September 12th, 2018

2018 World MTB Championship, Lenzerheide, Switzerland

 I had high hopes for World Champs and coming in I felt I had a realistic chance of a medal. Although I hadn’t felt the freshest in La Bresse 2 weeks prior I was content with my 7th place there and felt with a bit of rest and some shorter more intense efforts to sharpen up I would be firing on all cylinders for World’s. 

I arrived in Lenzerheide around 10 days before the race and felt very flat for the first 5 or 6 days as my body tried to adjust to the high altitude. I felt I perked up a bit closer to the race, or maybe it was just the excitement of World Champs week and me trying to be positive!

In the race I had a great start and felt completely fine for the first 10mins of the race. Cautious not to push too hard early on I backed off towards the end of the first lap / start of the second with the intention of riding solidly somewhere in the top 10 for a few laps before coming home strong over the last laps. Unfortunately, I couldn’t keep up my usual pace and dropped further and further back although I was pushing my max. Eventually I finished in 31st place which was very disappointing but at least I can be satisfied that I gave it my everything on the day even though it felt like a disaster! I’ve tried not to think too much about why it went so wrong but hopefully those answers come to me soon and I can try and buck the trend of performing poorly at altitude. Not everyone’s body can adapt the same way or as quickly but hopefully I can figure out some ways to maximise my performance at altitude over the off season!

Photo credit: Matt DeLorme

August 28th, 2018

2018 World Cup #7, La Bresse, France

After arriving in La Bresse I felt a little below par. Probably a combination of a big training load, a slightly higher elevation than usual and still feeling like I was adjusting to the European time zone after returning from Mont Saint Anne. Unfortunately, late in the week l still felt 1 or 2 percent off and had a disappointing short track race, missing out on a front 2 row start position. 

I desperately wanted to finish the World Cup season on a high and fought hard over the opening lap of the XCO to move up some places. I felt a little over my limit on the second lap and had to button off a little, so I didn’t risk destroying my whole race. 

I was able to ride the technical sections well but it took a while to really find my climbing legs. I stayed in sight of the top 10 over the early laps and with 4 to go I felt the tide start to turn and I could make back some places on the guys in front. I had a really strong last 2 laps to bring it home for 7th on the day and to secure 7th overall in the World Cup series.

Now it’s time to turn the focus to World Champs and finish the season off in style!

Photo credit: Matt DeLorme

August 14th, 2018

2018 World Cup #6, Mont Sainte Anne, Quebec, Canada

So close yet so far! 

I had a great 3 weeks training in a very hot Germany before traveling to Mont Sainte Anne. However as good as I was feeling in training it was hard to know if a good result in Mont Sainte Anne was on the cards as I hadn’t had any races to truly gauge my form in since a below par performance at the last World Cup rounds in Val di Sole and Andorra.

The short track race on Friday night was a massive confidence boost and confirmation that the form was red hot. I was able to stay in the top 5 comfortably for pretty much the whole race and brought it home for 4th place and a front row start for the XCO.

One of my biggest struggles this season has been getting a good night’s sleep after the Short Track to be ready for the XCO Sunday on Sunday. Racing a World Cup short track at 6:15 pm full of caffeine isn’t exactly the recommended pre-sleep wind-down routine. I managed to get a decent night’s rest however so felt somewhat fresh on Saturday for course practice and also slept reasonably well on Saturday night to wake up feeling energised for the XCO.

I had a good start and entered the first singletrack second wheel. The first couple of laps of a World Cup are always a chaotic affair with everyone jostling for position and trying risky lines to get past one another. I had a couple of laps bumping elbows before things settled down and I found myself off the front and starting to pull away with Nino. He was faster through the rough sections on his fully whereas I had decided to take a completely different approach to the other riders and risk it with the hardtail. I had to keep speed down through the rough stuff and drag the brakes a little more to keep the speed down. I was feeling good enough to quickly close the gaps after the descent and felt like I was climbing really well on the hardtail so overall, I guess I was a similar speed to what I would have been on a fully. Just a different way of going fast! 

Nino snapped his chain while we were together with around a 15 second lead over the chasing pack. I decided with three laps still to go I wasn’t going to be able to hold them off solo, so I took the opportunity to rest up a little and join the pack for a little bit until it really got down to the business end. With a lap and a half to go there were three of us left at the front, myself, Mathias Flueckiger and Gerhard Kerschbaumer. Gerhard had a big crash right in front of me on one of the descents and I was lucky to avoid him. I had to push hard to then close the gap to Mathias but was able to do so as the bell lap rang. I was feeling good and decided to test the legs with an attack on the long grassy climb, but Mathias was up for the challenge. I was content to sit behind up the next zig zag climb and down Beatrice before giving it everything up the last climb to lead into the final descent, but I never quite made it that far. I think I got a little close to Mathias coming into the steep inside line at the top of Beatrice and I didn’t get my entry into the turn/chute set up straight enough. I was set up a bit sideways at the top and with not enough speed or time to back out of it I came crashing down onto the rocks below, my bike flying away down the track. I stood up and dusted myself off before locating my bike and straightening the bars (kind of). My left forearm took the brunt of the impact along with somehow my balls, but I was able to get back on and limp it home on my bike to finish in 6th. Absolutely gutted to toss away such a good chance at a World Cup win after riding so well the whole race and within spitting distance of the finish line!

After race assessment of my injuries confirmed no bones broken but a deep muscle contusion on my left forearm and grazes up my right side. But the biggest shock of all was when I dropped by dacks to get changed and noticed blood dripping from my man parts. Closer inspection revealed a couple of cuts to my scrotum, one particularly deep tear which had to be stitched back together (hopefully the first and last time this happens!). It seems as though the airbags deployed! 

Back in Germany now to prepare for the final World Cup round in La Bresse on the 24th-26th August and then World Champs in Lenzerheide 2 weeks following. Hopefully my injuries don’t keep me off the bike long and things go smoothly from here on out!

Photo credit: @CXHairs

July 31st, 2018

2018 World Cup #5 Vallnord, Andorra

I was nervous about this race and how my body would react to racing at altitude. Every race I do at altitude I seem to react differently so hopefully the more races I do at high altitude the more a consistent trend will develop with how I perform. The first day on course was a real shock to the system but nothing unusual for me at altitude. My max HR was 15bpm lower than usual and I had a hard time getting enough oxygen to my legs. On Friday afternoon after course practice I was feeling better and more used to the thin air and had high hopes of a top 16 short track finish, ideally even a top 8. 

I had a good first few laps in the short track and was riding around in the top 8 for the first 5 laps or so before I really started to notice the effects of the altitude setting in. I dug deep with the hope of a top 16 However with about 3 or 4 laps to go my front wheel washed out on a flat shaly corner and I landed on my right knee, losing contact with the group fighting for the front positions. I was very disappointed to miss out on a top 16 and to crash out with such a stupid mistake but set about making things right for Sunday’s XCO.

Luckily my knee had settled down enough for the XCO and I could race without any ill effect. I got shafted at the start when I was caught up behind a crash and immediately found myself a long way back. I was conscious not to push too hard at the beginning and felt I did a good job of riding my own pace, but I had a really tough middle sector of the race where I just felt horrendous. I was giving it my everything but just going backwards until a lap and a half to go it was like someone hit a switch and I was off. I managed to set the fastest final lap of all riders and the fastest lap outside of the start lap of everyone so at least something positive to take from a bad day! In the end I think I finished in 22nd, a long way off where I want to be, but I know I have a lot of room to progress with training over the next weeks. Already looking forward to my next chance in MSA!

Photos Matt DeLorme 

 

July 9th, 2018

2018 World Cup #4, Val di Sole, Italy

After a 6 week break since the last World Cup round in Nove Mesto it almost felt like starting the season again in Val di Sole. It was great to be reunited with my team mates once more and get back into that World Cup race mode. I had a solid short track race and apart from making my life hard with a missed pedal at the start I was happy with my result of 13th and securing a second row start for the XCO on Sunday. 

After focusing on base miles, the last weeks while home in NZ I knew I didn’t quite have the intensity in the legs to charging at the very front of a World Cup race quite so soon again, so my tactics were to take it easy the first couple of laps and build into the race. It turns out it’s really hard to take a World Cup start easy and that plan blew out the window early on along with my legs. I had good consistent lap times, but they were all just a bit slow to challenge for a top 10 or podium, instead I had to settle for 21st. On the bright side it was an improvement on my placing in Val di Sole last year and I feel like things will only improve from here with an eye to being in top form for World Champs in early September.

Photo credit: Matt DeLorme

May 29th, 2018

2018 World Cup #3, Nove Mesto, Czech Republic

(Photo credit Matt Delorme)

It was just an incredible day on the bike, no other way to describe it!

I felt solid on the start loop but nothing spectacular and kind of had the impression early on that I was going to be fighting for around a top 10 final position. However, as each minute passed I could tell that I had a strong chance at a podium. I picked off riders one by one and felt I could push on relentlessly without ever really suffering.

(Photo credit: Matt DeLorme)

Halfway through the race and with the leaders back in sight I knew a podium position was almost a certainty and my focus turned instead to winning the race. Days like that don’t come around often so I was determined to make the most of my opportunity!

Maxime Marrotte had come across with me to the leading Swiss pair of Nino Schurter and Lars Forster and was obviously feeling strong. Once we joined the front two Nino attacked and Lars dropped back making it a battle between three of us over the last 2 laps for the win. I knew Nino would be the man to beat and if I could hang with him until the finish straight I would have a chance of outsprinting him. It felt like such a long drag to the line and an incredibly evenly matched sprint. I closed up on him but in the end Nino pipped me to the line by about a tyre width.

Desperately close to my first ever World Cup win but I’m still so happy with how I raced. I can take solace in the fact I’m young, still improving and confident more opportunities will come for me to win an Elite World Cup soon!

May 25th, 2018

2018 World Cup # 2, Albstadt, Germany

I knew I wasn’t carrying my best form into Albstadt but still it was disappointing to not secure a front 2 row spot in the short track event on Friday night. I suffered on the flat, high speed track and just wasn’t able to hang with the bigger, more powerful riders over the final 2 laps.

I was motivated to put together a better performance on Sunday in the XCO and after a good start I found myself in around 10th position. I was cautious to not push too hard early on and for the first half of the race felt like I was riding within my limits and relishing the slippery descents. On the last 3 laps I suffered big time and started to drop a few positions. On the last lap I had an unavoidable crash into a rider who had come off riding one of the drops and was lying across the track. I lost a few more positions there to eventually come home in 18th. While it wasn’t what the result that the first half of the race promised I also know it could have been a lot worse!

Looking forward to hopefully an improved performance in Nove Mesto next weekend.

(Photo credit: Matt DeLorme)

May 12th, 2018

2018 Swiss Bike Cup, Solothurn, Switzerland

My bad luck continued in Solothurn with another flat tyre, this time just halfway around lap 1 while in 3rd wheel. I took the risk with some skinnier tyres to help on road sections but paid the price for it when I pinched my tyre on the rim on a high speed descent. Super frustrating for it to happen for the second weekend in a row but hopefully that’s all my punctures out of the way for the season! 

I was able to ride to the tech zone and get it changed, re-joining the race in around 20th position. I worked hard to catch up to the next group which formed around 13th-19th position. The race for the podium was gone for me by this stage, especially on such a fast course, so I settled into working with the group I found myself in. 

By working together we were able to pick off a few more riders in front and with a final push on the last lap I was able to finish as the first rider of my group and bring it home in 11th. This was the best I could do out of the situation in the end, so I was left somewhat satisfied. I also had the feeling that my legs were a bit better than the previous weekend so that’s also a good sign. Next up are the World Cups in Albstadt and Nove Mesto. Fingers crossed that a seasons worth of punctures is out of the way already!

April 25th, 2018

2018 Sea Otter Classic, Monterey, California, USA

Overall it was a great couple of days racing at the Sea Otter with a second place in the short track and first place in XCO. Last year I really struggled with the short track and wasn’t able to feature in the race in any way, so this year it was nice to be at the pointy end of the field and show good form in that discipline. With World Cup start position soon to be determined by a short track race 2 days out from the XCO event having a good race and result here meant I’ll have a lot more confidence heading forward. I’ve only ever done around 5 proper short track races in my life so it’s fair to say I’m on a steep learning curve!!

The cross country race at the Sea Otter is a really fast paced race and this often keeps larger groups of riders together. With such a large flat section at the end of each lap I knew I had to be careful not to do too much early on in the race even if I was feeling good, as a big chase pack would be able to reel me in from behind if they worked together. I decided to be patient and play the long game, and had my first attempt at splitting up the race with 3 laps to go when there were just 3 riders left at the head of the field, myself, Nicola Rorhbach and Howard Grotts. I was able to string them out but I was very cautious of opening an immediate gap on both and have them work together to catch me on the flatter sections. The ideal scenario would have been that one of them was strong enough to come with me and the other rider dropped back out of contention, leaving me to have another crack at the final rider with me on the second to last lap or the final lap.

The plan didn’t work out perfectly on the 3rd lap but my legs were still feeling great so I decided to attack with everything I had from the lead group of 3 on the second to last lap and I immediately opened up a solid gap. From there I was able to solo the final lap and a half to take the win! Off to Germany now and back to the European race scene. The World Cups are just around the corner so it’s going to be important to keep up the good form.

Photo credit: Matt DeLorme

April 20th, 2018

2018 Commonwealth Games, Gold Coast, Australia

   

Where do I start? Coming off a strong race at the first World Cup of the season I knew I had a good base to build on for the Commonwealth Games 4 weeks later on the Gold Coast. I had a few weeks at home training hard and putting the finishing touches on my shape. I felt I was in the best form of my life but the danger always lies in that situation where you are running the knife edge that it’s easy to get sick. Unfortunately, I arrived into the Gold Coast on the Saturday with a very sore throat and knew I’d picked a bug up somewhere. I was angry and disappointed that I had put so much hard work in only to fall at the last hurdle but deep down I was clinging to a glimmer of hope that I could still salvage a good result.

After a few days my sore throat subsided and my nose blocked up which made me feel even worse. From my experiences during course practice leading into the race I felt much better towards the end of my ride. Taking this into account I made sure that on Thursday when we raced I had a nice long warmup to really clear out the nose and the legs. Once the adrenaline and excitement of race day kicked my cold slipped to the back of my mind and I was focused on the race. I had a decent start but my legs felt bit dull on the first climb, however I was able to make it in 2nd place in the first single-track and sat there for a lap. Sam set a blistering pace and it was a fight to hold the wheel but I was able to do so which was a big relief! I was lacking my usual spark in the legs so played the long game and tried to keep the pace slow to get me through until the later laps in the race. I was able to do that and came into the last laps feeling strong. I tried to up the tempo on a couple of climbs near the end of the race but I just felt I didn’t quite have what it took to open a gap.

I knew I was going to have to just go for it on the last lap regardless and hope to force an error from the other riders. Coming into the last lap it was myself, Sam Gaze and the South African rider Alan Hatherley. Sam suddenly pulled over in the tech zone much to my surprise and I was left with just the South African on my wheel. I figured Sam needed a wheel change and or something and his race was well and truly over. I managed to drop the South African on the climb and opened up a sizeable gap. I took it very cautiously down the following rocky descents to make sure I didn’t get a puncture myself and just be careful and nurse it home. It wasn’t until I took a quick glance back at the end of the rocky section to check my gap to the South African that I noticed Sam charging down from behind and just a few seconds back. He caught me soon after and up the next climb I tried to make sure I kept the lead, however just before the final descent he was able to come around me on the inside and from that moment on I knew I had no chance unless he made a big mistake. There were no passing options down the descent and with the drag to the finish line being so short I had no chance to try and come around him, so I had to settle for a hard fought 2nd place. So close yet so far!

In the end I’m left feeling really proud with how I performed on the day and the fight that I showed. To come away with a Commonwealth Silver medal is still a great feeling, even if it doesn’t quite have the allure of the Gold medal I was able to win 4 years earlier in Glasgow. Plenty more Commonwealth Games left in me still hopefully!!

Photo credit: Phil Walter/Getty Images AsiaPac