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Sun, 05 Feb 2006

N-ZO N-Duro 24 Hour mtb race, Rotorua - 19:20
As mentioned a few times I was competing in the N-ZO sponsored N-Duro 24 hour Mountain Bike race this weekend in Rotorua, New Zealand. With a team of 5 of us it was going to be a fun and not particularly hard (when compared to solo or pairs) effort. The team consisted of 4 Australians, Michael Carden, Jim Trail, Heidi Flaxman (who lives in NZ now), myself and one New Zealand native, Lisa Morgan, entered in the mixed category we would not be directly competing against the most competitive category of 5 person males. Our team name was Australian Mountain Bike, the magazine Jim writes for in Australia.

Heidi, Lisa, Mike and I had driven up from Wellington on Friday evening, Jim had flown in from Australia on Friday and we all hooked up at the race site setting up the camp on Saturday morning. Rather bizarrely for us (Jim, Mike and I) more used to the Mont and other large races in Australia the camping was almost empty 3 hours before the race and we had prime choice of spot. After putting up a few tents and prepping stuff Jim, Mike and I wandered into the Fat Dog cafe in town for breakfast (2 hours before the race start).

I personally was amazed at the small turn out for the race, I competed solo in the Moonride 12 hour last May here in Rotorua, with a 24 hour race tacked on to the same course at the same time there were around 2000 people there that weekend, admittedly most of them were competing in the 12 hour rather than the 24 hour race. Thus the race format and forest itself can attract higher numbers. Thus to rock up to the N-Duro and find only 300 or so competitors when I would expect around 1000 was a shock. Gary Sullivan from N-ZO suspects the event may be just a bit early in the year, too soon after Christmas, people return from holiday and do not have enough time to fit it into the calendar and organise teams and travel for the race.

Heidi and Lisa competed in a team last year at this event and when we rode some of the extra trails in the area that were not in the Moonride course back in May, trails such as "A-Trail" and "Be Rude Not To", Heidi said they were part of the lap in the N-Duro 24 Hour course. This made my mind up then and there, any 24 hour race that included such incredibly good single track has to be on my calendar to compete in. I suppose I should not be surprised the Moonride did not include some of the better tracks in the park. Speaking with Gary about this last year and again this week, he sets the course for the Moonride, however the event organiser does not let him include more technical or challenging parts in the Moonride, thinking he caters better to beginners and average punters by keeping the course simpler. Fortunately for all of us there are events such as the N-Duro that can include some of the most amazing single track anywhere in the lap.

Anyway the race started at midday, and unlike most Australian races it was the most laps you could do in 24 hours which meant you last lap to count was before 12pm Sunday, if you returned from a final lap at 12:01pm it would not count. We decided on the running order with me starting for the team on the first lap, followed by Heidi, Mike, Jim and then Lisa who wanted to do a double lap. Held up in traffic for a lot of the first lap, and including the run I got around in a fairly respectable 49 minutes. Heidi knocked off a good 46 minute lap and we were underway reasonably well. My next lap was around 44 minutes which I was happy with. Come night time and we had been pulling into first place, however the rain also started falling fairly heavily.

Due to the nature of some of the tracks, and possible damage to both tracks and riders in heavy rain, at midnight the race organisers decided to stop the race until 6am, due to how heavily the rain was falling this was probably a good thing to do. We all bedded down as best we could in the tents as it continued to rain. The organisers also modified the course slightly and removed A-Trail. I headed out for the 6am lap, which would end up being my final lap of the race, followed by Heidi and then Lisa on a double. Mike and Jim finished off the race for us at around 11:35am on Sunday, too late for any of us to fit another lap in before midday.

In the end we each had completed 4 laps, for a total of 20, we won first place in the mixed teams of 5 category (the race had Solos, Pairs, Fives, and Tens), the prize for which was a free entry next year. I wonder who will be keen to fly across for this race next year? It was fun to watch near the end of the race some of the really fast riders pulling out laps around 36 minutes and one rider who had done a 36:18 a few hours earlier heading out at 11:24:05 in the hopes of getting in before 12pm in order to secure over all first place. (he came in about 30 seconds too late and damn was he moving)

The race being small and the nature of presentations and the people there was great to compete in, far more laid back than many races back in Australia, I definitely recommend anyone who can that they should enter this race, if only for some of the single track in it, I really can not describe how good some of these tracks are, Maybe Mike or Jim will be better with the superlatives.

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