2) Arc of a Diver, Wayne Gedye © Mead Norton

Wayne Gedye, best dressed at the 2013 New Zealand Singlespeed Championships in Rotorua (Photo: Mead Norton).
One of the most entertaining events on the New Zealand mountain bike calendar is returning to Rotorua, where it all began in 2008, on Sunday April 26.

This year’s New Zealand Singlespeed Championships will also mark an important anniversary in the history of the country. It’s the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli in Turkey when soldiers from New Zealand and Australia formed the Anzac tradition.

“The champs has always run on the closest weekend to Anzac Day,” said Gary Sullivan, president of host club, the Rotorua Singlespeed Society. “We organise a dawn ride to the Anzac Day service at Ohinemutu on the shores of Lake Rotorua and want to make this year even more special than ever.”

While the championships is eccentric, with extravagant costumes, tattoos for fastest man and woman and on-course beverages, it also has a heart of gold and a serious side. “We’ve made substantial donations to the Cancer Society, CanTeen and 88 Bikes over the last seven years,” Sullivan continued. “This year we’ll be doing the same to the Returned Servicemen’s Association and to Kidney Health New Zealand…the more entries, the more we’ll be able to give.”

The dawn ride opens the event on Anzac Day, Saturday April 25. Race day is on Sunday, based at Waipa mountain bike car park, followed by an after race party at the Society’s long-time HQ, the Pig and Whistle Historic Pub. The riders will return to the Pig on Monday morning for a Big Kiwi Breakfast. “This is a good time to catch up and have another laugh or two,” said Sullivan. “It’s the first Monday-ization of Anzac Day, so a day off for all of us.”

The Championships always attract a good turnout from Australia. In 2010 when the Society hosted the Singlespeed World Championships in Rotorua nearly 200 Australian riders joined 800 more from 30 countries to compete. In 2015 one of the finest endurance singlespeed riders, current 24 Hour Solo World Singlespeed champion Brett Bellchambers from Australia, will be on the start line. He is planning to return in February 2016 for the WEMBO 24 hour Solo World Championships that will be a feature of the 4th Rotorua Bike Festival. “I’ve been to Rotorua twice, when I was bike touring in 1998 then again in 2010 for the Worlds,” said the affable Aussie. “I had a great time and I’m really excited to be heading back.”

The rehearsal for WEMBO, the Gloworm 24 hours of Nduro, kicked off three of the biggest months of mountain biking in Rotorua and New Zealand in late January. The 3rd Bike Festival in mid-February was the most successful so far, with around 5000 entries over 30 events and 10 days, an increase of 25 per cent. One of the oldest mountain bike events in the country, the day/night Nzo Moonride starts on Saturday March 21. From March 25 to 29, the international firepower of Crankworx arrives in the Southern Hemisphere for the first time. Running alongside this will the Giant Toa, round one of the 2015 Enduro World Series. April features New Zealand’s premier off-road triathlon, XTERRA Rotorua, based at the Blue Lake/Tikitapu and on the magnificent trails of the Whakarewarewa Forest Mountain Bike Park.

The Singlespeed Championships will take to those same trails a fortnight later to wrap up a remarkable summer and autumn in what is widely regarded as the world’s best all-year-round mountain bike resort. “We’re at the sillier end of the spectrum, though one-geared mountain biking isn’t easy,” said Sullivan. “There will be serious business at the sharp end in pursuit of those prized tattoos, but the rest of the field will be happy to be 2nd equal.”

The event is loud and colourful. “We get a great turnout of spectators enjoying the day,” he added. “There’ll be tutus and tiaras…and that’ll just be the blokes.”

More information and entry: www.rotoruasinglespeed.com

And: facebook.com/2015AnzacSinglespeedChamps

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