March 10th, 2013

Motatapu

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.

March 3rd, 2013

Cannondale MTB Team Camp Finale Ligure and Italian National MTB series race

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!

2013 Team Camp

February 26th, 2013

Cyprus Sunshine Cup XCO Lanarka, Cat 1

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!

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February 17th, 2013

Halberg Awards and 2013 National Championships

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.

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February 10th, 2013

New Zealand XC MTB Cup round 3 Hunua, Auckland

This was my first race in a few weeks so I was very interested to see how my form had progressed since racing in Bluff in early January. I lead into the first singletrack and shortly after up the first climb Dirk Peters came flying past so I jumped on his tail and over the next few laps we opened up a sizeable gap. With 2.5 laps to go I decided it was time to put the hammer down and I left Dirk to take the win by about a 1min 30secs leaving me very satisfied with how far my form had progressed in the time spent away from the race scene. This was also my first win on my new Cannondale F29 so all round it was a good day, with Nationals in a week’s time I was left in a good headspace.

January 6th, 2013

New Zealand XC MTB Cup round 1, Bluff

This race for me was important to get a good indication of where my form was at the beginning of the season. The field was small but strong and I made sure I entered the singletrack climb first so that I could lead into the downhill which I was able to open up a gap each lap on. On the 3rd lap I suffered a mechanical while out in front which lost me around 4 minutes which was disappointing but not the end of the world as this was not a UCI race or anything too important. In the end I finished as the 2nd Under 23 rider, just behind Logan Horn with Dirk Peters winning the Elite Men’s race.

December 13th, 2012

Cannondale Factory Racing

I am very excited to announce that I have signed with the Cannondale Factory Racing MTB team for 2 years starting on the 1st of January 2013. This will be a great step forward in my career as I step up from Under 19 to the Under 23 category and face new challenges. I’m really looking forward to riding alongside my new team mates who have proven themselves to be up with the very best in the world, and I’m sure they will be a positive influence and great role models for me in the years ahead. This year I will be based in New Zealand until early April before heading overseas to base myself in Germany over our winter months with a 3 week break back home in New Zealand over June/July to refresh before the World Champs in late August/early September. I am currently doing some base miles to get back in shape for the New Zealand and Australian races after a long off season focusing on school exams.

I can’t wait to get back into some racing starting with the first National XC MTB round in Bluff on the 4-6th of January. 2012 has been a great year with my first ever introduction to professional mountain mike racing with the Trek World Racing team which was an incredible experience and a taste of what’s to come. Thanks to all those who have supported me up until this point in my career, I look forward to keeping you all updated over the 2013 season which looks to be more exciting than ever as I make the transition from school-kid to fulltime racer!

September 21st, 2012

2012 World Championships, Saalfelden, Austria

What an amazing last couple of weeks it has been… It still feels almost unreal to think that I have accomplished my childhood dream of becoming a Mountain Bike World Champion. All the training and hours put into becoming the best rider I can possibly be over the last few years culminated at the perfect time to deliver me to the top spot of the podium in Austria. Crossing that finish line will be a feeling I am certain I will never forget! I arrived in Saalfelden, Austria a week before my race to get some good practice in on the track and settle in to the surroundings. I happened to arrive just after my team mate Aaron Gwin suffered a front brake failure in his DH World Championship race run that sent him flying off the track into the safety netting effectively ruining his race run. As the clear favourite to win the Elite Men’s World title it was gutting for Aaron to not be able to take the win especially after dominating the World Cup circuit this year but what really impressed me was the way he handled this failure. I arrived at the team pits to find a huge crowd of fans gathered outside with Aaron grinning, signing stuff and chatting away to the fans as though he had just won.

To see the way he handled himself after such huge disappointment and how gracious he was in an almost unfair defeat was truly inspiring. It shows that while racing is important to him, there is much more important things in life to get hung up on and I think the way he conducted himself is something many athletes and people alike can learn from. To be able to spend time and get to know such great athletes like this has been great for me as a first year pro and a junior rider and I can contribute part of my success from observing and learning from the likes of the senior riders like Aaron, Justin and Lukus etc. To recap my race, everything went almost exactly to plan. I had learnt a huge amount from placing second at the World Champs last year and the mistakes I made there I was able to correct this time around. If you are willing to examine what you did wrong or what you could do better you can learn so much more from losing a race than you ever will by winning one. I was determined to leave Austria with nothing other than a gold medal around my neck and took off up the hill for the start loop like a cut cat. I wasn’t so keen to be messing around in the middle of the pack during the start loop which proved to be my downfall last year after getting caught up in some chaos and losing too much time to regain. I entered the single track first with the other riders strung out behind and proceeded around the start loop to begin our first full lap of 5. I was keen to stay at the head of the race and out of harms way and I new if I could get through the opening few laps of the race unscathed I would back myself and my level of preparation for this event to see me home in first place.

The French riders were strong and put up a good fight on the first lap and a half switching the lead with me at times before I sensed they were starting to lose strength and fade halfway around the second lap. I decided that this was my time to put the hurt on and attacked up the steepest hill in the woods to open up a 10 second lead and continued to extend it for the remainder of the race winning by 2mins 17. I take away from this win a feeling of great pride in myself and for my country and also satisfaction in achieving the result I dreamed off so long ago as a young kid doing jumps and skids in the back yard at home. I also take away a new found respect for my French rivals for their strong rides and also graciousness in not only congratulating me afterwards but for wishing me luck on the start line. Sportsmanship at it’s finest and great to see it is still so alive and well in our great sport of Mountain Biking! To top the day off, Swiss brothers and my Trek World Racing team mates Lukus and Mathias Fluekinger took home the Silver and Bronze medals respectively to round out a Swiss 1 2 3 on the Elite Men’s podium and become the first ever siblings to share a spot on the podium in the same event. It was an unforgettable moment for all involved and the emotions that day that everyone experienced were through the roof! There is so many people I could thank for their contribution to my success but to write them all down it would take an eternity so thanks to all those who have helped me develop to this point in my career. You know who you are and I can’t mention you all but a big thanks must go to my family, my team Trek World Racing and my Manager Martin for all their efforts.

Next years goals have already been set… I can’t wait for an even more exciting 2013 stepping up into the Under 23 category. It’s gonna be a good one!!! Here is the link to the Trek World Racing video of the XC World Championships. It really does capture the moment for the team and all involved, well worth the watch! http://xc.trekworldracing.com/videos/ If anyone wants to see some more footage of my race click on the YouTube button here on my website. Look forward to writing the next update, Anton  

August 28th, 2012

Switzerland

On Thursday evening I arrived at Zurich airport and was greeted by my team mate Mathias Fluekiger who then drove me to his older brother Lukas house where I am staying with him and his wife Fabi for the week. They live in a beautiful area out in the Swiss countryside, everything is green and lush and the temperature is perfect for training, mid twenties and sun which is really nice. It will definitely be tough for me to leave the European summer behind and head back to New Zealand and school in two weeks time, I’m really enjoying myself over here! Luk and Fabi are great hosts and staying with them is really easy and stress free. On Saturday I woke bright and early to head to the final Swiss Cup race (Now known as the BMC racing cup) 45mins away in Basel. I am envious of just how close all the big races are here to where Luk is. He can just stay in his own house the night before, wake up in the morning and head to the race, I suppose that is one of the advantages of living in Europe!

I was driven to the event by Oli Kaderli, who is the Fluekigers personal mechanic on the Trek World Racing team and who would also be working for me at the Swiss Cup. I was excited about the prospect of racing again as it had been such a long time since my last MTB race which was the Windham world cup back at the end of June. The course was very flat with the exception of one small steep climb with a flowy, bermed singletrack descent. Even though the course was flat it was still super fun with a fast singletrack back alongside a river and a small obstactle loop in the centre of the horse racing circuit which was where the start/finish was based.  I rode two practice laps as a warm up and just to get an idea of the course before the 10am start and then we were off racing!

The start loop consisted of 2 laps around the horse racing circuit before heading out onto the main lap. All the top Swiss guys were there plus a few other internationals so the start was super fast, just like a world cup round and I was strong enough to stay at the head of the pack and cover any initial attacks and breaks riders tried to make. I decided to sit in for the first lap of the race in second wheel behind the Swiss champion Andri Frischknecht to get a good gauge of my competition and to get to know the course at race speed. Halfway through the second lap I took the lead at the top of the climb into the singletrack descent, opened up a small gap and decided I would try and ride solo to the finish. This plan worked out well and other than one small lapse of concentration towards the end of the 3rd lap resulting in a small crash I was able to put out good consistant lap times to win by over 2mins.

Overall I was really pleased with my performance, my legs felt great and I know I am in a good space physically and mentally heading into World Champs. To top the day off, Lukas took a close second place in a sprint finish with Olympic silver medalist Nino Schurter in the afternoons Elite men’s race. Luk had to beat out the Olympic bronze medalist Marco Fontana, Julien Absalon, Florian Vogel and a huge list of other great riders to get the silver which made his ride all the more impressive! At the final World Cup round he took a close second place to Nino Schurter as well so it seems almost unbelievable that a rider of this talent didn’t make the Swiss Olympic mountain bike team. It just goes to show how strong a nation Switzerland is when it comes to Mountain bike racing and the depth and talent they have. Genuine medal contendors are unable to qualify a spot to race at the Olympics which seems a bit unfair at times when these guys invest all their time, money and energy into the sport. Hopefully we can develop a strong pool of talent in New Zealand Mountain Biking too in the years to come, and the Olympic qualification rules see some change. Mathias also had a strong race coming back from a crash that put him well down the field to bring himself up into 13th position by the end of the race. That’s it for now, I’m looking forward to the week ahead and arriving in Austria next weekend to finalise my World Champs build up!

August 23rd, 2012

Spain

Today was my last day of training  in Spain before heading to Switzerland tomorrow to spend the week there training and racing. I have had a great week here in Spain riding in some of the most amazing spots on some of the best tracks I have ever experienced. I have been very blessed to have been hosted here in Granada by my manager Martin Whiteley who has showed me all the sights and provided me with a great base to train from. I’m especially grateful of the pool after my training rides! The temperature here regularly reaches 40degrees Celsius in the afternoon and just a couple of days after I arrived it reached 44degrees Celsius, a far cry from the snow, rain and cold that Christchurch turned on for me while I was last home!

We took a trip down to the centre of town for dinner a few nights ago and I was blown away by the beauty of the city. The grand old buildings, cafe’s and churches were so large and well crafted with intricate carvings and when you realise that these buildings were built almost 700 years ago it makes it quite hard to comprehend and very awe inspiring. The history behind many of these European cities is sometimes unimaginable. Two nights ago Martin and I took a drive up the highest sealed road in the world which is in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range just behind where we are staying in his Audi RS-5 which was good fun! There is a high altitude training centre up the road a bit above 2300m which I had a look around. Martin tells me that Cadel Evans often spends time there training, they have an Olympic size swimming pool, high tech testing facilities, accommodation, catering, gymnasiums etc for all the top athletes and national teams that train there.

Maybe I will spend a bit of time up there in the years to come doing some altitude training. We then stopped for dinner at an amazing restaurant on the way back down the hill where I tried some of the local Spanish blood sausage….AMAZING. I am currently watching the tail end of today’s Vuelta de Espana stage and I will then have to pack my bags for my flight tomorrow. We are heading out to another one of the great local restaurants tonight, can’t wait. All in all the training is going great and I am feeling in really good shape. This Sunday I am racing in the final Swiss Cup round in Muttenz, Switzerland which should be a good test as most of the top juniors will be there and will therefore will be a good gauge of my form heading into the World Champs. I’m Looking forward to continuing onwards with my journey through Europe!