Over two hundred one-geared mountain bikers will take to the trails in Rotorua's magnificent Whakarewarewa Forest this Anzac weekend for the first New Zealand Singlespeed Championship.
"It's great to be in the last couple of days of the countdown to race start on Saturday, April 26," said event director, Dean Watson. "The Speights is on ice for the after-match party, our great team of volunteers is ready to go, the design of the tattoo for the top man and woman is finalized, the official T-shirt is on sale, and it's time to race."
For the winners at least, the race is a step along the way to the World Championships in Napa, California, in August. "The Rotorua Singlespeed Society did some fast talking and managed to secure a place for first Kiwi across the line this weekend," said Grame Simpson.
This New Zealand championship has drawn a wide range of competitors - from long time singlespeeders like Rotorua's Garth Weinberg and four-time US cyclo-cross women's champion, Katie Compton, from Colorado, to top New Zealand pro-elite cross-country riders, Mark "Cabin" Leishman and Annika Smail. "We've even got a few downhill racers entered," said Simpson, "including Craig Pattle from Rotorua who I understand will be wearing something pink."
One singlespeed tradition being upheld is keeping the course a secret till the start. Attempts to find out where and what it is have been met with threats of disqualification. "The race starts at 1:00 pm and we'll have arrows from the main trailheads at Waipa and Long Mile Road to direct spectators to the event headquarters in the forest," says Watson. "This will be a fun event to watch and also a very, very tight race for the titles."
The weekend's events begin before sunrise on Anzac Day, Friday, April 25, with a ride (for all cyclists not just singlespeeders) to the Dawn Service at Ohinemutu Marae on the shores of Lake Rotorua. "The Singlespeed Champs may all be about fun," says Simpson. "However, it'll be great to start the weekend recognizing the sacrifices Kiwis and Aussies have made in the past."
Anzac Day is an Australian and New Zealand holiday to honor Army soldiers who landed at Gallipoli, Turkey, during World War I.