Rotorua Lakes' deputy mayor is impatient to get on his bike. As well as his duties as a councillor, 65-year-old Dave Donaldson is a keen mountain biker and is gearing up for the 10-day Rotorua Bike Festival which runs February 12 to 21.
Donaldson will ride three events in the masters division.
"There is an event for everyone who can ride a bike," he says.
"I love the degree of fun and excitement enjoyed by people aged 2 to 70, from spectating, riding or better still, volunteering.
"The Rotorua Bike Festival demonstrates that Rotorua has come of age as the world's premier year-round mountain biking resort. That's come on the back of a lot of hard work by a passionate biking community."
Is there anything Donaldson would like to add about the festival? "No thanks - time to ride," he says with a smile.
Rotorua is one of a handful of mountain-biking destinations in the world awarded gold status by the International Mountain Bicycling Association. With stunning forests, premier mountain bike parks, quiet country roads, beautiful lakes to circumnavigate and an abundance of high-quality accommodation and dining options, Rotorua is a gracious host.
The fourth annual Rotorua Bike Festival takes in an area from the slopes of Mount Ngongotaha to the Blue Lake - and embracing world-renowned Whakarewarewa Forest.
There will be road cycling, mountain biking, hill-climbing, downhill races, world championships, plain family fun, tricycles, movies and more.
Joining Donaldson at the festival is local Olympian Julian Dean (who was also a multiple Tour de France competitor). Recently retired from competitive cycling, Dean will participate in the Runway Project - a ride along Rotorua Airport's runway - with his two boys. The Redwood Coast also appeals: "The idea of a race without having to pedal sounds inviting after spending so many years pedalling my way across countries."
Local world-class downhill racing brothers Louis and Connor Hamilton are also participating. Connor is excited about joining in the festival again.
"You don't have to be an expert rider to compete in most events," he says.
"Everyone is there for a good time. The atmosphere at each event -- including the little ones -- is just amazing. The vibe is great ... everyone's just chilling out watching or having a laugh and competing. It's super fun." Mountain biking is an affair for the whole Hamilton family.
Dad Dave is race director for a new event this year, the Triple D -- Descend Downhill Dash. This event is shaping up to be popular as local photographer Mead Norton will simultaneously run an action photography workshop with Triple D as the subject.
Another festival highlight is the Runway Project.
Last year's Runway Project attracted 1000 riders, including Dean and his then 6-year-old son Val "The first Ride the Runway had a great feel about it ... my son was fizzing. It was a great reminder of what cycling can bring to a family, a community, and what it means to Rotorua."
There are seven new events on the 2016 programme including the much-anticipated Mountain Bikers Ball, which gives riders a chance to party until midnight in one of Rotorua's iconic buildings, the Blue Baths.
The ball is a fundraiser for the James Dodds Memorial Fund. Dodds was a pioneering downhill rider, skills coach, trail and bike builder, and funds raised will contribute to ongoing development of the northern Whakarewarewa Dodzy Skills Park.
Former partner Gabby Molloy believes Dodds would be touched and proud at this legacy.
"The Ball is a celebration of the people and inspiration that holds Rotorua together. To be part of this community is a humbling experience and an honour."
MTBO -- Mountain bike orienteering -- is fast gathering momentum in New Zealand as a unique multisport discipline combining the challenge of navigation and mountain biking.
At the festival, Orienteering Bay of Plenty will stage the first of three 90-minute rogaines in its summer series.
It will also present the less-competitive MTB Adventure Quest with Amazing Race-style mystery events, perfect for 90 minutes of family fun. Dressing up is optional.
The festival has a spectacular finale with the World Endurance Mountain Bike Organisation 24-hour Solo World Championships.
Australian Jason English will defend his men's open title, looking for a record seventh crown in the event.
English is joined by countryman and three-time WEMBO world champion Brett "Jeebus" Bellchambers who will be competing the hard way, on a single speed.
Race director Tim Farmer will run the Nduro24 teams event alongside WEMBO, providing a "unique opportunity for Kiwis to race alongside the world's best endurance riders".
Other events include The Big Bike Film Night, Frocks on Bikes and Tykes on Trikes.
"This is what makes the festival so exciting and vibrant," says David Crowley from the Rotorua Bike Festival Charitable Trust, "fresh new events right across the spectrum, blended with successful events from past festivals".
10-day mountain biking festival
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