It was nice to finally be back in Australia again after a few years being unable to travel there due to Covid-19 restrictions. NZ had also recently eased restrictions in regard to returning home, so I was able to book a quick over and back trip for the race. I left on Thursday and eventually made it to the Gold Coast after what turned into a reasonably long travel day. A last-minute venue change due to the recent flooding in Brisbane meant we were back to the 2018 Commonwealth Games venue in Nerang, Gold Coast. It was nice to finally return and ride on a course that featured many of the sections that we raced in the Commonwealth Games race.
During my warmup for the race I felt a bit empty and it was a struggle to fire the legs up properly. I’d had a big few weeks training so perhaps it was no huge surprise but nevertheless I was going to have to fight hard to win. I had a good start and got out in front as we entered the singletrack. This proved to be key as I was able to ride the first steep techy climb without trouble and the others behind had to get off which created a small gap.
I kept a steady tempo and Ben Oliver closed the small gap down by the end of the lap. As we started the second lap I kept the pace high and noticed he was starting to struggle a bit. I was able to open up another gap on the steep climb and this time pushed hard to solidify my lead, crossing the finish line at the end of lap 2 with 10secs or so on the chasers. I still didn’t have the best legs so made it my focus to ride the techy parts smoothly and cleanly, so I didn’t have to do anything crazy on the power sections of the course. I rode solo for the rest of the race crossing the line in 1st place to take my 6th Elite Oceania title in a row ahead of veteran Aussie Dan McConnell in 2nd and Ben Oliver in 3rd.
Next up is the first World Cup round of the year in Brazil on the 10th of April before I head to Europe for the rest of the season. I’m looking forward to getting the World Cup season underway!