The enduro, downhill and freeride mountain bike events in the Queenstown Bike Festival concentrate on 3 main peaks around the Wakatipu basin; Coronet Peak (named so as the summit takes the shape of a crown), Bob's Peak (named after Bob) and the magnificent Remarkables (because they are just remarkable). In winter, Coronet Peak and the Remarkables become ski fields for the masses, but for the rest of the year, Coronet Peak's jewel in the crown is its network of trails which are just perfect for enduro races.
Out of ski season, when the soil is dry, the Coronet DH/XC trail from the top of the ski field runs smooth, as does Rude Rock (named after Old Man Rock). To see why it is called Rude Rock, ride the trail and take a look back after you have passed Old Man Rock. Don't be surprised if you hear the Queenstown locals call it by another name.
The newly built Rude Rock extension trail, Pack, Track and Sack has been built completely by the hard graft and volunteer labour of the Queenstown Mountain Bike Club/
and in dry weather would be a fast descent to the Pack Track. The Pack Track is an old gold miner's trail connecting the Skipper's saddle to the Skipper's canyon - an area rich in gold mining history from the Central Otago gold rush. However, after a bit of rain, the Coronet mud becomes slick as, so after the turn in the weather, the race took on a new dimension. Locals were thrown off (literally) and had to ride the trails at less than their usual attacking speed in order to adapt to the clay like surface.
From Pack, Track and Sack and a bit of the Pack Track, riders had an uphill climb into the pine forest. This was the surprise stage that was unknown to all. Riders descended through some sick, newly cut lines through pine forest, Everyone loved it - particularly the element of surprise. The track through this stage was deep, freshly cut loam and after being on the exposed faces and ridges of the ski field, riders enjoyed the quiet, protective surroundings of the forest and enjoyed on-siting the steep track with committing corners in unexpected places.
The refreshment station at the end of Stage 3 was the party station. Lollies (or 'sweets' if you are from the UK and 'candy' if you are from North America) were given out lovingly to wet, cold muddy entrants and if you didn't know already - the Kiwis love to party! Riders pedalled out of Long Gully up the Skipper's Road. The Skipper's road is a precarious, exposed, but stunningly breathtaking road, so although the legs were tired, wet, muddy and cold and the ground cluggy the views sure helped to distract from the discomfort.
From the Skippers Saddle, the short, sweet and kicky Zoot track made up stage 4.
The weather started clearing and the smiles were starting to show with the knowledge that there was only one more uphill to go. The Coronet Peak road may be tarmaced but the views are second to none and there is a whole heap of reward to be had at the end! After a ride up the Coronet Peak tarmac road, stage 5 then descended sharply through the grassy sloped farmland of Coronet Peak Station (private land so not able to be ridden by the public) to the valley floor below.
Only 61 seconds separated the top three men with 62 seconds between the top three women.
Joe Nation (Christchurch) took out the open men’s comp in 31.16 followed by a tie for second between Tom Skillicorn (Queenstown) and James Hampton (Christchurch ) who both came home in 32.17. The open women’s race was equally competitive with Meg Bichard from Nelson winning in 36.32 followed by Harriet Harper (Christchurch), who took third place at Tuesday’s Vertigo Bikes Dirtmasters Downhill, in 37.00 and Rosara Joseph (Wellington) in 37.34.
In the junior category, sole women’s Under-19s entrant Georgia Petrie from Christchurch cleaned up in first with Ben Karalus, Jeremy Binns (both Nelson) and Billy Meaclem (Christchurch) finishing first, second and third men.
Niall Renwich bagged the masters men 40+ title by two minutes followed by Jason Blackmore and Andrew Ballantyne.Joe Nation said the weather made the course fun.
“You don’t often get a chance to race on these tracks in these conditions but it helped to spread the field. I came down for the festival and will be riding in the Mega Avalanche on Sunday. With a few pros away for the World Cup [in Cairns] it was great to take the win today,” he said.
Women’s winner, Meg Bichard added: “I really loved Rude Rock, sliding around and getting loose. It was just a great course all round and everyone seemed to be having great fun despite the weather."
“Everyone was pumped especially about stages three and five. If it was sunny and bluebird it might have looked perfect but today was one of those days that will live long in the memory. Conditions were variable to say the least but everyone was in it together and enjoyed sharing their experiences afterwards in the bar.”
Finishers gathered at Cavells Café and Bar by the Shotover River for prize giving and a post-race sausage sizzle. In the typical Queenstown style, the iconic Shotover Jet jet boats roared past down the Shotover Canyon river during the prize giving. Can't be bad if it is good enough for Will and Kate!
If this appeals to you, watch our website for details of the 2015 Queenstown Bike Festival
Full results are here