On yer bikes for festival

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Biking fanatics are in for a treat this Easter – Queenstown is hosting its first festival dedicated to the sport. 

The 10-day Queenstown Bike Festival – on from April 16 to 25 – is the brainchild of local Geoff Hunt, who only dreamed it up in December. 

The idea just sort of grew topsy-turvy,” says Hunt, who originally pegged it to be a three-day affair. 

“We’ll have BMX bikes in Queenstown Gardens, a programme for kids, downhill bikes up the mountain, cross-country bikes in the Tour de Wakatipu and road bikes – the only thing we don’t have is a Penny Farthing race.” 

It was Skyline Enterprises opening its gondola to bikes in January that got ideas rolling and Hunt convinced the tourism giant to overturn an original ban on bikes over Easter for two events. 

The brand new Ben Lomond DirtMasters Downhill and reinstated Brake Burner will both be held in the Ben Lomond Forest. 

Hunt: “The fact that the gondola opened in late January was exciting enough for everybody but the idea of the festival has been very well received by everyone in the biking industry.” 

A highlight will be the gruelling six-hour Brake Burner – held at Coronet Peak for two years before mountain bike access was canned there in 2009. 

Brake Burner organiser Greg McIntyre says it’s “wicked” the popular event is back on. 

Numbers and the format for the race are still being nutted out, but ex-pro Kashi Leuchs and fellow Kiwi Laurence Mote plan to be in the starting line-up. 

Given time, McIntyre predicts the festival will be a “huge event”. 

“I think the time will come a few years down the track when it might even be the biggest festival Queenstown has,” he says. 

Destination Queenstown boss Tony Everitt is also behind the idea: “I believe this will be a big drawcard for bike enthusiasts across New Zealand and has every potential to become an internationally-recognised fest­­­ival over time.” 

Sports event organiser Hunt has high hopes for the festival’s future – which he says will involve everyone from six-year-old kids to seniors in lycra. 

He also plans to make the DirtMasters Downhill a World Cup event within five years. 

“You’ll probably find a bike in everyone’s garage in Queenstown, and if you look at how many people ski by comparison, it’s a very small number.”