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.

April 25th, 2017

2017 Sea Otter Classic, Monterey, California, USA

I really wasn't expecting much at all from the Sea Otter XCO. In Friday's Short Track I had been on the limit the whole race just to hang onto the chase group so for Saturdays XCO I set myself a more conservative goal of a top 5 finish. I focused on hanging in with the lead group for as long as possible and as the laps ticked by I was surprised to find myself still near the head of the race. With just 2 laps to go I found myself at the front with none other than current World and Olympic Champion Nino Schurter.
 
 
 
It was a tactical lead in to the finish line and I felt I got my timing right, but just ran out of gears on the high speed tarmac finish and he was able to come around me. Frustrating to have come so close and not have taken the win, but being up there with the very best rider in the world is a massive confidence boost heading into the first World Cup round in under 4 weeks time. Can't wait! Was great also to see fellow Kiwi Sam take the win in the Short Track. 
(Photos by Mathew DeLorme)

April 8th, 2017

2017 US Cup, Bonelli, California, USA

I arrived into LAX on Tuesday afternoon and settled into our accommodation in San Dimas. With just a few days to recover until the race on Saturday I knew I had to try and adjust to the local time and conditions ASAP. After some good days out practicing the course race day was upon us.

I felt reasonably fresh on race day although I had a poor nights before. I also knew that my form was good enough to put me somewhere up the front of the race even though I was having to contend with a bit of jet-lag. I took charge of the race early on and for the first 3 laps of 7 held the front of the race and set a strong tempo.

Lap by lap the field whittled down until it was just myself and Howard Grotts left. We traded blows over the remaining four laps and I nearly threw away the chance of victory with less than a kilometre remaining when I slid out on a tight hairpin approaching the second to last climb. I managed to regather and attacked up the final pinch climb to open up a small gap which I held to the line. Stoked to take the win and bag some vital points!

I will stay in the USA with my team for training/team camp until the Sea Otter in a fortnight. From there I will head to Germany where I will be based for the World Cup/ international season.

April 2nd, 2017

2017 Kaiwara Classic

The Kaiwara Classic has always been one of my favourite events on the local NZ race calendar. I first raced there when I was just 11 or 12 years old and have returned most years since. This year the race date had to be pushed back a couple of months to April due to earthquakes that struck the region in November. Luckily the new race date was 2 days before I was due to fly out to the USA so I was still able to do it.

It was a perfect autumn day with temperatures around 30 degrees. I decided to ride my Top Fuel instead of my Procaliber for a change and enjoyed the comfy ride with the added rear suspension. With the combination of the bike and some good legs I was able to chop some time off the course record on my way to the win. Overall it was a great days training before I left to the USA, and it was good to see so many people out enjoying riding bikes! 

March 14th, 2017

2017 Oceania Mountainbike Championships, Toowoomba, Australia

Well where do I start!? Probably the craziest race of my life! I successfully managed to defend my Oceania Elite title in scorching hot conditions in Australia. After missing/dropping my bottle in the first feed station, I suffered for a while in the 33 degree heat and humidity. Things then took a further turn for the worse when I had come back from 6th place and over a minute back with 3 laps to go after almost throwing the race away with a stupid crash on lap 2 while out in front. Somehow I managed to rip my chain away from my chain guide in the process and got it all tangled up around my crank and cassette. After a relatively short run/roll to the tech zone my mechanic Matt got me back on track quickly and into the race again.

For the next lap I tried to focus on re-hydrating and finding my rhythm again before winding it up in pursuit of the leaders over the remaining three laps. I caught the leader of the race, Cam Ivory with 1 lap to go but discovered the race hadn’t been won yet, as he still had plenty of gas left in the tank.

I picked my spot near the top of the final climb and dropped the clutch, breaking the string between us and opening up an immediate gap. I then had to ride one final downhill to the finish line without incident, crossing the line pretty relieved to have made the comeback of my life to take the win.

All things considered, after a shaky start, I am stoked with how I rode to come back to the head of the race. I’m looking forward to hopefully returning sometime to Toowoomba to race again. Now I will spend 3 weeks at home in Christchurch training before heading overseas to California for a couple of HC races, before traveling onwards to Europe. 2017 has started in a pretty exciting way, hopefully it can continue to snowball from here!  Thanks to Element Photo & Video Productions for the photos. 

February 27th, 2017

2017 National Mountainbike Championships, Cardrona, New Zealand

National Champs were to be my first UCI race since the World Cup in Albstadt last year. Suffice to say I wanted to make sure it was a successful comeback to racing! I felt like I had prepared well and that the body was in good enough shape to get the job done. The course was set at Cardrona Skifield, near Wanaka around 1700-1800m above sea level so I focused on not setting out too hard off the start and trying to settle into a steady rhythm from the get go. On the first lap of six I managed to open up some daylight between myself and the chasers and continued to pull away as the race wore on. Once I had established a comfortable lead my focused turned to not puncturing on any of the savage rocks littered around the course.
 
Although I definitely felt the effects of the thin air on the lungs, nothing untoward happened and I crossed the line well ahead of second place to take the title along with the National Champions Jersey. To top off the weekend I also won the Eliminator title on Sunday, the perfect way to start the year! My focus now turns to the Oceania Champs in Toowoomba, Australia on the 12th of March where I hope to continue my winning ways.

February 19th, 2017

South Island MTB Championships, Hawea Flat

With not many XCO lap races in New Zealand the event served well as a pre Nationals hit out. The course at the Wrights farm in Hawea Flat was great to race on, with plenty of rocks, twists and turns to keep you on your toes. The sun baked down and made for a brutal 5 laps. I made sure to keep a lid on things with Nationals less than a week away. After a fast start I backed off into a comfortable rhythm, made easier in the latter half of the race by a bit of cloud cover and cooler temps. As a full dummy run for Nationals things couldn't have gone any better; riding well to take a strong win and boost the confidence levels before the big one.