19 February 2021
It will be all guns blazing when seventy New Zealand adventure racing teams line up on the start line for GODZone Chapter 9 in Rotorua next month.
The multi-day, nonstop expedition race (4th– 14thMarch 2021) has attracted some of the world's best racers, including six-time world adventure racing champions Nathan Fa’avae, Sophie Hart, Stu Lynch, and Chris Forne of team Avaya and two time Coast to Coast longest day winner Simone Maier who is teaming up with All Black legend Richie McCaw, Rob Nichol and Aaron Prince as team isport.
“We have quite the lineup of adventure racing royalty in those two teams alone,” says GODZone Race Director Warren Bates. “I expect the movers at the front of the PURE full course field will be led by Nathan Fa’avae and team Avaya. They will be strong across all-terrain with Sophie Hart bringing some good local knowledge having grown up in the region."
Nathan Fa’avae says he can’t wait to put his adventure racing boots back on for GODZone in Rotorua.
“It's a great opportunity to experience the very first North Island GODZone – it's going to be unique in that volcanic landscape," says Nathan.
Bates says Simone Maier’s second Coast to Coast win last weekend turns the spotlight on Richie McCaw's isport team.
“Simone was in the winning team at GODZone Chapter 8 so knows what it takes to lead from the front of the pack, and she is fast. Aaron Prince brings all the adventure racing credentials required for a swift and consistent pace having 20 years under his belt, mainly with the Swedish team Haglof Silva. His strategy and decision making could be key for isport.”
Rob Nichol of team isport says the team is looking forward to experiencing an interesting Rotorua course.
“We have had the chance to get out and test some gear and enjoy hanging out together. With all four team-members competing at Coast to Coast last weekend, we have now turned our attention to full GODZone preparation and are super keen to get out and race and see how we go together as a team. There is nothing quite like the unknown.”
Bates namechecks Queenstown team Tiki Tour with Tom and George Lucas, Mike Kelly, and Kym Skerman as a team with a win in their sights after being pipped at the post at Chapter 8 in Canterbury. They won GODZone Chapter 6 back in 2016.
" I like Tiki Tour for their tenacity and drive, and their new team member Kym is very hardcore, however they will need to keep their heads together and have plenty of speed to match Aaron and Simone. I like the look of the T7 team lead by Richard Anderson out of Wanaka along with Tim Farrant, Tim Skima, and Sara Prince. They are all seasoned adventure racers with good strategic and navigation skills but will they have the pace to keep in the top three is my question. Their navigation abilities should land well in the varied Rotorua topography.”
With over 70 teams competing in the 8.5-day event, Bates expects some newbie teams may edge into the top ten with no international teams at play.
"The New Zealand border situation has put paid to a lot of international talent providing an opportunity for lesser experienced teams to nudge further up the rankings," he says. "That includes Christchurch-based team The Sneaky Weasel Gang with Tane Cambridge, Struan Webb, Claire Bell and Te Puke's Bobby Dean who brings local know-how. They might have a bit of a ding-dong battle for fourth or fifth place with the young Christchurch crew Further Faster Fledglings made up of Odie Ruegg, Hayley Richards, Bradley Scott, and Will Jones."
The introduction of support crews to GODZone this year adds a new dimension to the race, and Bates says it could screw with some of the top teams' racing style.
“ The addition of support crews this time around will change things up out on the course as traditionally in GODZone, the teams don't see any supporters at transition areas as we move their gear around. I think this could be a negative for team Avaya as they’ve done more races together than all the other leading teams put together and are the slickest and best organised in transition areas carrying the least amount of stuff in their gearboxes. Support crews will take that advantage away as other teams will be able to concentrate more on optimising their pace and strategically thinking about when to sleep and when to attack certain stages. Conversely, it could make it harder for some teams to finish as they will end up spending too much time in the relative comforts of a transition with their crew.”
In the shorter formatted GODZone PURSUIT category, Bates picks Oliver Thompson as a likely front runner.
"Oliver Thompson from Whakatane is a young adventure racer who always brings good form and he is racing with team Crossing Peaks alongside Jake Varg – they are ones to watch."
For more information on GODZone, Chapter 9, go to: http://godzoneadventure.com/
Top: Richie McCaw & Rob Nichol GODZone Chapter 5
Middle: Sophie Hart, Stu Lynch, Nathan Fa'avae, Chris Forne Team Avaya
Bottom: Simone Maier Chapter 8 GODZone