September 21st, 2017

2017 World Championships – Cairns, Australia

Although the final World Cups hadn't quite gone the way I'd hoped I still had the goal of a top 10 finish at World Champs. Perhaps it's the feeling I get when I pull on the NZ Jersey to represent my country, but I'd never had a bad race at a World Champs and I was keen to see that trend to continue. 
 
The opening event of the World Champs was the Team Relay and for the first time since 2013 NZ had entered a team. I was really looking forward to the opportunity to test myself on a full race pace lap and get a time against some other top riders. The relay is made up of 5 riders; 3 Men and 2 Women of different age groups. I was the last rider to go and managed to pass a few other teams on my to get the fastest equal time of the day and 8th place overall for NZ. That was a great result for NZ to kick the World Champs off and a huge confidence boost for myself heading into Saturday's XCO race knowing that I had the speed in the legs to match it with the best.
The XCO race rolled around and I was feeling great. Yet again, the sun was beating down on the hugely blown out and dusty course. Luckily those are just the conditions which I have grown to enjoy and race well in, so that only added to my confidence. I had a great start from the second row and entered the first singletrack in 3rd. I could tell immediately that my legs were good and it was going to be a much better day than my last races. I tried not to get overly excited on the first couple of laps and went about defending a strong position inside the top 10. I was sitting around 8th or 9th for most of the race but with just over a lap to go I made a small error down Jacob's ladder and paid for it with a broken saddle. I gathered myself and shook off the pain my knees were giving me. I think I knocked the inside of them on my frame when I crashed, which made them feel dead for a while. I was a little slow to get going but I made my way down the hill to the tech zone where I had my bike fixed and was back on my way again, around 16th position which is where I ended up finishing. 
It was gutting to finish in 16th because if I'd just stayed on my bike I had the potential to finish at least 9th and 5th place was also within reach. But at the same time I was happy with the grit and determination I showed to still finish in that position after my tumble and also that I was riding so well, up until that point, in the biggest race of the year. I already can't wait for the next World Cup season and World Champs to begin!

August 30th, 2017

2017 World Cup #6, Val di Sole – Trentino, Italy

It was always destined to be a tough day in Val di Sole for the final World Cup round of the year.

Heading into the race I was 8th overall in the World Cup standings with a few riders close enough behind. I really wanted to finish inside the top 10 and from the gun the battle was on.

I had a good start and on the start lap I was feeling good, crossing the line to start the first full lap in 11th. During the first few full laps of the course I felt a bit flat and had to back off and ride my own tempo drifting back into the 30's. The course was wide open and fast with a lot of wide taped sections which made for a tactical bunch style race which isn't typically my forte. Mid race, my team mate Sergio joined me and provided a strong, consistent and reliable wheel to follow and we started to pick off some riders in front.

On the last lap I really emptied the tank passing some more riders with a strong finish to come home in 20th place. I was confident but not certain that I had done enough to secure a top 10 overall in the World Cup. It wasn't until it flashed up on the big screen that I was 7th overall I knew for sure.

 

Fair to say I'm pretty chuffed with that on the bounce back from last season. While the second half of the season has been a real battle just feeling like I'm one or two percent off where I want to be I'm still over the moon with my season and how I've been riding. I know there's even more to come the next years but for now there is still one big race left this season. In fact the biggest race of them all! World Champs on the 9th September in Cairns. I look forward to spending a few days at home upon my arrival from Europe. And then racing in the Silver fern with plenty of Kiwi and Oceania fans making the trip to World's to support. It aint over yet!

 

August 21st, 2017

2017 Swiss Cup, Basel, Switzerland

It wasn't the easiest day at the office in Basel. I felt a big weeks training in my legs and struggled especially on the opening 2 laps with the bigger more powerful riders putting me to the sword on the flat sections. The course features only one short climb with the rest flat, fast, furious and an average speed for the race north of 25kph.

After the first 2 laps were complete I felt a lot better and a lot more involved in the race, especially being one of the drivers of the chase group (positions 8th through to around 15th). I put myself in a poor position at the base of the last climb and got held up while 2 riders from our group disappeared up ahead to take 8th and 9th. In the end I came home in 13th which was a bit frustrating as I don't feel it was reflective of how I rode for the majority of the race. But that's often the way these fast, bunch style races pan out. I just need to be a bit more forward thinking in my positioning next time. 

Hopefully some more race intensity will do me well for the final World Cup in just under a weeks’ time. The end of the season is approaching fast and I'd love to finish on a strong note!

August 10th, 2017

2017 World Cup # 5 Mont Sainte-Anne, Quebec, Canada

  

Although it had been a difficult month or so after altitude training, disrupted travel and getting sick around the time of the Lenzerheide World Cup, I was still hopeful of a good performance in Mont Sainte-Anne. I'd always performed well there and I really enjoy the technical and natural track as I feel like it plays well to my strengths. 

On race day I felt a bit tired and tried not to let it phase me. As soon as the gun went however I knew the legs weren't there. I tried my best to hang in the top 10 hoping that my legs would improve but on the second full lap I had to ease off the throttle so I didn't blow up completely. I tried to find a good rhythm to ride, eventually coming home in 23rd position, my most disappointing result this year.

However, if someone had told me last year that I would be 23rd in an elite World Cup I would have been pretty chuffed with that, but after some stellar results earlier in the year I feel like I should be much higher up. I know that I haven’t had the time to rebuild my fitness since recovering from my illness from Lenzerheide and I'm confident that, with another couple of weeks good training and intensity, I should find myself back further towards the front.  Thanks to all the team for their continued support. It's very much appreciated. 

 

Photo credit:  Matt DeLorme 

July 10th, 2017

2017 World Cup #4 Lenzerheide, Switzerland

 After falling ill after Monday's travel from Andorra, I did everything possible to be in good enough shape to take the start on Sunday. I took Wednesday and Thursday off completely, and had an easy spin on Friday. I completed 2 laps on Saturday and felt pretty lousy but thought I'd make a call after my warm up on Sunday as to whether or not I would take the start. 

I had a good sleep Saturday night and woke up feeling somewhat human. I felt okay during my warm up so decided to give the race a crack. I had a pretty clear race plan of having a strong start and from there riding my own tempo and not getting caught up in chasing for top positions. It hosed down for 45 minutes just before the start of the men's race and everyone on the grid switched to a meatier tyre tread pattern. I opted for Bontrager XR2 2.2's front and rear with 18.0 psi front and 19.5 psi in the rear. I also decided to race the Top Fuel on the super rough and rooty course and that proved to be a wise decision, as it enabled me to apply power where I otherwise would have had to freewheel on a hardtail.

I had a great start just as I had planned entering the first single-track in the top 5 and from there set about riding to my own rhythm. I crossed the line eventually in 16th, over the moon with that all things considered! I had set myself a goal of top 40 due to my poor health prior to starting, so to find myself riding around in the top 20 despite my condition was hugely encouraging and I can't wait for Mont Saint Anne in 4 weeks’ time!

photo credit: Matt DeLorme

July 4th, 2017

2017 UCI World Cup # 3, Vallnord, Andorra

The last time I raced in Andorra I managed to take the win in what was a wet, muddy and chaotic race during the Under 23 World Champs in 2015. I was hoping to build on those memories again in 2017, this time in the Elite field for the 3rd World Cup round of the year.
 
Racing at altitude is still something I'm yet to figure out it seems. I got myself a bit boxed in early on and worked super hard to get back to the lead chase group before the end of the first lap. I managed to get back up there but suffered big time from doing so, and after hanging in for another lap I was completely spent. For 2 or 3 laps I felt that everyone else was going twice as fast and I couldn't hold the wheel of anyone coming past from behind. I dug deep to hang in and with 2 laps to go I was starting to feel a little better and made up a few positions to come home in 18th.
 
It was a reminder of just how cut throat XCO racing is in the Elite field with everyone on the podium having storming rides. If you're off by 2 percent you have no chance in the current era. I'm looking forward to this weekend in Lenzerheide for WC round 4 where I hopefully won't make the same errors early in the race and will be able to finish a little higher up. It was great to see fellow Kiwi's Sam Gaze finish 4th in Elite and Ben Oliver finish 6th in Under 23. Both exceptional results.

June 13th, 2017

2017 Swiss Cup, Gränichen, Switzerland

I know I've been on good form of late but I definitely wasn't expecting to win in Gränichen, especially over such a strong field.

The temperature was crazy hot at the venue and the track was getting blown out and dusty. I arrived the day before and only had 2 laps on the track so I knew I couldn't push too hard on the descents as I was going to be still somewhat learning the track over the first few laps of the race.

I had a great start and was up near the front from the beginning. The first few laps were a bit cat and mouse but on the 4th lap I took the front and kept the pace high. At the end of that lap there were just three of us left at the front of the race. On lap 5 Sam Gaze pushed hard and Nino dropped back with just a lap to go. From there it was a battle to the line against fellow Kiwi and Under 23 World Champ Sam Gaze. I pushed hard on some of the climbs but Sam stayed glued to my wheel. I fought hard to protect my lead over the last lap so I had the advantage of coming into the tight and twisty final few hundred metres first. I managed to get a slight gap near the end of the lap and crossed the line in 1st with Sam 2nd and Nino 3rd.

It’s a great confidence boost heading into my upcoming altitude training block and the next World Cup rounds. The pieces of the puzzle are all falling into place.

 

May 28th, 2017

2017 UCI World Cup # 2, Albstadt, Germany

I really wasn't expecting that today and would have been more than satisfied with another top 10. To come 3rd was just mind blowing. I took a wee gamble running 2.0 XR1 tyres today, instead of the usual 2.2 inch tyres I typically train and race with and I felt like it was a big advantage for me.

I was able to climb the steep smooth climbs faster than normal and also on the flat tar-seal and grass sections I was able to carry more speed. I had to be super focused on the descents, rocky sections and gravelly corners though as I knew I was disadvantaged there. However, I knew if I could keep it smooth and mistake free on those sections then anything was possible.

With 7 laps plus a start loop on the cards and in close to 30 degree heat I knew I had to pace myself, plus keep cool and on top of my hydration. I had a good start and over the course of the next 2 laps was riding in amongst a big group of chasers. The chase group whittled down lap by lap and with 4 laps to go there were just 4 of us left. The lead group of 3 then became 2 when Mathias Flὕckiger crashed out, and I started to lay down the hammer over the last few laps, going solo in 3rd to the finish line.

 

Racing in front of so many friends and family here was really special and to bag my first ever elite World Cup podium in front of a wonderful crowd was a great feeling. Already looking forward to the next one!

(Photo credit: Matt DeLorme)

 

May 24th, 2017

2017 UCI World Cup # 1, Nove Mesto, Czech Republic

 
I felt a mixture of nervousness and excitement to finally be returning to World Cup racing. Mostly I was just looking forward to racing my bike with the best riders in the world, on the best track, in front of the best fans XCO racing has to offer. 
 
This year I decided to race my fully as the course was looking like it was going to blow out and get even rougher with more roots than normal. I'd ridden my top fuel at times in training and really enjoyed it on the rough New Zealand trails. However in my 11+ years of racing bikes I had never competed in an XCO race on a fully. In course practice it felt noticeably very smooth, especially once I'd spent some time dialing in various suspension settings. I felt like for one lap I could go slightly faster on the hardtail but for 6 full laps and the start loop I would have drained so much energy fighting to maintain speed over the rough stuff that I thought I would be faster overall on the fully. It proved to be a good choice in the end!
 
With start number 41 and on the 5th row I needed a good start to give me any chance of a good result. I had a great start being lucky enough to avoid some crashes off the line and make my way further up towards the front, crossing the line after the start loop in around 15th position. The whole race was a mad scrap for position and it was just as much of a battle to stay mentally primed and in the fight as it was physically. From the early to midway point in the race I was in a group of 7 or 8 riders chasing the 2 out the front so it was rather cat and mouse. With 2 laps to go some more splits started to appear and I lost the chance of a podium position, I didn't quite have the legs to keep pushing over the last 2 laps but I managed to hold onto a very respectable 9th place. Very, very happy considering the 2016 that was and now I have been able to put a peg in the ground of where I stand in the elite field and look forward from here.
 
Photos credit: Matt DeLorme
World Cup number 2 is in Albstadt, Germany this Sunday where I will start as number 9 (first rider on the second row). It's my least favourite and probably least suited course on the World Cup circuit this year but I'm still gunning for another top 10, and hopefully later in the year I can work my way up to the podium. Racing with the elites is no longer a dream!

May 12th, 2017

2017 Hadleigh Park International Event, London, UK

It was a last minute decision to race in Hadleigh on the 2012 Olympic Games course but it turned out to be a good one. After some great results in the USA I travelled to my European base in Germany to get settled in. After battling jetlag and the elements for a week I was starting to feel confident that I could piece together another good performance against world class competition in Hadleigh. 
 
Travelling in on Friday was an all day affair with flights, rental car pick ups and traffic jams on the way but eventually Sergio and I made it to our accommodation. We were based nice and close to the track so after a good sleep in we headed out for a few practice laps on Saturday afternoon. The track was really enjoyable to ride with lots of fun sections to look forward to, multi choice line options and enough demanding climbs to punish the legs and lungs. 
 
Race day rolled around and with a later 3.00 pm start I went for an easy 30 minute spin in the morning to make sure my legs didn't turn off before the big show. I had a really good start to the race and took the lead into the first single-track section. I felt I didn't have a great prerace warm-up so I tried to keep things tempo on the first lap and not hit the redline too early. After lap 1 of 7 the pace was being pushed by the Cannondale boys, Manual Fumic and World Number 3 Maxime Marotte. The lead group formed of 6 riders before becoming 5 and then 4 with just 3 laps remaining. It was left to Daniel McConnell, Maxime, Manual and myself to duke it out for the win. Splits formed between us four but closed again over the last lap making for a very tactical and messy run into the finish. I pushed to the front just before the last climb but Maxime was able to come under me into a tight left hand uphill hairpin and I was too late to close the door on him. From then it was follow the leader to the finish line with no chance to pass or contest the sprint from behind. Slightly disappointing to have come so close again against such a big name but I'm also very happy to get the much needed points for my start position in Nove Mesto. Not to mention prove myself against the top riders once again.
I'm really looking forward to what lies ahead and the direction this season is starting to take.