Rotorua - SSWC10NZ...

One gear is all it takes...
Rotorua hosted another major mountain bike event in 2010 when the eccentric world of the singlespeed descended on the small city in the heartland of the North Island of New Zealand.
Race day was Saturday October 23. Entries opened at midnight (NZ Summer Time) December 31 (New Year's Eve) and closed on October 1 with around 1000 riders from 30 countries on the start list.

After a tense bidding process at 2009 World Singlespeed Championships in Durango, Colorado, the small Kiwi team emerged successful.
The first round was Karaoke/American Idol elimination time with four nations singing their hearts out.

John McCartney, representing the Rotorua Singlespeed Society, was Freddie Mercury.
In the end, New Zealand and Italy went through to round 2, with Canada and Hungary eliminated.
Round 2 was a smash-mouth game of basketball with John and fellow Kiwi Vicki Butterworth and a pick up team of locals out-lasting the Italians to win 42-37.
It was winner-takes-all and Rotorua and New Zealand will host the World Championships in 2010.
(Meanwhile, Ross Schnell and Heather Irmiger beat over 1000 other riders to take out the main event - the race itself).

“Vicki and John are both dedicated singlespeeders and the Rotorua Singlespeed Society contributed a thousand dollars to each of them to help them get to Durango to compete in the race and the bidding for 2010,” says Graeme Simpson from the RSSS. “Money very well spent, I say.”
Both Vicki and John are members of the Society, but neither live in Rotorua.
“Vicki’s from the Hawkes Bay and John’s from Queenstown in the South Island, so it’s not about geography, it’s about love for the sport and a great single-minded community,” says Simpson. “Vicki won the best costume at the 2009 NZ Singlespeeds in Rotorua - full 1940‘s dress and matching bike - and works hard for her local mountain bike club and so does John." 

It’s not just the competitive side of singlespeeding that is experiencing a growth spurt.
Many mountain bikers are tuning into the elegant simplicity of one-cog.

“The bikes are uncomplicated and a great way to build strength and skill,” says RSSS president, Gaz Sullivan.
But it isn’t so much a new thing as a revival. Mountain biking originated in the Bay Area of San Francisco in the 1970’s when old single-speed delivery bikes were reinvented as fat-tyre, off-road bikes on the forest trails in Mill Valley and on Mount Tam.
“That’s the spiritual home of mountain biking,” says Sullivan. “ We’re biased because we live in Rotorua, but we feel that our town is the spiritual home of mountain biking in New Zealand.”

• Rotorua is one of New Zealand’s great tourist destinations - with dramatic geothermal landscapes, iconic, historic buildings and it is a centre of Maori culture and adventure sports.
The 100 kilometres of singletrack mountain bike trails and forest roads in the Whakarewarewa Forest on the southern outskirts of the city are also world famous.
In 2006, Rotorua hosted the (more official) UCI Mountain Bike & Trials Championships and the event was a huge success.
“Compared with that, singlespeeding is pretty loose,” continues Sullivan. “However everyone on our committee is a keen mountain biker and they were all involved in 2006.”
Rotorua has a well-deserved reputation for putting on relaxed and friendly events.
“We’re getting quite good at it,” adds Sullivan. “The Society ran the 2008 and 2009 National Singlespeed Champs and they were great events, with some very serious competition at the sharp end and some hilarious antics everywhere else - and we’ve got the photos to prove it.’
While there isn’t much that is serious about singlespeed racing, the competition is always fierce to be first over the line in Men’s and Women’s categories - for the glory and the winner’s tattoos.
“That’s a tradition from the dim, dark, early days of the World Singlespeed Champs,” says Dean Watson, who will be the event organizer, next year. “No one really knows why, but we stole the idea for our nationals and we’ll be sticking to it in 2010.”
“Singlespeeders race hard and with only one gear it’s even harder,” adds Watson. “They compensate for the pain by partying and the two NZ Singlespeed Champs we’ve run were just so much fun.
Plus we’ve also got natural hot pools here in Rotorua to soak away the damage.”

• While the idea is to have a few laughs, there is a very serious side to the event. Big entry numbers are expected, with major potential benefits to the local community.
In 2008, the event organizers in Napa in California had to restrict numbers to 450 because the race was on a public reserve. It meant turning away another 750 who applied for places. This year over 1000 riders entered the Durango event.
“You know, we suffer a bit from the tyranny of distance,” says Watson. “We’re a long way away, but we’ve always aimed all our events at the world and Australia, in particular, and we get healthy numbers of entries from there, anyway.”
“And, of course, entry is open to all,” adds Sullivan. “If your bike’s got one-gear, you’re in.”
Air New Zealand launched direct flights from Rotorua from Sydney in December.

• Dates for the championships were decided in the traditional way...
“We got together for a few beers and and discussed it, which is kind of the singlespeed way,“ says Sullivan. “They’re usually late August, early September, but we pushed them a little later in the year when the days are longer and it’s closer to summer in the Southern Hemishere.”
As well as the race and parties the organizers are planning a bike festival around the event to bring it into the heart of the city.


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