Rotorua has long been touted as one of the greatest mountain biking destinations, with the trails of the Redwoods – the hard work of the Rotorua Trails Trust – becoming almost mythical in their allure.
Sam Gaze at the 2016 Whaka
While principally a destination for those who enjoy the Southstar shuttle service and reps of the great Corners or Little Red Riding Huck – or perhaps even the sheer brake-free bliss that is Eagle vs Shark , it’s really got something for every level of rider and every style of mountain biking, all conveniently close to the city and with abundant hot pools nearby.
Enter the events. Between World Championships in 2006, a couple of rounds of the Enduro World Series, and that Singlespeed World Championships in 2010, a WEMBO 24 hour in 2016 – it’s the ideal race playground.
The Whaka 100 is an event that takes advantage of this veritable smorgasbord of singletrack, promising an event that flirts with the fine line between pleasure and pain and is unashamedly marketed as “one of the toughest”. With 25km, 50km and 100km events, it offers pleasure and pain from everything from the sprinter to the climb and the descender – and everything in between.
For my liking, the Whaka can say that, and yet offer more than just a gratuitous grovel through ridiculous climbs. For every slog, there’ll be reward, on some of the sweetest trail in the world. One of the toughest, but also one of the most rewarding.
With a winner’s list that includes dual U23 XCO world champion Sam Gaze, it’ll be an interesting and hotly contested race in 2017. The women’s racing is shaping up between local Josie Wilcox and fellow Christchurch-ian Jeanette Gerrie and will be a race of skills, climbing and attrition. Meanwhile, I think the mens’ will be an epic battle between NZ stalwart Edwin Crossling – who singlehandedly decimated the field at the Contact Epic – and Jason English, fresh off regaining his Australian 24 hour crown in the way only Jason English can be fresh two weeks after a 24 hour. Thrown into this will be the weather – while Rotorua is notorious for volcanic trails with excellent drainage, it’s been an atrociously wet winter and spring, and between slick descents and mechanicals, this will surely make its mark on the race.
Jason English is no stranger to the Rotorua Trails
As for me? With my run of chronic respiratory tract infections ticking neatly over to its 1 year anniversary, the day will be one of the toughest, and I’ll be riding to survive the climbs, and living for the descents down the sweet Rotovegas singletrack. No matter how much the toughest – also the most rewarding.
A preliminary starter list can be found here:
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