Graeme Simpson: Big 10 days sets tone for next year

By Graeme Simpson


There's always a sense of anti-climax the week after a big event. I've worked on world championships and a Commonwealth Games and they are intense experiences.


Sometimes the feeling is - "never again".

The Rotorua Bike Festival is over, but neither of these applies.

Getting a big 10 days like the festival up and running, when it was just an idea six months ago, was never going to be easy. However, it exceeded expectations. More importantly, it set the stage for a bigger, better, brighter festival in 2014.

The weather was superb, events were well attended and the coverage was great, very much helped by this newspaper and More FM Rotorua.

All through the week, organisers discussed how they could improve their events - and so did the festival team.

There were lots of highlights. Seeing large numbers of kids out on bikes at various events was one.

The next generation are here.

The Redwoods Coast down Nursery Hill was an event that captured the imagination. It had the atmosphere of various singlespeed events Rotorua has hosted during the past few years. Lots of colour, silly costumes and some extraordinary speed from a standing start.

The Coast was well supported with entries and spectators.

Including Mayor Kevin Winters. I suppose in a town with a lot of bikers, riding is sort of our politician's equivalent to kissing babies. However, Kevin rides a lot and is also an enthusiastic backer of Te Ara Ahi and the festival, among other events.

He was at the fun ride on the National Cycleway on the first Sunday and, that afternoon, rode in the Street Criterium. Flat course, but it was still demanding.

However, it was the next day at the Redwoods Coast that the respect ramped up a notch. Kevin was entered and I guess we expected him to pootle down the hill. When he came blazing through the gate at the bottom of Nursery Hill with the red cape of his Super Mayor costume flowing out behind him, jaws dropped.

Even very experienced riders said the road seemed extremely narrow, almost tunnel-like, at speed.

All these sorts of events are not without risk. The casualty rate for the festival was actually pretty low in proportion to the total numbers of participants and people just riding their bikes around town and in the forest.

A bad crash threatened to mar the Coast. Never a good thing, but part of being alive is taking risks, surely. Getting the heart rate going, the adrenalin and endorphins flowing and living life to the full.

It will be a day Hugh Booten will never forget. A local photographer, Rich Johns, captured Hugh's crash. It was an eye-watering sequence. However, Rich is organising a print of it for Hugh.

A lot of us would love to have evidence of our big moments hanging on the wall.

The Coast will be back in 2014 and so will the festival. A lot was learned and improvements and fine-tuning will be discussed as the team debrief over the next month.

A week or so before the festival kicked off, key supporters - the Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust and Rotorua District Council - confirmed financial backing for another year.

OK, on to writing stories about the festival for the next issue of New Zealand Mountain Biker - the memories live on.


- Rotorua Daily Post

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