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Records Galore at NZ’s Longest Running Mtn Bike Race

Records Galore at NZ’s Longest Running Mtn Bike Race

Celebrating 31 years last Saturday, Upper Hutt’s Bike Barn Karapoti Classic continued its renown as the Southern Hemisphere’s longest running mountain bike race. And women’s winner Kim Hurst continued her renown as the only local to win their own race with a record breaking ride that might well last the test of time.

Established in 1986, the Bike Barn Karapoti Classic is the longest running mountain bike race in the Southern Hemisphere. Based in Upper Hutt’s rugged Akatarawa Ranges near Wellington, the course is an old-school adventure ride featuring huge hills and river crossings amid remote and rugged forest trails.

This year some 700 riders from 10 countries and all ends of New Zealand lined up for what organisers say might have been the best ever combination of course and weather conditions. The result was a slew of records led by Upper Hutt’s own Kim Hurst.

Hurst, originally from Wales, won her third Karapoti title. Perhaps still smarting from a rare defeat in 2015, when a fractured wrist interrupted her training, Hurst took advantage of the conditions with a catch-me-if-you-can strategy that saw her leading from the first seconds of Karapoti’s famous running start across the Akatarawa River.

Nelson’s Ingrid Richter tried to stay close. The German-born rider has been the form mountain biker on the national series this summer, but Hurst simply rode away on the first of Karapoti’s four huge hills and would eventually win by almost 10 minutes.

The Upper Hutt doctor didn’t have the energy for a victory pump as she crossed the finish line, and the clock revealed why. She had clipped three minutes of her own 2014 race record with an incredible 2hrs 42min 12secs. While pleased with the record, she had actually started the race wondering about a sub-2:40 and pushed her limits the entire way, even crashing on the final descent off Doper Hill with just 10k to go.

Behind Hurst, Richter second place 2hrs 51min 29secs to be the fifth fastest woman in Karapoti history, while Wellington veterans Rhonda Gardner and Ann Hunn claimed third and fourth just ahead of former Swiss pro Sandy Vincent, who now lives in Nelson.

The men’s race at the 31st Bike Barn Karapoti Classic was both the same but different. Wellington’s Jack Compton took out New Zealand’s most prestigious title in his first attempt. That was impressive enough, especially given his age at just 19 years. But the way he did it was even more impressive; controlling the race from the front in the opening 10k, then ripping it apart on the very first climb, before breaking clear on the undulating ridge tops leading to the Rock Garden.

“Eden Cruise told me the place to really make a difference was on the ridge tops before the Rock Garden,” said Compton of advice from 2016 winner and training partner Eden Cruise. “I really pushed it along there, probably too hard actually because it really caught up with me on the last climb up Doper’s Hill. That really hurt.”

Compton needn’t have worried. Finishing eight minutes clear of Woodville’s Gareth Cannon and Canadian Cory Wallace, the Porirua rider clocked 2hrs 10min 25secs to become the second fastest ever at Karapoti. Only current Commonwealth Games gold medallist Anton Cooper has ridden faster with his 2014 race record of 2hrs 07min 57secs.

On a day of records right down the age group categories, there was also room for ground breaking rides. People like Wellington’s 71-year-old Peter Schmitz, who finished his 27th consecutive Karapoti Classic. And others such as Palmerston North’s Noel Pollard and Christchurch’s Sharon Prutton, who broke two records each.

Pollard smashed his own record for the 70-plus men by 11 minutes with 3hrs 53min 22secs and at age 74 became the oldest ever finisher. Prutton broke the women’s 60 to 69 age group record by 11 minutes with 3hrs 34min 10secs to become the eldest ever female finisher, and claimed eighth overall among women.

Held annually on the first Saturday in March, the 32th annual Bike Barn Karapoti Classic is scheduled for March 4th.


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