26 Feb 2013

What’s not to like?

The Giant 2W Gravity Enduro closed the recent Rotorua Bike Festival, and it was the standout event.

The formula for enduro racing is still loose, with organisers taking varied approaches, but the common factor is a race that is generally downhill, and the trail bike is best weapon. The best part of any trail ride, on the bikes most of us ride.

Rotorua’s enduro gave riders 5.5 hours to complete four race courses, and get back to the race HQ. An easy 20 minute spin to the forest, and another one to get back, left plenty of time. Optional shuttle buses were laid on for all the courses. The courses could be ridden in any order, which meant there was a degree of strategy involved.

The 2W showed us a few things that make enduros more fun than other mountain bike races. You can ride all day with your mates. Even on the longest course there’s only a few minutes between a fast rider and a more careful one, so regrouping happens while the fast ones get their heart rates under control. It is very social. With courses spread widely in the forest, there were people with blue numbers on their bars going in all directions. There is time to stop and compare notes. The race takes 5.5 hours, the atmosphere at the finish is great because everybody has arrived at more or less the same time.

The 2W courses were a selection from mountain biking heaven, but that doesn’t mean they were easy. A total of 18.4km against the clock gave a total drop of 1120m. The longest course took riders from the jungly rootfest of Tihi-O-Tawa through the screaming turns of Billy T and G Rock, on to the lung-burning traverse of Roller Coaster, then finished with the off camber gnarl of Moonshine and a final grovel along a trail that isn’t even on the map. 18 minutes of wide-eyed fun.

The winners on the day were top class XC racers, but the margins were tight and some downhill names were in the list. Sam Shaw took out the Mens race, narrowly beating enduro pinner Jamie Nicoll. Some downhill old boys were close behind, lead by Byron Scott in third place. In the womens event XC Olypian Rosara Joseph underlined her commitment to the new format by putting XC racer Sasha Smith and ex-DH World Cup campaigner Jenna Makgill into the minor placings.

The Giant 2W HQ was right in the middle of Rotorua’s Eat Streat: open air tables were quickly filled with riders eating great food, drinking cold brews and swapping stories of the best day out possible in Whakarewarewa Forest.

Rotorua’s popular Eat St became Pedal Plaza for the mass start of the inaugural Giant 2W Gravity Enduro on Feb 17, 2013 in Rotorua.
Old rivals and good mates Fred Star (right) and Gary Sullivan debate tactics at the start of the inaugural Giant 2W Gravity Enduro on Feb 17, 2013 in Rotorua.
American Derrick Bell (right) and Rotorua local Paul Lissette head around the lake track at the start of the race.
Wellington’s Ash Burgess charges over the drop on the Billy T section.
Clocking in at the start of the Hot Cross Buns section.
With barely even a grimace, Wanganui’s Geordie Steedman nurses a broken hand and a bit of facial claret after taking a spill down Hot Cross Buns.
Australian Matt Jurss heads down the Corridor trail overlooking Rotorua.
The uplift was one of the few chances to rest and relax.
Auckland’s Toby Mills (right) leads home James Ledingham and Steven Riddle at the end of the day. Tired but very happy.
Olympian Rosara Joseph (left) and Auckland’s Sasha Smith share their spoils.
Local ripper Sam Shaw gets a decent wad of pocket money to play with after finishing as the fastest male at the inaugural Giant 2W Gravity Enduro.