SHARE
Smooth ride . . . Papakaio 8-hour Committee chairman Ricky Hutchison and spokesperson Becca Finlay are confident next year's mountainbike event, planned for February 12, will be able to go ahead.

Co-existing with Covid is part and parcel for the Papakaio 8 Hour Mountain Bike Challenge, and organisers are confident next year’s event is still on track.

The annual Papakaio School fundraiser had been running since 2019. Riders complete a loop track of about 9km, either in teams or solo, for eight hours.

The 2020 event was cancelled due to Covid-19, but this year’s event was run under Alert Level 1, Papakaio 8 hour Committee spokeswoman Becca Finlay said.

Early-bird registrations were now open for February 12, 2022.

‘‘I think this event and Covid have coexisted for longer together than they have apart. As a committee, were used to kind of rolling with Covid and what comes,’’ Mrs Finlay said.

‘‘Obviously we want to encourage as much confidence in registrations as we can . . . so we have several options in the pipeline that well be able to pick up on if we need to pivot.’’

If the event ended up having to be cancelled, people who had already registered would be offered a full refund, she said.

‘‘We know how hard it is for everyone to plan at the moment.’’

The track-building team, led by Brett Stuart, was taking it up another gear this year, with a few of the less favourite sections undergoing a revamp, although exact details were being kept quiet for now, Mrs Finlay said.

‘‘In typical Stuey fashion, he’s gone nuts, and it’s just becoming more and more fine-tuned. They learn something every year, because they watched riders very closely in previous events.

‘‘So they’re just watching to see where people are bunching up, what people are loving, what people are hating.’’

The committee was ‘‘permanently indebted’’ to Mr Stuart — whose children were no longer at the school — his team, and their families, she said.

‘‘Because as far as I can gather, they are pretty much widows from here until the event.’’

Support from local businesses remained encouraging, despite the uncertain times they were facing right now.

‘‘We just think it’s amazing that in these unprecedented times we’re still getting support from our wonderful local businesses,’’ Mrs Finlay said.

Papakaio School principal Damian Brown said the event was being run by an ‘‘experienced team who were keeping up to date with all the latest requirements and information from the Ministry of Health’’.

‘‘Contingencies are in place to run a modified event at Level 2 and at Amber Level for vaccinated individuals and teams, should our region be there when the date comes.’’

All changes to the event would be communicated to teams ‘‘in a timely manner’’, Mr Brown said.

They were hoping Dunedin-based, three-time world champion endurance rider Ronel Cook would return next year, along with last year’s male solo champion Steven Smith, Mrs Finlay said.

‘‘The real standout last year was Steven Smit — the farmer who won the male solo category. His performance was really quite outstanding, and he’s Papakaio born and bred, so it would be quite cool to have familiar faces like that come back.’’

There was also a new youth team category for ages 12 to 18 to foster a love of biking in the next generation, she said.