Unbelievable: Matt Fairbrother Wins NZ MTB Rally Entirely Unsupported

Published: Sun 17 Mar 2024 05:11 AM
Let's start with the stats, like a sledgehammer in the face. Over six days, 27 stages, 12,357m of Descending and 165 km, Matt's winning time on-stage was 02:48:53. Put into perspective, that's not far off Richie Rude's total race time for his entire 2023 EDR season. Take our word for it, these were hardly cruisy trails (black and double-black diamond graded, and all of them raced blind).
But that was just the easy part. Because, for reasons known only to Fairbrother and similarly deranged super-humans including Forest Gump, Rambo, and Buzz Lightyear, Matt took on The NZ MTB Rally in his signature, entirely unsupported style. Not only did this involve pedalling or hiking up all the ascents whilst all his competitors took 4x4 shuttles and heli-drops, it included huge overnight transitions through mountainous terrain whilst everyone else enjoyed a hot-cooked dinner, some R, a comfy bed, and a slap-up breakfast before an easy coach ride to the next day’s race location. As if that wasn’t enough, Matt carried his own kit & tools, ate only what he carried or could buy from local outlets, and slept in a bivy which he also carried around with him throughout the week. All-in, Fairbrother clocked up a monstrous 582km (361 miles) and 17,382m (57,027 ft) of elevation over his race-within-a-race.
Still not tough enough for you? We haven’t yet mentioned Matt’s 6-and-a-half-hour, 37 km overnight kayak transition in seriously tough sea conditions…when everyone else jumped on a sunrise catamaran transition across the Tasman Bay, whilst enjoying breakfast and fresh coffee served on-board.
In spite of all this, Matt somehow managed to muster enough energy, skill, concentration and endurance, to finish ahead of Kiwi Pinner Chris Allman, Matt Beer (himself a former Canadian National DH Champion), and full 7 minutes ahead of Rae Morrison, 8th-placed EDR 2023 season and racing her home trails right here in the Nelson region.
Rather obviously, this herculean feat did not come easy, even for someone like Fairbrother who is already renowned for his insane self-supported transitions between EWS races. Perhaps the lowest ebb for both Matthew and our race medics who were monitoring his health throughout the week, was on Stage 1, Day 4. Matt, in typical style, was already waiting for our mountain marshal crew first thing in the morning at the top of the stage; having bivied out at the base of the mountain and hiked up in the early twilight hours. Whilst everyone else flew in directly overhead by helicopter to within metres of the start gate.
Low on sleep and nutrition and severely fatigued from his relentless journey, Matt smashed out a 3rd place result on the stage, but then collapsed over the finish line with blood streaming from his nose, even momentarily losing consciousness. Medics were on-scene quickly and after taking on more fluids and nutrition, Matt’s condition was assessed. (Even this nutrition was self-provided my Matt himself, who consistently and steadfastly refused any form of outside assistance throughout the week). Whilst obviously concerned, the medical assessment was that Matt should be allowed to continue the race, but with only close monitoring at the start and end of each stage. Fortunately, Matthew managed to recover, and incredibly, even go on to win all 3 of the remaining stages of the day; finishing second overall on Day 4.
For Fairbrother, it wasn’t all suffering. There were certainly moments of joy, too. A particular highlight surely must have been at around midnight, in the middle of open ocean and at least 20km from the nearest shoreline and in worsening weather conditions, Matthew was surprised by the sight of a large fin, appearing only a few metres from his kayak. One can only imagine what he must have felt at that moment. But Matt’s momentary terror soon turned to joy, as the pod of a dozen dolphins revealed themselves, and then proceeded to accompany Matt for around an hour, jumping out of the water all around him as he paddled along. We’d have thought it was Matt’s own fatigue-induced hallucinations, had the moment not been caught on camera by his safety boat.
In spite of what must have been the extremest of tests of both mental and physical endurance, perhaps the most impressive feat of all was Fairbrother’s attitude and good humour throughout the week. Matt always took the time to chat with fellow racers at the start and finish of each stage, and remained extremely humble even at the podium, when it was confirmed that indeed, the boundaries of what is humanly possible on an MTB had just smashed out of the park by this unassuming 19-year old Kiwi. In fact, throughout the entire challenge, he was only once heard to raise his voice - and that was understandable considering he’d just been attacked and bitten on the hand by a rogue wild rodent, drawing blood. (You just couldn’t make this stuff up!).
A final indication of the mental fortitude required to consider such an insane challenge in the first place, was Matt’s parting comments. When asked about how he was feeling about his incredible achievement, rather than revel in the enormity of what he had just done, Fairbrother was already thinking ahead to his next challenge:
“Yeah, it was pretty epic. I’m not really sure how I’m going to top this one…but I’ve got a few ideas in the pipeline”. We’re certainly looking forward to hearing more about what that might be, although God only knows how he’s going to surpass himself on this one.
There’s so much more to this incredible story, and you’ll get to hear and read about it soon in an extended documentary following Matt’s progress throughout his challenge. Watch this space.
Our final race report summing up Days 5 & 6 of The NZ MTB Rally will be released tomorrow.

Next in Lifestyle

Heritage Group Calls For Release Of Promised $250,000 Grant
By: Maia Hart - Local Democracy Reporter
Youth Want Tighter Vaping Controls
By: Asthma and Respiratory Foundation of New Zealand
Managing Muscle Soreness In A Post-Epidemic Gym Landscape
By: ExerciseNZ
Kiwi Student Helps Tongan Community Improve Drinking Water
By: University of Canterbury
Thousands Of Chocolate Lovers Gearing Up For Chocstock
By: Chocstock
The NZ Art Show Draws Record Crowds : A Cherished And Celebrated Event – 21 Years!
By: NZ Art Show
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILE © Scoop Media