7 February 2013
The trail is fast and flowing and runs through Redwoods. It’s typical of Rotorua mountain biking with views out to the city and the lake.
But it’s not in the world-famous Whakarewarewa trail network. The Sprint Warrior trail is at Skyline Skyrides on Mount Ngongotaha just to the north of Rotorua, and mountain bikes are rolling down the hill for the first time in over 6 years.
Rewind to Spring 2006. Rotorua hosted the biggest show in international mountain biking, the UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships with over 600 riders from 39 countries, including all the stars of the sport. It was a magic week with large, raucous crowds and over 250 media from round the world lining the custom-built courses at Skyline.
Now, in February 2013, mountain biking returns to Skyline on the evening of Friday 15 February as part of the 1st Rotorua Bike Festival with the Skyline Sprint Warrior.
There is one significant difference from 2006. Back then, the cross-country featured a tortuous climb to the top of the gondola and the downhill started well above this on Mount Ngongotaha. In 2013, riders will gondola up to the trailhead and then race down.
The trail is technical in sections, but with easy lines bypassing the serious grade 6 features. It is also a bit of a tribute to the World Champs designers and volunteer building crews who put in long hours in 2005 and 2006.
The Skyline Sprint Warrior is just one of a long list of events on the Festival programme.
Brand new events like the Agroventures Shweeb World Champs, the More FM BikeExpo and Giant 2W Gravity Enduro also feature on the schedule.
There will be an Inner City Street Criterium and Bike Parade, fun rides for the kids and social rides for the grown-ups. The Redwoods Coast, Hard Court Bike Polo and Mountain Bike Adventure Quest Orienteering are also in the mix.
The second weekend of the Festival will feature the BMX Rotorua National Qualifiers on Saturday 16 February.
BikeNZ's high performance Olympic squad of London silver medallist, Sarah Walker, Marc Willers and Kurt Pickard will all be there. The Rotovegas Jumps Jam will take the action into the twilight with spectacular action.
Meanwhile, out in Rotorua's world-renowned trail network in the Whakarewarewa Forest New Zealand's elite cross-country and downhill racers, like Anton Cooper, Karen Hanlen, Dirk Peters, Sam Blenkinsop, Brook MacDonald and Louis Hamilton will compete for 2013 titles at the Mountain Bike National Championship.
The full programme for the 1st Rotorua Bike Festival (8-17 February) is on the website www.rotoruabikefestival.com or check out www.facebook.com/rotoruabikefestival.