NEW Zealand's inaugural multi-stage mountain bike race has proven so popular that entries have closed early.
Sixty teams have now registered for next month's the Alpine Epic, a four day cross-country race in which teams of two battle it out over 259km from Mt Somers through the Southern Alps.
Race co-organiser Nick Ross is absolutely thrilled with the response he's received from the mountain biking community.
"The feedback has been phenomenal and mountain bikers are coming from all around New Zealand."
Alexandra and Wellington are particularly well represented, with four and five teams respectively.
Ross said the field was a good mix of recreational riders and international athletes and includes a number of former national champions.
Ross predicts the team to beat will be New Zealand's top cross-country mountain biker and Olympian Kashi Leuchs, who has teamed up with fellow national representative Marcus Roy.
The team likely to be hot on their heels will be well-known endurance athlete Mark Williams from Queenstown and team-mate Scott Wilder, a competitive road cyclist from Christchurch.
Also in the mix will be the Britain's Simon Harper who has teamed up with Wellington's Gianluca Valsenti.
The wildcards of the race could be Trans-Atlantic rowers Rob Hamill and Jamie Fitzgerald.
Ross said they have endurance on their side but could find the hill climbs tough.
Destination Mt Cook Mackenzie general manager Phil Brownie is a keen mountain biker and has been training hard with team-mate Cathy Richards from Visit Waimakariri.
Brownie said the race is bringing a new spectrum of mountain biking to New Zealand.
"We're delighted the organisers have chosen our region to host their inaugural event and were all 100 per cent behind it."
- © Fairfax NZ News