Levi Koroscil’s Excellent New Zealand Adventure

TransNZ is like no other race around. It brings together riders from around the world into a supportive encouraging race environment. This six-day event travels through the South Island of New Zealand. Hitting up some of the best riding locations in the area. Pushing the riders mental and physical limits. I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the volunteer team for this years event. Being part of the volley team means being part of the organizers, Megan Rose and Nate Corrigan’s family. They are ultra welcoming and in return, we provide the required labour for their event. I was in a marshaling role. This involves being sure the race stages are marked and ready for the racers. As well as helping the racers time in and out of the stages. It’s as rewarding to be part the excitement at the top of the stages as to be part of their story at the finish of the stages. 

Caleb Smith | KONA COG Before the climb to Arthur’s Pass

Before we get into more about the event let’s rewind. I volunteered last year for the TransBC and was so energized by the event it got me thinking about joining in the New Zealand adventures. This being my first time to New Zealand I wanted to be sure to get the most of it. And what better way than to do a cycle tour. Therefore this is how I started my trip and how I arrived to meet the TransNZ crew in Castle Hill. My flight landed into Queenstown. Where I spent an afternoon riding and flagging what would be the day three of the event with Megan and Nate. The following morning involved a bus ride out to Franz Josef glacier. This was the start of my cycle tour. The tour ended up taking a little more than two days of travel. Where I covered 300km and climbed 3100m of elevation. With only two major mishaps; one being pushed off the road by a transport truck due to the narrow winding roads on the way up Arthur’s Pass. And the second being some road rash due to a miscalculation in my bag positioning on the bike. My sleeping bag got caught in the front wheel, causing the bike to stop and me fly over the handlebars onto the pavement. Some friendly roadside campers helped me to the Greymouth Hospital where all scrapes and cuts got checked over and I was on my way.

The cycle tour was a success. I got to get see some amazing landscapes, meet amazing people and spend a good chunk of time on my new Kona Process 153.

The following days after my arrival into Castle Hill involved some work and some play. We planned and flagged days one and two of the event as well as causal shuttle laps with the rest of the volunteers. The racers arrived after those few casual days and it was go time. However as the event drew nearer the weather wasn’t looking welcoming for the start of the race. And sure enough the weather forecast was accurate. Rain fell all night and the high mountains got a blanket of snow. Which created amazing views but less then desirable riding conditions.

Day one took place below the Craigieburn ski area. Due to weather the original plan had to be modified. Two stages were removed to reduce time spent in the adverse weather. The highlight of this day for me was a track called the Edge trail. It’s a very unique trail which traverses across avalanche paths on scree slopes and finishes on beautiful beech forested single track.

Day two took place at the neighbouring ski area Cheeseman. This was the shortest day of the event and only involved two stages. The first stage was a long one, Cocayne Alley. It start with high pace grassland single track then dumps into a root filled trail under a beech tree canopy. Stage two continued the beech forested rooty singletrack theme. The day was short because following the days racing all members of the event were on the long road south to Queenstown. This is where we would be located for the remainder of the event.

Caleb Smith | KONA COG Slip Saddle, Coronet Peak, Queenstown Photo: Digby Shaw

Day three took place around Cornets Peak. It involved four stages and we finished at the village of Arrowtown. The weather was perfect for the day and the riders spirits were high. Everyone got a lift up the main access road and stage one started near the base of the peak. This was achieved by a 30 min hike-a-bike. It was an smooth track where you had to put the pedal power down. The top of stage two was the legendary Rude Rock trail. A trail that has seen so much media attention due to the superb landscape in which is flows through. Stage two branches off onto Skippers. This left the racers far down a drainage where they pedal back up a historic gold mining road back up to stage three. A much appreciated shuttle from bottom of stage three puts them within a 20 minute climb to start of stage four. The steepest trail of the whole event. I was the mid way marshal for this stage. Sitting at rocky canyon section, where I cheered on and support the racers through the technical section. It was at this location that a photographer, Digby Shaw pointed out a rock drop that Kelly McGarry built years ago. I was happy to have been shown it and even spoiler to have got some photos from it. A mellow pedal from bottom of stage four brought the riders to Arrowtown where snacks and beer where plentiful.

Unfortunately day four was a scratch. It was meant to occur at Cardrona Ski Area. However due to adverse weather the lift operations manager decided to not take the risk. Winds were high and rain was falling heavily. So everyone was back onto the buses and back down to our Queenstown lodge. The riders either took a rest day or went for a causal rides on the nearby trails.

Day five was one of the highlights for me. We travelled roughly an hour from Queenstown to a town called Alexandra. A six stage day in a desert landscape. These trails were rocky and challenging to hold race pace on. Every stage got progressively rockier. With the final stage involving some mandatory two foot rock drops into rock gardens. It was wild terrain and I hope to ride more of that soon. The day finished at a local pub where the beer was flowing the burgers were plentiful.

Caleb Smith | KONA COG Queenstown Photo: Scott Countryman

The final day took place fittingly at the Queenstown bike park, Skyline. Everyone pedalled directly from our accommodations up the steep access road to the top of the gondola. Stage one was a mellow park lap to the bottom of the gondola. A ride up the gondola and an hour or more hike/ride put riders at the top of stage two, near the Ben Lomond saddle. Stage two was awesome in that it raced down near a hiking trail where tourist would be watching and cheering on as the racers whizzed by.

The final stage of the whole event was in my mind one of the biggest endurance challenges of the whole event. A fifteen minute stage that incorporated everything from technical rocky sections to monster root gardens to flowy park trails. I was fortunate enough to be the marshal at the bottom of this stage. Welcoming the races into the finish of their six day adventure. Many laughs, high fives and hugs were had.
And to finish off the event we all went to town and had dinner together where awards were presented and a party ensued. Great finale.

It was a fantastic event. I am so happy to have met many new friends and have ridden some of the best trails New Zealand’s South Island has to offer. I will hold and cherish the memories created. Big shout out to all the racers and my fellow volunteers. And biggest shout out to the event organizers, Megan Rose and Nate Corrigan. With out you two this family wouldn’t be a family.