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Quality tracks . . .The Papakaio 8-Hour Mountain Bike Challenge covers 8km, mostly hand cut single track. PHOTO: EMMA WILLETTS PHOTOGRAPHY

Wheels are in motion for the return of the Papakaio 8-Hour Mountain Bike Challenge next year.

The inaugural event, run by the Papakaio Home and School fundraising committee, was a big success in 2019, and this year’s event was shaping up to be even better, until Covid-19 hit and it had to be cancelled.

But the committee has confirmed the Plunket Electrical-sponsored event will be held again on February 13 next year, at Willow Park, the property of Ian and Gloria Hurst.

“We are really excited about running the 8-hour again,” committee spokeswoman Becca Finlay said.

“And we think it’s a really positive thing for our extended community to look forward to.”

With extra time on their hands for tinkering, track builders Brett Stuart, Craig Isbister and Callum Swann have taken preparation up a gear, while Daniel Isbister is in charge of co-ordinating the children’s loop.

“The track builders created lots of additional track and changes for this year’s event, which unfortunately was never ridden due to cancelling,” Mrs Finlay said.

“Because they’ve got the bug, they haven’t been able to stop and more track has been sort of perfected and tweaked.

“There are some cool features now, where we’ve got a bridge with a piece of track that goes underneath it, so you’re kind of figure-of-eighting on top of each other.

“So they’ve just had a bit more fun with it really this year, because there hasn’t been a question of carving out 8km of track by hand, in a rush to have it ready for race day.

“We’re up there with the school children every Thursday, and Brett takes us to a different section of the track each time. It’s going to be awesome.”

Aside from the biking, the carnival-like atmosphere meant it was a fun day out for whole family, Mrs Finlay said.

A lot of the vendors that were there for the first year were also coming back.

The event will be professionally timed and adjudicated, and is open to individuals, competitive teams of up to four, or social teams of up to 10.

Registrations are open and early-bird prices apply until Mid-December, Mrs Finlay said.

If Covid rears its head again, the committee was working on a contingency plan.

“We hope that this isn’t the case, but if Covid is still a factor, the committee has some plans as to how they could still run the event under Level 2.

“We are aware that’s going on, and it would just be devastating to cancel it again. The stuff that they’ve done up there is amazing. It just should be ridden.”

Mrs Finlay said the committee was extremely grateful to the Hursts for allowing the continuous use of their land, which was currently under development.

“They have planted out a significant quantity of that face that used to be pine in native bush. The track sort of weaves its way through this extensive new native environment that they’ve created,” she said.

“How privileged we are to be a part of that and to be factored into their long-term vision of Willow Park being a place of growth and nature.”