It was four Nzo Whaka 100 wins in a row for Rotorua’s Carl Jones, on his home trails on Saturday.

That was only half the story as he also smashed his own race record for the toughest mountain bike race in New Zealand by 13 minutes to finish in a sensational 4 hours 31 minutes. And the local hero was nursing a bad dose of ‘flu.

Carl Jones in action in Saturday's Whaka 100 (Alick Saunders)
Carl Jones in action in Saturday’s Whaka 100

“I wanted this one pretty bad,” he said. “I went to Malaysia to race a couple of weeks ago and I wanted to come back with some form for the Whaka 100, then I got sick, but I tapped it out, went hard and got it.”

Next up for Jones is a trip to Brazil for a multisport race then he returns to New Zealand to prepare for the National cross-country series and championships.

Another Rotorua rider, Sam Shaw was second and Hamilton’s Josh Parkin was third on a 100-kilometre course that featured demanding and technical trails, gravel forest roads and over 3000 metres of climbing. Commonwealth Games silver medallist, Sam Gaze, from Te Awamutu, led the race into the last 10 kilometres but took a wrong turn and DNF’ed.

He was philosophical about the result. “That’s racing,” he said.

Carl Jones looking pretty fresh after that effort!
Carl Jones looking pretty fresh after that effort!

Kiwi Olympian and Commonwealth Games representative, Karen Hanlen comfortably won the women’s race finishing in 5.35.

This was outside Annika Smail’s race record of 5.07, but she was satisfied with a very big day out at her first Whaka 100.

“I’m doing heaps more long distance training at the moment,” she said on the finish line.
“I’ve wanted to do the race before and this year it worked in perfectly.”

Her main goal was just to finish.
“It’s really fun with heaps of single track, but it’s a challenge, definitely a challenge and you can’t switch off,” she added. “There were bunches that I was part of and that spurs you on when you’re feeling a bit down.”

Hanlen enjoyed the Whakarewarewa Forest trails.
“They were perfect and riding really nicely,” she continued with her customary smile. “I attacked them with a bit more speed at the start, but in the end I was just trying to get through it.”

Porrirua’s Margaret Leyland was second and Erin Greene from Queenstown did it the very hard way on a singlespeed.

Karen Hanlen with the finish line almost in sight.
Karen Hanlen with the finish line almost in sight.

The weather could not have been better for the race – cool and clear at the start time of 8AM, then warming up to be a spectacular, spring day.

The trail conditions were also ideal. Riders described them as fast and the ‘right side of tacky’, after rain during the week, meaning race records were always on the cards.

The Nzo Whaka 100 kicked off a spectacular summer season of mountain bike action in Rotorua.

There is a Giant 2W Gravity Enduro in December, the 24 hours of Rotorua is at the end of January and the 3rd 10-day Rotorua Bike Festival starts on Black Friday February 13 and includes the National Mountain Bike Championships.
The first Crankworx Rotorua is on from March 25 to 29 and incorporates round one of the Enduro World Series. The off-road Xterra multisport race is early in April and the Anzac Singlespeed Championships are on April 26.

“It’s a mouth watering prospect, the best ever summer of mountain biking in New Zealand,” said Rotorua deputy mayor and mountain biker, Dave Donaldson. “It really reinforces our city’s reputation as the world’s premier, all-year round mountain biking resort.”

Full results:

Words: Graeme Simpson | Photos: Alick Saunders

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