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Video & Race Report: Middle Hill Mud Buster Enduro

Aug 2, 2020
by Ben Karalus  





It's barely ticked over 5 months since New Zealand was hosting Crankworx Rotorua, but it feels like an eternity ago. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then, with most social and sporting events globally grinding to a halt due to various lockdowns and distancing requirements. Locally, New Zealand has weathered the coronavirus pandemic reasonably well, and after a two-month period of strict lockdown, it's nearly business as usual here.

Middle Hill MTB Park didn’t open much longer before the pandemic blew through either - three years ago, it was just a glint in the eye of Genevieve 'G' King. Once Morgan 'Morgz' Rigby arrived a year later the shovels really started flying, and by October 2019 the park was up and running to the public. Since then, it has gone from strength to strength as word spread of a mythical bike park on the east coast. Its success is a sign of just how good the park is.

So when the opportunity came to host a race, it was the natural decision to add another notch to the cap and get the planning underway. The winter weather in Clarence is typically mild, giving it an advantage that not many other places have – awesome riding year-round. After a short but intense three weeks of admin, the race was underway on site.

With many of New Zealand’s pro riders jumping at the opportunity to get racing again, the entry list would have passed for a Continental EWS, rather than a local race. Given that many of these riders are heading back overseas to resume the EWS, it may be some time before we see another local race with such a stacked field. The race location and vibe impressed many of the riders:

bigquotesWill happily put my hand up and say that @middlehillmtb is already one of NZ’s best riding destinations! Huge props to Morgz and G for what they have created!!! Ed Masters

bigquotesEver since I first rode at Middle Hill I knew a race here would be pretty special. After chatting with G and Morgz three weeks ago, we decided to make it happen. The weather was perfect, and everyone looked like they had a bloody good time.Will Keay, Gravity Canterbury
bigquotesWe were so stoked with how well the race went, couldn't wipe the smile off our faces for a few days. Crazy to think that three years ago this was just a dream to have trails on the farm. We are really keen to keep holding races here... watch this space!G & Morgz, Middle Hill MTB

Clarence, valley of the gods. With 15 degree temps and the sun shining all day it didn't feel like winter!

Usually this shuttle wagon would be busy taking paying customers to the top of the hill. Instead, it spent the day shuttling volunteers and medics around.

The first race in a while meant a good opportunity to catch up with people and see how they got on over the past few months, both for locals and pros alike.

Race briefing was a laid back affair. Go and get after it team.

Riders head off to ride up King Kong to the first stage of the day.

Fat Sac, great track.

Stage 1 proved to be a rider favourite, with a tight and slippery upper section feeding out into some high-speed corners and straights.

Finn Hawkesbury-Browne making up for what would have been his first full season racing World Cup DH.

The feed station was well stocked by Crafty Weka bars, which kept the large contingent of racers fuelled up for Stages 3 and 4.

A small troupe of riders made the trip all the way from Central Otago, including Jimmy Pollard. Middle Hill really is that good!

Rupert 'Stingray' Chapman is more likely to be found behind the controls of an aircraft these days, but it isn't slowing him down at all! 9th in a stacked field on the day.

Eddie Masters and Jimmy Pollard on Stage 4, Wharekiri Ridge. Middle Hill is sandwiched between the Seaward Kaikouras, the Clarence River and the Pacific Ocean, meaning there's a view every way you look.

The fifth and final stage for the elites was 'Honey Pot', an aptly named trail. Sweet if you got it right, and a vicious sting when you didn't.

Charlie Murray and Ed Masters on their way to a first and third respectively, before dropping it into fifth gear on the 3-hour drive back to Christchurch to catch Eddie's 7 pm flight.

Nils Heiniger is another Kiwi who is jetting overseas shortly to chase the remainder of the EWS season, and came out swinging with a 4th on the day, behind a stacked podium.

Local rider Oli Clark ended up 12th in Elite Men and was one of the fastest on Stage 5. He's only 13 years old!

Once you strayed from the thin bench, you were destined for the bushes.

Rae Morrison took a commanding win in the Elite Womens field, even with a few stitches.

Mel Blomfield always looks like she is having the most fun out of everyone!

Timing team finding out how the day stacked up. Mike Inwood (pictured) was also racing during the day, taking a third in his category.

The support crew was just as stoked to be there as the riders. Two medics trailed the racing all day, but not even so much as a band-aid was required.

Local tucker from the farm provided by some bloody good kiwis.

Beer on tap, provided by local Emporium Brewing.

Elite Men's Podium, with Charlie Murray (Frank) in first, Bradley Harris in second, and Eddie Masters (Paua) in third. Charlie and Eddie both had to leave as soon as the last stage finished due to a poorly timed flight...

Charlie was looking fast all day on his new Pivot and topped it off with a win.

Elite Women's Podium, with Rae Morrison in first, Louise Kelly in second, and Melissa Newell in third.

Results can be found on the Gravity Canterbury Facebook page, and if you want to know more about Middle Hill, get in touch with them here, or check out the trails on Trailforks below.

Middle Hill MTB mountain biking trails


7 Comments

  • 5 0
 Frank the Tank not giving 2 F's for being on the podium :-)
  • 4 0
 Epic day it was!! Looking forward to the next already
  • 2 0
 Looks like a sweet race - will need to check it out next year!
  • 1 1
 Wow that really is in the middle of nowhere. Bit like Cragieburn, bit awkward unless you're a Christchurch local or road tripping.
  • 14 0
 3hrs from Christchurch or Nelson, leave at 7am, arrive for shuttles at 10am. Stay for the weekend, you can camp on site. It's part of the beauty, it's like ski clubbie - fewer people, well-maintained trails, more personal experience. Kaikoura and Blenheim(1hr away) have a solid community of riders too, and it's on state highway 1, so anyone traveling north or south on an MTB roadie can drop in.
  • 1 6
flag ChazzMichaelMichaels (Aug 3, 2020 at 21:40) (Below Threshold)
 @theperfectline: Three hours from home is Rotorua. I'm all for good trails but I like a bed and shower! Part of the reason I haven't done the Old Ghost Road. Looks amazing, but a logistical nightmare from some places.
  • 2 0
 @ChazzMichaelMichaels: I've done OGR twice and had bed and shower both time before and after no problem Razz

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