New Zealand's Scott Karapoti Classic's one thousand entries have filled. Established in 1986, the rugged 50km epic around Upper Hutt's Akatarawa Forest is the longest running mountain bike race in the Southern Hemisphere. The race is set for Saturday, March 1. With more than a month until race day the traditional 1,000-rider limit is already sold out and event manager Michael Jacques expects close to 2,000 applications in total.
"We'd love to let all of them race," he said. "But Karapoti is a tough challenge in a remote environment and we simply can't cope with much more than 1,000 riders in the feature 50k event."
Jacques says the record level of interest is a continuing trend in the increasing popularity of mass participation endurance events right across New Zealand. "Karapoti has always had a big reputation," he said. "But mass participation sports like mountain biking, road cycling, multisport and triathlon have been enjoying substantial growth for the past four or five years.
Jacques attributed the growth to a new generation of people discovering the satisfaction of challenging themselves to accomplish things they might not otherwise experience. New for 2008 is a NZ$5,000 bonus for any rider who can win both the Scott Karapoti Classic and its sister event in Australia, the Flight Centre Epic.
Jacques hopes the new bonus will attract a stronger field for Karapoti, whose past winners have included world champions, Olympians and Commonwealth Games medallists. Last year Rotorua's 19 year-old Clinton Avery illustrated why many consider him to be the rising star on the national mountain bike and road cycling circuit when he smashed the course record by more than five minutes. American-based Kiwi Jennifer Smith also broke the women's record and Jacques hopes to have both riders competing again, this time against Australia's strong Flight Centre squad.