Both the most challenging and most rewarding race I have ever been a part of. The three-day NZ Enduro was something special. Big thanks to all the organizers and volunteers. This is not an event that will easily be forgotten. It is unique. Unique in that it showcases trails that could be overlooked due to their relatively remote locations. And unique in that it holds a casualness yet has a stacked roster of talented professional and amateur riders alike. The NZ Enduro is an event not to be missed by an avid mountain biker. This year’s event was marked with high levels of rainfall for both the first and second days. Causing the advanced trails to reach a new level of technicality. The rainfall had little effect on the excited atmosphere. The whole event proceeded seamlessly. My results were not where I was hoping for them to be. However, a smile was always on my face and it was a great ride. I know now that this race is one where the smooth and steady ride is the one that will yield the best result. Unfortunately, my eagerness and lack of ability to reel in excitement held me back from my goal. Of the nine total stages, I rode a third of them clean. I have learned heaps about racing and myself through the experience.
Day one starts just outside of the city of Blenheim. At an amazing sea side location called White’s Bay. The trails here run through native coastal forests and are root filled gems. Due to the wet weather, the initial plan for the day was altered. One stage being removed entirely due to the trails clay surface being nearly un-rideable. The first stage of the day took place on the upper portion of the Whites Bay Track. It is relatively lower angle with a few rock outcroppings and a new root garden around every corner. And it ran well given the rainfall. I had a few moments where I was able to open the brakes and let it ride. And had a couple “hang-on” moments. Stage two of the day started directly after the first. Dropping into the Pukaka Valley trail. This was a wild stage. Riding down a different aspect of the mountain resulted in much different trail conditions. It was muddy and slippery. I lost count of how many times I was either off my bike or off the race line. One crash had me upside down and many meters down the bank. This stage was ultra-memorable due to the slip-and-slid nature of it. A heckle group formed near the end of the trail. I joined in after my run. It was great to cheer on the fellow riders and it was mind-boggling to see some of the top riders tackle the course.
Day two was the most remote day of the event. The day was split up by an amazing lunch which was put on by On the Track Lodge. The chili & salad main with brownies & coffee desert were a welcome refreshment after the first two stages. Stage one was a relatively smooth but pedally 4km named the Opori Bridle Track and stage two was a maze off angle awkwardness fun which was the top portion of the Nydia Track. A thirty-minute pedal following the lunch stop brought us to stage three. A slightly less awkward and shorter version of the second stage. One of the more aggressive crashes I took occurred mid-way down this stage. During the lunch break, I was chatting with a local and they mentioned a high line that was fast. “After a rock drop look to the right to get on a rock shelf, this is the line.” They said.
I hit the drop, saw the shelf and attempted the move only to very quickly loose traction on the slippery rock shelf. I got up close and personal with the bedrock. After a quick moment and a chat with myself, “wow”. I was on my way. Lucky it was all caught on film and I made a highlight reel. The final stage of the day brought the day to a close at the beer tent after a high pace, less technical, 1-2minute tear down a pine forested trail. Spectators speckled the sidelines of the trails. It was a great end to the day.
The final day was meant to involve a helicopter lift to the top of the Wakamarina trail. Due to cloud cover the birds couldn’t fly and an alternative day was arranged. In my opinion a perfect alternative was choosen. We gathered at the JenTree farm. Home to Justin & Victoria Leov and family. The three-stage day passed smoothly and ended with a taco dinner and an entertaining results presentation. Stage two was the track of the day for me and the only one where I didn’t meet the ground. It was a little shy of five minutes and started with some awesome hillside traversing single track with a few rock gardens and tight switch backs. The ending of the stage was onto a flow track. Amazing banked corners with numerous doubles and rollers. The spectators were encouraging and kept the good vibes flowing. Stage one was like the second stage but shorter and a little less technical. The first stage was a smooth start to the day. The end of the day was slightly less smooth. The final move of the final stage was a challenge and received a lot of media coverage. A creek crossing of roughly twenty feet across and two feet deep near its center. The finish timer was just on the other side of the creek and nearly everyone at the farm had gathered around for the finishing feature of the track. This was a short steep stage and the water crossings was completely visible from the top. Therefore, all the riders were able to watch the creek wash out rider after rider. I was more nervous for the creek crossing than any other move during the whole event. I decided that I was going to take as much speed as I could and lean back. I made it across but ended up in a pile of mud on the other side. Picture perfect finish. From there it was beer and laughs.
This event has quickly become a New Zealand must attend. And I can see why. The combination of hospitality and epic trails make this event a memorable one. One of a kind. The memories and new friends created are treasures.