This year will be another memorable one for Rotorua and the local bike festival will kick it off in style in mid-February. It is ten years since the city hosted the 2006 UCI Mountain Bike & Trials World Championships.
“That really was the first time that the international mountain bike spotlight was on us and was a huge success,” said Dave Donaldson, Rotorua’s deputy mayor and long time cycling advocate. “Since then our reputation has grown and the length of our trail network in the Whakarewarea Forest has doubled.”
Since 2006, Rotorua has also become a unique destination. It’s the only mountain biking centre in the world to have hosted a UCI World Championships, a UCI Trials World Cup round, the Singlespeed Mountain Bike World Championship, Crankworx and a round of the Enduro World Series. In 2015 this was enhanced when the International Mountain Bicycling Association awarded the bike park and city their prestigious gold status.
The Bike Festival is an integral component of that ongoing development. And, while the city is mainly known for mountain biking, the festival is an illustration of the diversity of the local cycling community.
There are two road events, Bike the Lake, with a one or two lap circumnavigation of Lake Rotorua and the Hill Climb Fun Challenge up Mount Ngongotaha on the northern edge of the city. BMX Rotorua is home club to a number of world champions, including Sarah Walker, and will host a National Qualifier meeting on the first weekend of the festival.
Many of the events are open to all bikes, like the spectacular QE Health Ride the Runway, part of the Runway Project presented by Air New Zealand at Rotorua Airport. Sport Bay of Plenty’s Go-by-bike and Family Fun Ride aim to get all ages on to bikes and many events on the programme are free to enter or gold coin donation, only.
“This is part of the long-term strategy of the festival,” said Dave Crowley, chairperson of the Charitable Trust that oversees the 10-day festival. “We’re also very pleased to have our two main partners – the Rotorua Trust and Rotorua.com – back on-board reinforcing the community spirit the festival thrives on.”
The Festival will add to Rotorua’s unique CV on the final weekend, hosting a third world championship in the last decade.The World Endurance Mountain Bike Organisation (WEMBO) 24 hour Solo World Championships will begin at midday on February Saturday 20 and wrap up the festival on Sunday.
The championship is open to anyone who wants to accept the challenge. The Nduro24 team’s event will run alongside it in the same village, but on a separate course. Race director, Tim Farmer, is an endurance mountain biker, himself. “My wife, Belinda and I are like more and more people, moving to Rotorua for the mountain biking,” he said. “Getting into event organization seemed like a very natural step for us and now a couple of years later we’re running a world championship…amazing and a dream come true.”