Ngongotaha slopes groomed for downhill thrills

By Matthew Martin

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For the first time in six years mountain bikes will be racing down the slopes of Mt Ngongotaha on a purpose-built downhill sprint trail.

Some of Rotorua's top trail designer/builders have been working long hours to get the trail ready for Rotorua's inaugural Bike Festival, which kicks off on Saturday.

The Skyline Sprint Warrior downhill features a gondola ride up to the top of the trail with riders racing against the clock to post the fastest time on the fast, free-flowing course which features wide berms and some massive jumps.

Mountain Bike Rotorua's Tak Mutu is the man behind the new trail which brings mountain biking back to the slopes of Mt Ngongotaha for the first time since the 2006 UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships.

"The idea of biking at Skyline Rotorua isn't a new one, starting back in 1991 with a downhill race on the side of Mt Ngongotaha.

"After the 2006 world champs, those amazing trails built for the event were decommissioned.

A lot of people have wanted to see riding reinstated there, this time open to everyone.

"We're stoked to bring gondola-access mountain biking to Rotorua and using some of Rotorua's expert trail designers, like Chris Martin and Adam King, and a really hard working crew, this course was built with most mountain bikers in mind."

The trail is technical in sections, but with easy lines bypassing the serious grade six features.

"We wanted to make a course that pros will think is 'sick' and weekend warriors will absolutely love," Mr Mutu said.

Sprint Warrior trail designer/builder Chris Martin said trail building was 60 per cent engineering and 40 per cent art.

"We've used our experience trail building in Canada and other parts of the world to build hand-crafted, hard-wearing berms, super flowing trails and some sick jumps.

"It's going to be lots of fun, we really want to see the sport of mountain biking progress in Rotorua and a world class, unique trail like this, with easy access by gondola, is going to be a real bonus for everyone," Mr Martin said.

The Skyline Sprint Warrior is on Friday, February 15. Registration is from midday, practice is from 3pm, with racing from 6pm. For details visit www.rotoruabikefestival.com.

- ROTORUA DAILY POST

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