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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Race season just around the corner.

Hi everyone it has been a while since I last wrote. Time for an update.
I have been lucky enough to receive a new 2012 Santacruz Blur XC for the New Year. The frame has been redesigned and is a definite improvement from the previous model with beefier tubing resulting in a stronger and stiffer frame. Weight wise it is also a bit lighter and with the new features it is a lot more responsive and rides really nicely.The total bike build easily comes in under 10kg which is not bad for an XL frame.
I have begun working towards the New Zealand summer after enjoying a good offseason. Training started seriously again in mid October and so far it has been going well. I have competed in a few of my usual build up races including the Mid North Island series and the Rotorua to Ohope road race. Unfortunately one of our big early season races the Huka XL in Taupo had to be called off due to the weather. High winds were making things extremely dangerous in the forest with trees and branches coming down all over the place and the organisers made the right decision by calling the race off. It ended up being shortened with the results getting taken from where everyone was at the point that the race was stopped. As a result I ended up with second place which wasn’t too bad considering although it would obviously been nice to have completed the full course and had a true race.
This weekend I managed to pilot the new machine to its first win at the final round of the Mid North Island Champs here in Rotorua. It was a good race with plenty of riders travelling to have a crack at the new rock garden we have built for the Oceania Champs in March next year.
Over the next few weeks, training is going to be really important with time flying by and the National series kicking off down in Dunedin on January 15th. Before then I will probably take part in the new summer race here in Rotorua, the Pig & Whistle Tour de Whaka and do my best
to get out and make the most of the summer weather.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

More Worlds Photos:

Photos Credits, Raewyn Knight.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

World Champs, Champery Switzerland.

World Champs is the toughest race of the season, everyone comes in at the top of their game and the excitement and nerves are a level above what I normally experience at any other race. I arrived the weekend before, which gave plenty of time to ride the track. The first few days of practice weren’t the best and I seemed to spend more time rolling around on the ground than on the bike. I think I was feeling the pressure to ride fast and was pushing too hard and making mistakes which was easy to do on such a technical course. Thankfully after several days with multiple crashes I was able to rethink my approach and settle down and get some good smooth error free laps in.

Although the week shot by pretty fast race day was a tough one. We didn’t start till five in the afternoon and I endured a long day of sitting around watching the time tick slowly away. We got there eventually and it was a relief to finally get things underway. A big crowd turned out and it was great riding with such enthusiastic and vocal support particularly on the main climb and the ‘Hell zone’ climb and descent. I was strong for the majority of the race it was just the beginning that let me down. I seemed to be able to ride at only one speed from the start to the finish where as everyone else started fast and then either settled down and got into a good rhythm through to the finish or blew up and got slower with each lap. Unfortunately I got too far behind early on and was playing catch up the whole time. I did feel quite strong and enjoyed the race even though I wasn’t able to improve on my previous years result and finished in 36th position for the second year in a row.

It is now time for reflection with World Champs completed. My season is over and I am looking forward to getting back home to New Zealand and catching up with friends and family after three months away. This trip has been a very mixed bag. I have had a great time and have learnt a lot with some ups and downs and great character building moments along the way. I will be able to take a lot out of the experience with plenty of valuable material to apply to next year.

I would sincerely like to thank everyone who has supported and helped me out along the way. It’s now time for a break and a good long rest.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Val di Sole World Cup.

I managed to borrow a car to get to this one and so was able to avoid the trains which I am not quite so keen on after Geneva. The Fiat Punto had seen better days but it was so good to be able to use it. As I would be travelling with Anton it was looking like being a tight squeeze to fit all our gear but everything packed in nicely and we set off for a solid days drive to Italy. It was slow going with a lot of traffic and small roads and we noticed that the fuel gauge wasn’t super accurate. It tended to move around a bit and couldn’t make up its mind on how much was left in the tank. We had a fairly big climb of the Paso d Aprica coming up and with supposedly a quarter of a tank left we began heading upwards. Things went well to begin with, but with about 3kms remaining to the top we ran out of gas. Thankfully after standing around for a few minutes a couple of friendly locals stopped and we were able to explain the situation and they were kind enough to run Anton to the nearest petrol station to fill up a container to get us to the top. It was all part of the fun and we were soon back on the road for another couple of hours of tight and twisty mountain roads and congested towns making it to our accommodation in Dimaro just after 7:00pm.

I got in some good course reconnaissance over the next few days and enjoyed soaking up the excitement of a World Cup race again. The track was very similar to the previous year but it flowed a lot better with a new climb and descent mid way through the lap and a grass section removed to shorten it down. Not really all that technical it was however a very tough course with such a large amount of climbing and all very steep with not really any chance to recover and get your breath back.

It was super hot all week and I was very glad the U23 mens race was at 9:00am meaning we avoided the high 30 degree temperatures later in the day. It was a big field of 93 starters and we had a start loop plus 5 laps. The beginning of the race was chaotic as usual at a World Cup and I was unable to avoid the carnage ending up with pedal jammed in my front wheel. Getting going again I was keen to get on with it but was slowed every time the track narrowed and lost more places riding through way back in 69th after the first lap which was definitely not where I wanted to be. I went pretty well from there and coming into the final few laps was sitting around 40th. There were a lot of riders not too far in front and I made a big effort to gain some extra places getting up to maybe 34th with half a lap remaining. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to hold this and crumbled on the last steep climb falling back down to 39th. Not the result I was after but on a positive note finishing only 5min behind the winner is not a lot especially on such a brutal track.

Getting a good tough race in my legs has been very good especially with just two weeks remaining till the World Championships and although my result in Italy wasn’t spectacular it was a good to see that I am not too far off the pace. I am a big fan of the Champery course and am confident I have the ability to get up into more satisfactory position come World Champs time. I have another week here in Brot Plamboz and then on Saturday I head to Champery to meet up with the New Zealand team and get to know the track before race day on Friday the 2nd of September.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Good times.

Well here's a bit of an update to let everyone know whats been happening over the last little while. I have been living in the tiny farm village of Brot Plamboz. It is pretty much in the middle of nowhere and is a good place to be if you like the quiet life. Jerome rents the bottom storey of a farm house and it is great staying here as I have a training partner and good company.

The riding is not bad with lots of small country roads and several decent climbs. There is also some really nice single track up in the forest nearby that is perfect for technical training especially when it is damp. The rocks around here are super slippery and it can get pretty loose at times.

Some of the locals.

The Creux du Van a massive circular cliff not to far from here. The Valley up in the distance is where I am living at the moment.

Riding around the Creux du Van.

The 1000th Anniversary of Nuechatel coincided with the 1st of August which is the Swiss National Day. This called for a pretty big Celebration and a huge fireworks display.

Last week we went to Morgins a small ski town in the Portes du Soleil region and got in some awesome riding up in the mountains. It is a really nice area especially when the weather is as good as it was when we were there. Morgins is just over the hill from Champery where the World Champs are going to be held and we did quite a bit of riding over in that direction. It is easy to do some epic rides and we made the most of it putting in a couple of big days. Lots of climbing combined with to many trails coming back down to choose from made for some pretty good fun out on the bike and the views weren't to bad either.
One of the tracks up above Champery

A small lake near the top.

The view from up high looking back down to Val-d llliez.

On Friday we drove over the border to Chatel in France and went downhilling for the day. In summer the ski lifts stay open for bikes and you can travel pretty much anywhere you want catching a ride up the hill on the lift and then coming back down with the bike. I borrowed Jeromes DH bike so I could cut loose and have some real fun. From Chatel we went up and over the top to Morzine and then over to Les Gets and then came back, riding for almost the whole day and doing to many runs to count. You would think it would be easy with no climbing, cruising down the mountain all day. But it was harder than it seemed and I was buggered by the end, struggling to keep hold of the bars with aching arms and fingers.

Looking back down to Chatel and a couple of mega berms.

Trainings going well and next week I am off to Italy for the World Cup in Val di Sole. I can't wait it has been a while since my last big race and it will be nice to get back in action at a World Cup again.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Back In Action.

I am now back on my feet again after a couple of mixed up weeks. I was able to sort out a new Bike with the help of Rudy Hauser the Swiss Santacruz distributor. He has been awesome, with firstly getting a new frame and then helping to organise all the components to go with it, we have been able to get the bike built up pretty much the same as my last.

My first ride back on the Santacruz was so good, especially after a week or so on a borrowed hard tail, it was great to get back on the fully again. I had been keeping up the riding and running but decided to take advantage of the situation and have a couple of weeks of easier training to recover and get fresh for the last block of training in the run in to World Champs.

I had originally planned on travelling to the Czech Republic in August to race the 6th round of the World Cup series but have now changed my plans and will stay in Switzerland until the 17th when I will head to Italy for the final round of the World Cup series in Val di Sole. I have managed to suss out a couple of local races during the next few weeks that I will be able to use to keep my race legs going and hopefully get a bit of form before Italy.

I have a lot of people I would like to thank for getting behind me and helping me out over the last little while. Gaz Sullivan for his support and help with raising donations and everyone else who has contributed to the fund. The Rotorua MTB Club. Bike Culture. Stylie at Hyperformance hardwear for coordinating a new bike with Rudy over here in Switzerland. I have also had a lot of help from the Huguenin family in Neuchatel. Xavier for lending me a bike for a week. And now Jerome whose home I am currently staying at.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Coupe de France and Geneva Robbery

Last weekend I headed to France for a round of the Coupe de France race series. I arrived after a long train journey from Switzerland on Thursday and was able to get out on the track for a look around on the Friday before race day on Saturday. The venue was high at 1800m above sea level and this added an extra element to what was already a hard course. Also it was longer than what we have been racing recently and lap times were 19 to 20mins in duration. It was a great location, right up high in the Mountains and we were treated to beautiful weather each day although because of the altitude it was still a bit chilly at times. The track was a good test with a nice mix of climbing and descending and in practice I was riding well and feeling confident for the race.
Unfortunately I had a horror start. As the gun went and I put the power down to move off the line my chain came right off the big chain ring. Initially I thought I had broken it but thankfully it had just fallen off. By the time I got going again I was dead last and with 106 starters I had a fair bit of catching up to do.
I was able to make good progress back up through the field taking advantage of any chance to overtake. I may not have made many friends with some slightly dodgy passing manoeuvres but within two laps I was up into the top 30. I could monitor my position each lap with the aid of the timing board at the start finish line and although it got harder to gain places as I moved up inside the top 20 I could see that I was racing well. The last couple of laps were especially hard as the constant passing accelerations I had been making all race began to catch up with me. Still I picked off a few more riders and after a bit of a battle up the last single trail climb I finished up in 11th place. In the end it was actually a decent result but a bit frustrating as I knew I would have been capable of much better.

Anyway way on Sunday as I made my way back into Switzerland I got robbed as I was leaving Geneva train station and ended up with up with one of my bags getting stolen. I was a sitting duck really with all my gear, spare wheels and bike etc. And it happened so fast. One second I had it and the next it was gone leaving me in pretty bad situation as the bag contained my passport, wallet and phone.
After a visit to the police station to report the robbery I ended up at a local hostel. As I had no money I couldn’t get a bed but I was able to sit down in the foyer and spend the night there. I endured a pretty rough night trying to sleep on a wooden bench and awoke early only to find more bad news as during the night my bike had also been stolen as well. So now I was really stuffed. At least the New Zealand embassy is located in Geneva and I was there as soon as it opened that morning. Unfortunately they couldn’t really do much for me until we sorted out an emergency travel document which would take a couple of days. With no money I was looking at facing another night out on the street. Thankfully I still had my laptop and so had been able to let people know what had happened.
After spending the majority of the day sitting around in town I headed back to the hostel where I was able to access some free internet. Things started to pick up from there and I got some good news. Someone had found and handed in my bag to the police station and I was lucky in that it still contained my passport and drivers licence. Later on I also managed to meet up with Richard Anderson who had travelled back from France to help me out. Now that I had my passport back there wasnt really any point in hanging around and I was quite keen to get out of Geneva as soon as possible.

So things are not too bad for me now. We are staying with friends in Nuechatel and I have even been able to borrow a bike so I can keep riding until I sort my own one out which hopefully will not take too long.
I would like to thank everyone for the help and support I have received over the last few days. After this little set back I am very determined to get on with things and carry on with my races and hopefully achieve some good results at the upcomming World Cups and World Championships.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Racer Bikes Cup Chur.

This was a new venue for me and the course in Chur turned out to be perfect for racing. A short section of tarmac to start the lap off was fast but also ideal for drinking and feeding. The rest of the track included a large amount of climbing with plenty of passing but there was one tight and steep switch back section to mix it up a bit. The descending wasn’t very technical but was fast and it did have a couple of trickier parts which when ridden at speed became a bit dodgy. There were also some nice bermed corners and then a final switch back section down to the start finish area.
After Engelberg I had completed two weeks of good training and was determined to ride a much stronger race in Chur. The field was big with over 60 starters and included plenty of top riders.
The start went alright and I came through in 28th after the first lap before losing a few places due to the speed of the early part of the race dropping down to 31st. I was feeling a lot stronger but was a bit unsure as to what I could do. We had 9 laps so it was going to be long day and I wanted to be able to finish the race off well this time round.

For several laps I rode in small groups. Our pace was up and down and at times I was really hurting just to stay on their tail and then just a couple of minutes later they would all be sitting on my wheel. I didn’t really like to change my speed so much and fit in with their tactics and tried to ride my own race at a consistent speed. It was a super hot day and I think the conditions started to take their toll on a lot of riders and as they started to slip back I steadily made up ground.
I really started to enjoy myself and it was great to be able to actually race rather than struggle through at the back of the field like the previous week. With three laps to go I really went for it pushing hard for those final laps picking up a few more positions in the process. It was a relief to cross the finish line and my final result of 18th place was a solid result. I know that I finished 19th last week and was disappointed with that but this race was a much higher standard and I was pleased with how I had turned things around and felt that I had ridden a much better race.

Photos thanks to Samuel Kummrow.

Monday, June 13, 2011

First race - Racer Bikes Cup Engelberg.

Engelberg last year was a mud bath and after Saturdays practice session up at the track it looked like it was going to be the same this year. However Sunday ended up being a beautiful day and the course dried out nicely.

Our race was 10 laps of the 3.2km track with 136m of climbing per lap. One big hill dominated the course and with the laps being so short there was very little respite from the long climb to the top.

I had a good start but by the end of the first lap I had dropped off the pace a bit. I started to pick up places as the laps wore on but it was very frustrating as for the majority of the race a big group of maybe 10 riders were within my sights but I just couldn’t bridge the gap. Through the middle of the race I made a big effort to get in contact with this group and as it contained riders from about 7th to 14th position it would have been good if I had of been able to achieve that. I got very close but wasn’t able to finish off the final meters. The big effort I made took its toll with the final 3 three laps being a bit of a letdown as far as my speed went and my final result of 19th wasn’t what I was after.

Still I did show a bit of pace especially through the middle of the race and this was always going to be a tough day at the office being the first one of the season. Now I know where I am at and have a more definite idea of what I need to work on and look forward to improving at the next race in Chur in a couple of weeks.

Photos thanks to Joanie Huguenin.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

First week.

Well we have been in Switzerland for a week now and it has been a pretty action packed few days. Jet lag hit me pretty hard and I have only just started to get back to a normal sleep pattern. The heat has also been a bit of a shock to the system although it is very welcome and I am certainly not complaining about that.
What I have written here I originally wanted to put up on Sunday but I have been having a few issues with my computer so it’s a bit late but gives an idea on whats been happening so far.
Up early. The plan for today was to have a bit of a look around Zurich and then get a ride in later on in the day followed by some hunting Swiss style in the evening.

Dani gave us a lift into Zurich on his way to work. We then checked out a few of the shops and went for a walk down Banhnofstrasse which is one of the most expensive streets in the world. The average monthly lease price is about €327 per m2. After window shopping for a while we jumped on a tram to Zurich Zoo. This was pretty cool as I haven’t been to a Zoo in a long time. Most of the usual suspects were present although with it being a super hot day a lot of the animals were hidden away attempting to get a bit of relief from the heat.

Originally we had planned on riding our bikes back home to Schaffhausen but it looked like it was a going to be a bit of a mission getting out of Zurich and as we were going to be doing our main travelling by train we thought it could be a good opportunity to try out the famed Swiss rail system. All we had heard was how simple and easy the trains were to use so how hard could it be? Unfortunately we ran into trouble early on when the train that we thought we needed to be on didn’t turn up. After chewing through a fair bit of time we eventually gave up and took the next train to arrive and ended up at Zurich airport. From here we managed to sort ourselves out and eventually made it back to Schaffhausen a couple of hours late.

We had arranged to go hunting with Dani at 6:00. Hunting Swiss style is a unique experience and is a lot of fun. You start the evening off with good food and sit around talking until it starts to get dark. Then it’s time to move to the hunting hides which are small huts over looking an area where game is likely to wander. The idea is to sit quietly until you see something you want. After wards you sit around and talk a bit more and then its home to bed.

Up early again. Today we were leaving Schaffhausen and moving on to our accommodation for the next few weeks in central Switzerland at the foot of the Alps. After the previous days mix up we had debriefed and taken on some advice from our hosts and so armed with new found knowledge and experience we were all set for the days train trip. I had a fair bit of gear with me and knew that it was going to be a tough day lugging it around.

Once you know what you are doing train travel is actually quite easy and works well but it would definitely be a lot easier if you could avoid travelling with a couple of 20+kg bags and for me changing trains was always going to be the hard part. We made the first of our two connections with out to much hassle. The 2nd one however had me straining to lift my heavy bike box the small but seemingly forever distance to the train and in the end we only made it with seconds to spare before it left. Of course if we had of missed that one we would have probably only have had to wait for 10mins for the next one but you don’t think about that at the time. Eventually after a couple of hours we made it to our final stop and it was here that the fun really began. From the station we had maybe 2km to get to our accommodation. I got stuck into the task at hand but after a several minutes I had only moved a pitiful 100ms or so. A local passing by gave me a lift but we didn’t make it far and he moved on pretty quickly once he realised how heavy my gear was. It was time to reassess as I obviously wasn’t going to get anywhere in a hurry the way things were going. In the end I decided the best thing would be to build my bike up and then use it as a trolley to support my box still packed with gear and wheel it along. Thankfully this worked and eventually we made it to our destination tired but happy to have finally made it.

After all that action it was still only 2pm so we went down to the lake front for an hour or so and had a bit to eat in the sun. Re-energised it was time for a couple of hours on the bike. The weather was amazing and my ride that afternoon is going to be pretty hard to beat. The views from up high were post card worthy and I had a great time out on the bike. I ended the ride with my favourite Swiss drink, strawberry buttermilk and then went for a swim in the lake which finished the day off nicely.
This week has started off well and now that we are properly settled in I have been able to focus on the training and getting fully prepared for the race at Engelberg this weekend.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Update & Switzerland.

After Oceanias things were pretty quiet. I had three weeks where I kept off the bike as much as possible and had a good break. I then came back to training nice and fresh with my focus firmly set on my overseas campaign and my big objective the World Champs in Champery, Switzerland in September.

Over the last couple of months I have been lucky enough to get the chance to ride a Santacruz Nickel thanks to Stylie at Santacruz NZ. It has been great for training on and I have enjoyed the benefits of the extra travel and beefier frame which has allowed me to open it up a bit more on the downhills and experience a slightly different style of riding to what I am used to.

After my experience last year in Europe I have been looking forward to getting back over so it is good to finally be here. From Auckland we had a 12 hour flight to Shanghai, a 30min stopover to switch planes and then after another 12 hours we touched down in Zurich at 3pm on Tuesday the 31st. Despite getting stung with a pretty hefty fee for excess baggage it was another wise hassel free trip and my bike made it through unscathed. I haven't been as lucky with jet lag and am feeling a bit sleep deprived after a couple of interrupted nights.

So far I have been taking it pretty easy and just getting the body acclimatised before I start any real intensity in training. It has been quite cold especially yesterday which only made it to a chilly 13 degrees but its going to be back up to 26 degrees by the weekend.

My first race is just over a week away on the 12th at the Racer Bikes Cup in Engelberg. Its going to be really interesting to see how it goes and I am getting pretty excited about getting back into the racing.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Oceania Continental Championships Shepparton, Australia.

Photo credit © Shane Goss

2nd place U23 Men, 51 seconds behind winner Paul van der Ploeg of Australia. Apart from the first minute I thought I had a pretty good race. But my poor start virtually cost me any chance of winning. Paul’s a super fast power house and it would have been a tough ask to challenge him, but losing some 40secs on the first lap wasn’t the way to go about it.

Mt Major was the venue for the race. There really wasn’t anything major about the ‘Mountain’ and you would struggle to even call it a hill in most places but the dead flat landscape surrounding the town of Shepparton meant that any sizable lump of dirt stood out. Probably around 90% of the course was single track with a lot of slower technical rocky sections but also some super fast downhill as well. Unfortunately there was almost no climbing at all and with the majority of the track being narrow, passing was very limited with only about a km of grass at the finish of each lap providing any opportunity to overtake.

Apparently last year during the Aussie national series the temperature got to 40 degrees here. We were lucky this year and it wasn’t too bad which was a good thing as we would have been baked in the sun on the exposed hill.

From the start line we had about 100m to sort ourselves out before the course got narrow and then entered the first section of single track. A good start was going to be very important. I knew this and so when the gun went I planned to smash it to the first corner and all going well be at the front. The gun went and before I knew it I was sitting in a long line back in 7th place. Not at all what I had wanted.

I squeezed my way round a couple of riders in the first couple of k’s but I was stuck back in 5th until the grass at the end of the first lap, where I was finally able to move up into second and begin the chase. I then had 4 laps left to try and catch up to Paul but despite pushing the whole race I lost time on all except the final lap finishing slightly frustrated but reasonably happy in second place.

Thanks to Nigel and his family for putting up with me for the trip. Pam for the great meals and Paul for the driving & feeding during the race.

It is now time for a bit of a break. I think I need one. I am starting to feel the effects of what has been a pretty big New Zealand season and with another overseas trip coming in the next few months this is a good chance to freshen up again. I’m going to see if I can keep off the bike for a least a week and plan to then get back into structured training in three weeks time.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

N-Duro Summer Cup, Final Round.

It was nice to get back on the top step of the podium today and even better to round off the series with the overall title. I reckon today’s course was probably the best of the three this summer. A lot of climbing but the reward was some of my favourite downhill trails in the forest. It is always good fun having a race on the same tracks that I spend so many hours training on and I have really enjoyed racing in the series this year.

On Tuesday I am off to Aussie for the Oceania Continental Championships. It’s always a great contest racing against the Australians so I am getting pretty excited. There may be the odd rider from French Polynesia to spice things up as well. Race day is Friday. I don’t know a lot about the course but I have heard it will be fairly open and there may be a few rocks. It should be a good trip.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Karapoti Classic.

Karapoti is tough enough already but this year the weather conditions spiced things up and made it that little bit more extreme. Barrelling along the gorge in the first part of the race I couldn’t even tell if it was raining or not from the water getting splashed up as we smashed through puddles strung out in a big line of riders.

Fairly early on a group of three of us split off the front of the race going up the Deadwood climb. Tim set the pace followed by Anton and then myself. The plan for me was to wait and see how things panned out. In other words I was going to be playing follow the leader unless I absolutely couldn’t keep up. Once into the final climb I would attack and all going well ride away to the win. And thats almost how things turned out. Stu managed to join us and for the majority of the course all four of us rode together. The rock garden and the tough hike a bike up Devils Stair Case didn’t do much to split us up and it was clear that it was going to come to a show down up the last climb, Dopers hill to decide the race.
We hit Dopers Creek and the loose gravel coming out the other side forced Stu, Tim and I off our bikes. Anton however was able to stay riding and seizing his opportunity made his bid for victory. I scrambled back onto the bike as soon as I could and set off in pursuit. Reeling him in was easy enough but try as I might I couldn’t drop him and by the top we were both still together, well clear of Stu and Tim.
Despite a crash for me and a few attempts by both of us to get away from each other before the finish, we were still locked together coming into the final river crossing. I was confident that my superior height would give me the advantage in the dash across but although holding the lead coming out of the water, my sprint let me down and I missed out on the win. I was obviously disappointed with second but for the first time ever I got through Karapoti without getting a flat tyre, busting my bike or blowing. So to be honest I was actually quite satisfied with how I rode and pleased to have made it onto the podium for the first time.

Monday, February 28, 2011

National Champs.

I guess we were due for a wet race and after dry conditions all season, we finally got it down in Dunedin at the National Champs. The weather’s a bit different down there. As the majority of the country made the most of the last few weeks of summer we were in wintery conditions with temperature highs that barely made it into the mid teens. Rain in the days leading up to the race played its part and riders were soon on the hunt for mud tyres.

We were given five laps and with the track conditions the way they were it was obviously going to be an interesting day. The majority of the track was actually in pretty good nick. All except for the middle part of the lap, where things got tough when the gradient steepened. Traction became very hard to find and for a hundred meters or so it was easier and faster to get off and run. The mud was thick and heavy and the going was slow. Running up the climb was a bit of a slog but thankfully drier conditions higher up made it possible to get back on although clipping in was an issue as pedals and cleats became clogged with dirt. Another dismount and run for the last pinch at the top and then it was into the descent. Fast and flowy in the dry, it had transformed into a barely controllable slide down the hill. For me it soon became less about trying to get down the hill fast and more a battle just to stay up right. I pin balled my way down the slope each lap and as the race wore on I got to know a few of the trees beside the track pretty well.

I was after the win in both the U23 Men as well as the overall Elite Men’s race. However today I just wasn’t fast enough. I probably didn’t handle the tricky conditions as well as I would have liked. Despite having been near the front for the first few laps I had to settle for second place. It was a disappointing way to end the national season especially after doing so well in the series. Congratulations must go to Carl for winning the Elite Men’s title. And on a positive note despite losing out on the overall win I successfully defended my U23 Men’s National title and will again be able to wear the National Jersey with pride when I head overseas to race later in the year.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New Zealand MTB Cup Round 3 Nelson.

I have just got back from four days in Nelson and a race win at the 3rd round of the New Zealand MTB cup. It was a really enjoyable little trip with some good riding, glorious weather and the result I was after on Sunday with a win at the UCI cat 2 race.

I arrived on Thursday and put in a few laps on the race track with Nelson local and sometimes MTB racer turned super fast roadie George Bennett. Coming straight from Rotorua, I found the track a bit of a handful early on. It always takes a bit of time to get used to the lack of berms on every corner which is what the majority of tracks are like at home. I crashed a couple of times on the first lap but soon got the hang of the tight twisty trail and its often rocky and extremely dry surface. I was a bit surprised with how little climbing there was in the course because although there was a fairly long road climb at the start it wasn’t steep so it was a bit different to the typical hilly Nelson circuit. It was obvious that it was going to be a very fast track if the weather stayed fine for Sunday.

That evening Stylie and I went for a trail ride on the ‘Peaking Ridge’ track. We went the shorter way to the track consisting of a long and often extremely steep climb up a gravel road and then a smaller 4wd track. After riding that I have had to reassess my ideas on what is actually a steep climb and I now know where to come for some punishing hill training. When we finally made it to the top the reward was an undulating extremely rooty and rocky single trail continuing along the top of the hill to our destination at peaking ridge. The descent down the Peaking ridge trail was awesome. I have never ridden such a rooty trail and particularly higher up there were some pretty rugged rock sections as well. I would have been better suited on a bike with a bit more travel and a more trail friendly geometry but the Blur XC handled the track well and really it was up to me to ensure that we made it down safely. The track opened up slightly as we got lower down and once I got used to things I was able to get a bit more speed up and really start to enjoy it.

The next few days were spent at the race track and by Sunday I knew it pretty well. Rain had been mentioned on the forecast but the weather man got it wrong and we were treated to another hot sunny day.

The Race:
No one really wanted to be in front up the first section of road so the pace was slowish from the start until the last pinch where George attacked to take the lead into the single track. I made sure I got his wheel and that was where I stayed for the first laps. We got a good gap on everyone else early on and it was clear that the battle for the win was going to be between us. I felt comfortable in the single track and I was pretty confident that as long as I didn’t let a big gap open on the road sections I held the advantage. After three laps of following I decided it was time to have a go and countered an acceleration from George, opening up a small gap and then taking the lead at the top of the climb. With the remaining three laps I extended my lead eventually taking the win with a two minute advantage over George in second place.

So it was a pretty successful trip. Thanks Stylie for the accommodation and for introducing me to some ‘real’ mountain bike riding. Hopefully I will be back some time soon.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

N-Duro Summer Cup Round 2

It has been a very humid summer so far this year in Rotorua and today was one of the hottest days we’ve had. At least the race started at 10:30am and was over before the temperatures peaked but even so it was tough racing conditions.

Today was my first race with my new Shimano 315 Shoes. The custom fit treatment has allowed me to get a really comfortable fit and they feel really good and worked great. I took another win so it was a good day.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Zealand MTB Cup Round 2 Napier.

The first really big race of the year and with the added incentive of being a UCI Cat 2 race the second round of the New Zealand National series was always going to be an interesting one. The track was fairly typical for Napier. Twisty and fairly tight single track sections and a very dry almost sandy trail surface. It was fast and a lot of it was flat but the main climb more than made up for the rest, rearing almost straight uphill and its steepness and length definitely took its toll as the race wore on.
After a quick start the field kept pretty much together until the climb. About halfway up I moved into second position and as I was unsure of how strong everyone else was, decided to stay there for a while as the track undulated along the top of the hill for about a km. Feeling good I slid up into the lead coming up out of one of the dips and then decided to take advantage of the opportunity pushing the pace down the descent. By the bottom I had a nice lead and from there I kept on the gas opening up a 16 second gap at the end of the first lap.
The track was quite bumpy with a lot of tree roots and I felt that my Santacruz Blur XC gave me a big advantage as the majority of the riders were on hard tails. Particularly on the flatter sections of the track I could maintain a lot more momentum and was able to stay pedalling where in some cases it was almost physically impossible for a hard tail rider to be doing the same. As the race went on I was able to extend my lead and by the end of the six laps I had a comfortable two minute advantage over second place. I am pretty satisfied with how things went and am happy to take the win as well as the valuable UCI points that come with it.

Monday, January 10, 2011

N-Duro Summer Cup #1

First race for 2011 and a win on the New Bike. The bike worked beautifully and I had a lot of fun racing in the forest which was in great condition, dry and very fast.

Next weekend is the 2nd round of the New Zealand Cup in Napier. Because it is a UCI Cat 2 race it will be important to get a good result with valuable world ranking points on offer. We will head down on Friday so we can have a few days getting to know the track before the race on Sunday afternoon. The course will be similar to the one I raced on in the Mid North Island series so it should be a pretty good one.