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Ready to race: The Motatapu mountain bike start in 2012. PHOTO: NATHAN SECKER

By GUY WILLIAMS

The Macpac Motatapu will return in March with a new backcountry mountain bike race on the nearly-complete Coronet Loop trail.

Organisers will let 200 riders loose on the 56km circuit, which gives access for the first time to Green Gate Saddle and Deep and Coronet Creeks around the back of Coronet Peak.

It’ll be one of six events in this year’s Motatapu, on March 5, which comes after last year’s event was cancelled after a Covid alert level change made it logistically unfeasible.

Race co-owners Craig Gallagher and Gemma Peskett say they’re expecting strong demand for entries to the new race, given three events — the ultra run, off-road marathon and Miners Trail — have already sold out and the 47km mountain bike event only has a few spots left.

Existing Motatapu competitors have the opportunity to grab the first 100 places, with entries opening online at 9am today.

The remaining spots go on sale this coming Monday at 9am.

Peskett says they’re thankful to the team behind the new trail — the QEII National Trust, Queenstown Trails Trust and leaseholder Soho Property Ltd — for ‘‘giving us this amazing opportunity to run a race on this very special track’’.

‘‘The Coronet Loop is the perfect step up for our riders who’ve done the Macpac Motatapu valley mountain bike and want to move up to the next level.

‘‘There are some tough climbs and fast descents, accompanied by more technical terrain and challenging course length, which will appeal to an intermediate to advanced rider.’’

Trails trust boss Mark ‘Willy’ Williams says the new race, which will mark the trail’s official opening, will quickly become a ‘‘must-do’’ on the New Zealand calendar.

Its ‘‘awe-inspiring’’ terrain will make it a highlight in any athlete’s career, he says.

guy.williams@scene.co.nz