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!

August 18th, 2012

Overseas adventures

Well it's been a while since I have updated my blog and so much has happened over the past few weeks and months. Prior to leaving New Zealand on the 11th of August (my 18th birthday) I was busy training 6 days a week, and with school added in as well, my training was done in the late afternoon/evening. I arrived in Waterloo, Wisconsin for my first ever 'Trek World' show which absolutely blew me away. It was incredible to see inside the factory where all my carbon bikes are built by hand. The level of commitment and passion that the people involved in Trek showed towards cycling was great to see and gives me real satisfaction in the brand I am riding.

I spent 4 days at Trek World where I also spent time training, trying out the 2013 Trek bikes, dealing with a few mandatory media responsibilities and signing plenty of autographs at the big opening show with the other Trek riders. It was amazing to meet and get to know plenty of other top Trek athletes that I hadn't met before such as Jens Voigt, Katie Compton, Ricky Carmichael, and catch up with all the other athletes over the weekend. After that I flew out to Malaga, Spain where I was met at the airport by my manager Martin Whiteley who then drove me to his house in Granada a couple of hours away. The temperature here reached 44 degrees Celsius yesterday, the hottest I have ever experienced so all my training is done in the early morning or late evening while the temperatures are cooler than the 40 degrees it reaches during the afternoon! I am well looked after here and am really enjoying exploring new places of the world.

Yesterday we took a trip downtown to get some sushi for lunch, have a look around and do some grocery shopping which was cool and tonight we are heading into town to get some dinner at one of the top restaurants in town. The training is going great and I feel in good shape, I'm looking forward to the week ahead and then the upcoming Swiss Cup race in about a weeks time in Switzerland. Living the life!

July 2nd, 2012

2012 World Cup # 6 Windham, USA

Just like last week it was another early start for the Windham, USA round of the MTB World Cup. This was to be my fifth ever World Cup race and I was aiming to continue my perfect World Cup record and take win number 5 from 5. By 9 am the mercury was already soaring as the Under 23 men took off followed by us juniors only 2mins later. Starting just behind the under 23 men was something completely new to me in World Cup racing but luckily I was used to starting behind our Under 23 and Elite riders in NZ for our National Cup rounds etc so I was well practiced in picking my way through the field. I manged to pass 42 of the 53 riders to work my way up to 11th in the Under 23 field by the end of the race and was the first junior man by over 3 mins. The last two weeks have been perfect for me, everything has gone exactly to plan and I am loving the team environment.

It was great to see Aaron yet again prove his dominance in the Downhill by taking the win in front of his home crowd. Justin Leov, long time pro and team mate, also announced his retirement yesterday after a long and successful season.  Mathias got his first World Cup podium of the season taking 5th in the elite mens XC so team spirits were high. As I write this I am sitting in Albany airport waiting to begin the 40hr journey home to NZ where I will then spend 5 weeks training and studying hard at school before heading to Europe in mid August to add the finishing touches to my World Championship build up.

Thanks to my coach Dave Plew for keeping me in good shape, my family and all my supporters back home, I can't wait until World Champs in September!

June 24th, 2012

2012 World Cup # 5 Mont Sainte Anne, Canada

This morning I raced in the 5th round of the UCI MTB World Cup in Mont Sainte Anne Canada.  The track was damp in the trees due to the rain on the couple of days building up to the race and this only got slipperier as the race went on as mud from the riders tyres was dragged over the rocks and roots. I decided to run a larger volume 2.2 tyre due to the large amount of protruding rocks etc and they paid off giving a nice smooth ride. I had a good start and soon took the lead before entering the first singletrack  which then popped out onto the first main climb of the lap. At the top of the climb I had started to open out a gap on the riders behind me and from there onwards I didn't look back. Midway through the race my front derailleur started to play up due to some sand and other muck jamming it up and not allowing it to drop down out of the big ring.

This forced me to big ring a few climbs I hadn't particularly planned on but in the end it didn't cost me much time and I went on to win by about 6mins over the Canadian National Champion in 2nd and the American rider Keegan Swenson just behind in 3rd. I am really happy with how the week has been and with how I rode and can't wait for next weekend in Windham, USA!

June 16th, 2012

Quick Update

The past couple of weeks have been very hectic with snow, ice, rain and schoolwork all combining  to make training time hard to find! I managed to fit in a lactate test at the University of Canterbury on Tuesday the 12th which at least allowed me to do a hard training session indoors and out of the cold. Over the past few years I have used the lactate test as a good checkup as to how my training has been going and it allows my coach to fine tune and make small adjustments to my training where he feels necessary prior to upcoming races. It hurts a lot! My mid year exam block felt like it went well but I will have to wait and see until I get the marks, I really want to do well at school this year so I can put it behind me in 2013 and the years to follow and just focus solely on my career as a cyclist.

I also raced in what will be the final night race for me this winter at Mcleans Island on a chilly Wednesday night, taking the win again and giving the legs a quick blast before I head away tomorrow to Canada. I'm really looking forward to the upcoming World Cup rounds, It's been a while since I raced my last one in South Africa so I am looking forward to testing myself against the top Europeans once again. I look forward to updating you on my travels and results along the way!

 

June 5th, 2012

Welcome

Welcome to my new website! It's been awhile in the making - thanks to Ben and Norm at Metasolutions for getting it all sorted; they've been an awesome team to work with on this project. Take some time to look through, I hope you enjoy it. I look forward to keeping everyone updated with what I'm doing. I have recently found the time to get out into the back country to explore a bit and get some good training miles in. We are lucky to be blessed with such a good natural playground here in New Zealand, so get out there and make the most of it! I have also been doing the winter night racing series at Mcleans Island to help with my speedwork building up to my next overseas trip to Canada and the USA in less than 2 weeks. I fly out of here on the 17th and can't wait to get back into some top racing action and get some quality training time in.  Right now I am in the middle of my mid term exam block at school where I am working hard to achieve some good results. All in all everything is looking good at this stage of the year!