700 for Epic ride

More than 700 mountain bikers will tackle the seventh annual Contact Epic mountain biking challenge around Lake Hawea tomorrow.

Among them will be 30 ''Last Man Standing'' (LMS) contenders in the running for a cash kitty set up by race organisers in the event's first year.

The group, aged from 22 to 66, contains only riders who have completed the 125km Epic race distance each year.

The prize money, which is added to each year, will eventually be awarded to the last man or woman standing who has ridden the most consecutive events.

''We have heard some fantastic stories of commitment. And that's not just from the riders but their families, too,'' race director Danielle Nicholson said.

''From wedding anniversaries spent by wives at the Hawea Holiday Camp with the four kids while hubby rides, to giving up smoking to ensure an increased lung capacity.''

More than half of this year's competitors will compete in the full 125km circumnavigation of the lake.

The newer Contact Traverse ride, a shorter 35km circuit that leaves Lake Hawea and follows the Hawea and upper Clutha rivers, has attracted more than 100 riders. The rest will compete in the 95km Classic ride.

The 2013 Epic winners, Dougal Allan and Kath Kelly, will return this year to defend their respective titles.

Allan has just returned from winning China's Wenzhou Outdoor Challenge as part of a team, while five-time women's champion Kelly will have her work cut out for her with the return of 2012 women's champion Kim Hurst.

''It will be a head-to-head,'' Mrs Nicholson said.

The Contact Epic race starts at 7am tomorrow.