In the space of just five years, the Forrest GrapeRide has gone from a start-up event to the biggest cycling event of its type in the South Island of New Zealand. Riders tackle a 101km loop course which takes them through vineyards and farmlands to the beautiful Marlborough Sounds - "a ride through nature's photo album".

Winner of the Best Established Event award in 2008, the Forrest GrapeRide is hosted by Forrest Wines. Principals John and Brigid Forrest are both strong supporters of cycling in the region which is famed for its vineyards and wineries.

The atmosphere this year was outstanding with riders, supporters and well-wishers combining to form a large crowd to welcome finishers. The sheer entertainment value of the grape crushing later in the day was a highlight, while the distribution of a huge prize pool added to the festive nature.

Ask director Pete Halligan what makes the GrapeRide successful and he'll say "change, not for change's sake but for the sake of improvement".

The event has been filled to capacity in recent years (2500 riders) - a limit imposed for reasons of quality control.

As Pete Halligan says: "We know we can look after 2500 riders. Why get greedy and spoil the experience for everyone for the sake of a few more in the field?"

...challenges athletes once again

The start of Ironman China, which offered extremely challenging conditions again in its third year, was held in waves of four athletes each due, to the four laps of the swim course.

Luke McKenzie from Australia finished the new swim course first and went out on the bike course in leading position followed by Hiroyuki Nishiuchi from Japan.

Strong wind and temperatures around 35 degrees Celsius affected the race - especially on the bike course. However, the wind and heat didn't harm McKenzie that day at all as he stayed in the lead and controlled the race until the end. He won with a new course record in 8:41:15 hours. Jozsef Major from Hungary finished second in 8:52:29 hours.

In the women's race Ami Marsh from USA and Maki Nishiuchi from Japan battled for the lead on the first loop of the bike course. The American took the lead in the second loop and went out on the run with a rather big gap to win the race in 9:52:45 hours. Nicole Leder from Germany finished second in 10:02:58 hours.


The friendly atmosphere among the Chinese audience along the course encouraged athletes and made them feel very enthusiastic about the race.

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