Nutbuster Enduro will push riders to the limits
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As if enduro racing wasn't already hard enough, a bunch of masochistic Kiwis have come along to make it tougher still.
This year's Nutbuster Hard Enduro in Canterbury this coming weekend (November 17 and 18) will again be an stern test of character and only the bravest and most talented of individuals are expected to survive to see the finish, although more than 100 riders have signed up and accepted the challenge of the two-day event.
If the event sounds extreme, well it's meant to be – the 2017 Nutbuster Hard Enduro, at Oxford, near Christchurch, will again push the nation's elite off-road bike riders to their limits.
It kicks off with a "prologue" event on Friday (November 17), an enduro-cross race that will be one of the highlights of the Christchurch A&P Show, the largest annual A&P show in New Zealand, and this will determine the starting order for the enduro proper that will be staged on a rugged 40-kilometre course, inland from Christchurch and north of Darfield, the following day.
Friday's prologue, in particular, will provide an excellent showcase for the sport, the action happening in front of a crowd that could be in their thousands, with 100,000 people flocking to this show each year.
Saturday's hard enduro venue is off Trigg Road, Oxford, signposted from Waimakariri Gorge Bridge.
Sponsored by Opposite Lock and Kaiapoi Repowers, both the prologue and the enduro itself will challenge even the hardiest of souls, although the dangers faced and rigours endured have been made slightly more appealing by the offer of more than $5000 in prize money, including plenty of additional spot prizes.
Last year the event was flooded with 15 centimetres of overnight rain and the organisers were therefore compelled to bypass some of the "impossible" parts of the track, meaning that much of the track will be completely fresh to the competitors this year.
Riders will nominate themselves as either gold, silver or bronze level entrants, with slightly different courses provided to suit the various rider abilities.
The organisers have advised that "the Nutbuster is an extreme enduro, designed to pit man and machine against the elements and, by its nature, will not be easy. However, we have designed the course to be cruel but fair".
The gold sections will "not be impossible, but definitely difficult". There will be long hill climbs and extreme down-hills.
In the silver grade, a good level of bike riding skill and a high level of fitness is still required. Confidence with log-crossing and hill-climbs will be essential and "some pushing may be required, so riders should keep onside with other riders, so they can help one another" when the going gets tough.
The bronze riders have it slightly easier, but not by much.
The Nutbuster with require more than four hours of riding, with riders traversing rocky alpine terrain that sends them through beech forest, over tussock, up and down waterfalls and shingle screes, with other features that are described as "slow speed but more technical".
Even some of the various features on the course have names that hint at just how tricky it might be – Parachute Drop, Hydraslide, Snake Gully, Mitchell’s Crack, Big Balls, Four-Hour Hell Creek, Rolly Polly Hill and Jurassic Park.
Last year's Nutbuster winner was Christchurch's Angus Macdonald, who managed to edge out Manawatu's former United States and New Zealand cross-country champion Paul Whibley in the process.
Macdonald won the New Zealand Enduro Championships outright earlier this year, perhaps further reinforcing his status as one of the favoured riders this weekend, although he intends to contest only the enduro-cross segment of the event this time around, turning his attention instead to the role of filming the action at the following day's enduro.
With Macdonald sidelining himself from the enduro, it means his younger brother Hamish Macdonald, who finished third overall in the enduro nationals this year, Cambridge's Dylan Yearbury and Wellington's eight-time former national moto trials champion Jake Whitaker are the men probably most favoured to win the event outright.
Yearbury won a similar event, the annual Husqvarna Hard Adventure Enduro, near Tokoroa last month.
Other gold level riders to watch for at the Nutbuster include New Plymouth's Tony Parker and Christchurch's Jacques Bakkenes.