Having raced, well, Ahem! Ridden in the first running of the Ruapehu express my enthusiasm was still at an all time high so I was eager to see if the event would out perform its virgin attempt.
More often than not, we see new events come and go with relative success and not truly hold on to the Inaugural status they advertise. In this case, we couldn't be any further in polar opposites with the second running proving the event is here to stay with a bigger and better entire experience.
With a major naming sponsor, Giant Bikes NZ, more out of event activities and a much larger field cap, things could only get better. So to add to my enthusiasm to round 2, I somehow managed to metaphorically audition for a role in being a pin-up poster boy riding a couple of schmicky Giant Anthems for me and my good mate Luke from the wonderful boys and girls at Pack And Pedal Taupo.
Narrowly avoiding a near logistical disaster late on the Friday night, we managed to size, fit and tune our new bikes in what felt like candlelit darkness followed by a couple of beers, a bar meal and some much needed Z's before assembling at the pickup zone early the following morning.
A bustling and excited bunch of event newbies waited patiently with school yard giggles and banter reminiscent of school time field trips before the short bus ride to the start. This was a time to make friends with complete strangers and forge the normal mountain bikers bond with another hairy legged compatriot while talking smack about what gear we had in typical bike nerd fashion.
With bikes in hand (Just), a self-obligatory warm up and attentive race briefing complete, Martyn from Plateau Productions gave us a few tips and tricks for what they were wanting from our Hollywood like physique's before the self-seeded start groups assembled with a direct proportion in tightness of attire vs speed for the days adventure.
Making our first stop at the fast flowing mountain ford, we tried our best to jump and splash for a couple of angles before continuing on to meeting the film crew again for the last 15km's of the event. From here we began to feel the effects of the fast paced 40km's behind us and Martyns specialized levo certainly made mince meat of our final pace but gave us the inspiration to push on to that first beer.....
The event again delivered everything it described and more in a plethora of trail surfaces, styles and technicalities with some breathtaking moments of scenery privy only to those who entered. Out on the trails it was hard to find someone who wasn't smiling (apart from the odd muttering of how poor ones fitness was) and having a good time. The finish line was living proof of this with hundreds of runners, walkers and riders joining in a small celebration of a beer well-earned and a relaxing yarn with strangers now friends.
Nick and his team again proved that this event is truly a fun, all ages and status irrelevant invitation through an area rich in adventure, heritage and scenery and that is summed up perfectly in the event video below even if I do say so myself. I'd like to take full credit for how great we look but all I can say is Martyn, you work wonders.....
To run an inaugural event with great success is one thing but to follow that up with an even bigger and better second attempt shows the passion and determination of an event worthy of a position as one of the best MTB events on the National Calendar.
So lock in the 24th of February 2018, gather your mates and make sure you get to join in on this iconic event. I guarantee you will not be disappointed!