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Almost there . . . Whitehorse Big Easy committee members Ryan Luckman, and Raewyn Francis had to postpone last weekend's milestone fifth birthday of the event due to the shift to Alert Level 2. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

There will be some strong competition at this year’s Whitehorse Big Easy, with a substantial increase in athlete numbers.

Committee member Ryan Luckman said entries were up 33% compared with this time last year, and he expected between 450 and 500 people to take part on Sunday.

About 400 people usually competed across the running and mountain biking events, and the increase could be a positive result from last year’s lockdown.

“I think a lot more people did exercise over lockdown and it’s just continued,” Luckman said.

All the popular mountain biking events were returning, with distances of 7km, 13km, 20km and 27km .

The 27km bike was always a “drawcard” as part of the track was on private land.

“It’s a once-a-year opportunity to have a crack.”

There were running and walking events of 5km, 12km and 18km and there would be 1.5km races for children.

Teams could also compete, one athlete completing the 27km bike and the other the 18km run, or athletes could chose to tackle both in the solo elite category.

North Otago farmer Paul Gow was taking on the solo event, two weeks after competing in the Coast to Coast.

A team to watch would be Oamaru’s Tim Rush and Jeff Spillane , he said.

The team and solo elite challenges were designed to raise money for charity – 75% of the funds would go to various groups in Waimate, and the remaining 25% to a charity of the athletes’ choice.

Committee treasurer Raewyn Francis said athletes aged from 2 to 80 usually took part, and people travelled from Ashburton, Timaru and Oamaru.

“It caters for all ages,” Francis said.

The Waimate multisport event was celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, and for the first time there would be medals for first, second and third place-getters.

There would also be 50 commemorative medals available for people to buy on site at Victoria Park.