Annual autumn ride along Queenstown’s bike trails could be the last

Posted by Sam White on 23 March 2016

Riders of all ages and abilities are encouraged to enjoy Queenstown’s family-friendly bike trails and stunning autumn colours this weekend for what could be the last ever Merrell Tour de Wakatipu, part of the Queenstown Bike Festival.

The Tour has been held annually since 2009 but changes to land use on the south side of the Kawarau River affects access during the event’s traditional Easter timing and organisers are considering if this year’s race will be the last.

Queenstown Bike Festival director, Geoff Hunt said that while deer farming meant the usual trails were unavailable, this year’s new course created an opportunity for participants to ride sections of virtually unknown bike trails to a new finish area near Arrow Junction.

“Clearly we don’t want riders getting harassed by rutting stags so we’re keeping to the true left of the Kawarau this year. It’s been a real adventure weed-whacking to clear trails that few riders ever knew existed. Each new section offers easily ridable single track with great views over the Kawarau or Shotover rivers,” he said.

“We’re also transforming a dusty, rabbit-infested paddock at the bottom of Morven Ferry Road into our new finish area where competitors can enjoy a great atmosphere with music, coffee and food during prize giving.

“So if you want to ride some virgin trails or always thought about entering the Tour but haven’t got round to it yet don't miss what could be your last chance!” said Geoff Hunt.

The Merrell Tour de Wakatipu features separate recreational, sport and elite categories. From a shared start line at Millbrook Resort, recreational riders pedal 24km past Lake Hayes to the banks of the Lower Shotover River then along the Kawarau to the south of Lake Hayes Estate. Sport (36km) and elite (45km) racers follow a similar course with an additional loop around Lake Hayes itself.

Last year’s elite category winners were national cross-country champion, Kate Fluker from Queenstown and Tom Filmer from Christchurch. Multi-sport legend, Steve Gurney won his sport age group dressed as the Easter Bunny.

Online entries close on Thursday 24 March with limited entries on the day. Entries cost $80 adults, $50 juniors (aged 19 and under) and $200 families (two adults and two children aged 13 and under)