It’s midweek at the Yeti Trans New Zealand Enduro and we are currently in Queenstown riding in the area of Coronet Peak. Day three of five turned out to be a massive adventure day as our bikes took us both on and off the beaten mountain bike path. As adventure days usually are, it was a long one. The route took us high above Queenstown in the mountains surrounding Coronet Peak where we again and again could marvel at the beauty of this small town, ‘the adventure capital of the world’ and the landscape it sits in.


We earned a later start today as yesterday was such a late finish, we arrived in Queenstown well after 8pm. Breakfast was scheduled for 8 until 9 am and after which there was some much needed bike tinkering time after the mud fest that was day two. About 10:30am we loaded up the ten vans and trailers and set off in convoy to Coronet Peak. This peak sits high above Queenstown and is a popular ski resort in the winter. In the summer though it is the go to area for mountain bikers with well-known trails such as ‘Rude Rock’ and ‘Pack, Track and Sack’. These trails are a must for mountain bikers heading to the area to ride and it was an exciting prospect to be able to race them!


We were dropped by the shuttles at the main base for skiers about 200m below the peak at 1187m to which we then began the singletrack climb up to. We were due to race the climb back down and I was looking forward to riding back down over the rocks and berms rather than hauling and pushing up them! All 100 riders gathered together at the top of Coronet Peak with a real party atmosphere. This was a great stage to start on, the trail dropped down the side of the hill in full view of the cheering and heckling group waiting to start above them. I wished I could hang about longer and spectate but with the knowledge that this was going to be a big day I wanted to be one of the first off the line and stay at the front of the pack throughout the day. Stage one was as fun to ride down as I expected, it was long though and I never really recovered after a steep climb in the early part of the stage. My lungs were bursting for the entire length of the track and my legs were increasingly unwilling. The toll of the multi day enduro was beginning to show!


A short pedal on and we arrived at stage two – ‘Rude Rock’. This stage ran down most of this trail then branched off onto another Queenstown specialty ‘Pack, Track and Sack’ down into Skippers Canyon. Prior to beginning this stage I knew that the climb out of the canyon was about 6km so the stage had to be nearly half as long as this again, it was an enormous stage! The trail began on purpose built mountain bike trail and swooped down and up over rollers, traversing the hillside and along a ridgeline.


The trail has an amazingly picturesque backdrop over the valley and if I wasn’t racing I would have spent the time to admire it, as we were racing though there was no time to look around. You needed to be focused ahead trying to second guess which way the trail turned at each hump and concentrating on staying loose over all the breaking bumps! The second half of the stage down to the bottom of the canyon was easier to read but fatigue was setting in by then, after another uphill and hooking the bike over a fence I was pretty much spent and it was nowhere near the end of the stage! This was pure singletrack heaven though, a foot wide track, smoother than the upper section with just enough edge on the track to push tyres into and really rail some corners!


The climb up to stage three was not so much fun though, we climbed steeply out of the canyon to the top of the very next hill, taking about 30 minutes. The heat of the day was really getting up by now and after two long stages I was feeling decidedly wobbly! The climb was worth all the effort though, we found loam! The top of the stage began in a skinny rutted track on the open hillside, soon dropping you down into a lovely loamy forest. The recent rain had created an amazing, thick, deep surface, covered with pine cones it was such fun to ride on. Drifts, skids and roost was the order of the day, suddenly I wasn’t so tired anymore!


We then had to pedal the 6km out of the canyon, it took me 45 minutes up a fairly shallow gradient of track and ended not a moment too soon! Stage four was run down a track called ‘Zoot Track’, a track very similar to the first and second stages but only 1km long. This stage consisted of two ruts or tracks crossing over each other and containing various trail features. Pick a rut or line and hope for the best! This trail sent us down from a saddle below Coronet Peak to the access road near where we began the day. The late start this morning meant that time was now pushing on, nearly 4pm already.


There was already one shuttle planned to get to the last stage of the day but we were granted an extra shuttle to stage five as well – result! A quick drive up the road took us to stage five, a stage run completely over grass, down the side of the hill. It was loose and slippery, tyre rubber at speed doing nothing to hold over the grass in corners. The damp ground had also created a few wet patches, meaning inevitable wheel swallowing holes were being formed. I firmly heard my forks bottom out at least once as my riding left a lot to be desired! From the look on racers faces this stage had been a big hit, it was amazing how far you can descend over just grass with hills as big as this in the vicinity!


Last shuttle and small climb of the day, my body creaked as I got out of the van and onto my bike. I made my way to stage six with trepidation, this was a black downhill run and I had been told it was really hard to keep your speed down some long chutes! This stage was gnarly, those steep chutes really were hard to stay in control on, my heart was in my mouth the entire time! After fellow competitor Amy and I psyched ourselves up to drop in, I cleaned the first chute and thought I’d give the rest a go. A bit of a mistake as I hit the ground a few times and slid the rest of the way down!


The second half of the track was sweet though, supportive corners to carve the dirt though and some fun hairpins. Everyone was pretty tired though, it certainly made me heavier on the bars and mistakes were fast and furious. The end did turn up though and I was pretty glad to make it down in one piece, I was left with the feeling that I wanted to get up there and give it a better go! We then were treated to the cool ride down from where the stage ended on the hill to the next village of Arrowtown, an easy, flowing track, zig zagging over a creek with about 20 crossings in total. This was a big day on the bike, we descended over 2000m and it really did feel like a journey or a tour of the best Queenstown has to offer, fun times!


Results for the day – Stu Dickson holds first place with a time for the day of 35 minutes and 30 seconds, Zac Williams moves up into second place in a very close time of 35:33. Deon Baker has dropped to 4th place after two mechanicals within the space of 10 minutes of each other resulting in him loosing 2 minutes to his competitors. Mark Dunlop has eagerly stepped up to fill the third place gap in a time of 36:58 even after a 40 second detour down the wrong track on stage 3. The women’s times for the day also mixed themselves up at bit. Raewyn Morrison stays in first in a time of 39:35, this lady is rapid, that time is only 4 minutes off the fast men! Amy Pryse-Phillips stays in second place in a time off 44:22. The third fasted lady on the hill today was Queenstown local Mary Jowett in 47:42. In the open women Rae, Amy and I stay as the 1, 2, 3. My falls in stage 6 lost me valuable time today!


Tomorrow we are off to Alexandra, I rode this place a few weeks ago and it’s a wicked place! I’ll work out how to explain how good and what it’s like tomorrow where I will have pictures to help me!

Check out the previous updates:

Yeti Trans New Zealand | Day 2 – Slip Sliding Riding

Yeti Trans New Zealand | Day 1 – What a way to start an enduro!

Words: Rachael Gurney | Photos: Yeti Trans NZ

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