CURTIS KEENE DROPPING INTO THE FIRST STOP OF THE ENDURO WORLD SERIES FOR 2017, THE GIANT TOA ENDURO. JESSE MELAMED TEMPTS FATE BEHIND HIM WITH A WHEELIE DOWN THE SLIPPERY START RAMP.
The Whakarewarewa Forest is a magical place, a peaceful oasis on the edge of town set amongst giant redwood trees and enveloping punga ferns, with snaking trails carved into loamy rich soil covered in varicose roots that never fail to fill one with joy. Add in some rain and hundreds of speed-crazed enduro riders to the mix, and it takes on a far more sinister persona.
RAIN, HAIL OR SHINE, THE CROWD KNOWS HOW TO HAVE A GOOD TIME AS WELL AS PROVIDE SOME EXTRA MOTIVATION FOR THE RIDERS WITH YELLS OF SUPPORT AND IMITATIONS OF SHEEP.
So it was for competitors and spectators alike for the first round of the Enduro World Series for 2017, becoming a battle of not only wits and speed but basic skills like staying upright and avoiding potential disaster that was more out of one’s hands than is usually the case.
IT WAS NEVER GONNA BE AN EASY DAY, BUT SOME DEFINITELY CAME OFF WORSE THAN OTHERS.
JARED GRAVES TRANSITIONS TO STAGE 2 IN NEED OF A DRINK AND MAYBE A CLEAN JERSEY.
There was nowhere to hide on some of the most technical trails that EWS guns will face all year made even more so by varying levels of wetness, from splashes to puddles to downright bogs, destroying hopes for some and drivetrains for most.
THE FOREST IS FULL OF ENDLESS BEAUTY…
…WHICH THE RIDERS PROBABLY COULDN’T SEE FROM RUTS AS DEEP AS A CONVERSATION ABOUT THE SPORT OF CYCLING AND HOW IT IS PROGRESSING IN MODERN DAY SOCIETY.
MOST OF THE DAY WAS SPENT WAITING ANXIOUSLY TO SEE IF RIDERS COULD A.) PULL OUT OF THEIR WELL-WORN RUTTED LINE, OR B.) EAT SHIT.
THE MUD AND THE WEATHER DIDN’T DETER FANS AT ALL… THIS LITTLE LEGEND TOLD ME ALL ABOUT HOW HE DOESN’T WANT TO RACE ENDURO BECAUSE HE LIKES DOING TRICKS, BUT HE WAS STILL OUT THERE CHEERING!
THE SUN SHOWED ITSELF ON AND OFF, BUT NEVER LONG ENOUGH TO BEGIN DRYING THE LAYERS UPON LAYERS OF MUD.
I’VE TYPED MUD TOO MANY TIMES TODAY… TIME TO START CALLING IT WET DIRT.
THE CROWDS STAYED AROUND ALL DAY LONG, TRAVERSING THE TRANSITIONS BETWEEN STAGES ON FOOT, BY BIKE, OR SLIDING ON THEIR ARSE.
FINISHING AT THE BASE OF THE REDWOODS IN THE DODZY SKILLS PARK, FANS CLUTTERED ALL AREAS TO CHEER THE RIDERS INTO THE FINISH LINE.
THE WOMEN FINISHED UP THE IMPRESSIVE DAY ON THE BIKE WITH CECILE RAVANEL (FROM THE LAND OF THE CROISSANT) FOLLOWED BY INES THOMA (FROM THE PLACE THAT DOES OKTOBERFEST) AND ANITA GEHRIG (THE CHOCOLATE MASTERS THAT HAVE SOME ALPS!).
IT WOULD BE A KIWI DOMINATED PODIUM FOR THE MEN WITH WYN MASTERS TAKING HIS FIRST EVER EWS WIN FOLLOWED BY LOCAL MATT WALKER AND WYN’S BROTHER EDDIE. BOTH ‘MASTERS’ OF THEIR CRAFT, BUT IT WAS TO BE WON BY WYN TODAY!
As for me? Oh, I got completely lost in the forest, wore totally wrong shoes and slipped and slid around everywhere. But I also enjoyed some stunning New Zealand vistas, breathed in some fantastic smells, and witnessed the world’s best enduro racers taking on some crazy conditions and coming out on top. It was an absolute blast!