Karapoti Classic mountain bike race “Take-2”

As an adventure sports photographer based in Wellington, one of the premier events on the local calendar to photograph is the Karapoti Classic mountain bike event. Arguably one of the toughest events in the country, it boasts a 50km full and 20km short course. I was disappointed to realize that this year the Classic coincided with a trip to Sydney Anna and I had planned several months earlier. The event event was postponed because of a southerly storm that raged through the country raising the river levels to flood heights. Organiser Michael Jacques wisely postponed the event to Sunday March 18, a day that I was indeed back in town for.

mountain bike rider

I really like how the water splashes up and around this guy who had the foresight to dismount early. He got momentum by running with his bike and hence the cool spray.

Luckily the rivers were down on the previous week and the weather turned out to be fantastic- sunny with patches of cloud to keep the heat for the riders down to manageable levels. The river level in the Akatarawa River were still up higher that previous years I had been there. The spot where I set up to photograph the riders was by the Start/ Finish line at the river crossing. This year marshals had set up cones to divert the riders to a split crossing slightly upstream from where the Western branch of the river joins the main one. The great thing about going in lower was the deep pool that riders would occasionally enter and deliberately wipe out on. This time, they instead were diverted to the two shallower sections. The thing was that the river levels still being higher caught out riders thinking they could “give it a go.” The landing was shallower too which made for some scary moments for me watching and cringing!


Another running shot through the river. There was only one unicyclist in this years race. It's always remarkable to see!

The kids were also really cute to watch their various approaches at crossing the river. For the really little ones they were actually up to their armpits and their bikes disappeared to their handlebars. Luckily the water was fairly slow moving and their were marshals stationed on both sides of the river to make sure everyone was safe. The challenge of course was to find a good angle to capture as much of the action as I could. I set myself up on the bank across the crossing sitting on a rock actually in the water. I then shot with a 70-20mm long zoom – capturing a full length of the rider approaching,  getting in the water either riding or carrying their bike (at various speeds of approach). I then got the resulting crash or zoomed in and got a portrait of the rider looking up at the exit path. Quite often I would would call out words of encouragement, especially to the riders coming in later in the day who cramped up as soon as they got off their bikes. This would usually result in a joke said by the rider and a laugh which is always good for portraits…

mountain bike rider

I just loved the expression on this guys face- determination with a sprinkling of trepidation!

On another note- great gear at the retail outlets set up by the finish line. I managed to get a pair of bike shorts and a high vis vest at more than 50% off. I’m looking forward to doing some more riding myself once I complete the Loop the Lake run in April. My Dad and I are committing to training to ride the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge in November.

mountain bike rider

Parting shot: All the elements just seemed to come together in this one. It's straight on at the camera which pulls in symmetry. It is an ambitious attempt at crossing the river at speed. I wonder what is going through their minds as the water gets deeper and deeper and the font wheel starts disappearing...

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