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900 Mountain Bikers Ride Giant Karapoti Classic

Nine Hundred Mountain Bikers Ride The Giant Karapoti Classic

Nine hundred riders will compete in the 16th annual Giant Karapoti Classic mountain bike race on Sunday, north of Upper Hutt.

Men Race Director Simon Kennett said last year's champion Julian Mitchell (Christchurch) will be back to defend his title. His challengers are expected to be Tim Vincent (Nelson), who won a National Series race in Nelson, and Steve Bale, 3rd in 2000 at Karapoti. "Kurt Lancaster (Levin) will be running hot in his first year as a senior, after winning a National Series race in Blenheim," said Kennett.

Women Last year's winner Sadie Parker (Auckland) is outright favourite. Her only challenge is expected from Robyn Wong (Wellington), currently in the best form of her life.

Tandems In the tandem section, Brenda Clapp and Chris Burr (Masterton) are the favourites, after winning the Orongorongo Classic in January.

Retro Jonty Ritchie, racing in the retro category, can't be discounted for an overall place. Retro riders compete on bikes without the aid of suspension or clip-in pedals.

Epic New this year is the Karapoti Epic - a beefed up version of the standard Karapoti Classic.

Kennett predicted tough competition for the top spots. "Trevor Woodward (Petone) will be hard to beat, but Charlie Palmer (Wellington) might be the man to do it. Jo Forbes (Wellington) and Ditte Power (Christchurch) are the top women racing the Epic."

The winning Epic rider is expected to take five hours to complete the 80-km course, over extreme terrain in the Akatarawa ranges.

Karapoti Classic The Karapoti is known as the toughest mountain bike race in Australasia.

It started with 45 riders in 1986, and is now widely considered the most prestigious race in New Zealand.

While most races have developed into short multi-lap affairs to meet sponsorship demands, the Karapoti Classic has remained a single 50-km loop with more than 1000 metres of extreme climbs and descent.

Kennett said the Karapoti features the terror-inducing Rock Garden downhill; the Devil's Staircase climb, with dark bike-swallowing bogs which never see the light of day; and the fast Big Ring Boulevard.

"There are rocks the size of televisions in the Rock Garden, but Big Ring Boulevard is looking smooth and fast after a dry month," said Kennett. "We expect the winner home in two and a half hours."

Karapoti Challenge For the less hard-core riders, there is the fun 20 km Penny Farthing Cycles Karapoti Challenge. "The Challenge offers the same scenery in a gentler package, and takes about an hour and a half to ride," said Kennett.

"The Karapoti is more than a race; it's a festival," said Kennett. "Last year two racers dressed as fairies, we had a green-tinged Lounge Lizard, and one guy painted himself black and rode like Death."

Perennial Karapoti participant Alastair Rhodes (Upper Hutt) will be riding for his 16th year.

The United States Velonews magazine named the Karapoti one of the best 25 mountain bike courses in the world.

Riders start the race with a dramatic sprint through the knee-deep Akatarawa River, 10 km north of Upper Hutt. The Karapoti Epic starts at 8 am, the Classic at 10 am, and the Challenge at 10:50 am.

For more information contact: Simon Kennett or Patrick Morgan tel/fax (04) 499 6376, tel (04) 384 6260 home


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