Race 1: 2016-17 Giant 2W Gravity Enduro Series

By Dare 2 Sweat Events

Giant 2w Round 1 Start – Te Puia – Rotorua, New Zealand – Photo – Jason Beacham

Saturday the 15th of October saw the start of the first round of the Giant 2W Gravity Enduro in Rotorua. The series, now in it’s 5th season has become the largest enduro in New Zealand, with 461 riders in the first round. The 4 round Giant 2W has become a staple of the ever-growing series of mountain bike races across the country. It is seen as one of the premiere events with rider placing going toward the NZ Crown overall points and race 2 of the series being the last chance to qualify for a space in the Enduro World Series in 2017. With a location set in the north island’s hub for mountain biking, and being organised by the team who brought the first EWS round to the southern hemisphere two years ago, most of NZ’s top enduro racers compete here, including Blenheim’s Justin Leov.
Justin Leov and Lester Perry, along with others, contemplating race stage routes during briefing – Photo – Jason Beacham

I’ve committed to the series as I’ve been out with sickness and a bit of injury from the race in Whistler last year, so I needed a bit more training… If you are going to do a race, especially if you have to travel, you want to make sure everything is dialled. Neil (Gellatly of Dare 2 Sweat events) just puts on such a well organised and perfect event for this..”- Justin Leov

One of the great things about this event, is that it offers a shorter 4 stage option along with a more physically demanding and longer 6 stage option. In order for your points to count toward the EWS qualification and NZ crown overall title, you can also choose to pedal all 6 stages resulting in a minmum of  1235 metres of descent. Riders also get to choose the order in which they complete the stages to add a bit of strategy to the event.
14 yr old Max Arnel from Hamilton, sending the hot line at the top of K2 – Photo – Jason Beacham

Also new this year to the event is a category for Mum’s/Dad’s and their offspring. The organisers realised the ever-increasing talent pool in our younger generation of riders, and wanted to include a reward for families competing in the event.
Rupert and Josette Hastings wait for a shuttle to the next stage – Photo – Jason Beacham

Having a good crew to ride with, it was such a good atmosphere, no stress…not having start times and being able to rock up to whichever stage you want, in whatever order was rad… it was just fun. That’s what we need more in our racing is just FUN!” - Justin Leov

This winter in Rotorua had seen some serious rain and little time to dry out in between, which led to some of the wettest conditions in many years. The native bush tracks sometimes resembled ice skating rinks and led to quite a bit of rowdy drifting through corners and over roots. The open and clear felled tracks were a bit tackier but still physically demanding as you never knew which root or corner was greasy, and which was grippy. With the weather staying true to its recent pattern, we saw stints of clear skies and spits of rain through out the day, keeping things interesting.
Erin Eggleston negotiates Te Tihi O Tawa and the greasy native forest– Photo – Jason Beacham

The stages were good and super physical….probably the most physical race I’ve done in the last couple of years really, even on the EWS, these stages really kick your ass!” - Justin Leov
Local pinner and last year’s overall male winner of the event Keegan Wright was definitely one to watch. Keegan was out to defend his title with other locals Sam Shaw and Carl Jones looking to strip him of it. As the times ticked up, with almost exactly 1 minute separating the top 5, the results showed that local knowledge ended up trumps. The 6 stage Men’s overall podium: 1st – Keegan Wright, 2nd – Sam Shaw 3rd – Carl Jones, 4th-  Justin Leov,  and Invercargill’s silent assassin Ollie Harnett rounding it off in 5th.
We have the EWS coming back to Rotorua and although people see that it’s my home country, I often feel like I don’t have the advantage when I come up here, so I wanted to be more familiar with racing the tracks up here and racing this series will do that for me.” - Justin Leov
Raewyn Morrison enjoying a bit of spectating time with one of the sport’s best Hecklers, Mr. Clinton Gray  – Photo – Jason Beacham

On the women’s side of the event, last year’s winner Raewyn Morrison was still out with injury from a crash on the EWS circuit. She did however make the trip up to Rotorua to cheer on fellow competetors and do a bit of heckling with some of the local pros in that category. The women’s podium was capped off by local legend Annika Smail, who is no stranger to the winner’s circle and also one of the event sponsors. The 6 stage Women’s overall podium: 1st – Annika Smail, 2nd – Vanessa Quinn, 3rd – Ronja Hill-Wright, 4th – Zoe Beesley, 5th – JessicaManchester.

The Mens 4 stage results: 1st – Dane Nimmo, 2nd – Mark Leishman, 3rd – Cameron Beck, 4th – Sam Thompson, 5th – Toby Carr

The Women’s 4 stage results: 1st – Michaella Mackie, 2nd – Jo Caulfield, 3rd – Jenna Hastings, 4th – Julia Stevens, 5th – Trina Stone

The next round is expected to bring in some more outside talent, being the last EWS qualifier of the year. Who will take it down this time? Only time will tell!
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