Meet the man behind the track

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Queenstown downhill course designer Blair Christmas knows the recipe for a demanding day on the hill. 

Back when the Queenstowner raced in World Cup and National Series events, many of today’s pro riders were juniors. 

Now he sets up the DirtMasters Downhill course to test their mettle – and his own as he continues to race for thrills. 

“I’m past my best with the racing but it’s just bloody good fun,” Christmas says. “It’s a very social sport. 

“There’s a very high standard of rider at the bike festival this year. We’ve got just about every New Zealand pro coming. 

“Most of the guys were juniors when I stopped racing so it’s great to see them succeeding. They’re a great bunch and gave me good feedback on last year’s course.” 

Christmas says riders will face a challenging mix of manicured trails, more natural terrain, drops and air at the Queenstown Bike Park event this year. 

“It’s a mix of everything the hill has to offer,” Christmas says. 

“Probably 30-40 per cent is quite technical. It’s designed so downhill riders of most abilities can tackle it but while still being challenging for the top guys.” 

Christmas, the architect and builder behind many Queenstown courses –including the Remarkables course used for the National Series – says the Queenstown Bike Festival is firmly stamped on the race calendar and now attracting top European stars. 

“The European guys like Remy Absalon are always looking for somewhere to go in the off-season and the reputation of Queenstown and the way things spread on social media, they know they can come here, mix it up with the locals and have fun and train. 

“The two big locals to watch out for are probably Reon Boe and Matt Scoles from Alexandra. Boe is a machine. 

“And Cam Johnson from Wanaka, he’s had a rough year injury-wise but he knows the hill really well and is a very quick rider.”