as ‘the most underrated mountain biker in New Zealand’, finally won his hometown comp and a cheque for $1,300 after finishing third last year and runner-up in 2012.
Conor’s third run score of 88 edged out Wanaka’s Elmo Cotter by two points making it a successful evening for Mons Royale, the merino clothing company that sponsors both riders and the event itself. Phil McLean of Christchurch took the remaining podium spot with a best run score of 85 points.
Conor said his fluidity the whole way through the course was key to his win.
“I had a good feeling when I landed my third run because I was last down. This is actually the first big comp I’ve won bar Farm Jam. It’s been a while so I’m pretty happy! We’re always at the jumps just having fun and when you’re having fun that’s when the tricks happen. I reckon having fun’s the most important thing to progress you,” he said.
Top amateur was 16-year-old Hamish Burrows from Dunedin proving he has a very bright future with a best score of 79 putting him ahead of Invercargill’s Levi Goodall on 73 and local Queenstowner Jeremy Cox on 69.
Best trick was judged off the final booter in a separate jam session after the main runs. Paul Langlands caught the judges’ eye with an unbelievable front-flip tailwhip, the first time he’d ever landed it in competition. German visitor, Jonas Berndt took second and the consistent Phil McLean finished on the podium again with third.
Event manager Fraser Gordon was full of praise for both the riders and his team.
“We had heaps of aerial goodness tonight. It’s a testament to the spectacle these guys put on that so many people came out to watch and we couldn’t have put on the event without the help of our outstanding volunteers and crew,” he said.
The downtown course was designed and built by head judge Tom Hey’s company Extra Mile Trail Building with local legend Kelly McGarry, who missed out on a podium spot this year.
Six monster hits began with a 6m-long lip drop into a 5.4m high quarter to wall hip before flowing into the main line of a trick in-and-out fruit bowl, 7m ‘money trick’ jump and finally twin quarters with a wall option.
Tom said the course took three days to build and was designed to give riders the freedom to express their own style and put on an epic show for the crowd.
“We used an excavator and bobcat to shift and pack down 300 cubic metres of prime local dirt and create a course that would challenge, inspire and entertain. There were no flat bottoms to the features which gave it a trails-style flow,” he said.
Summing up, Tom said the standard kept getting better every year.
“The comp went awesome as usual. It was a little bit windy tonight but the riders still managed to pull on through. It was pretty tight on the judging, especially with the top five. Conor did a real good last run and tricked everything. Tricking the back wallride was crucial,” he said.
The 2014 Queenstown Bike Festival continues tomorrow (Friday) with the Torpedo7.com Coronet Enduro starting with registration at 9am at the base lodge at Coronet Peak ski field. Shuttles will be provided to Cavells Café and Bar at Arthur’s Point for prize giving and results from around 3:15pm.
Saturday sees riders of all ages abilities bike the annual New World Tour de Wakatipu along an exclusive course from Millbrook Resort in Arrowtown to Chard Farm along the Kawarau River. The 2014 festival closes on Sunday with the awesome R&R Sport Mega Avalanche that tracks the Remarkables ridgeline right down to the valley floor followed by the Finale Party at Winnies on The Mall.
More information and results are available on the Queenstown Bike Festival’s website at www.queenstownbikefestival.com.