The Central App

Alexandra rider elated with win in Volcanic Epic MTB race

The Central App

Anna Robb

10 April 2024, 5:45 PM

Alexandra rider elated with win in Volcanic Epic MTB raceAlexandra’s Mike Sangster and Dunedin’s Jeremy Forlong (at back) during the Volcanic Epic mountain bike stage race. PHOTO: Supplied

It was relief and elation in equal parts for Alexandra’s Mike Sangster when his team won the masters category in the Bay of Plenty (BOP) multi-day mountain bike (MTB) race, the ‘Volcanic Epic’. 

Mike together with Dunedin’s Jeremy Forlong in team ‘Specialised Structures - Off The Chain Cycles’ won each of the stages and overall, clocking up a total time of nine hours, 28 minutes, almost 30 minutes ahead of the next masters men’s team. 

Mike said their highlight was getting through the race with “no more broken bits or broken bodies,” as their experience was beset by several mechanical mishaps, accidents and lost bikes and luggage.

“Going to the Taupo stage Jeremy’s bike fell off the back of the truck, it hit the road and the front of it was completely destroyed.”

Jeremy, a bike mechanic with a bike shop, made do.

“He rode the stage with no back brake, no suspension lock out . . . he cut the handlebars down by 100 millimetres, and the brake levers were stuffed.

“He managed to get parts delivered to Rotorua, that night he had to rebuild his bike, and managed to get it going again 100 per cent for the next day in Tokoroa.”

Mike riding in the geothermal area during the Rotorua stage. PHOTO: Supplied 

Mike’s bike had issues of its own with the battery in the back derailleur breaking, two kilometres into the last stage.

“This meant I had no gears.

"Jeremy gave me his battery, ran back to the carpark, managed to find a [borrowed battery] then we had to ride our hearts out to catch back up.”

The pair ended up catching a team who were nursing a flat tyre about one kilometre from the finish line.

“It was a six-way sprint to finish the race, it was intense.”

The masters men’s podium was Mike and Jeremy (middle), second place team Cloudyards Joe Skerman and Chris Hansen (on left), and third to the Volcanic Steamers V2.0 Mark Johnston and Dan Boulton. PHOTO: Supplied 

At the end of every stage they were presented with yellow jerseys.

Pictured are Mike and Jeremy after a stage win. PHOTO: Supplied

Mike said MTB stage racing in teams is a great adventure. 

“Racing is such a small part of the journey, you meet pretty cool people and get out there.”

The Volcanic Epic race is 190km and entails nearly 5,000m of climbing over five days (April 3-7). 

Three hundred and fifty riders from 11 countries tested their skills and endurance on trails in the geothermal region of Rotorua, Taupō and Tokoroa. 

Mike said the trails were a mix of world class, well built single track in Rotorua, to forest and native bush and “old school” singletrack in Taupō.

The final stage started in the tourist geothermal area with geysers and steam coming up out of the ground, and then finished in downtown Rotorua.

The pair were a late entry into the event, deciding to get involved after a masters category win in The Prospector MTB stage race held in Alexandra and Earnscleugh (March 8-10).

He said although the racing was intense in the Bay of Plenty, the climbs were shorter and the start time each day a bit later than The Prospector.

Pictured are Mike and Jeremy during The Prospector. PHOTO: AuthenticAs

“My body really feels better after the Volcanic Epic than The Prospector.”

Mike and Jeremy arrived back in Dunedin on Monday night, to find that their bags and bikes had been accidentally left in Wellington.

They were returned a day later by the airline.

“[This trip] has been one of dealing with adversity.”

Mike got involved in MTB events in 2016 and despite the string of challenges on this race, said he’s not slowing down anytime soon.

“I work in front of a computer all day. [My motivation] is to go out, get in the fresh air and keep fit. Being in a team motivates you, you don’t want to be the slower one.”

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