Dream ride: American Ryan Howard competes at McGazzaFest  PICTURE: CALLUM WOOD

Trails including the 7 Mile Bike Reserve, Rude Rock, Wynyard Bike Park and Gorge Road Jump Park have firmed up Queenstown’s position as a mountain bike top dog. As world-class bikers descend on the resort for summer, Louise Scott finds out what makes Queenstown the place to be.

Forget gyms, mountain bike training simply includes wheels, dirt, jumps, grit and determination.

Red Bull Rampage riders Anthoine Bizet and Ryan Howard are spending summer in the resort after their northern hemisphere season.

Bizet scooped the people’s choice award at Rampage in October with his daring downhill manoeuvres and gutsy tricks.

After clinching 18th spot in the world’s gnarliest race, Howard is chasing summer.

He takes his cue from Queenstown legend Kelly McGarry who sadly passed away in 2016.

“One thing I learned from Kelly was to live summer year-round, that’s the mountain biker’s dream. Kelly would live in Canada for their summer and move back to New Zealand when summer hit the southern hemisphere.”

Howard competed in McGazzaFest last weekend – a tribute event to McGarry – but Bizet had to pull out due to injury.

Asked how he preps for a race, Bizet says repetition is key.

Howard isn’t keen on traditional training or gyms.

“Just riding,” he laughs.

The American is staying two months and describes Queenstown as the “place to be”, saying the Gorge Road dirt jumps are a masterpiece.

“It’s summer-time and there’s a wicked bike park and the people are really cool.

“There is raw mountain with gnarly terrain and good jumps and some of the best turns I have ever hit. The dirt jumps are nice and steep and flowy – you can ride downhill in the morning and [do] dirt jumps in the evening.”

Bizet has a similar approach. He first came to Queenstown in 2015 and was immediately impressed with the mountain biking scene.

The Frenchman says Salmon Run, near Fernhill, is his favourite.

“[It’s] a sick top-to-bottom downhill and wild freeride line. There are no jumps on it – I just enjoy riding it fast.

“For me doing a run is having fun, having some flow, going faster and jumping bigger. Adding in some tricks is an extra adrenalin bonus that makes the ride feel the best.”

The duo are not the only mountain bike big-wigs in town.

Fellow Rampage riders Tyler McCaul and Carson Storch are also here for a couple of weeks, competing in McGazzaFest and Winton’s Farm Jam later this month.

World-class: Mountain bike big wigs, from left, Anthoine Bizet, Bas van Steenbergen, Carson Storch, Tyler McCaul and Ryan Howard

McCaul didn’t know about Queenstown until he met McGarry.

“Kelly said, ‘you’ve gotta come ride Queenstown’ so I took his word for it and came over.”

He’s been riding mountain bikes since he was nine years old.

The 28-year-old, who clinched ninth place in Rampage, is looking forward to riding Dream Track, in Wynyard Bike Park, as it was shut for maintenance during his last visit.

Queenstown on the mountain bike map globally. He likens the trails and atmosphere to Whistler, Canada, and says the tracks, runs and jumps are second to none.

Carson Storch first came to Queenstown in 2015. He released a moving film, Dear Kelly, in memory of McGarry two weeks ago. Filming was done on some of McGarry’s favourite trails.

Carson says the resort is a “great spot” and reckons ‘McGazza’ would be pretty stoked with the turn-out for the weekend events.