NZ’s premier mountain bike race attracts international sponsor

New Zealand’s Karapoti Classic, the longest running mountain bike event in the Southern Hemisphere, received international recognition with the signing of Scott Bicycles as its naming rights sponsor. Scott may renew sponsorship for up to five years.

Established in 1986, Wellington’s Karapoti Classic has been a key race in New Zealand mountain biking for more than 20 years. It was the first to attract 100 riders and the first to attract 1,000 riders, now the event’s self-imposed entry limit. Racers are drawn to a 50km course through Upper Hutt’s scenic, but rugged Akatarawa Ranges. Last year's event attracted riders from 11 countries.

“Scott is excited to be behind New Zealand’s premier mountain bike event,” said Colin Walker, who helped arrange the sponsorship. Initially a world leading innovator in the ski market, Scott ventured in to the bicycle market in 1986 with innovations in the mountain bike and triathlon markets. In more recent years, Scott has focused on carbon fiber technology, and the 2007 edition of the race will correspond to the launch of Scott's new lightweight carbon-fiber Spark bike.

Launched only this week, organizers report they already have 300 entrants toward the 1,000-rider limit. The Karapoti waiting list has created a culture of its own, with last year’s 500-strong waiting list prompting Karapoti Classic entry auctions on TradeMe.

“Karapoti’s popularity never fails to amaze us,” says event manager Michael Jacques of MDJ Media & Events Ltd. “Last year we sold out shortly after New Year, but right now we have twice as many entries as November last year so we think the 2007 event could be full before Christmas.”

In 2006, the record entries also brought a record winning time. Australian professional Peter Hatton clocked 2 hours, 18 minutes and 1 second to smash the record set by Kiwi Olympian Kashi Leuchs in 1998 by almost three minutes. Up and coming Rotorua rider Clinton Avery also broke the old record.

This year organizers are hoping to pit Hatton and Avery against the old record holder Leuchs and world champions Tim Vincent and Craig Gordon. Vincent, from Nelson, and Gordon, from Australia, have both won 24-hour mountain biking world titles. Vincent has won the Karapoti Classic three times (‘01, ‘03, ‘05), while Hatton (‘04, ‘06) and Leuchs (’98, ‘02) have both won twice.

Organizers will attempt to match up several past women's winners: former world junior champions Nathalie Schneitter (Switzerland) and Lisa Mathison (Australia), and Commonwealth Games silver medalist Rosara Joseph (New Zealand).

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