“A stunning day on a stunning track with a field full of good guys racing the hardest course to date:” was how Race Director Aaron Nicholson described the Contact Epic cross-country mountain bike race.
Excessive rain meant the Hunter River and tributaries were unsafe to cross causing organisers to reroute the same distances up past the Dingle Burn Station and back.
But it was the generosity and selflessness of the riders that set the tone for the day. Tools were loaned, times were elongated due to helping out and constant support was found along the way.
There was more climbing in the alternative route and the muddier conditions meant for a very tough ride and well-earned finisher medal.
Of the 660 that started only four people were injured and required evacuation, while five did not finish due to mechanical issues, which is a testament to the quality of the riders.
Centurion riders completed their 100 miles by starting at 5 am with the 35km Traverse Track before heading out onto the Epic, 125km course.
Due to delays getting to Europe for the start of the Cross Country Race season, this was the first year 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medal winner Anton Cooper was able to race the Contact Epic and race he did, with a first place in the 125km Epic with a time of 4 hours and 43 minutes. Ten minutes behind him was Invercargill’s Josh Burnett followed by Oamaru’s Sullivan Martin.
The women’s Epic was won by Kate McIlroy from Wellington in 5:24. The second went to Rebecca Kingsford (5:55) and the third, Sarah Gilbert (6:04).
The Centurion merit winners were all within ten minutes over the finish line despite having ridden 160km. Louis Clark from Auckland came in with a time of 7:23, followed by Wellington’s Reon Nolan, second and local John Metzger, third. Only two women took on the 100-mile challenge; Ronel Cook (8:34) and Tracey Crosby (8;37).
The Classic riders followed the Epic winners in, but due to the course change, they had to ride 105km instead of 95Km. James McDonald from Alexandra was first with a time of 4:52, Andrew Fraser from Dunedin was second (5:07) followed closely by Henry Summerville from Auckland (5:09).
The women’s open was taken by Canterbury’s Priscilla Thompson (5:49). Second went to Christchurch’s Nicola Sprung (5:56) and third, Oamaru’s Beatrice Day (6:04).
The 35km Open Traverse division was won by Auckland’s Isaac Alexander (2:35) and Alexandra’s Paula Race (1:56).
With a little help from BOSCH the Classic and Traverse rides were opened up to e-bikers for the first time. Wānaka local Brent Pihama, celebrating his 60th birthday, showed the value of an e-bike by being first over the line at 4:37.
Read edition 1023 of the Wānaka Sun here.