Epic race was truly “epic”

Steve Halligan competing in the 160km Centurion.

By all accounts, Contact Epic 2019 was a phenomenal success and lived up to its name.

“Brilliant weather, brilliant volunteers and brilliant riders,” according to race director Danielle Nicholson.

The 2019 Contact Epic had every element of an epic event. Six hundred riders set off early in the morning on an adventure that tested many but enthralled all.

Epic offers the Classic (95km), the Epic (125km) and The Centurion (160km), the latter taking riders up into the depths of the Hunter Valley where no rider has been before.

“That was a true mountain bike race and one of the best in the world,” commented the winner, Jonny van Leeuwen.

The unique sense of camaraderie the event produces was evident again this year. Two riders gave away extra clothing to a competitor who fell in the river and was sufficiently drenched to risk completion. Later in the day one Epic rider, with grit under his contacts was surrounded by Centurions who guided him home on the last 20km to ensure he could remain in the Last Man Standing kitty.

“The number of stories we hear of selfless assistance provided by the riders and volunteers are numerous,” said Nicholson. “I believe that is why we have such a high rate of success despite the difficulty of the course.”

The Epic race proved to be the most exciting on the finish line. After 125km of racing, only one second separated Ben Oliver from Christchurch (who was placed first with a time of 4h43m) and Tim Rush of Oamaru. Local legend, Dougal Allan, followed them in to take third place. The women’s winner, Kate Fluker from Queenstown, was 11 minutes ahead of local Simone Maier with a time of 5h32m. Kath Kelly completed her 12th Contact Epic and placed third.

For first-timer, Tom Hilton, the highlight was the scenery.

“It was jaw-dropping when I thought to look up and admire the view,” he said. “The volunteers and land owners were super supportive, waving and cheering as you passed. The course was more varied than I imagined—standard fire trails, single track, many (up to thigh-deep) river crossings, riding through mud, ruts and cut grass. I should have done more training with bigger rides and more hills but I was happy overall and yes, I’m already looking forward to next time.”

A number of riders tested out the ebikes with few issues found.

“We intend to open up the classic and traverse to e-bikes in 2020, but just need to decide now we manage this,” Nicholson said.

Contact Energy and LMS Events are together donating $19,000 to the Contact Epic Fund for Hawea community groups and individuals to apply.

“We believe in giving back and this is one way we can do that,” Nicholson said. “This is alongside the $6000 we donate annually to the volunteer groups.”


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