Having lived in Canada since the inception of the NZ Enduro, I found myself following the race enviously from afar. The three-day race encompasses some of New Zealand’s best ‘backcountry’ riding based around the upper south island, taking in amazing beech forest and spectacular coastal views along the way. Even though I have ridden a lot of the trail NZ has to offer, I had only ridden one trail of the entire three-day race prior to the event. This made attendance a no-brainer, especially when a chopper ride is on the cards.
The race kicked off just out of Blenheim in Whites bay, with 1 long stage followed by a shorter downhill track stage to begin proceedings. With tropical cyclone Gita whipping its way through the area the previous week the conditions were still a touch moist underfoot, and the clay soil at the top of stage one was treacherous. After back to back summers, I was feeling decidedly average on the pedal sections but enjoyed the long first stage with the slick terrain offering multiple close calls. I crossed the line pretty tired in 14th.
Next up was a short downhill stage, it was steeper than stage 1 but the dirt was slightly drier and offered up some fantastic race conditions. I kept it nice a smooth and tried to carry speed on some of the tougher tight corners, I thoroughly enjoyed the stage and finished up 12th, bagging 13th overall for the day.
The race moved to Nydia Bay on day two and served up four4 fantastic stages, and having never ridden through Nydia Bay before I was excited to check it out. The first stage of the day was long and technical with lots to catch riders out, it then pitched up a climb nearing the end to really test the fitness. It certainly tested mine as I struggled to a 16th.
After an enjoyable technical climb, it was into the second stage of the day. A very technical section of trail which rewarding riders who could maintain speed, and pick good lines through the roots and rock. Other than a few odd lines, I rode this stage well but started to tire when the stage flattened out near the end, finishing the stage in 10th and in need of food. Thankfully a delicious lunch was on hand at On the Track Lodge.
After a short climb up to burn off lunch, it was time for stage three. This wasfavoriterite stage of the day and incorporated a good mix of terrain with some technical sections to keep riders on their toes. This was my best stage of the day as I finished 8th. Must have been the food. The day finished with a short fast trail, a nice finish to a long day. I kept it smooth and finished 11th on the stage, and 11th for the day.
After last year’s final day washout, I think everyone (especially race organisers Sven and Anka) were happy to see clear skies. One of the highlights of this race is the helicopter ride to the top of the iconic Wakamarina trail, which was split into three stages for the days racing. The day started off with a long slippery first stage with a short sharp climb in the middle to really blow the legs up, after some sketchy moments in the soft ruts at the top I settled in but could only muster 14th for the stage. The next stage was to be the stage of the weekend, a long fun descent through perfect beech forest, it was one of those trails where there’s not one section that isn’t enjoyable. I had a blast on this stage and got into a good groove placing sixth for the stage, and already planning my return to ride it again.
To finish off the weekend was a fast fun stage leading back to where the day started. Wanting to finish off strong (and pretend my legs weren’t that tired) I sprinted off the line, only to have the jockey wheel fall out of my derailleur just out of sight of the start line. Luckily the stage was only short, so a mixture of running and scooting the bike got me over the line for a 13th place.
After three days of racing, I finished up 11th. The NZ Enduro isn’t about the result though, and I think anyone who has attended the event will agree that the people and trails are the real winners of this event. Huge thanks to Sven, Anka and everyone who made this year’s event epic. Can’t wait for next year!