The Merida Whaka 50 takes in some of the best singletracks of Rotorua’s infamous Whakawerawera Forest. With over 1100m of climbing and some seriously adrenalin-rushing, arm-pumping singletracks it may well be one of the toughest 50kers in the Southern Hemisphere. It is also one of the most fun. And if Rotorua (on New Zealand’s North Island) isn’t your hometown, it’s a great way to check out some of the best trails in the area without having to break up the ride in order to consult the map!
The vibe on the trails was relaxed, supportive and friendly and while I suffered with lots of other riders on the climbs, the highlights of this race for me were the long, flowing descents. I was so pasted by the time that I got to them that I didn’t have any arm strength left to muscle the bike around, and found myself picking some super smooth lines and having a whole lot of fun. Riding with my mouth open wider than my eyes, I felt astonished at how smooth my bike felt on the volcanic Roto-soil below and at how fast the trail ahead was flying underneath me. I’d do the whole race again just for that! I came third in the Open Women’s event, but the Open Women’s field also had it handed to them by the top two female singlespeed riders. Inspiring stuff.
No photos from this one, but check out this video from fellow traveller Rob Parbery of some anti-tapering on the Bike Culture shop ride the Friday before the race, another big highlight of the week. This is the view from near the back of the pack. Us Aussies have nothing on the locals, they take riding to a whole new level of ‘woo-hoo!’ I’ll have to come back here again!