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Multisport's past, present and future will be on show at this year's Expand-A-Sign 3D Rotorua, with organisers adding three new events to the burgeoning off-road festival.
Headlining the June 3 Queens Birthday Weekend event will be the second running of the Australasian Multisport championships, raced over 50km through the spectacular geothermal playground in the central North Island, with $10,000 in cash prizes at stake.
Coast to Coast guru and defending champion Richard Ussher is returning, along with wife Elina, who took out the inaugural women's 3D title last year. A top field of Kiwi and Australian athletes - including Melbourne veteran and three-time Coast to Coast winner John Jacoby - will also compete.
The festival will also feature the New Zealand Secondary Schools Multisport championships, while event director Neil Gellatly has expanded the festival, mindful of staying true to his target market. "Our aim is to become one of New Zealand's biggest sporting festivals and entries this year are already tracking well towards that goal," Gellatly said. "But we're also conscious of the family nature of multisport - that old adage, the family that plays together, stays together - so our new events are tailored so there is something for everyone."
The new events include a 2km under-10 fun run, a 5.5km trail run and walk, and a standalone 30km mountain bike race through the sublime trails of the Whakarewarewa Forest. He's also added four new categories, expanding the school divisions, adding veteran and corporate 50km team sections and opening up the 25km Grassroots Multisport Challenge to novice adults. The 42km duathlon, half marathon and 10.5km runs have also had their courses tweaked.
"The hardest part about setting these courses is having to leave bits out," Gellatly admits. "Rotorua has so many incredible natural assets that we're absolutely spoilt for choice but we reckon the way we've set things up this year will create some lasting memories for all our competitors."
The feature 50km race, won by Ussher in 2hrs 45.57mins last year, starts with an 8km paddle on Lake Okareka, with views of Mt Tarawera in the distance, continues with a 30km mountain bike through some of the Whakarewarewa Forest's best single-tracks, then ends with a 12km trail run through the magnificent Redwoods Forest.
Coast to Coast director Robin Judkins will in attendance, representing Multisport New Zealand, while the total prize pool for the event tops more than $75,000. Last year, 500 athletes took part in the event's debut, with Gellatly hoping to double that number this year.