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New mountain bike event to raise funds for school

Papakaio eight-hour challenge track designer Brett Stuart with Gloria Hurst, who together with Gloria’s husband Ian are hosting a mountain biking event on their land at Papakaio. Photo: Daniel Birchfield

What started out as a conversation between three mates keen on mountain biking has become an event that will benefit a small North Otago school.

On Saturday, the first Papakaio eight-hour mountain bike challenge will take place, acting as a fundraiser for Papakaio School.

Since October, teams of volunteers have been putting countless hours into designing and building by hand new mountain biking tracks on property owned by Gloria and Ian Hurst.

One of those volunteers is Brett Stuart, of Papakaio, who alongside two others came up with the idea for the event.

''I just brought it up in a conversation in a garage really, between me, Steve Collett and Craig Isbister. We do a lot of these 8-hour, six-hour, 10-hour team events.''

The need for a new fundraiser was identified after cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis hit North Otago, which meant the school's usual calf scheme was no longer viable.

Papakaio School home and school committee treasurer Rebecca Finlay said the committee took the idea and ran with it.

''We needed a new fundraising avenue. In the past we had been very fortunate because people would donate a calf or a cow each year and it was all rather easy. But, it was only for a particular group within our school. This is really fantastic because its something everybody can contribute to.''

The aim for competitors, made up of 50 teams of three or four riders and nine solo riders, is to bike around an undulating 8km loop as many times as possible within the eight-hour period between 9am and 5pm, starting and finishing at Willow Park.

Teams will compete in a timed relay format, which meant there would be approximately 60 riders on the track at any one time.

A separate, wider track has been built for children and families to enjoy.

Mr Stuart said the track, designed by himself, Mr Isbister and Grant Neal, which featured six bridges - again built by hand - would challenge all riders regardless of skill level.

''It's going to challenge some people. I think there's going to be some people at the end of the day that will think 'that's tough enough'. I'm hoping they think 'boy, I got through that, let's get better next year'.''

Mrs Finlay said initial perceptions from some that the track would essentially be a 4WD track ''couldn't be further from the truth'', and that it offered a unique format.

It was hoped the challenge would raise about $10,000.

daniel.birchfield@odt.co.nz

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