Scones and scenery Epic’s added attractions

The 11th annual Lake Hawea Epic takes place today and former winners will grace the arduous mountain bike course once again.

Organiser Danielle Nicholson said Wanaka’s Dougal Allan would face stiff competition in the men’s 125km Epic race from fellow past champions James Williamson, of Alexandra, and Edwin Crossling, of Wellington, while Simone Maier and Kath Kelly were the big names in the women’s event.

The course is renowned for its scenery as it winds its way around Lake Hawea through both the Hunter Valley and Dingle Burn high country stations.

However, it can also take its toll on riders. Last year, despite good weather, five riders were evacuated by helicopter for accidents involving a broken shoulder, hip and ribs.

Three other races will take place: a  95km race on the same course; a 35km race starting at the Lake Hawea Dam and following parts of the Hawea and Clutha Rivers; and The Centurion, a 100-mile (160km) race in which competitors race across both courses, which Ms Nicholson said was the longest single-day event in the country.

She said numbers were up from last year, with 720 entrants. She believed there were a number of reasons why the Epic was unique.

"[It’s] significantly remote terrain — no cellphones work and repeaters need to be choppered to mountain tops the week prior to ensure communication.

"Tea and scones at the Dingleburn Station also add a unique element that the city slickers love," she said.

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