The Whaka100 Mountain Bike Marathon is known as one of the toughest mountain bike marathons in the Southern Hemisphere. This year, there are more than 1400 people travelling from 15 countries to race across the event's distances, including the Rotorua Isuzu Shoot Out Time Trial on Saturday and the 100km, 50km, 25km, 10km and kids 5.5km events on Sunday. Kristin Macfarlane looks at the top contenders of this year's Whaka100.
There has been a 19.5 per cent growth in the event this year, with a 73 per cent increase in female riders. 93.5 percent of people are travelling from outside of Rotorua, with participants travelling from 15 countries.
One of the Southern Hemisphere's toughest mountain bike marathons isn't necessarily a race most people think of entering to get a gauge of how they are going in the sport.
But that'll be the main focus for Tauranga's Tristan Haycock when lines up for the Giant - Whaka100 race on Sunday. Haycock is one of 500 riders competing in the 100km event, which is the main race of the 13th edition of Emerson's Whaka100 Mountain Bike Marathon.
The event is known as one of the toughest mountain bike marathons in the Southern Hemisphere, giving riders the chance to showcase their skill and endurance in Rotorua's Whakarewarewa Forest.
Haycock is one of four Bay of Plenty riders identified as top contenders of the 100km, along with Rotorua's Sam Shaw and Whakatāne's Brad Jones in the men's race and Rotorua's Janine Kavanagh in the women's event. They'll all be up against the defending champions in both divisions, with last year's men's winner, Tim Rush of Oamaru and last year's women's winner, Palmerston North's Josie Wilcox back to compete in 2019.
This weekend's race will be Haycock's first big race since competing in Canada in June and July, having been concentrating on his Bachelor of Sport and Recreation studies and coaching since he returned. He said he's use the 100km event to see how
"It's just a bit of a gauge of how I am at this time of the year, it's a nice way to gauge how I am and how everyone else is," Haycock said.
Next year will be the endurance athlete's last in the Under-23 category so once his studies start winding down for the year next month he'll continue to focus on his coaching and his own racing.
"I'm going to sort of take the next six months to get some form back for the summer," he said.
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Rush, who won with a time of 5 hours, 10 minutes, aid he was returning to the race because he enjoyed the trails, with his main goal being to enjoy himself out on the course.
"I have found when I'm having fun I ride my best and it becomes easier to endure the suffering that I know it will be."
"Ideally, my preparation for the Whaka100 would involve a decent amount of training on single track and with decent long climbs but down here we don't have too much in that way of things."
However, he said he had put in a few months of solid work to try and get his power numbers looking better than previous years.
Wilcox, who was first women to finish in 5hours, 53 minutes, aimed to ride fast and enjoy herself this year.
"The Whaka100 is one of the longer races on the calendar so it takes time to build a bit of strength to ride hard for six hours. I've been able to maintain consistent training this year more than ever."
The Whaka100 Mountain Bike Marathon has more than 1400 people travelling from 15 countries racing across across the distances - including the Rotorua Isuzu Shoot Out Time Trial on Saturday and the 100km, 50km, 25km, 10km and kids 5.5km events on Sunday.
Event director Tim Farmer said the level of competition had increased with top athletes coming from around Australasia.
"The reputation of Rotorua as a mountain bike destination is resonating with riders and the event gives an opportunity to participate in a mountain bike marathon on world-class trails."
Spectators can watch the race from the big screen at the event venue at Waipa Mountain Bike carpark. The Rotorua Isuzu Shoot Out Time Trial can also be viewed from the Creek Crossing, which is a short walk from the event venue.
Whaka 100 top contenders:
Tim Rush (Oamaru) - defending champion
Sam Shaw (Rotorua)
Brad Jones (Whakatāne)
Tristan Haycock (Tauranga)
Jon Odams (Australia)
Brendan Johnston (Australia)
Callum Gordon (Gisborne)
Josie Wilcox (Palmerston North) - Defending Champion
Janine Kavanagh (Rotorua)
Kate Fluker (Queenstown)
Karen Hill (Australia)
Rebecca Kingsford (Christchurch)
Margaret Leyland (Porirua)
Charlotte Culver (Australia)