NZ Enduro Results and Race Reports
Santa Cruz NZ Enduro Day One Report: Wet and Wild in Whites Bay
If your country is suffering from the worst drought in recent memory there is a simple solution. Hold a bike race. After almost three months of no rain and sunny weather, campers woke up to rivers raging through their tents. The first day of racing at the 2019 NZ Enduro took place at Whites Bay. At the North Eastern tip of the South Island in Marlborough Sounds, Whites Bay is known for its wine, beaches, fishing and, of course, mountain biking. 140 riders from 15 countries make up this year's NZ Enduro race field including a couple of top EWS racers shaking off the off-season rust.
words by Anka and Sven Martin with photos by @maddogboris, Digby Shaw and the rest of the NZ Enduro crew
There was some good news and bad news for the riders at the introduction briefing.
The bad news was that one stage (Double Eagle had to be cut). This was also the good news. Double Eagle is a clay-based trail and it would have been carnage. The organizers had another surprise for the racers today. A secret, new stage; Pukaka Valley trail. After a short root-littered, high-speed stage one, the riders turned right off the ridge from the beach and into a seldom-ridden technical wonderland. An off-camber, rooty start and then a a mix of greasy turns, root chutes and wild terraced, multi-line, old-growth forest greeted the tires. Despite it being the most technical stage in the race's five-year history, and in the worst of conditions, riders loved being thrown into the unknown.
The amateurs who were fighting for survival seemed the most pleased and were all smiles at the finish line with shouts of “best day of racing ever,” while the pros, who are generally going a little quicker, with a lot more on the line, found it a much more difficult challenge. By the time the pros took the start, all the lines were blown and the roots were caked in mud. It didn’t seem to slow down Canyon’s Dimitri Tordo though, who had the day's fastest time. The real story was the grit of the Kiwi racers who snatched a number of the remaining top spots ahead of the visiting pros. Second, third and fourth were all Kiwi men and Juliana rider, Anja Macdonald, took a convincing win in the Pro Women's field. The Kiwis are used to wild, native back-country riding. Tracks you would never find in any other race. They just crack on, sweet as bro!
A shuttle took everyone back to the race village where burgers and beers went down with a setting sun. For day 2, the riders will be skirting the Marlborough Sounds on a 35KM point-to-point adventure ride with four natural, but extremely technical and slippery, stages. They will break for a Kiwi BBQ at an eco-lodge situated on beautiful Nydia Bay, only reached by boat, bike or foot.
Day 1 Results
Santa Cruz NZ Enduro Day Two: Gnarly Nydia
What a difference a week makes. Last week, for perhaps the first time in Nydia track's history, the entire track's race stages were 100% rideable by a couple of skilled riders. It has been hot and dry here for three months and even the sketchy-at-the-best-of-times south-facing stages were running amazingly grippy. Then the rains came. The riders who braved and battled under today's wet conditions will say impossible grippy conditions a week ago were impossible. Even the best riders in the world were slipping, sliding and scooting alongside the less experienced. Let's just say the weather forecast was a little bit more optimistic than reality today.
With shuttles starting at 8:45 and riders only arriving back to their cars as late at 6pm, it was a nine-hour day for some. There was some respite from the elements though. Riders were able to shed their cold and wet layers and get some hot chili and coffee at the beautifully situated On The Track Lodge, which sits midway on the Nydia Track between stages two and three. It's an off-grid eco-lodge you can only reach by boat, bike, helicopter or on foot. All in all, it is a 35km day with four descents but only three climbs; 1162m climbing and 1580m descending. Don't let the stats fool you though, it’s a BIG day.
Sadly Martin Maes had to skip today's racing. He received a deep-to-the-bone gash yesterday that required on-track stitches from our amazing mobile doctors. He wanted to ride, but a long muddy day in the saddle would not be the smartest thing, risking infection with the EWS season only ten days away.
Dimitri Tordo increased his lead today with three stage wins, Guy Gibbs (A Norweigen, Welsh racer based in NZ) moved into second Fabien Barel is creeping closer to Brady Stone in third.
In the women's Ines Thoma leaped Ella and Anja into first, winning every stage today. Masters class shredder, Matt Patterson, had a better day moving into second behind Cam Bisset, who does a lot of trail building in this area. Max Hides led the Am Men's class ahead of Todd Balance and Pete Robinson with Renee Wilson leading the Am Women's category while on her honeymoon! Her new husband is not doing too badly himself, sitting in 5th place Pro men just behind Fabien Barel. Are they NZ’s fastest couple?
One of the reasons we began this NZ enduro adventure was to bring attention to this part of the world and this style of natural, native, bush riding and going hand-in-hand with our trail advocacy initiatives. We raise thousands of dollars each year through raffles and that money gets put back into the trails the race uses along with developing future trails for route tweaks (Like Pukaka Valley trail yesterday). Normally anywhere else, under these conditions, racing would be canceled to preserve the trails, but luckily for us, the native NZ bush trails are incredibly hardy with a solid base of roots and rocks. With no man-made features or digger-built sections, the trails can be ridden in both the wet or dry.
Fingers crossed there is silver lining on the clouds and flying weather for the helicopters which will be used to uplift 140 racers to the top of the final day of racing. If not, we have something else equally fun planned for everyone. We also have a lot of Moa beer left to finish!
After Day 2 Results
Stay tuned for the final day and results