bigquotes Welcome to the jungle... If you want it you're gonna bleed but it's the price to pay.


Guns N Roses

These days most people tend to equate New Zealand with the breathtaking, Lord of the Rings backdrops of the South Island. They are stunning, nobody would argue with that, but if you start looking for the heart of mountain biking in New Zealand then that trail takes you some 1,500km further north to the small, highly volcanic town of Rotorua in the centre of the North Island. While it may not have the cinematic sex appeal of endless, golden alps it has something which matters more to real mountain bikers - the biggest and best-established network of trails anywhere in New Zealand. The Whakawera (pronounced Fa-ka-wear-ah) forest on the edge of town is a dense, humid rainforest with hundreds of kilometres of singletrack criss-crossing its floor. Blessed with the topography of God's own pumptrack and the kind of soft, brown dirt daydreams are made of, there is good reason why mountain bikers fell in love with this place. New Zealanders as a race aren't shy of a bit of hard work either, so when it came time to build trails that work ethic has meant a sprawling labyrinth of trails that you could get lost in for days. So when the Enduro World Series made the decision to come to New Zealand, there was only really one destination they could choose.

As the opening race of the season this is shaping up to be one of the most unpredictable races we have ever seen. While it is a shame for racers and fans alike that Jared Graves is injured, having the favourite out of the race makes predicting a winner almost impossible as there are too many riders who are in with a realistic shout of taking the win. Is Clementz back on form after a season on the sidelines? What about last years race winners, Barel, Lau and Oton? What about the dozen or so guys who were oh-so close last year, but were ultimately denied? Or, even more tantalisingly, as a new sport, enduro is still open enough for a complete unknown to come storming out of the bushes as surprise everyone. In the women's field the question at the top is more one of desire than anything else. Both Tracy Moseley and Anne-Caroline Chausson will admit that they would like quieter, lower stress lives - but they are racers through and through and will that all be forgotten come race day? Has Cecile Ravanel made up ground on the two women ahead of her? What about Beerten, Thoma and Courdurier? There are too many questions right now, but fortunately we will have all the answers when the dust settles in a little over 24 hours time...



Few people other than over-excited photographers were keen to see Lake Rotorua look like this. It s not the postcard conditions the organisers were keen to show the world and rain means mud which many of the racers were apprehensive to see.
Few people other than over-excited photographers were keen to see Lake Rotorua look like this. It's not the postcard conditions the organisers were keen to show the world, and rain means mud, which many of the racers were apprehensive to see.

We maybe should have guessed more about the conditions when race organiser Neil Gellatly turned up in a Land Rover with a snorkel...
We maybe should have guessed more about the conditions when race organiser, Neil Gellatly, turned up in a Land Rover with a snorkel...
Local organiser Neil Gellatly briefs the riders on what they can expect over the next few days. Three days of practice and 1800m up and down over seven stages on Saturday is the short version.
Neil briefs the riders on what they can expect over the next few days. Three days of practice and 1800m up and down over seven stages on Saturday is the short version.

Darren Kinnaird approaches the lodge during the opening ceremony. EWS 1 2015 Rotorua New Zealand. Photo by Matt Wreagg.

Maori dance during opening ceremony at Te Puia. EWS 1 2015 Rotorua New Zealand. Photo by Matt Wreagg.
A performer rests between ats during opening ceremony at Te Puia. Maori dance during opening ceremony at Te Puia. EWS 1 2015 Rotorua New Zealand. Photo by Matt Wreagg.

For the opening ceremony of Crankworx we were treated to a traditional Maori ceremony and Haka performance at the Te Paui centre on Tuesday night. If you ve never seen one of them live you should the energy aggression and beauty is unlike anything you will find anywhere else.
For the opening ceremony of Crankworx we were treated to a traditional Maori ceremony and Haka performance at the Te Paui centre on Tuesday night. If you've never seen one of them live you should, the energy, aggression and beauty is unlike anything you will find anywhere else.

Tyre choice is going to be critical this weekend. With the dirt varying between the brown powder of your daydreams and the thick greasy hell of your nightmares. The weather forecasts in Rotorua have been wildly inaccurate over the last couple of weeks so it s going to be a lottery on race. Having a set of spikes ready to go might not be a bad call though.
Tyre choice is going to be critical this weekend. With the dirt varying between the brown powder of your daydreams and the thick, greasy hell of your nightmares. The weather forecasts in Rotorua have been wildly inaccurate over the last couple of weeks, so it's going to be a lottery on race. Having a set of spikes ready to go might not be a bad call though.

Two-times champ Tracy Moseley collects here number one plate for the first time this year. It s going to be a big fight if she wants to hold onto it though.
Two-times champ, Tracy Moseley collects here number one plate for the first time this year. It's going to be a big fight if she wants to hold onto it though.

The last time Jared missed a major race due to injury was actually the 2006 World Champs held right here in Rotorua.
Nobody wanted to see this - defending champion Jared Graves is out with a pair of damaged shoulders. The last time Jared missed a major race due to injury was actually the 2006 World Champs held right here in Rotorua.

There are going to be many eyes on Sam Hill this weekend. What can a rider who Fabien Barel rates as the best rider in the world do on an enduro race course There is plenty of scope on a course this long to make a big difference with you line choices something there is arguably nobody in the world better at.
There are going to be many eyes on Sam Hill this weekend. What can a rider who Fabien Barel rates as "the best rider in the world" do on an enduro race course? There is plenty of scope on a course this long to make a big difference with you line choices, something there is, arguably, nobody in the world better at.

Everyone has different practice day rituals the hotel corridor bike selfie seems to be an ever more common one these days.
Everyone has different practice day rituals, the hotel corridor bike selfie seems to be an ever more common one these days.
There s a lot to remember this week with practice staggered across the stages over three days - the BMC teams solution was as simple as it was effective which is exactly what we d expect from a Swiss team.
There's a lot to remember this week, with practice staggered across the stages over three days - the BMC teams solution was as simple as it was effective, which is exactly what we'd expect from a Swiss team.

Dawn over Lake Rotorua.
As practice started on Wednesday things were looking up on the weather front.

Stages one to six run through the Whakawera forest skirting around the stunning green lake in places.
Stages one to six run through the Whakawera forest skirting around the stunning green lake in places.

Practice EWS 1 2015 Rotorua New Zealand.
Practice opened with stage seven, a modified version of the downhill track. Just because they were only smaller bikes didn't mean the fast guys were going any smaller than on the jumps at the top.

Practice EWS 1 2015 Rotorua New Zealand.
Unfortunately this is the last action shot we're going to see of Ludo May for a while as he went down not long after this jump breaking his collar bone.

Jamie Nicholl is tougher than you. He s not the type to let a broken finger slow him down even of the steep technical tracks here in Rotorua.
Jamie Nicoll is tougher than you. He's not the type to let a broken finger slow him down, even of the steep, technical tracks here in Rotorua.
Gary Forest had a scary moment on stage 7 after landing a big stepdown a bit too nose heavy and cartwheeling into a tree.
Gary Forrest had a scary moment on stage 7 after landing a big stepdown a bit too nose heavy and cartwheeling into a tree. He cracked a few ribs and sat out for the rest of practice, but he's determined to go racing tomorrow.

The last time Anka Martin rode this section of trail she was on a DH bike and racing the UCI World Champs in 2006
The last time Anka Martin rode this section of trail she was on a DH bike and racing the UCI World Champs in 2006

Practice EWS 1 2015 Rotorua New Zealand.
At the last Crankworx-affiliated EWS race Curtis Keene scored a career best third place, he'll be hoping to repeat that form this weekend to kickstart his season.

Martin Maes looks smooth and controlled this weekend and if his results from last season are anything to go by he should be in the mix on Saturday.
Martin Maes looks smooth and controlled this weekend, he is certainly one rider many people are expecting big things of this weekend - especially since he beat his teammate Dan Atherton, in the Coronet Enduro last weekend.

The signature style of Sam Blenkinsop is unmistakeable. Could Blenki be the dark horse this weekend on his home turf
The signature style of Sam Blenkinsop is unmistakeable. Could Blenki be the dark horse this weekend on his home turf?

Like many riders Cedric had a massive crash in practice but thankfully rocks are few and far between and ferns are quite soft.
Like many riders, Cedric had a massive crash in practice, but thankfully rocks are few and far between and ferns are quite soft.

Practice EWS 1 2015 Rotorua New Zealand.
Tracy Moseley was looking as fast as ever in practice, comfortably riding in trains with some of the faster men on track.

Dan Atherton took avoiding the main line braking bumps a bit to far on stage 1 and nearly ended up going head over heals after clipping a stump just at the edge of the tape.
Dan Atherton took avoiding the main line braking bumps a bit to far on stage 1 and nearly ended up going head over heals after clipping a stump just at the edge of the tape.

Twins Caro and Anita Gehrig thread their way through the twist and slippery corners that start off stage 2
Twins Caro and Anita Gehrig thread their way through the twist and slippery corners that start off stage 2

Red Bull TV s Rob Parkin is here racing this weekend and his winter Cyclocross training regimen might actually come in handy should it rain on race day.
Red Bull TV's Rob Parkin is here racing this weekend and his winter Cyclocross training regimen might actually come in handy should it rain on race day.

Practice EWS 1 2015 Rotorua New Zealand.
It's hard to gauge where Jerome Clementz is coming into this race. His pre-season form has been a little mixed and is practice has been low-key, yet if anybody knows how to win one of these races, it's him and he has to be ranked as one of the top contenders for the win here in

tropical forrest action
Nico Vouilloz is back and on form, never count the DH legend out of the running.

Local favourite Wyn Masters is one to watch this weekend. EWS 1 2015 Rotorua New Zealand. Photo by Matt Wragg.
Local favourite Wyn Masters is one to watch this weekend.

Rosara Joseph enjoys the fresh loamy dirt of her native New Zealand.
Rosara Joseph enjoys the fresh loamy dirt of her native New Zealand.

Justin Leov was so close to winning a couple of times last year denied by small moments of cruel luck. If he carries that form tomorrow and combines it with the the home turf advantage you are looking at another serious contender for the win.
Justin Leov was so close to winning a couple of times last year, denied by small moments of cruel luck. If he carries that form tomorrow and combines it with the the home turf advantage you are looking at another serious contender for the win.

This may not have look like much but when you start to working out the practicalities of waving at the photographer as you jump at race pace from one slick sketchy root to the next some metre away you start to appreciate the level of bike control Florian Nicolai posseses. When he wasn t fooling around he took one look at this section and spotted a straighter safer line than anyone else and blasted through at an unbelievable speed. Because he doesn t speak much English many people tend to forget about Florian a little which is a mistake - we d stick our necks out and say top five or better tomorrow.
This may not have look like much, but when you start to working out the practicalities of waving at the photographer as you jump at race pace from one slick, sketchy root to the next some metre away, you start to appreciate the level of bike control Florian Nicolai posseses. When he wasn't fooling around he took one look at this section and spotted a straighter, safer line than anyone else and blasted through at an unbelievable speed. Because he doesn't speak much English, many people tend to forget about Florian a little, which is a mistake - we'd stick our necks out and say top five or better tomorrow.

Practice EWS 1 2015 Rotorua New Zealand.
Anne-Caroline Chausson has an interesting looking Bos Deville on the front of her bike. She wasn't giving much away on what this valve does, but it's probably a simple air bleed valve that allows her to release pressure buildup from within the lowers. The lowers themselves look production, and they likely just drilled and tapped a hole to add the valve, making it much easier to release the pressure than if she had to use a zip-tie pushed through the fork's seals.
Cut spikes up front are the name of the game here in Rotorua. If it stays dry we will have hero dirt but if it rains this stuff turns as slick as ice.
Cut spikes up front are the name of the game here in Rotorua. If it stays dry we will have hero dirt, but if it rains this stuff turns as slick as ice.

Joe Barnes has been looking fast and comfortable in the roots and mud of Rotorua all week.
Joe Barnes has been looking fast and comfortable in the roots and mud of Rotorua all week.





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53 Comments

  • + 36
 @mattwragg Sick coverage, so wicked to see this event come town. Something I think is only fair to point out is that it's not called the Whakawera forest, it's the Whakarewarewa. You even went to the length of outlining the pronunciation of a place name that doesn't actually exist! Anyways, keep up the good work!
  • + 20
 Things appear to be going great without Boost!
  • - 2
 You'll never have the wit of Tmackstab.
  • + 2
 Locally known as the redwoods??
  • + 16
 Barnes has been looking awfully fast on videos.
  • + 4
 need a video of his signature berms slashing.
  • + 1
 Yeah! And he is fast as hell on the slick stuff! Hope they give us a nice coverage of the track on the live stream...this race looks promising!
  • + 6
 Actually, it's Whakarewarewa (fah-kah-ray-wa-ray-wa).
  • + 2
 Great write up as usual matt!

That valve on ACC's bike just looks like its there to bleed excess pressure build up in the lower legs (like x-fusions have I think?) Think I remember reading in a pinkbike review that the devilles do build up pressure there on extended runs
  • + 4
 Not uncommon to see that on dh forks. What I would like to know is where the pressure comes from. Do they suction it through the seals, but then it can't escape as easily?
  • + 2
 I would assume the pressure comes from the internals getting hot, or from altitude gain, I'd be very surprised if was gas getting forced through the seals, if that was happening mud and gunk would be following in large quantities.
  • + 2
 Gas gets through inner tubes, and though those internals get warm, the amount of heat it would take to significantly raise the pressure would seem to be out of reach (I would guess), otherwise the rubber bits would swell and the fork would stop sliding so nicely.
Then again, there are rubbers that handle heat really well (here is a good place for a joke about rubbers), such as the seals in brake caliper pistons, so what do I know?
  • + 3
 you could go really in depth, but basically the more the oil moves, the hotter it gets, the more it expands, same case with the air contained in the oil, this causes the pressure build up. and the structure of seals usually makes it easy for air to be sucked in but not forced out.
  • + 2
 Digging the high-res pics @mattwragg, they fill a lot more width on my 2560x1440 monitor than the usual photo posts. I'm confused then, why when you click on the photos do you only get an 'original' or max res of 1600x1067?
  • + 2
 If it rains, this could be Joe Barnes best shot at a EWS win. That kid can ride mud like no one else.
  • + 3
 Great coverage, great tracks - jealous over here :-)
  • + 2
 Helmet question: I though full-facers were now mandatory in the EWS... but they're allowed to practice in flower pots?
  • + 3
 Different rounds have different rules.
  • + 2
 They'll be mandatory in UKGE this year.
  • + 1
 As long as UK EWS doesn't I'll be happy, otherwise my credit card is going to be hammered again!
  • + 3
 cut spikes? that's magic mary
  • + 2
 Norbs is killing it out there, Y U NO have pics of him?
  • + 1
 ask @Protour maybe she can google it and tell you.
  • + 1
 No mention of the guy wrapped around the tree at the bottom in the photo of Anka Martin. Hope she was on the brakes!
  • + 1
 @pinkbike @matt wragg
Tracy Hannah's pic is listed twice - excellent pics, plese keep them coming
  • - 1
 You mean Tracy Moseley...?
  • + 1
 Good spot - fixed! @mattwragg has been working overtime on the EWS coverage! He likely needs another cup of tea
  • + 2
 Or some sleep... Wait, no. We want our pictures, so no sleep... Wink

Keep it up!
  • + 1
 I'm loving the responsive photo sizing. The shots are looking awesome, love the texture with all the vegetation.
  • + 1
 Great write up! Is it still too much to expect a proof read?! Gah! My inner English teacher loses his mind occasionally.
  • + 1
 Beautiful photos and great coverage!
  • + 0
 Why doesn't clementz use a lefty? I thought they were super duper duper awesome.
  • + 8
 He's a full-factory SRAM pilot. That was already the case 2 years ago (minus for wheels, as he was riding Mavics). I think Weir and Cruz are riding the superduperawesome Lefties, though...
  • + 5
 cause Sram is paying :-)
  • + 1
 The pic of Sam Blenkinsop makes me wanna ride right now!
  • + 1
 Conditions get sloppy and greasy, we put our money on Joe Barnes!
  • + 1
 Brilliant report and pics as ever Matt!
  • + 1
 where is Fab? was he to fast for the cameras?
  • + 2
 Enduro as fuck.
  • + 1
 Barelllllll??
  • + 0
 What bike is Tracey riding? Remedy 29?
  • - 1
 sorry matt it was supposed to ne @mattwragg
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