Something to suit every rider

Competitors in last year's Tour de Wakatipu ride through a breathtaking landscape. Photo supplied.
Competitors in last year's Tour de Wakatipu ride through a breathtaking landscape. Photo supplied.
Organisers of the Queenstown Bike Festival have stepped things up a notch this year for all levels and types of cyclists.

The festival, in its third consecutive year, is expected to pull in over 5000 riders and attendees. The 10-day event runs from March 22 to April 1.

Events would suit cyclists from casual riders through to seasoned professionals,

organiser Geoff Hunt said last week, as he announced some additional events, taking the tally to 25 overall.

Nearly every genre of cycling - mountain biking, cross-country, downhill, freeride, road biking, casual pedals, kids' racing and park riding - will be covered, across some of the Wakatipu's best riding terrain.

Pros competing during the week include world cup downhillers Cam Cole and Sam Blenkinsop, former New Zealand rep Mark Johnson,free rider Conor McFarlane, and Sam Perry, who was placed 6th at the latest downhill nationals.

Mr Hunt said the newest of the events, the R&R Sport Mega Avalanche, was the festival's ''crazy race'' and one of the specialist events spectators and riders alike would thrive on.

The race would start on the high slopes of the Remarkables skifield, run down a steep single line through tussocks and rocky terrain and end at the edge of the lake.

The final layout and course selection was done on Saturday and entries would open by tomorrow.

Mr Hunt said the events' popularity had increased tenfold this year, which he attributes to New Zealanders getting well behind the sport.

It was a sign of a new style of riding, he said.

The Outside Sports Super D ''specialist event'' held at the Queenstown Bike Park was already full, with 110 starters signed up, and he was in the process of making a new event for the 20 on a waiting list and any more who missed out. Details of that would be announced soon. The Vertigo Bikes Dirtmasters Down Hill was also a hearty challenge to national and international riders, he said.

Other festival highlights include family favourite the New World Tour de Wakatipu, which reels in about 800 contestants every year it has run.

The ride from Millbrook Resort, in Arrowtown, to Chard Farm Winery, has had steady interest already and this year there would also be runners.

Farmer Steve Lang has opened up some of his land for runners to compete in a 12.5km run alongside the right-hand side of the Kawarau River, usually closed to public.

For keen spectators during the 10 days, several top professionals are lined up to launch themselves on giant jumps and man-made features under lights in town for the Teva Slopestyle.

The event is now a FMB World Tour Silver Event. Last year's festival brought in more than $2 million to the local economy.

Mr Hunt said the aim this year was to create a festival that ''appeals to a wide swath of biking culture''.