A FEW WORDS FROM THE EVENT DIRECTOR, ALI JAMIESON
Māori were the first to arrive in New Zealand, journeying in canoes from Hawaiki about 1,000 years ago. A Dutchman, Abel Tasman, was the first European to sight the country. Abel Tasman is now namesake of one of our region’s 3 nearby National Parks, on the very land he sighted that day. But it was the British who later made New Zealand part of their empire in the early 1800s.
The complex history and rich culture of these lands and its people remains very relevant today – without it, a lot of these trails may never have existed in the first place. Read more here.
That aside, our access to use trails for this mountain bike race event is only possible through generous agreements with private owners, public bodies, Iwi (on Māori Ancestral lands), and conservational land managers.
trailAddiction have been running Guided MTB Tour packages in the European Alps since way back, and in 2012 we introduced the Trans-Savoie Big Alpine Enduro which at the time (pre-EWS) was somewhat unconventional, to say the least.
In 2013, I spent an amazing season in Queenstown, between European Summers. Of course, I thought the riding in QT was awesome, but for someone who loves all-day backcountry singletrack missions more than hitting up the bike park, 3 months was more than enough, for me. As a keen kite-surfer, before leaving NZ I took a 12-hour scenic drive up the West Coast, to the tip of the South Island; Nelson. I’d heard rumours about the great beaches, amazing sunny weather, and reliable conditions for kite surfing up there. Apparently there were a couple of trails worth riding too, but reliable, confirmed details on where and what, were a little sketchy. (There was no Trailforks, back then). Nelson was great. The kite surfing was as good as promised, and it didn’t even rain once.
The pivotal moment was when on my last day, I took a solo ride up behind town, to try out Peaking Ridge based on the local bike shop recommendation. A local’s favourite amongst half-day loops from town. This old-hiker’s-style-trail in dense beech forest literally blew my mind. Loam-covered roots everywhere, very raw and engaging, and a feeling of being miles from civilisation (when in fact, you are never more than a few Km from town). Nothing I’d ridden in Queenstown (or in fact anywhere else in New Zealand) even came close, as the ‘full package’, compared to this. I wanted more. Was this just the tip of a trail-motherload iceberg, or was Nelson a one-trick-pony kinda place? And why had I just wasted the whole week kite-surfing when I could have been riding trails like this instead? The long flight back to Europe gave me plenty of time to ponder these thoughts, and by the time I landed, it was a done deal that there was noting to it but to return to Nelson in 2014 and dedicate at least 3 months to answering these questions.
Fortunately, I hooked up with Nelson locals Meggie Bichard (Pinkbike’s EWS Privateer of the Year 2015) and her partner Ed Kerly at the Trans-Savoie in 2014, who unwittingly became my unpaid full-time adventure guides for the return trip. There seemed to be an infinite stash of awesome one-day adventures to be had all within day-trippable distance of Nelson town. How on earth had I never read or heard about any of this before? Additionally, the Nelson MTB Club’s riding scene was the most welcoming and inclusive of anywhere I’d ever seen before, with circa 3000 active members in a town of only 50,000 population…which by the way is still The South Island’s 3rd largest city!
By the end of my 2014 visit, the seed had been planted for what has eventually become the NZ MTB Rally. The growing success of The Trans-Savoie, not to mention snow-on-the-ground in the Alps from December to April, led me to commit to the arguably short-sighted lifestyle choice of 6-months-per-year based in Nelson (and the rest in the Alps), from 2015 onwards – with the determined goal of making this project become a reality. Through trailAddiction, it became my mission to help give The Top-of-the-South a stronger voice alongside the established MTB powerhouses of Queenstown and Rotorua, and to take pleasure from helping new visitors discover what had been hiding in plain sight from much of the MTB world, outside of NZ.
In the meantime, word has already spread far and wide about the hidden treasures that could be found here for those willing to go to a little extra effort. Other projects in Europe; COVID-19 and it’s associated travel restrictions and uncertainties put plans on hold for 3 years, but now, finally, its time!
Arguably 10 years in the making, we certainly didn’t rush it. The NZ MTB Rally is our personal expression of what we think a proper Kiwi MTB adventure should be in 2024, and it’s certainly had our full attention. Hopefully if you’ve read this far, this means we’ve got your attention now, too. On behalf of the passionate & welcoming MTB community here, we just can’t wait to show you the very best of the place we call home: Te Tauihu – The Top of the South Island.
Given the current climate crisis, we are somewhat concerned that flying around in Helicopters is perhaps not the ideal activity to incorporate into out event. On the face of it, this presents as being in conflict with our genuine love of and desire to protect NZ’s pristine natural environment; the very same which inspired us to create NZ MTB Rally in the first place.
We’ve spent quite some time and effort to consider the wider impact of this event from both an emissions perspective, and for other environmental factors such as wildlife and habitat.
The Department of Conservation in NZ have reviewed our plans in detail, consulted with ancestral landowners on our behalf, and approved the event in all of our preferred locations (on Conservation Land). This is conditional to specific environmental controls that we will be only too glad to implement throughout the event.
Additionally, we’ve worked with EKOS to understand the C02 emissions-equivalent impact of our event. This includes all helicopter, boat, and vehicle shuttles, plus additional factors including our event accommodation, waste and electricity use. We are pleased to announce that through their Carbon Credits Program, we’re offsetting 100% of emissions generated by the enitre event; and thus have achieved Carbon Friendly Certification. Our credits are derived from EKOS native forest projects in Aotearoa (NZ) and the Pacific. One of these is re-foresting in the Rameka Valley, which seems particularly fitting since we’ll be racing right through this valley, during the The Rally.
EKOS helped us to calculate a total C02e impact of 77 kg per participant, with about 39 kg coming from our use of Helicopters. To put that 77 kg figure into perspective, that’s roughly 2/3 of the emissions of a one-way economy flight from Auckland to Nelson, or of driving 450km in a medium-sized car as a single passenger.
Buying carbon credits is not the full and final answer, and we fully acknowledge that. In future editions, we aim to adapt the event to greatly reduce our carbon footprint. We sat down with Singletrackworld to discuss our thoughts and aspirations on this point.
BIG ALPINE ENDURO – ESTD. 2012 (PRE-DATES THE EWS)
The first and only multi-day enduro to combine ski-lift access with a journey-format itinerary. A 6-day adventure traversing the iconic trails of the French Alps in the shadow of the majestic Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak.
PAIRS-FORMAT RACING – ESTD. 2015
The original team-format enduro. Blind racing with your best buddy. Hey, don’t judge it, till you’ve tried it! A half-decade ahead of its time, this revolutionary format is more than the sum of its parts.
Born in Les Arcs (French Alps), Enduro2 is now a sell-out global series having introduced more inspirational ride spots with rounds in France, Switzerland, Italy, and New Zealand
GUIDED MTB TOURS – ESTD. 1999 (ISH)
TrailAddiction began way back, with two graduate engineers & friends from University, who wanted to show their mates from back home a ‘different’ way of riding their v-brake-equipped ‘trail’ bikes. One that was very much in the Alpine, and used uplifts as much as possible, but on historic trails well outside of the mainstream bike-parks. Those two mates were Ash Smith (TransProvence, Stone King Rally) & Ali Jamieson (Trans-Savoie, Enduro2). The rest, as they say, is history.