The Queenstown Bike Festival for 2014 ended as dramatically as it kicked off. We saved the wild, mountainous, gruelling event for the end. This is the 2nd year of the extremely successful R&R Sport Mega Avalanche - the only one of its kind in New Zealand. This free ride race starts high up on the exposed ridge of the Remarkables, with competitors able to either heli up or push up (if they are up for a full on warm up)
There is something about helicopters, mountains and bikes that gets the pulse racing and the adrenaline pumping. Mike, from the UK unfortunately sprained an ankle on the practice run, but went for the chopper ride anyway. Mike has been touring New Zealand by bike and entered both the Torpedo7.com Coronet Enduro and the R&R Sport Mega Avalanche on his rigid bike which is just a little bit hardcore and ever so slightly masochistic. Photo credit to Callum Wood Photography
Nathan Rankin and Joe Nation from Christchurch (2nd man overall) seen here leading the bunch and descending out of the sudden cloud that brought temperatures down shortly before the race started. Photo credit to Riverlea Photography
Mark Newton shown here, focussed on the tussocky, rugged and rocky terrain. Photo credit to Callum Wood Photography
For Fraser Gordon (pictured), the best bit was the top section of the ridge line straight off of the start line. 'No tussocks, just big holes and drops to smash over. Point and shoot, lean back and hold on.' Photo credit to Callum Wood Photography
Professional freeriders Kelly McGarry (pictured here) and Conor MacFarlane led the field at the start, holding their own until being passed by the very few riders that were fast enough to catch them! Kelly made 6th place, showing that freeriders can kick butt at downhill. Unfortunately Conor came off, twisted his forks and had to pull out from the race. Photo credit to Callum Wood Photography
Sean McCarroll was the fastest man down, taking 15:01 to descend 1400 metres. Sean said he’d do it all again in a second and revealed he still managed to win despite running wide out of one corner and hitting a bush. Photo credit to Callum Wood Photography
Blue skies and a bit of sun fooled riders into thinking that the weather would be just as spectacularly for the race run. It wasn't, and many riders, event organisers and photographers were sheltering under rocks at the mountain top waiting for the race to start. Photo credit to Callum Wood Photography
After a short uphill on the Remarkables ski field access road, riders dropped into the fast and grassy 'grass roots' track. Grass roots is narrow singletrack cut into the slopes of the Remarks, sometimes steep, sometimes off camber with the odd matagouri (spikey) bush to catch you if you bail. After another short climb on the road, the course took on the DH track used in the Nationals. Photo credit to Josh Moore photography
Sean McCarroll from Queenstown took the men’s title in 15:01. Joe Nation from Christchurch who won the Torpedo7.com Coronet Enduro on Good Friday finished second, five seconds after, with Tauranga’s Hayden Lee third a further ten seconds behind.
First woman home was Meg Bichard from Nelson in 19:06, doubling up her win at Friday’s Enduro, followed by Anja McDonald just over a minute later and Leigh Halkett third in 24:40.
Although the R&R Sport Mega Avalanche is a hard out competition, pushing riders' commitment to the line and their skills to handle the consequences of riding unpredictable terrain to the limit, it remains to be the race with the buzziest atmosphere. The euphoria of making it down to the bottom unscathed to the cheers of the waiting crowd is absolutely infectious and if you are not amped about entering the Mega for 2015, then perhaps it is time you took up sudoku. Photo credit to Callum Wood Photography