The week building up to this race I had slept very poorly for some reason and this combined with a big training load and a long day’s travel meant the legs felt well below their usual self on race day. On the morning of the race my stomach didn’t feel right and I wasn’t able to eat my usual pre race nutrition and I still had this feeling when I started the race. I managed to make up some places off the start but quickly realised my legs had nothing and that this was not a day to push my body hard as it was only going to put myself in a hole for the weeks ahead. Instead I sat up and just rode the 6 laps at a steady tempo to the finish, not wanting to pull out. At the end of the day I know this was the best decision to make, you have to learn to understand your body and know when you can and cannot push it. The World Cup season starting in just over a week is the priority and where my focus lies. I will now spend the next week back home in Esslingen before heading to Albstadt most likely on Wednesday. My race is on Saturday at 3:30pm.
The Italians certainly know how to put on a good race! Montichiari proved to be yet another great race course with an amazing atmosphere thanks to the passionate spectators. I started on the 3rd row and was able to make up a few positions on the super fast start to put myself around 10th position into the singletrack. When you start on the 3rd or fourth row you need to be both patient and super aggressive. You need to know when the right time to seize an opportunity is and be completely in the moment or you will lose the chance of picking up another position on the congested start/first lap. Each position is crucial so the first 10 minutes of the race are always super hectic as everyone jostles for position. After the first lap is over everyone has found their rhythm and usually continues at that intensity/pace for the rest of the race. Once again I felt really strong in the race and was able to attack up all the short punchy climbs and pick up time on the riders in front of me each lap, also managing to ride the muddy downhills smoothly and consistently to put myself in 2nd position by the end of the race. In my opinion this was my best race of the season and I look forward to coming back to race in Italy again next weekend!
I had never raced on the famous Heubach course before and everyone had been telling me how brutal it was. They weren’t wrong! Put simply the course is one steep long climb followed by a nice flowing singletrack descent that was made interesting by the muddy conditions. For this race I was in the Under 23 category and faced some tough competition especially from the Belgians. The conditions certainly levelled the field making for some tight close racing. I had plenty of position changes throughout the race due to mechanical issues caused by the mud but persisted and rode a smart race to take the victory with my team mate Keegan Swenson having a great day and coming home in 3rd position to round off the final podium position. This was a race that was won not entirely by my legs but also a composed head. I was very, very happy with how I rode. Another race ticked off the list and more points gathered as the first World Cup draws closer.
After suffering very badly at the Motatapu from jet lag I almost chose not to race in Schaan as I had only arrived in Europe a few days beforehand and jetlag would be sure to play a part in my performance once again. I had made a few variations to my recovery from the trip this time that I hadn’t done for Motatapu and I was keen to test out how these would work. UCI points go down to top 15 for a Cat. 1 race and in a stacked Elite Men’s field this was going to be a tough ask on any given day but I decided that a top 15 was still within my reach so I decided to give it a nudge.
I had a great start and moved my way up to around 12th position after the 1st lap but started to fade badly on the 3rd lap and lost a lot of positions. The race was a long 9 laps and in the end I settled for 21st position, satisfied as I wasn’t expecting an incredible result so close to all the travelling I had done. My fast first lap showed that I have the speed but I just couldn’t continue at that tempo due to my fatigue. I’m still glad I chose to race as each time I am learning how to combat the effects of jetlag better. You can never expect to perform 100% within the week of arriving in Europe but with proper recovery methods you can up your chances of achieving better results.
A mixed bag for the team as a whole, Manuel took 2nd place only 2secs behind 1st place and current World Champion Nino Schurter while Marco crashed on the first lap and tore his arm open requiring a trip to hospital and a lot of internal and external stitches to bring the gash back together. Next weekend we will race in Nalles, Italy in another Cat. 1 race and against a very classy field. I can’t wait to test the legs yet again!
After a tough week trying to recover from jet lag and the heightened effects of it after the Motatapu I had managed to put in 3 good solid weeks training. I was starting to feel in a lot better shape heading into what was destined to be a tough race at the Oceania Champs in Hobart, Tasmania. I was well looked after the week leading up to the race by the top Aussie junior rider Ben Bradley and his Dad which made life nice and comfortable and we also managed to fit in a couple of swims at the beach to cool off during my stay. Something I wasn’t going to get the chance to do once back in Europe! The course was very bland and basic but had a fine gravely surface on top of the hard pack base which meant you had to keep focused and on your toes down the descent. The course was basically one big zig-zag climb up and then a zig-zag descent down, nothing special.
Because of the good UCI points on offer I decided to play this race safely and win in the least risky approach possible. That basically means not going off the front too early in the race and then facing the possibility of blowing up and getting reeled back in and also not pushing too hard on descents etc. or leaving it to a tight sprint finish. I played a good waiting game and waited for the other riders to tire before making my move on a very steep fire road towards the top of the final climb. I made a 10-15 second gap and then held that gap down the descent without taking any risks to the finish.
The Australian rider Jack Haig took 2nd place and Kiwi Dirk Peters rounded out the podium in 3rd. I was very happy with how the race panned out and the UCI points will be of great benefit in the big European races I have coming up. Thanks to Ben Bradley and his Dad Leigh and Sid Taberlay for making me feel at home and showing me all the good tracks! Also Russ Baker for the photos.
2 years ago when I raced the Motatapu I set the race record so this year the expectation was there for me to beat that record but as it turned out jet lag had really taken it’s toll on me. With far from ideal preparation after landing in NZ only 2 days earlier I realised my legs weren’t up to the task at hand within the first few kilometres but hung in for as long as possible, only to watch the race disappear up the road in front of me hopelessly a few Km’s later. A disappointing day but in hindsight I think I expected too much from my body after arriving home that close to race day spending a whole day and night making frequent trips to the toilet after arriving home due to some dodgy airline food. In hindsight I probably shouldn’t have raced. Lessons learnt, who knows if I decide to race again next year. It really depends on my schedule and what I value as being worthwhile to my preparation for the big European races or not. My race priorities have drastically changed over the last year and will continue to do so as I head forward.
As for now I will spend two weeks at home before heading to Australia to race in the Oceania Mountain Bike Champs in Hobart, Australia on the 31st of March.
The Cannondale Factory Racing and Overmountain team camp was this year held in the seaside township of Finale Ligure, in Northern Italy. Everything about the place was amazing, from the sandy beaches, the tight narrow streets, great food and incredible MTB trails. Team Camp involved plenty of interviews and photo shoots as well as a mock Enduro race and also a XC relay race held with the journalists who had travelled from all over the World to be there. It was an incredible week, albeit a cold one!
We decided to incorporate the First of the Italian National MTB Rounds into our journey back to Germany, the unofficial “Italian Winter MTB Champs.” There was a huge field with a lot of big names racing which gave me a great chance to test myself against the best in the business once again. I had a great start and found myself in the lead group on the first lap and from there the race strung out a lot more. I fought hard and by the final lap of seven I found myself in 2nd place overall after Marco suffered a puncture while sitting in second position otherwise it would have finished up as a Cannondale Factory Racing 1,2,3 as Manuel Fumic took a convincing win. All in all a fantastic start to the season for the team and a great 2 week introduction for me to Cannondale!
This race seemed to come around really fast and it wasn’t really one I had been targeting but yet I was still keen to put on a strong showing wearing my new National Champions jersey at the first major event with the Cannondale Factory Racing team. Plenty of big names were racing due to the Cat. 1 status such as Olympic Champion JaroslavKulhavy, Manuel Fumic, Emil Lindgren and FabianGiger to name a few. The start was super fast and hard as expected and I managed to work my way up well from the 4th or 5th start row to be within the front group at the start of the first lap. From here the race started to spread apart and I was probably sitting in around 15th position at the end of the first lap. I was feeling great and over the next 4 laps I started to pick individual riders off in front of me finishing in 7th place only 1min 19secs behind the eventual winner JaroslavKulhavy with my team mate Manuel Fumic following him home in a close second place. Straight after the race it was a quick trip to the airport to catch our flight to Italy for Team Camp in Finale Ligure where I will spend a few more days before heading on home. The weather is very cold compared to home but I’m in great company with my team mates and support staff, really happy to be with this amazing bunch of people!
The morning after the National round in Auckland I drove to Rotorua to spend some time on the National Champs course. After a couple of days getting dialled in on the short and dusty lap I had to fly back to Auckland for the prestigious Halberg Awards. The Halberg Awards are the New Zealand sports awards and I was very privileged to be able to attend the awards dinner alongside New Zealand’s finest Sportsmen and Sportswomen as a finalist in the emerging talent category. Unfortunately I didn’t win the award but in consolation the winner Lydia Ko was always going to be a tough one to beat after her huge success at the top of the world’s golf scene. It truly was a night to remember and I had a great time socialising with everyone before flying back to Rotorua the next day after the Halbergs to race the National Champs the following day.
I woke up on the morning of the race feeling quite tired and lethargic probably due to a late night at the Halbergs and the hot weather. I went for a very short warm-up due to the heat and once the gun had sounded and we were off I was completely in race mode. Dirk and I immediately opened up a gap in the first section of singletrack and I was forced to work very hard to hang onto his wheel for the first half of the race. After about the 3rd lap of 7 I had worked out my race tactics and exactly when and where I would attack off the front. I knew that the safest way to ensure the win was to just sit tight on Dirk’s wheel until just before the entrance of the final downhill to the finish and I would just have to endure the attacks that he was regularly throwing at me up until that point. My tactics went exactly to plan other than a crash on a tight dusty corner, literally 30 seconds from the finish which luckily I had opened up a 10 second gap by that stage and was able to re-gather myself and jump back on still in the lead and round to the final corner in the lead to sprint across the finish line in the lead.
I was really impressed with how Dirk rose to the occasion and threw absolutely everything he had at me on his home course. He really pushed me to my limits and made it a true National Championship race and it also provided a great spectacle for everyone who turned up to watch. It was great to be able to win on my new Cannondale F29 Carbon as well. The bike was super light and performed exceptionally well. It was special to be able to take the first major win of the season for my new team. It was also good to see such a huge turnout of Under 15, 17 and 19 rider’s race as well ensuring the numbers across many fields were well up on previous years. The future of NZ Mountain Biking looks very bright heading forward.