CYCLISTS are geared up for ten days of biking bliss as the second Queenstown Bike Festival gets underway.
The first major festival event – the Super D six-hour uphill and downhill endurance race – takes place today from 10am-4pm at Queenstown Bike Park, on Bob’s Peak.
The Easter bike fest has an expanded programme this year – reflecting the resort’s skyrocketing international reputation as a biking mecca.
Serious slogs on razor-thin road bikes will again be a major part of proceedings, but mountain bikes may well outnumber their slimmer cousins on the racks around town.
Three of the four cornerstone events feature off-roaders, including the all new ‘slopestyle’ competition.
Organiser Geoff Hunt says: “The Teva Slopestyle should be exciting.
“There’s $10,000 in prize money put up by the sponsors with some allocated to the best trick, so it will be good to watch.
“The four main events show how the festival caters for a wide range of people.
“Our Tour De Wakatipu – the cornerstone event which enabled us to build the whole festival – has an average age of up around the 50 mark.
“The Super D Enduro is about 33, the DirtMasters Downhill about 23, and I’d imagine the slopestyle competition could be younger again.”
Alongside Whistler in Canada and Morzine in France, Queenstown has become one of the top three summer mountain biking destinations.
About 1100 bikers are expected to be in the saddle over the 10 days, including three-time Olympian Kiwi cross-country star Kashi Leuchs, who returns to take on the Super D.
Hunt believes the number of visitors coming for the festival will increase each year, with about 15,000 in 2013 – up 50 per cent on the inaugural year.
“We’re trying to grow the festival slowly, so we don’t extend ourselves too much and it’s not too dramatic,” Hunt says.
“Bit by bit we’ll just add new events. This year there are two new ones, and also an opening night with comedian Joseph Harper.”
The other new event on the programme is the Bikes made in New Zealand with Love competition, which will see bikes made of bamboo line up alongside state-of-the-art time trial rockets.
And along with serious, social and night rides, there’ll be entertainment, parties and cinema nights in the evenings.
Hunt adds: “The highlight for me will probably be watching the League of Gentlemen 16-inch World Championships in World Bar.
“It was hilarious last year – basically a race around the pub on a kids’ bike while skulling beers laced with tabasco along the way.”
The festival runs until April 9.