With tyres pumped, bags packed and last minute training taken care of, mountain bikers from around New Zealand are counting down the hours to the start of the inaugural Skins Alpine Epic on Wednesday (25 February).
New Zealand’s first stage mountain bike race, to be held from 25 to 28 February, will see teams of two battle it out over 259km of picture postcard scenery from the Canterbury foothills of Mt Somers through the Southern Alps to Lake Tekapo in Mount Cook/Mackenzie country.
Competitors will finish on the shores of Lake Tekapo with the spectacular backdrop of the Southern Alps behind them.
Event co-organiser Nick Ross predicts first place will be a battle of epic proportions between New Zealand’s top cross-country mountain biker and Olympian Kashi Leuchs teamed up with fellow national rep Marcus Roy, and well-known endurance athlete Mark Williams from Queenstown with team-mate Scott Wilder, a competitive road cyclist from Christchurch.
Naming rights sponsor Skins, a specialist in body-moulded compression performance equipment, has further incentivised racers by pledging $5,000 cash for overall place getters.
Mr Ross says securing key sponsorship from Skins has been very important.
“We wanted a strong naming rights sponsor whose values closely aligned with that of the event and who would actively want to be involved. Skins have given us both – in fact, Skins’ managing director David Watt will be on the start line as a competitor.
“In a multi-day race format it’s crucial for athletes to recover as much as possible each night in order to meet the next day’s challenge,” says Mr Ross. “Skins is a perfect fit for the Alpine Epic because it optimises performance and recovery.”
Destination Mt Cook Mackenzie General Manager Phil Brownie, a race entrant himself who has teamed up with Cathy Richards from Visit Waimakariri, is expecting a large crowd of supporters and locals to be at the finish line cheering racers across.
“Everyone’s really excited about it. I’m expecting a big Mackenzie contingent to be there so we should have a decent cheer squad to welcome us in. It’s just as well – I’ll probably need it!” he jokes.
The four-day event will round off with a banquet and prizegiving at an original high-country homestead in Tekapo.