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Records All Round at Karapoti

Records All Round at Karapoti

New race records and a record turn out from a record number of countries made the 22nd edition of the Scott Karapoti Classic the best yet.

As the Southern Hemisphere’s longest-running mountain bike event, Upper Hutt’s Scott Karapoti Classic has always been recognised as New Zealand’s premier event. Since 1986, the savage 50k test through the Akatarawa Ranges has been the benchmark for aspiring mountain bikers. But this year New Zealand’s favourite mountain bike race outdid even itself.

Commonwealth Games reps Clinton Avery and Jennifer Smith lined up as favourites for the 22md running of the Scott Karapoti Classic. But facing strong fields, no one expected them to dominate quite like they did.

Avery simply rode a collection of New Zealand, American and Australian reps in to the ground. The strapping 190cm, 90kg rider rode from the front all the way, powering away on the flat and technical riding and maintaining his lead as the smaller riders tried to attack him on the uphill. But the Rotorua rider’s relentless pace tore the chasers apart until eventually his only competition was the clock.

Avery crossed the line a massive 10min ahead of Australian Nic Both, but had no idea that he’d achieved anything other than his first Karapoti title. A year ago he and Australian rep Peter Hatton had battled for the entire distance only for Avery to lose out when he crashed in one of Karapoti’s famous river crossings when within site of the finish line. Hatton went on to claim the win by 14secs in 2hrs 18min 01secs, a time that eclipsed the previous race record held by world ranked rider Kashi Leuchs. But this year Avery set a whole new standard.

The 20 year old stopped the clock in exactly 2hrs 14min, but was lost for words when he saw his record-breaking time. “The track didn’t seem any faster than last year,” he shrugged almost apologetically. “I was feeling good and was going better on the climbs than last year, so I just went for it. But I didn’t expect to go that fast.”

Behind Avery the other contenders to his new crown were left stunned. Australian Nic Both improved three placings and six minutes over his Karapoti debut last year, but was still 10min behind Avery when he claimed second place. “He was just in another class today. We couldn’t get near him,” said the Australian after holding out American Rob Schnell.

Schnell had been the dangerous dark-horse in this year’s Scott Karapoti Classic. The Colorado native is USA’s sixth ranked rider and had been training in New Zealand for several weeks in the build up to Karapoti. But he had never faced a race quite like the savage 50k route around Upper Hutt’s Akatarawa Ranges.

“That was amazing,” he said after claiming third place, just 40secs behind Nic Both. “I’ve never raced anything like it. The terrain, with all those hills and bogs and bike carrying was more like an adventure than a race. I loved it, but I wasn’t ready for a race like that.”

Scnell’s fellow Colorado rider, Jennifer Smith, wasn’t quite expecting what happened at Karapoti either. She had raced here before, finishing second to Commonwealth Games medallist Susy Pryde four years previously. This year the Kiwi-born runner-turned mountain biker out-classed New Zealand’s best women to claim her first Karapoti title by almost four minutes. But even she was surprised by how fast she id it. The West Coast native smashed the 13-year-old woman’s record set by endurance sport legend Kathy Lynch by more than two minutes, stopping the clock in an incredible 2hrs 47min 35secs.

Like Avery, Smith had no idea what she’d achieved. “Really,” she exclaimed upon hearing her time. “That’s amazing. I knew I was winning, but I had no idea how fast I was riding.”

Wellington’s Indian summer produced the fastest Karapoti on record. Prior to this race only seven women had ever broken Karapoti’s magical three-hour mark. But this year four new women entered the club as current New Zealand number one Fiona MacDermid (2:51.15), Wellington Olympian Roby Wong (2:55.40) and Taumarunui firefighter Katrine Lawton (2:59.51) all broke three hours.

A record 1300 riders started the 22nd edition of the Southern Hemisphere’s longest-running mountain bike event. This year organisers increased the entry limit to cope with an ever-increasing demand that saw more than 1600 riders from 13 countries apply for the popular event.

The 2008 Scott Karapoti Classic is scheduled for March 1, 2008. For more details see www.karapoti.co.nz.

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