Big names set to en­ter event

Wright ready to de­fend ti­tle

Central Otago Mirror - - SPORT -

Paul Wright, 17, could be re­luc­tantly hand­ing over his crown on the week­end.

The Mt As­pir­ing Col­lege pupil is the reign­ing King of Sticky For­est af­ter win­ning the an­nual moun­tain­bike race last year, even beat­ing the Red Bull-spon­sored adventure racer Braden Cur­rie who found him­self in sec­ond place on the podium.

How­ever, Wright has new com­pe­ti­tion – Com­mon­wealth Games gold medal­list An­ton Cooper.

Cooper and Queen­stown-based Com­mon­wealth Games rider Kate Fluker will be en­ter­ing the popular event this year.

Wright sees the ad­di­tion of Cooper in the men’s race as mak­ing the com­pe­ti­tion ‘‘in­ter­est­ing’’.

‘‘He’s quite fast but I’ve never raced against him be­fore.

‘‘We’ll see what hap­pens out there. Any­thing can hap­pen in a race – he could punc­ture,’’ he said.

Cooper is no slug him­self. He is ranked New Zealand’s top un­der-19 rider and has qual­i­fied for the age group world champs in An­dorra in Au­gust.

Wright is train­ing as much as he can – about 15 hours aweek af­ter school – with the hope of be­com­ing a pro­fes­sional ath­lete next year.

He takes what op­por­tu­ni­ties he can to im­prove.

‘‘I’m lucky be­cause I know peo­ple who know An­ton so when­ever he’s in town we just go rid­ing with him and talk to him and learn so much.’’

Satur­day’s race would be a good op­por­tu­nity to gauge how he mea­sures up against the best in the coun­try, he said.

Fa­ther and race or­gan­iser Scott Wright said it was hoped the ad­di­tion of the top cy­clists would see the num­ber of com­peti­tors in­crease from about 70 to more than 100.

There were cash prizes for the podium plac­ers in the open cat­e­gory.

How­ever, the track was ex­cel­lent for all ages and ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

‘‘The idea is to get even lit­tle young sprock­ets in there. They can come out and ride the same course as Kate and An­ton,’’ Scott said.

The course was about 3.5km. Open rid­ers would com­plete four laps, week­end war­riors would do three and begin­ners would do two.

En­tries were $20 and could be com­pleted on­line via the Face­book page – a process Scott de­scribed as ‘‘but­ter smooth’’.

Paul Wright of Wanaka on his way to be­ing named the top un­der-19 moun­tain­biker in New Zealand, in Auck­land this year.

What: King and Queen of Sticky MTB race

Where: Sticky For­est, Wanaka

When: Satur­day May 2, at 10.30am Reg­is­tra­tions: Open via the event Face­book page and avail­able on the day

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