How do you go about fitting in organising a three day enduro while following the race circus around the globe?
Pete chatted to Sven Martin about the 2017 NZ Enduro, hectic schedules, missing a summer of riding, rain halting play and the road ahead.
How did NZ Enduro come about?
After racing the Transprovence for many years and the Andes Pacifico it was kind of a no-brainer thing to do when we moved to New Zealand. We shared our idea with Ian (the previous organiser) he went ahead and got the concessions and permits which is quite tricky and held two “test events” we were keen to take it further so we jumped at the chance to take it over. Its still in its infancy and heaps of room to grow and develop in both the race, the route and the concept.
Had you ever organised a race of this kind and calibre before?
Does Industry and media World Champs and Whip off worlds count? Haha, I guess not. But being involved with racing from 2001 until now as a racer, team manager, photographer and sitting on the advisory board of the EWS has given me experience and knowledge of what to do and what not to do.
We also run a guiding business so we are used to working with Department Of Conservation with concessions and dealing with NZ health and Safety plans which are a huge important part of the job.
How did you choose which tracks to use?
We want to have a sense of journey and cover a large area of the top of the south island. Each day with a different feel. The beach at Whites Bay, the Marlborough Sounds and linking bays on day two, Nydia Track and then the crazy good fern and beech forest of Wakamarina with a Helicopter. All a sense of adventure.
Days two and three are long point to point rides. Hard logistically to do by yourself with long shuttle drive around drop offs. We solve these issues for the visiting riders and racers. And to be honest they are some of the best riding and natural race tracks in the World in my opinion.
How many people make up NZ Enduro and what do they do?
There is Anka and Me. She is probably the most important because she is organised and detail and task orientated. I tend to have it all up in my head but she makes it happen. Then we have three on bike doctors, the best in their fields and great fast riders, about 18 volunteers who handle stage starts and finishes and logistics, set up, transportation, track marking, sweeping, bbq, beer pouring etc.
We have a timing manager Karl, we use the same contactless system that EWS uses so thats sweet.
Then we have our outstanding dedicated media team of three photographers (Duncan, Boris, Digby) and some of the the industries best filmers, Joe Bowman and John Parkin making two daily edits. Then we host a few more independent and commercial media Sam Needham, Gary Perkin, Adrian Marcoux, Tim Bardsley Smith and Neil Kerr and Rachel Gurney.
What did you have to sacrifice to get to this stage?
The whole summer of riding here basically. November until March was a 6-7 day a week full time job for Anka and I.
Did you have any other opportunities that you had to give up to make this work?
Yeah there was an off season for one. Lots of riding and doing a commercial shoot for BMW Global in Chile. That was a bummer. I was also not able to shoot Andes Pacifico or The Pioneer race. Two events i would have normally done. Mostly I missed riding a bunch this summer. Well not as much as usual, but been smashing rides of our own since the race is done.
How have you found the time to get this organised? You seem to be everywhere at once!
Ha, well yes, we set the wheels in motion this time last year when we took over the event. Ian, the previous owner and organiser had was very detail orientated and thorough which made a lot of the basic and early planning easier. But since we got back from Europe in November its been flat out making changes, applying for new permits, route modifications, adding stages and building new trails (that we did not get to use).
Despite having to cancel a day this year, do you think the race was a success?
Yeah, we added a stage for day one and changed the route a bit too. Then the fact that all the riders made it through one of the most treacherous stages or tracks in NZ in the rain without injury or major injury means it was a success in my books.
I was worried how they would cope on day two with the combination of the bad weather and tough trails. I made sure i was at the finish of the last stage and saw every rider come through and it was 100% smiles and satisfaction. They feeling you only get when you overcome adversity.
Even riders with flats or ripped off mechs, or covered in blood were smiling. Then when we called it off the next morning rather than sighs there were cheers, which means we all felt the same. We did it for safety reasons and to respect the trail but to be honest the riders would have struggled going back to back with two bad weather days.
Has any work you’ve done before helped with get the race off the ground?
Well yes. 16 years of being involved with racing from both Anka and I. From a racer, to team manager to photographer and then being on the advisory board on the EWS has all helped us get to this point. But hats off an much respect to all organisers out there in events big or small. There are so many more details that need to get taken care than any rider will ever know about that need to be done before during and after an event.
Is timing this race to precede the EWS crucial to the NZ Enduro?
Its not crucial. There will always be a few more pros the year the EWS begins in NZ. But the race is for everyone. The pros do not make the race. Sure they attract a bit more media attention, but the race and the experience is for everyone. I think many riders will still make the trek to NZ regardless of there being an EWS after.
Its is a good place to spend a few weeks or months to escape the Northern Hemisphere wet and cold winter. What was crucial was not having the race clash with the EWS, I worked with Chris and Darren (EWS directors) on this.
How many variations in course did you have before getting to the final route?
There are not tons of trails in NZ like in France or the rest of Europe. We will try tweak the route year to year and make some changes and additions as we did this year.
I like that fact that it travels across Marlborough, a journey from the beach to the sounds and then ending in the big mountains. It can still go even further. To get a concession from Department of Conservation is a big deal though and we are grateful for their blessing, but it is not very simple to just change the whole race every year because of this. It requires a lot of planning and permissions, environment impact assessments studies and reports; and health and safety plans which are all huge undertakings to do each year, but that is all part of it.
Justin Leov taking himself out the race after wining first stage. He has bad luck with this race, 3/4 of my media crew having camera meltdowns in the mud and rain halfway through day two, but they still championed on regardless and were awesome. The portaloo trailer had a tire blow out on the main road when returning it full. Haha. And I guess cancelling an awesome day of racing on Sunday was a bummer but not a disaster.
Smiling, muddy faces crossing the finish line at the end of day two for sure. Ending day one in the hot baking sun when we expect rain, allowing the riders to chill with the BBQ and beers.
Raising money through our riders buying raffle tickets to win some awesome prizes and then donating it all the Golden Bay MTB club who were awesome hosting us and helping out.
Hearing from Anka all the riders stories and struggles from day two when she floated around the race on her bike observing.
Where next for NZ Enduro? How do you plan to go about getting extra helpers etc. etc.?
We already have an amazing crew of volunteers, staff, doctors, media and helpers, many of them have worked this race before You learn many things of what works well, what didn’t work or what could be better from doing it the first time.
Next year will be easier but it will also be better smoother and more efficient for everyone. New systems and checks will be implemented. The biggest change we did this time was triple the amount of on course marshals all radio equipped to ensure 100% radio coverage in a huge geographic area for a much better safety plan. Where next… You will have to wait and see.
Anybody to thank at this point in the journey? Long suffering spouses/parents/friends?
Anka who probably is much more responsible for the smooth running of our first event than me. Then all the people mentioned above and of course the riders for being such good sports and so understanding.
We made a lot of new friends from both near and far. Also big thanks for the media squid crew of Duncan Philpott, Joe Bowman, John Parkin and Boris Beyer who all came from around the world at their expense to help us out as friends in this first event of ours. I owe them all big time!
You can catch the highlights of the 2017 NZ Enduro here. Head over to the event website for full details and check out House Martin for guiding in the Land of the Long White Cloud.