55-year-old Auckland business owner Doug Todd is returning to Macpac Motatpu for another crack at the famed mountain bike race, hoping that this time he does not require the assistance of a helicopter to extract him from the course that takes riders from Glendhu Bay near Wanaka to the finish line at Arrowtown.
Todd is ready to face down an event that got the better of him in March 2019, with the goal of reaching the finish line the obvious one given what he endured last year.
“I had done all the hard work and made it safely through the first 35km and the majority of the climbing on the course when things went wrong. Two kilometres into the downhill run I was passing another rider on a slight bend doing around 40 kilometres an hour. I was checking to make sure they were clear behind me when my front wheel hit a rut, turned 90 degrees and next thing I knew I was hitting the ground at speed.
“I landed on my head and left shoulder, in a world of pain. But at the time I kind of thought I’d dislocated my shoulder – which I’ve done twice before – so thought it probably wasn’t too bad. Turned out it was a bit worse than that. I ended up with a separated AC joint on my left shoulder. The silver lining was the only damage to my bike was a broken saddle retention bolt and a snapped dropper post cable.”
As soon as the severity of the injury became clear to Todd, he knew his day in the saddle was over and waited for help to arrive. Given the isolated nature of the course and the difficulty in reaching him, the camaraderie and spirit of the mountain biking community was to the fore as he watched other riders cycle by.
“A couple of riders nearby stopped immediately to assist. After a few minutes where we decided I was not in a life-threatening situation Carl (from Christchurch) offered to stay with me while the other rode on to the next aid station.
“After a delay and with the cold starting to affect me and the soreness of the injury settling in, Carl made the decision to ride on himself and alert the nearest aid station and got things happening. Carl’s message got through after some initial communication issues, an hour later the fantastic medics arrived on a 4WD unit.
“After the paramedics assessed me, they decided it would be impossible to transport me out by 4WD and so called in the helicopter. They arrived about an hour later (very busy day) and were immensely professional. I cannot say enough good things about all involved in rescuing me.”
Many would decide that mountain biking was not for them after such an adventure, but with a little help from Race Director Danielle Sherman and maybe a lot of help from the pain medication, the father of two daughters quickly decided to return and conquer this year – in fact it was a decision he made within 24 hours of riding out in the heli.
“It might have been the exceptionally good prescription drugs, but I decided next day I would have to come back and finish the course. I then got in touch with the organisers to express my appreciation and Danielle gave me a complimentary entry for this year’s event – which was entirely unexpected but hugely appreciated.”
That decision was made easier given the nature of the event, the course that is only rideable once a year on Macpac Motatapu event weekend, and the post-crash care offered up by the organisers.
“I have been riding mountain bikes for around 20 years, also road cycling over the same period. Usually I ride four or five times a week. I’ve done a decent number of amateur mountain bike events in New Zealand and this is by far the best run, best organised of the lot and the venue is just spectacular. And the level of communication post-accident from the organisers was absolutely fantastic, both with myself and my family and emergency contacts.”
Understandably however, Doug has tempered his expectations this time around and will be especially careful when riding through the scene of his ‘off’ last year.
“I actually just want to finish the course…. and ride sub three hours, but without taking so many risks this time……!”
Doug will be amongst a predicted total entry of 4,000 participants across the seven events at Macpac Motatapu, with the mountain bike one of three events taking place on the Saturday morning.
Also on the Saturday is the Ultra-Run (51km), the Off-Road Triathlon (2km swim, 47km bike, 8.5km trail run) and the Ebike Tour that takes riders over the same course later in the day.
Sunday is set aside primarily for the running and walking events, ensuring plenty of space and comfort on the trails, with the Off-Road Marathon, Miners Trail, Sawpit Trail and Junior Trail Run all converging on the finish line at Wilcox Green in Arrowtown.