Kiwi mountain biker Kelly McGarry dies after collapsing on Queenstown bike trail
The world's mountain biking community is in shock after Kiwi "legend" Kelly McGarry died after collapsing while biking on a Queenstown trail.
The 33-year-old, from Nelson, was biking on the Fernhill Loop Track when he suffered from a cardiac arrest while riding uphill at 4.14pm on Monday.
Two paramedics from Queenstown were flown to the remote part of the track, about 45 minutes walk from the top of the Skyline Gondola, after reports of a mountain biker suffering a "medical event", St John Central Lakes territory manager Kelvin Perriman said.
Emergency services did not name the man, who died at the scene. However, his sponsor, German bike company YT Industries, confirmed his death in a statement.
"Kelly was a warm-hearted, friendly and relaxed guy. He stood for the true essence of mountain biking through every aspect of his life. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, girlfriend and his friends. The mountain bike world lost an exceptional character.
"We consider it an honour that Kelly was riding for the YT Family last year. Ride in paradise!"
The company paid tribute to the rider on its website, with the message: "There are not many of your kind. We will miss you."
A funeral will be held on Monday at midday in Nelson but the venue was yet to be confirmed. A funeral notice said that McGarry was "a huge loss to his family and friends, many thanks to St Johns staff and to friends around the world for their messages of support".
Fraser Gordon of the Queenstown Mountainbike Club said McGarry was riding with representatives from his YT Industries team on the Fernhill Loop Track when he suffered a cardiac arrest.
"We understand he was riding uphill and suffered cardiac arrest. He is an extreme mountain biker so everyone is presuming he fell but that is incorrect," Gordon said.
"He was out riding with some of his frame sponsors YT and I think they were going to do some filming and take some photos with him."
Gordon said the club became aware of his death at 7:30pm on Monday and described his death as a "huge shock".
"We were hoping it had all been a horrible mistake but once we knew we got together with his partner and went through the proper channels.
"It's a huge shock for everyone. He's a larger than life character and he's been involved in our community for years now and it's all pretty raw at the moment."
Friends, fans and fellow riders from around the world posted tributes on McGarry's athlete page on Facebook, many of them writing "ride in peace".
Canadian mountain biker Geoff Gulevich shared a photo of himself with McGarry, with the message: "Words can't explain what a dark day it is in the freeride mountain bike world. Kelly McGarry you were and always will be a badass. Sleep tight brotha. Love ya."
Spanish mountain biking clothing label CP Gang also shared a tribute: "Your smiling face will always be in the best memories of our sport. Thanks for everything! Life is unfair, rest in peace Kelly Mcgarry. We'll ride for you today!"
"It's great to come back to Nelson and to see everyone so stoked on riding and every little thing about bike riding. If I can offer something back to the kids, I'm gonna, and the response has been awesome so far," he said.
McGarry started off as a BMX rider but quickly outgrew his bike, and took up mountain biking.
"I always dreamed of making it a career. When I lived here and was riding in Nelson, that all seemed so far away, I didn't know if it'd ever happen. But as soon as I started travelling and doing good in the comps it worked out. I couldn't be happier to do my passion for a job."
With a reputation as a legend in mountain biking circles, McGarry's most incredible – and most-watched – feat was a backflip across a canyon in Utah during the Red Bull Rampage in 2013. A video of the stunt on YouTube has been viewed more than 28 million times.
McGarry was scheduled to compete at Southland's Farm Jam event at Dan and Brett Frew's 2600-acre sheep farm at Otapiri Gorge, near Winton on Saturday.
Organiser Dan Frew said McGarry was a strong advocate for their grassroots event and had competed in every Farm Jam since it started in 2008.
McGarry was at the Winton farm last week helping with the set-up for Farm Jam.
"He is a builder by trade and there were a few things we needed done, which we hadn't got to. So I gave him a call and there were no problems, he was here," Frew said.
Frew first met McGarry at an event in Nelson and he said they had become good mates.
"He shouldn't be remembered for his athleticism and as a mountain biker, but as a great human being."
Frew said the news had rocked everyone at Farm Jam but added the riders were determined to compete on Saturday for McGarry with tribute T-shirts being arranged.