Bike events: the top five

Competitors and views from January's Big Easy ride, which starts at the Snow Farm. Photo supplied.
Competitors and views from January's Big Easy ride, which starts at the Snow Farm. Photo supplied.
Here are the top five events to aim for, according to Queenstown Times reporter Olivia Caldwell.

1) The Big Easy, 48km, January 26, $85.

The hardest thing I have done in my life! But I loved it.

The course covers it all - hillclimbs, descents, gravel roads, farmland and a forest.

Beginning at the Snow Farm, riders make their way to the top of Mt Pisa and once that hard work is out of the way the fun begins on the giant downhill to Luggate. The course then heads towards the Clutha River before another short climb, through grassy paddocks, and around the edge of the Clutha River finishing at the Albert Town Tavern.

2) Bannockburn Mountain Bike Classic, December 30.

Sport $30, recreational $20.

There are three categories: Classic ride: This is about 35km of mountain terrain, gravel roads and 4WD tracks.

The biggest climb is about 600m, so, great for your first ride. The total course takes between 1hr 30min to 3hr.

Sport ride: About 22km of the same, although some fun downhills and river crossings to enjoy. Takes between 45min and 1hr 45min Recreation ride: About 10km of gravel road/farm tracks.

Ideal for first-timers or families with children over 10 years. Estimated time 30min to 1hr.

3) Bannockburn Gutbuster, November 24, $40.

I haven't done this one yet, but I have heard great things from others.

The adventure Pub-to-Pub crawl begins at Garston and heads up Nevis Bluff Rd before plunging down into the top of the Nevis Valley. Plenty of river and stream crossings here, and some of the fords are deep, according to a colleague who tackled the race once and got very wet during a ford mishap. He says pray for a southerly tailwind to help you hoon down the valley, and save some energy for the final climb to Duffers Saddle, as it's huge! Riders climb about 800m in 12km before setting sail down the Bannockburn side on a scary descent. Then it's on to a sealed road to the finish at the Bannockburn Hotel.

4) Tour de Wakatipu, March 30, $75.

This is one of the most enjoyable big bike events near Queenstown and one for the Queenstowner.

The race begins at Millbrook and leads on to the new Queenstown Trail and through Dalefield roads such as Speargrass Flat Rd, Slope Hill Rd, Lower Shotover Rd and Domain Rd. The course then heads on to a scenic single track that follows the Shotover River, across the Shotover bridge and follows a gravel road to join the Kawarau River track and then across the Kawarau River bridge for some highway riding.

The ride ends at Chard Farm winery, where a barbecue awaits.

Options are. - Recreational: 36km. Sport: 45km. Elite: 45km.

5) Motatapu Bike Race, 47km, March 9, $140.

While the previous is for the Queenstown rider, this one is filled with Cantabs and Aucklanders in lycra. That's fine. Not ticking this one off as a local rider is like living in Wellington and not attending the National Rugby Sevens.

It doesn't need much of an introduction, as it has become the most popular Otago ride by far, with 2000 cyclists competing each year. The price is steep and so are the climbs, so if you have the extra cash to spare, sign up.

The race starts at Glendhu Bay near Wanaka and ends in beautiful Arrowtown.

From Glendhu Bay, the race takes you through some fantastic farmland.

The off-road course then climbs to Motatapu, Soho and Glencoe Stations, which are only open to the public once a year.

The best part of the race would have to be the countless crossings through the Arrow River, because by then you know you're not far from the finish line.