Olympic Mountain Bike Hopefuls To Square Off In Rotorua 6 Mar 2012
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Thousands of spectators will head to New Zealand’s mountain bike capital Rotorua this week, to watch the world’s best riders fight for Olympic Games selection.
The 2012 Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Oceania Mountain Bike Championships will take place in Rotorua’s renowned Whakarewarewa Forest from Friday 9th March until Sunday 11th March, with up to 500 riders expected to compete in four events.
Chairman of the event organising committee, Dave Donaldson, says this is the public’s best chance of seeing elite mountain bike riders in action prior to the Olympic Games in London this August.
“This is a huge event on the international mountain biking calendar because it’s an early season opportunity to pick up vital UCI points,” Donaldson explains. “These points affect a rider’s ranking for future events and there’s added hype this year because Olympic qualifying is up for grabs.”
The Cross Country event is the only Olympic Games mountain bike discipline and this race will take place on Saturday at the Redwood Memorial Grove on Long Mile Road.
“Two female New Zealanders are vying for Olympic selection this year, Karen Hanlen from Whakatane, and Rosara Joseph from Christchurch – if they beat their Australian counterparts, they might both be London-bound,” Donaldson says.
He tips that other key competitors to watch out for are Rotorua’s Dirk Peters, the 2012 Elite Men’s National Champion, and Lewis Hamilton who is the current under-19 Downhill Champion.
“The public will also get to see a couple of New Zealand mountain bike heroes in action this weekend,” says Donaldson. “John Kirkaldie from Taupo is a New Zealand downhill legend and has entered the Super-D, while Vanessa Quinn, 2004 Elite Women’s Downhill Champion from Tauranga will compete in the Cross Country Eliminator on Sunday; they will no doubt be terrific to watch.”
Rotorua is widely regarded as the number one mountain bike destination in New Zealand , and home to some of the best trails in the world.
Australian Mountain Bike Magazine former-editor Chris Southwood described Rotorua in 2010 as having “the world’s best trails”. He returns to Rotorua this week to compete in Friday’s Super-D race and to film mountain biking DVD “Be Mad If You Don’t” – named after one of Whakarewarewa’s trails, set for release later this year.
Rotorua has hosted the UCI Oceania Mountain Bike Championships twice before, in 2004 and 2006. The event alternates across the Tasman each year but Rotorua is hoping to be the sole New Zealand host in future because of the superb trails and facilities.
Destination Rotorua Marketing general manager Oscar Nathan says international mountain bike publications and websites consistently give Rotorua a five star rating and rave about the hundreds of kilometres of purpose-built trails through both exotic and native forest.
“Whakarewarewa Forest’s trail model is envied around the world. Our sprawling mass of towering California Redwoods is complemented by the best single track mountain biking trails.”
Nathan explains successful track and road riders like Olympic and Commonwealth Games medallist Sam Bewley and world number one ranked BMX rider, Sarah Walker started their rise to cycling stardom on the steep climbs and technical trails here.
“There is plenty of room for spectators at this weekend’s event and entry is completely free so we are encouraging as many people as possible to come and watch,” he says. “The forest is very close to Rotorua’s city centre so people can enjoy an action-packed weekend and see the world’s best mountain bike riders give it everything they’ve got!”
(Destination Rotorua Marketing)
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