Big expectations for bike festival

Queenstown's Reon Boe leads the pack and eventual winner Wyn Masters over Marshall Point on the Remarkables earlier this year, during the inaugural Mega Avalanche, part of the Queenstown Bike Festival.  The event is one of three which has been granted 10-year concessions and it has been given ''silver status'' in the New Zealand Mountain Bike Crown, providing a central hub for all mountain biking events in New Zealand.  Photo by Patrick Falcon.
Queenstown's Reon Boe leads the pack and eventual winner Wyn Masters over Marshall Point on the Remarkables earlier this year, during the inaugural Mega Avalanche, part of the Queenstown Bike Festival. The event is one of three which has been granted 10-year concessions and it has been given ''silver status'' in the New Zealand Mountain Bike Crown, providing a central hub for all mountain biking events in New Zealand. Photo by Patrick Falcon.

Entries have opened for the 2014 Queenstown Bike Festival. Six major events headline the week-long event, and predictions are for larger fields than before.

Now in its fourth year, the festival, featuring the Super D Enduro, Dirtmasters Downhill, Slopestyle, Mega Avalanche and Tour de Wakatipu, had a growing reputation as a premier New Zealand biking event, race director Geoff Hunt said.

Further, the Mega Avalanche, the Rock n' Roll Enduro, being held at Coronet Peak, and the Tour de Wakatipu had been granted 10-year concessions, providing the festival with certainty for the future.

''The main festival events are also included in the NZMTB Crown which provides a central hub for all mountain biking events in New Zealand and gives riders an overall national ranking in enduro, downhill and cross country.

''Our Super D and Coronet Enduro and Mega Avalanche have all been given silver status and the Tour de Wakatipu bronze,'' he said.

''The calendar for 2014 is expected to attract increased numbers with the festival's growing profile both in New Zealand and offshore.

''We are starting to get recognition as a southern hemisphere biking alternative to Whistler in Canada and Morzine in France and last year there were 1600 competitors, which was an increase of 30% on the previous year.''

Mr Hunt said the numbers of visitors, both domestic and international, also rose and, given the increased focus on Queenstown as a biking destination, those numbers were expected to continue to rise.

''We think 2000 competitors from Queenstown, New Zealand and overseas is a realistic target in 2014 and the number of spectators is also likely to outstrip the 5000 who turned out to the glamour events last year.''

Mr Hunt said the economic impact from this year's festival was about $2.1 million, based on visitor spending and including sponsorship and funding support from outside the region.

''Our goal is to have an even greater economic impact in 2014.

''The festival is a significant contributor and that can only increase as the festival develops.''

The Super D Enduro was New Zealand's only gondola assisted enduro and provided six hours of intense downhill and uphill racing in the Queenstown Bike Park, for both individuals and teams.

The Rock n' Roll Enduro at Coronet Peak would use the new trails and tracks on the skifield, as well as the Skippers pack track.

The Dirtmasters Downhill would also be held in the Queenstown Bike Park and Mr Hunt said that it was an event that attracted daredevils of all ages.

''Next year's course is on a new Queenstown Mountain Bike-developed downhill track and features high speed berms and technical rock and root sections.

''It's definitely not for the faint-hearted.''

The Mega Avalanche, held for the first time this year, had huge pulling power due to the ''wild ride''.

Competitors start high on the slopes of the Remarkables mountain range, at 1980m.

This year, competitors would be flown from the valley floor to the ridge line by helicopter, which would add to the ''excitement and calibre of the event'', he said.

The downtown Slopestyle was the top spectator event. World-class riders perform a series of tricks and are judged on style and degree of difficulty.

The Tour de Wakatipu was the major attraction for recreational riders, who would follow a 36km course through the Wakatipu, from Millbrook to Chard Farm, with divisions catering for both elite and social riders.

Several other smaller events were planned to suit bikers of all ages and abilities, including a ''grape ride'' to wineries, a girls' only coffee ride, children's events, a Crown Range ride and a night mountain bike ride.

''There is something to suit all levels and we hope everyone who owns a bike will find something to suit them.

''It's all about getting out there and having fun with friends on the bike,'' Mr Hunt said.

The 2014 festival will be held from April 12 to 20.