The fifth and final day of the 2018 Yeti Trans NZ Enduro presented by Shimano crowned the week with three rowdy stages and otherworldly views that demanded every last ounce of energy racers brought to the line. Ever changing weather, challenging conditions, a variety of trails, and blind racing kept dynamics exciting until the very end. Even the top riders of the week felt their limits pushed on the final day. But when the last racer crossed the finish line, the kiwism of "she'll be 'right" finally sunk in.
Jonas Meier Open Men came out swinging taking the lead over Jerome Clementz on Days 1 and 2. “You don’t know what to expect when you get someone like Jerome coming over from France. But if you know the track, and know how to ride your bike, I think it’s entirely possible to hold off the big hitters.”
Meier’s favorite day of the week was Queenstown. “Stage 1 was really technical, steep, gnarly. That’s the stuff I really enjoy riding. When it gets more technical and sloppy, and people start to winge a bit – that’s when I like it the best.”
As the week went on, Clementz pulled ahead of Meier on Coronet Peak, in Alexandra and on the final day in Queenstown.
“I rode my pace all week. I didn’t make big mistakes - of course, you make mistakes when you're racing blind, but I tried not to make big mistakes,” Clementz said. “I had to fight with locals. Jonas knew Craigieburn and had a bit of an advantage. It was always tough to compete, but I rode cleaned and stayed in the lead the rest of the week.”
Paul van der Ploeg Open Men raced the Yeti Trans NZ for the second year in a row. Contrary to what one would think he found knowing the tracks more challenging to attack than while racing blind, particularly in the bike park.
“It was another awesome week of riding, and I am stoked to finish in one piece. I was confused by the increase of difficulty on the last day as I rode through Stage 1, as I expected to cruise through the final day like we did last year,” van der Ploeg said. “But instead, I cooked a rotor today – it was definitely the hardest stage that we raced on all week."
Stage 1 brought racers down a classic Grade 6 rated route after climbing to the top of the gondola on Skyline Access Road which averages nearly 14% over the two-mile climb. For those who are familiar with the nooks and crannies of Skyline Bike Park, “Fundy” replaced “Grundy” which upped the ante significantly, particularly with the morning drizzle leaving a silky residue on the rooty drops.
Megan Rose, founder and race director of the Trans NZ, has a trademark for keeping the pucker factor high, despite the conditions on any given day. When the best riders on course are challenged past their line of comfort, then she’s done her job well.
“I want every solid rider to be able to experience the entire week, so I try not to get too crazy at the Trans NZ. However, there were a few things on Day 4 and 5 that were over people’s heads,” said Megan Rose, founder and race director of the Trans NZ. “But it’s also cool for them to experience what others are capable of riding, and give them a goal to come back after.”
“My goal is never to attract only the Pros – I love the attitude of people who want to have a good time and not be too serious,” Rose said. “In the end, you have those top-level riders who know how to have a good time and a few riders who are completely out of their element. Part of the mastering the logistics is figuring out the right mix for both of them.”
As much as Rose likes to see riders push past their limits, she knows how to keep the stoke meter high. Riders were treated to a gondola ride up the mountain before tramping up the longest hike-a-bike of the week to the Ben Lomond Saddle for the start of Stage 2.
“The Trans NZ is a journey more than a race for me. I love the landscapes, the trails, and all the microclimates we travel through – from the lush forests of Craigieburn to the almost-desert landscapes of Alexandra, the MacKenzie country, and the high-alpine tussock of Coronet Peak,” said Digby Shaw, professional photographer and three-year vet of the media team. “It’s pretty special to come back to these places at the same time every year, and see them differently each time.”
The variable conditions throughout the week were not only pressing for the racers, but for every party involved. Volunteers were pedaling one hour before the first racer drops, and sweeping up to two hours after the majority of racers had their feet up. The media team fought to keep their equipment functioning and banger ratio high through the wind, rain, intense sun, and overcast skies. Drivers had to keep van-fulls of smelly racers happy and bikes unscathed, and the food fairies – everyone would have been hangry as without their nurturing tendencies keeping the food stations stocked for hours on end.
Bex Baraona is winding down from her off-season in preparation for a full EWS season and decided to volunteer for the Trans NZ. “I felt like I was on holiday as a lead rider. I went out and rode the whole course every day for fun,” Baraona said. “Next year, I wouldn’t mind getting into the mix a bit more instead of being out in front all week. Now that the race is over, I can feel everyone is buzzing from the week.”
Baraona could have easily thrown down competitive times throughout the week if she was racing, but instead it was Emily Slaco who was on fire all week for the win in the Open Women’s category. Winning all of the stages for Open Women, except two, Slaco raced everything purely blind.
“I have really loved my time in New Zealand so far – the variety of trails has been amazing and kiwi hospitality is top notch! Riding in B.C. is similar in some ways as we have lots of different trails in our systems, so I’m sure that helped prepare me a bit,” Slaco said.
[PI=15652241 nopbcaptionw]A sneaky creek crossing sandwiched between slippery roots on Stage 3 of Day 5 keeps tire selection honest.[/PI]
As racer finished Stage 3, energy was at an all-time high. Everyone has their own story to tell, but throughout the week, there were individual highs and lows. Our local kiwi guide, Tom Bradshaw, recognized these at the final dinner after we cheered on the videos and photos on the big screen and sent plentiful “churrrs” around the pub to Megan, her righthand man, Nate Corrigan, the vollys, local mountain bike clubs, sponsors and media team.
Without their drive, passion, and dedication to the sport and the event, we wouldn't have experiences like these that we look back on, and recognized how much they've changed us for the better. If you have even the slightest inkling of making the big trek to do this race, remember that if you don't do it this year, you will be one year older when you do. Registration will open for the 2019 Yeti Trans NZ in mid-September. Never one to hold back, Rose is playing with the idea of turning the Yeti Tranz NZ Enduro into a six-day event. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or subscribe to the newsletter at www.transnz.com.
Writer's Note: Three consecutive years of racing the Yeti Trans NZ, and this year was by far the most challenging. Adverse conditions kept things lively stage by stage as well as after-hours - interviewing people, extracurricular sunrise and sunset shoots, working on the fly by night, and strapping on a race plate by day. It's an honor to work with a team of incredible creatives who are just as talented on the bike as they are behind the lends. A big ol' chuurrr to Digby, Woody, Dane, Nate, Ben, and of course Megan, Nate and Kiwi Tom! Until next time.... see you all at the Stages Trans BC!
~ Sarah Rawley (Golden, USA) Open Women, 5th Place OverallResults:
1. Jerome Clementz 1:44:41
2. Jonas Meier 1:46:26
3. Brady Stone 1:48:42
4. Paul van der Ploeg 1:49:17
5. James Hall 1:49:56
1. Emily Slaco 2:10:03
2. Renee Wilson 2:14:34
3. Harriet Beaven 2:24:02
4. Alice Hawkins 2:31:43
5. Sarah Rawley 2:32:04
Master Men 40+
1. Christian Wingate 1:56:23
2. Michael Ronning 1:59:32
3. Kashi Leuchs 2:00:32
4. Matt Harrington 2:01:24
5. Mat Wright 2:08:56
Master Women 40+
1. Anna Harden-Taylor 2:44:13
2. April Bedford 3:12:20
3. Elizabeth Clement 3:21:51
4. Robyn Hawkins 3:44:05
5. Nicole Goebel 4:16:57