World top-10 downhill mountain biker Fabien Cousinie (26),
of France, at the Queenstown Bike Park trains before the
Downhill Dirtmasters next week. Photo by Olivia Caldwell.
Mountain biking superstars have descended on Queenstown
this week for the 10-day Queenstown Bike Festival.
Some of the world's top downhill and enduro riders will
engage in the professional events such as the Downhill
Dirtmasters, the Mega Avalanche and the Teva Slopestyle this
Top-10 downhill rider and 2011 French Cup champion Fabien
Cousinie was here last year filming the bike series
Chasing the Dust, which gained 70,000 web views.
He was so impressed with the tracks in Queenstown he has come
back to compete.
Mr Cousinie will ride against other top riders in the
Dirtmasters Downhill on Wednesday and the inaugural Mega
Avalanche at the Remarkables the following Sunday.
He said there was plenty of competition in the form
Christchurch's Cameron Cole and New Zealand's Sam Blekinsop,
to name a couple.
''New Zealand downhill riders are really good, too.''
Aside from Queenstown's ability to attract other world
riders, Mr Cousinie has been impressed with the resort's
tracks after training for the past three weeks since he
''Skyline facilities are really perfect, it has everything
within a close area, Seven Mile is perfect for enduro
''The area, the weather make us all stay on for longer.''
Mr Cousinie will be using this week as a training run for the
year ahead as his season back home has just started.
''It is still early enough in the season to practise; that is
exactly the purpose of the trip.''
Queenstown's mountain bike scene along with the 3-year-old
bike festival have begun to gain traction all over the world
and although the festival was still young, he thought both
had a big future on the world stage.
''It's starting to get a name.''
The bike festival begins on Friday with New Zealand rider
Kelly McGarry launching off at the Queenstown Bike Park.
It continues through to Sunday, April 1 with more than 25
events, ranging from recreational rides, social events and
the 5-year-old Tour de Wakatipu, as well as the extreme
On Thursday the Dirtmasters, set to International Cycling
Union (UCI) standards, will have riders contending with
speed, drops, air and technical challenges.
Spectators can also get in on the action at the downtown
finish line and cheering on the competitors as they drop down
the Brecon St stairs.
Now accredited as a Freeride Mountain Bike World Tour Silver
Event, the downtown Slopestyle event on Thursday at the
Ballarat St car park has attracted the ''who's who'' of
international freeriders, all primed to show off in front of
a predicted 5000 spectators.
Festival organiser Geoff Hunt said the event attracted more
than 3000 last year and he hoped that would build after the
Riders for this will include Mr McGarry, who was placed fifth
at the Teva Slopestyle 2012, Canada's Sam Dueck, whose hyper
extended tricks were a crowd favourite last year, and
defending champion Benny Phillips, of Australia.
The festival's new event, the Mega Avalanche has also
attracted international entries, including French team riders
Remy Absalon and Nicolas Quere, as well as World Cup
downhiller, and female Canadian national champion Casey
Based on the ''Megavalanche'' in the French Alps, the race is
expected to test even the world's best downhillers as they
hurtle down a course on the Remarkables mountain range.
Destination Queenstown chairman Mark Quickfall said: ''With
over 5000 entrants and attendees at the 2012 festival
bringing in an estimated $2 million to the local economy, the
Queenstown Bike Festival has become a key autumn event on our
The Lonely Planet New Zealand Travel Guide singles out
mountain biking in Queenstown as one of its top 12 favourite