Top-drawer weather, top-class trails and the memory of a top bloke were celebrated over the weekend during the first annual Dodzy Memorial Enduro Mountain Bike race, held in the Wairoa Gorge.
The emotional rollercoaster for somerivalled the exhilarating course that many saw for the first time on Saturday. The partner of James "Dodzy" Dodds, who died recently, won the open women's classification, while the overall winner was taught to ride by a mountainbike legend.
Sunday was Enduro race day, and with heavy hitting downhill racers Justin Leov (Trek World Racing), Cam Cole (Yeti) and Sam Blenkinsop (Lapierre) in the field many pundits expected these three to sweep the podium.
However, it wasn't to be, with Wairoa Gorge trailcrew making good use of their local trail knowledge to take the top spots. In first place overall was Dominic Stulen, second place went to Nelson's Jamie Nicoll, winner of last week's MTB Top Gun event, while Sam Dale took third place.
Stulen had worked on the Wairoa Gorge trail as part of the construction crew until recently moving to Canterbury to attend university. He also, like many of the people attending, had a close relationship with Dodzy.
"Dodzy taught me to ride when I was 13 or 14 in Rotorua, and it's awesome to win this event in his memory," said Stulen.
"It's a big surprise for me to be on the top step of the podium today alongside Jamie and Sam. I knew I could go fast here but never thought that I would be able to win. Thanks to Dad for letting me use his bike."
The open women's winner and partner of Dodds, Gabby Malloy, was emotional on the podium.
"I knew I had to win this today for Dodzy. I really wanted to and I was sooooo nervous sitting there waiting for the results to come in," said Malloy.
"In my last race run my helmet came loose and I had to stop a couple of times, so I didn't expect to win. There are some amazing ladies riding this weekend, so I'm relieved and excited to win."
It was an action-packed weekend with mountainbikers travelling from as far afield as the United States, Briain and Jamaica, as well as some competitors from just down the road in Wakefield. They came to sample what some riders were calling the best riding of their lives.
Event organiser Nick Crocker said: "That's a big call, coming from people who have been riding bikes all around the world. I'm so stoked that everyone is having a great time," he said yesterday.
One competitor, Tom Winwood of Nelson, the spot prize winner, received a return flight to the Ken Klowick memorial event at the Jamaica Fat Tyre Festival in February.
Held over two days, Saturday was spent riding the trails in guided groups, allowing riders to get a feel for the challenging terrain. It was the first time the newly completed Wairoa Gorge trails were open to the public. A limited field of 200 riders were either invited, or accepted entry into the inaugural memorial event.
Dodds was killed in a hunting accident last in September. He had been involved with the construction of the Wairoa Gorge trail since 2010 and planning for the Enduro event was begun in the months before his death.
The organisers said it had been a great first event for the Wairoa Gorge trails, and they hoped that next year's event would be even bigger and better.