With tyres pumped, bags packed and last minute training done, mountain bikers from around New Zealand were counting down the hours to the start of the inaugural Skins Alpine Epic on Wednesday, February 25.
In New Zealand's first stage mountain bike race, running through February 28, teams of two are battling it out over 259km from Canterbury foothills of Mt Somers through the Southern Alps to Lake Tekapo in Mount Cook/Mackenzie country. Competitors will finish on the shores of Lake Tekapo with the spectacular backdrop of the Southern Alps.
Event co-organiser Nick Ross predicts first place will come down to a race between New Zealand's top cross-country mountain biker and Olympian Kashi Leuchs teamed up with fellow national rep Marcus Roy, and well-known endurance athlete Mark Williams from Queenstown with teammate Scott Wilder, a competitive road cyclist from Christchurch.
Stage 1: Mt Somers to Inverary - 35km, 800m ascent
Stage 2: Inverary to the Rangitata River - 35km, 1,250m ascent
Stage 3: Rangitata River to Rangitata Gorge Time Trial - 15km, 150m ascent
Stage 4: Rangitata Gorge to Sherwood Hall - 80km, 2,300m ascent
Stage 5: Sherwood to Tekapo - 62km, 1,950m ascent