Mountain bike madness

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The top male and female riders in a wacky mountain bike race this Saturday will wear a permanent reminder of their victory. 

To claim first prize at the New Zealand Singlespeed Champs at Queenstown’s Seven Mile Reserve, victors have to succumb to an indelible tattoo. 

Chicken out and the title passes to the next fastest. 

The NZ champs follow the tradition set by the annual Single Speed World Champion­ship – where winners have to accept a tattoo or branding. 

The tattoo’s not the only bizarre feature of these champs. 

About 90 competitors have entered – including 20 Aussies – and they are encouraged to wear fancy dress. Riders are also tempted to down two beers to qualify for a one-and-a-half-minute shortcut during the four-lap race. 

Main organiser Carey Vivian says the event safety plan prevents them offering riders any more than two beers. 

Despite the race’s wackiness, reflecting its end-of-season placing, Vivian says the men’s and women’s titles are highly prized. 

Entrants include former NZ rep Marcus Roy, who won his fifth Motatapu race from Wanaka to Arrowtown last month, and this year’s Motatapu mountain bike runner-up Tony Hogg. 

The course – revealed to riders only on the day itself – is hardly beer and skittles. 

Each 8km lap includes 600 vertical metres – multiplied by four, that’s higher than Queenstown’s Remarkables mountain range. 

The steep bits are even tougher when you’ve only got a single gear ratio. Expect all the best riders to be off their seats or even pushing their bikes, Vivian says. 

Six locals – including Mark Williams, Jim Hawkridge and Ricoh Riott – are entered and 10 are involved in organising the race. The event’s a precursor to the first Single Speed World Champs being held in New Zealand at Rotorua in October. 

Local rider John McCartney, one of Saturday’s organisers, played a pivotal role in Rotorua scoring the event when he rode in the worlds in Colorado, US, last year. 

In the weird bidding process, McCartney passed the first round after assuming the role of singer Freddie Mercury in a karaoke contest. He then assembled a team of basketballers who beat an Italian-led combination to win the bid. 

Vivian says McCartney wasn’t disloyal to Queenstown – “we haven’t got a big enough trail for 1000 riders”.
Saturday’s race starts at 1pm at Wilson Bay – the first riders are due in about 3.30pm.