Not a bad spot . . . Taking part in last year's White Rocks Gravel Adventure race are cyclists (from left) Paula Hasler, Haley Van Leeuwen, Tom Kaminsky, and Johnny Van Leeuwen. PHOTO: MURRAY DAVID SUTTON

North Otago is perfectly positioned to capitalise on the rise of gravel road cycling worldwide, Terry Hannan says.

The White Rocks Gravel Adventure race organiser said the sport was growing so fast, it was almost impossible to buy a gravel road bike in New Zealand at the moment.

Last year, the inaugural White Rocks race attracted 107 cyclists, ranging in age from nine to 78.

“The feedback was terrific,” Hannan said.

“Gravel road cycling has gone ballistic internationally.

“One reason is it keeps [cyclists] away from most traffic, last year we saw one vehicle and it was a spectator.

“It’s a different skill-base to racing on the road, you have to pick your lines.”

North Otago had plenty of gravel roads, which made it a perfect place to run an event like White Rocks, he said.

Hannan estimated 90% of last year’s entrants were visitors to the district.

“This is unique because it is a gravel circuit, and it is very difficult to find an area like that,” he said.

The main event is a 50km loop from the Fort Enfield Tavern.

This year will also see the inclusion of White Rocks Plus, a 22km addition to the main course, and a grade specifically for e-bikes. It will start 30 minutes before the main field.

“They were making it look too easy up the hills so we decided to get rid of them ahead of the main bunch,” Hannan said.

Trophies would be awarded to the first-placed male and female riders in the White Rocks Plus event, but the emphasis was on completion rather than competition, he said.

Riders who beat their 2019 time by 15 minutes would make it on to the roll of honour.

“The reason is to promote the idea that they are competing with themselves, not the other riders beside them.”

A school’s trophy will also be presented to the school with the most entries per capita.

Hannan was not sure how many entries there would be this year, or which direction the race would take in the future.

“We will see what happens, I’ve been in this game a long time and you never know.”

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