January 6th, 2014

2013 End of Year Wrap Up

2013 was a very up and down season for me. What started out looking promising after winning the Elite New Zealand National champs and building turned to disaster just one day before the first World Cup in Albstadt, Germany.  I fell ill to a virus, most likely gastroenteritis which was subsequently followed by a bad chest infection and then a head cold after arriving home in NZ to seek treatment.  After finally regaining my health 2-3 months after first falling ill I was able to return to Europe to begin my assault on the remainder of the season. I managed to get some good weeks training in in Spain before heading to Andorra for my first World Cup back. Unfortunately I came down with some terrible food poisoning a few days before the race so was far from my best but managed to piece together a solid race anyway to finish 18th.

A couple of weeks later was the Mt Saint Anne World Cup which I was finally healthy for and feeling great. It was a feeling of immense relief more than anything when I crossed the line first and in doing so became the youngest male ever to win an Under 23 World Cup. World Champs were a couple of weeks after Mt Saint Anne and things were finally looking good for me again. 1.5 weeks out from race day I felt incredible but unfortunately in the 5-6 days building up to the race I felt well below my best.  After an early race slump to down to 13th place I had to settle for 4th place just 7secs off a medal. Eager to improve on my World Champs performance I dug deep at the final World Cup of the year in Hafjell, Norway coming home in second position and rounding off an extremely hectic XCO season full of highs and lows. After Norway I found some time to relax before heading to Italy for a bit and then onwards to Southern France for the famous Trans Provence Enduro stage race. I had one of my most enjoyable weeks on the bike ever, riding some amazing trails in spectacular scenery and making some great new friends. I also managed to finish up in 7th place overall in a stacked field even after a puncture on the first day, a result which I was satisfied with in my first ever Trans Provence. I joined the team in Roc D’Azur, also in Southern France, doing some promotional work before returning home to NZ. In December I raced in the Three Peaks Enduro in Dunedin which I finished 3rd overall. I rode perfectly in each stage but on the final stage of the event, less than 1min from the finish I had a mechanical, losing my chain which cost me the overall lead putting me back into 3rd overall. I was very happy with my times though and how I performed in what is a new discipline for me, but one that I am proving to be very competitive in, even against some of the world’s best riders.

The NZ summer will be spent predominantly doing long base training rides and having fun on my bike, before kicking off the 2014 season in February with the Nelson National Cup round and the NZ National Champs where I will be back to defend my title on the 15th of February in Rotorua. I’ve been working hard as usual and hopefully 2014 will prove to be a successful season without any major hiccups along the way! I’m looking forward to joining up with the Cannondale team again in early March for some races in the USA and Europe before kick starting the World Cup season once more in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.

September 14th, 2013

2013 World Cup # 6, Hafjell, Norway

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This year the final round of the World Cup series was held 2 weeks after the World Championships in Hafjell, Norway, which has also been confirmed as the venue for the 2014 MTB World Champs. The weather was surprisingly good during the week building up to the race with no rain which made course practice pleasant. The course wasn't particularly to my liking but I knew that come race day the most important thing would be how well my legs were working. You can only focus on the things you have control over! Race day came around and the weather looked threatening right from morning. With a late start (4:30pm) I slept in a bit and then went for a short 30min spin with my team mate Keegan in the morning to wake the legs up. After lunch I headed down to the venue to warm up. The rain had still held off until this point and it only started to deteriorate halfway through the race, which didn't affect the course all that much. I decided to be a bit more conservative during the early part of the race in comparison to World's where I felt I suffered a lot during the middle sector of the race. This tactic soon started to pay off as one by one I reeled in riders in front of me, and with a couple of laps to go I found myself in third position not too far behind the two riders in front. I dug deep and on the last lap I moved into second position coming home approximately 30secs behind the winner.

This year has been a real roller coaster with its many ups and downs, twists and turns but stepping on the podium once more was the perfect way to end the World Cup season. To put the icing on the cake, team mates Manuel took a strong 3rd place and Marco 5th in the elite men's race which also made us the number one team! It only seemed fitting for how hard we all have had to fight this season and a great reward for all the hard work the CFR staff have put in this year. On the 28th of September I will start in my first ever Trans Provence Enduro stage race which I am really looking forward to. A few days after that I will head back to France for the Roc d'Azur. I will just be having fun at these events; it's time I gave my body a break before getting back to some longer base miles once I return to summer in NZ. Looking forward to the weeks ahead!

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September 2nd, 2013

2013 World Championships, South Africa

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I had big hopes heading into the World Champs in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa coming off the back of a win at the previous World Cup round in Mont Sainte Anne. During the week building up the race my legs didn't feel at their best so I eased things off a little bit in training during the week hoping they would come right. I felt far from my best in the team relay just two days before my race and decided to not push it quite to my limit, to conserve a little for the big race which was the XCO. Rain looked imminent prior to the start of the XCO race but it managed to hold off until about halfway through the race. I had a brilliant start entering the first single-track in 3rd wheel, exactly the sort of position I knew I had to be. The pace was really fast and halfway through the first lap up the second main climb my legs decided enough was enough and I slowly dropped back throughout the next few laps sinking as low as 13th position, until I was finally able to regain my legs and find a solid rhythm. I managed to piece together a very strong second half of the race to come across the line in 4th place, only 7 seconds off a medal. The first half of the race was one of the toughest mental challenges I have had to overcome on the race track but I knew I had to keep on pushing if I wanted the chance of a decent result.

When I look back at my race 4th place is something I am proud of even though I had hoped for more. I gave it everything I could on the day. I'll be super motivated to take the rainbow jersey next year! Thanks to my friends, family and supporters for getting me through a tough year. There is only one more big race to go, the final World Cup round in Hafjell, Norway and after that I have a month or so to chill out in Europe riding my Cannondale Jekyll and doing a few Enduro's. Hopefully I am able to go out on a high note in Norway! Can't wait.

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August 10th, 2013

2013 World Cup # 5, Mont Sainte Anne, Canada

Mont Sainte Anne was a track and venue that I loved racing last year so I was really excited to return once again. The course had changed a lot from a last year with the first kilometre or so of the track being cut to shorten the lap and make for a faster paced race. During the week building up to the race the track wore in and became faster and faster. I found it was super important to hold my flow the whole way around the lap as the course was moderately technical the whole lap and mistakes were really easy to make if you suffered a short lapse in concentration. My legs had felt great all week and I knew anything was possible in the race. Prior to the race I expected to finish in around 3rd to 8th position but knew that I could possibly to something really special on the day. I had a great start and defended my position near the front of the group during the start loop entering the single-track in 4th position. As the laps wore on riders fell off the pace one by one until eventually it was just me and the German rider Julian Schelb left at the front.

With 1.5 laps remaining in the race I opened up a small gap in a tight single-track section and decided it was my time to go and put my head down and opened up a sizeable gap eventually crossing the line to win my first ever Under 23 World Cup by 1min 7secs. After a very tough last few months due to illness and trying to build my form back up as quickly as possible this win makes it feel all worthwhile. I live for days like these and for it to happen on my 19th birthday makes it all the more special! Thanks to everyone who has stuck by my side and supported my throughout all the ups and downs. It feels great to repay your support and belief in me by taking the win. The biggest race of the season is still to come though, the World Championships in South Africa in just a few weeks’ time which will be a massive challenge. I am feeling super motivated for the World Champs and as always I can’t wait represent my country at the highest level.

Bring it!

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July 26th, 2013

2013 World Cup # 4, Vallnord, Andorra

The 4th round of the World Cup circuit was held in Vallnord, Andorra at approximately 1,900m above sea level. This was to be my comeback World Cup after suffering for nearly 2 months from illness.  Having also never raced at this altitude before I had no idea at all as to how I would feel during the race. I had a bit off a rough week leading up to the race but was feeling reasonable on race today. My plan was to take a more conservative approach at the start of the race and try ride a consistent pace each lap. I rode a very solid race to finish in 18th position, which left me feeling very satisfied with how far my fitness had progressed over just a couple of weeks solid training. After the race I then returned to Germany for another week of training before making the trip to Mont Sainte Anne, Canada for the 5th World Cup round of the year.

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July 8th, 2013

Testing Times

The past couple of months have been made very challenging due to illness but I can now finally say that I am healthy once more! A week after Albstadt I also came down with a bad chest infection and took 2 weeks complete rest and then started up again with some easy 1hr rides. I had the feeling that I was well enough to race again and started an Italian National series race in Vermiglio but had to pull out early in the race as I realised I was still far from 100%. I still hoped I would be able to return to World Cup racing the next weekend but early into the week I realised that it would not be wise to race and I could potentially end up doing more harm them good, especially not really knowing what was wrong with my body.

I talked with my Personal Manager and my Team Manager and came to the agreement that it was best I headed home to New Zealand a few days earlier than planned for a range of tests and to try return to full health. Early blood tests suggested I had initially caught a viral infection, most likely gastroenteritis which was then followed by a chest infection and as I was returning to health a head cold which knocked me back once again. About 7 weeks after I first fell ill, my blood results have finally all returned to normal and I am able to resume training once again. I will fly to Spain on the 13th of July for a week’s training before heading to Andorra for the 4th round of the World Cup series which will be used mainly for training. Enjoying being back on the MTB!

May 25th, 2013

2013 World Cup # 1, Albstadt, Germany

Albstadt turned out to be a big disappointment for me. I knew my form leading into the race was red hot but unfortunately I fell ill the day before the race and spent the night with vomiting, diarrhea and a terrible stomach ache. I didn’t manage to get much food in me at all and on the day of the race the only thing my stomach could handle was bread and fluids. By the morning I had stopped vomiting but my stomach still felt terrible so I was running on little sleep and food. I decided I would start the race just in case a miracle occurred and I felt okay in the race. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be and half a lap into the race my legs blew to pieces. My body was completely unable to recover from any effort and from there rode the race out with my main rival last year Victor Koretzky who had a chest infection; disappointing for us to both have such bad days. I had a few questions afterwards as to why I didn’t pull out and for those who wonder there are a few reasons…

The main one being pride and that once you allow yourself to pull out it is very easy to get into the habit. I kept going in the spirit of racing and my belief that if you feel you can start then you should be able to finish. On the day my mind was much stronger than my body and in hindsight I shouldn’t have started the race. On Wednesday my condition wasn’t much better so I took a visit to the doctor for a variety of tests confirming I have picked up a virus and therefore need to rest up so will not be racing the second World Cup round in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic. A tough choice but I’m sure in the long run it will prove to be the best decision. While this throws my hopes of overall World Cup success out the window I am still targeting some big results at the upcoming World Cup rounds and World Champs. A temporary step back now to achieve many steps forward soon. Every athlete goes through rough patches, the ones that have the mental fortitude to cope with it will come out the other end stronger than before.

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May 10th, 2013

Chies d’Alpago, Italy

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.

April 29th, 2013

Montichiari, Italy

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!

April 24th, 2013

Heubach, Germany

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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 leveled 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.