April 17th, 2019

2019 Oceania Championship, Bright, Australia

I’d had a few weeks to recover from illness and build some form post Nationals so was optimistic for a good performance in Bright for Oceania Champs. After a 4.00 a.m. start to catch my flight and a solid days travel I was left feeling a bit dusty upon my arrival which was worrying with the race just a couple of days away. Luckily I was able to get some good rest and kick whatever I was fighting off to feel fine by race day. It would have been quite frustrating to be sick for Nationals AND Oceanias!

For the first time this season I decided to race my Top Fuel due to the large amount of rough, flat, seated pedalling sections. In the race itself I had a good game plan to settle in and not consume too much energy on the first lap which I was able to do following Ben Oliver on lap 1. We came through the end of the lap with a gap on the Aussies so it was pretty clear Ben would be the man I would need to beat if I was to retain my title. Early on lap 2 I took the lead and held a strong pace on the climb which allowed me to open up a gap on Ben and from there I was able to clear out and ride my own tempo for the remaining 5 laps to take a comfortable win. It was nice to feel good again after a tough day out at Nationals and to retain my Oceania title, making it 4 in a row!

Photo credit: Matt Rousu

March 17th, 2019

2019 National Mountainbike Championship, Rotorua, New Zealand

I was expecting a tough race at Nationals and that’s exactly what I got. The races in Spain showed that I had good form but with a long-haul journey home, some jet lag and a head cold to contend with upon my arrival back into New Zealand it was going to make it that much tougher to defend my title. 

Although I was much healthier for the race than when I first arrived home, I felt quite weak during the race and like I wasn’t really able to recover well from hard efforts. I tried to get away early in the race and was able to distance most of the riders but wasn’t able to open a significant gap on Ben Oliver who was able to close down any small gaps I was able to open up. I could tell I was stronger on the climbs than Ben and would have to make that work to my advantage. I dug deep once again on the main climb of the lap on lap 3 of 5 to finally get some breathing space on Ben. I had to push hard to maintain that gap over the second half of the race and thankfully I had enough in the tank to do so and retain my National title. 

Really happy to tick the box and take maximum points from the race but most importantly retain my National Champ title and make it 3 in a row (10 in total now- including 5 Elite titles).

    

Photo credits: Cameron McKenzie Photography

March 8th, 2019

2019 Chelva BTT.XCO, Spain

After the success of the previous weekend in Banyoles I was now the pre-race favourite in Chelva. I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy task however, as Victor Koretzky (second in Banyoles) and his team mates from KMC/Ekoi/Orbea had been in Chelva training and testing on course all week, so would have the added advantage of a ‘home track’.

I arrived on Friday afternoon and rode a few laps of the track to familiarise myself. It was a vastly different course to in Banyoles, with lots of splits in the track and various line choice through some challenging rocky and dusty sections. It probably would have been a better course for my Top Fuel but as I only had my Procaliber for my time in Spain I had to make do.

I slept poorly the night before and possibly because of this didn’t feel the freshest in my warm up. Once the race started I also didn’t feel at my best and was having to work hard on the start lap.

Onto the second lap the pace eased off a little at first and I found myself in 3rd wheel behind Victor and Thomas Litscher. Thomas got a slow leak on his tyre and had to back which allowed Victor to open up a bit of a gap ahead. Once I got past Thomas I put in a hard effort to catch Victor in the hope that once I rejoined him the pace would be manageable enough for me to just follow and recover for a lap or so. However just as I caught Victor at the end of lap 2 he also got a slow leak from a pinch flat down the main rock garden. This left me off the front a lot earlier than I had planned or was expecting and while Victor continued to the tech zone I set about trying to recover a bit from my efforts and establish a good rhythm I could maintain until the finish.

I expected to be caught a lot earlier but obviously must have been riding at a fairly solid pace as I was able to maintain a gap on the chasers for a few laps before hitting traffic with lapped junior riders and losing significant chunks of time in a few tangles and road blocks with them! Victor was able to bridge the 30-40 second deficit he had after his puncture with around 2 laps to go and from there it was a game of cat and mouse to the finish line. He put in a big attack with a lap or so to go and I fought hard to stay with him. After that it seemed he didn’t quite recover as well as he needed to and I just had a little more left in the tank to sprint up the last short steep climb and open a small gap which I was able to defend to the line to cross in 1st place.

It was the icing on the cake for my time in Spain and an awesome feeling to start the year with 2/2 race wins in very strong fields and a good wad of points. Next up Nationals!


Photo credit – Image Hunters Photography

February 26th, 2019

2019 La Copa Catalana de Banyoles, Spain

It was a great feeling to be back competing at a big race and catch up with plenty of the other World Cup regulars. It’s a close knit community and even after almost 6 months doing our own thing it felt very normal to be back amongst it all. Everyone was pretty much in the same boat, and as it was the first big XCO race of the year for many there was definitely some uncertainty as to how things would stack up. Especially with so many top riders making the trip to Banyoles to claim some of the HC points on offer!

I started well and felt good from the get go. I tried to stay in the top few riders most of the race and on a course with plenty of corners to accelerate out of it made a big difference not getting too strung out. By about the halfway point the lead group had been whittled down to just 5 riders and while I felt like I probably had the best legs out of the group it’s still not a done deal unless you cross the line first! I was patient and waited until the last lap for the right moment to strike. I pushed the pace on the main zig zag climb before attacking over the top on the final pinch and opening a gap. From that point it was all out for the remaining few kilometres to the finish line to take my first win in a UCI event for the year.

Overall it’s a really positive start to the year and hopefully a sign of things to come. Although I know my fellow competitors will only get faster between now and the first World Cup in May, I’m also confident, that due to the nature of my training so far this off season, I also have big gains to make before then so that’s really exciting. I will be racing again in Chelva, Spain at a Cat 1 race next weekend, then spending some days in Germany with my girlfriend before returning home for the National Championships in Rotorua.

Photo credit: Francesc Llado Riba

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!