The very busy mountain bike event calendar continues next weekend.

The XTERRA Rotorua Festival is back at Tikitapu (Blue Lake), supported by Mazda, Hawaiian Airlines and Rotorua Lakes Council on Saturday, April 6.

There's another big entry list across a range of events – running, walking and biking.

The main event is the solo off-road triathlon with places up for grabs in a range of age group categories at the XTERRA World Championships in Hawaii, at Kapalua on Maui, Sunday, October 27.


This is a very big deal with a projected TV audience of more than 6 million and a field of 800 with 75 pros and more than 700 amateurs. It's the culmination of a series of more than 100 off-road triathlon races held in 30 countries and 38 US states.

Since XTERRA first arrived in Rotorua in the early 2000s it's grown in numbers, significance and prestige as one of the city's key events.

That's a well-deserved accolade for race director Frank Clarke and his team. They run a superbly-organised event.

I've marshalled on the mountain bike course at all but one of the past events and have seen that at first-hand with logistics being fine-tuned every year.

Rotorua deputy mayor Dave Donaldson has wrangled the MTB volunteers since year one with his wife, Shreeve, playing a major role on the walking and running course.

They bring a quarter-century of event experience, each.

Being out of New Zealand in Samoa for this year's event will be hard. It's always great to catch up with the team early on race day morning as the sun edges into the sky. I don't want to jinx next weekend's event.

However, there's not been a single XTERRA in Rotorua when the weather's been anything but good. Maybe some cloud, passing drizzle and some breeziness on the Blue Lake. Otherwise fine.


There's always a friendly vibe on course. The pros will all have their race faces on and rightly so, of course.

A lot of the rest of the field will give a hearty shout out to the marshals. When you're out there for five to six hours, that makes a big difference. Another reason I wish I was going to be there is that local Sam Osborne will not only be defending his title, he'll be going for a three-peat.

Sam is one of those great kids who grew up in the forest and into a fine young man. Sam's mum and dad, Lennore Osborne and Edd Serrallach, run Planet Bike out on the Waipa Mill Rd to Eight Mile Gate and Hill Rd.

They are quite rightly very proud of Sam. Part of his success comes from riding bikes since he was a nipper.

"You know what," Lennore told me two years ago as he started stacking up an impressive list of achievements on the world XTERRA circuit, "there's another reason he's so successful – he works really, really hard."

He also makes a good coffee at Planet Bike if you are passing.

There are other locals entered, so get out on course and support them and all the other competitors.

For some, like Sam, it's about that top step on the podium in front of a hometown, home country crowd. For others, it's that simple joy of finishing a personal challenge.