Club of 2019? It's a tie.

Between the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club (still doing the hard mahi 25 years on with a refreshed vigour and a talented, diverse committee focussed on events, rider development, and the all-important Emergency Response Unit), Descend Rotorua, Revolve Rotorua and Rotorua Mud Maidens, two clubs that have encouraged more women into riding, and the Rotorua Singlespeed Society.

All volunteers, all making a massive contribution to what makes mountain biking in our region so successful.

They are the bedrock of the growth of the sport and the $30-50 million annual benefit to the local economy.


Special mention to The Daves, Hamilton and Rose, from Descend Rotorua, the backbone of our downhill racing community - event organisation and management, mentoring, trail building and more - over the last decade. They ran their last event in 2019 and will be missed.

And to the Whakatane MTB Club who are gaining momentum and new trails.

This is the 52nd column for this year – more than 730 since 2003. One common theme over that time: The extraordinary value of these good-hearted, generous people.

Like human of 2019: Barbara Jenks, secretary of the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club and, with other members of the Club, a key player in the funding of the Emergency Response Unit.

Events shine the spotlight, locally, nationally and internationally on the Whakarewarewa Forest Bike Park. Crankworx, XTERRA, the Rotorua Bike Festival and the Giant 2W Gravity Enduro all ticked the boxes, again, in 2019.

My favourite was the Emerson's Whaka 100 on Labour Weekend. Rode tail-ender on the first one in 2007, slowly, very slowly, and it took me over a week to recover.

The Whaka 100 is a very tough challenge. Directing and vision switching the multi-camera coverage of the 2019 Time Trial the day before, then race day was a different sort of challenge. Very rewarding, though, thanks to Nduro Events skipper, Tim Farmer, and TV producer, Simon Hunt from Fever Pitch Visuals.

The Whaka 100 grows in entries and stature every year, superbly orchestrated by the event team. Entries are open for 2020:


Riders of the year: Tuhoto-Ariki Pene who arrived on the world scene with a very big kia ora, bro.

He won his first UCI Mountain Bike World Cup round in Val di Sole in Italy in Junior Men's Downhill and was third in the World Championships in Monte-Sainte-Anne in Canada. A fine young man, who represented his whanau, friends, sponsors and country with pride and honour.

And Kate Bone. Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes last year, she rode the Whaka 100 as a personal challenge and to raise awareness of her illness. Seeing her cross the finish line, late afternoon on race day, to an emotional welcome from friends and family, was a personal highlight.

While 2019 in mountain biking has been very successful, sadly, tragedy has felt ever-present. As the year and decade ends, thoughts are with those who perished in Christchurch, on Whakaari/White Island and in Samoa and all the police, army, medical professionals and search and rescue personnel who scrambled to help in those very difficult times.

He aroha whakato, he aroha puta mai… If kindness is sown, then you shall receive kindness.

Kia ora and best wishes for 2020.