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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

2014 National Championships

At home again in Rotorua for 2014, the National Championships were set to be a tough race with the level of racing in New Zealand seemingly faster every year and even more so this year with everyone vying for Commonwealth Games selection.

The race venue made a shift from last year and the new course was a toughie with over 200 meters of climbing per lap and featuring the gnarly and now famous Boulder dash descent and going Old School with the return of Rockdrop, a track that has been used numerous times for racing over the years.

My build up to Nationals had been good with improving performances in the lead up races and with the home town knowledge and support I was confident of a strong race and hunting for the win.
Photos C: Debbie Retief.
I had a slightly shaky beginning, beaten into 4th position into the first downhill and then coming dangerously close to crashing drifting wide into the soft stuff on the side of the track and having to chuck out a foot as I struggled to keep upright. Luckily I didn’t go down but it cost me time and I spent the majority of the first lap chasing down Anton and Sam Gaze who had charged off the front. I managed to get back up to the leading pair near the end of the lap and with the rest of the field unable to keep up the three of us soon established a sizeable lead.

Photo C: Benny Devcich.
Anton did the pace making and over the first half of the race apart from the odd brief swapping of position not much happened. Although Anton was happy to lead from the front most of the time he was obviously getting frustrated with having to do all the work and our pace alternated between crazy fast on the rivet and cruising along eyeballing each other. Personally I was reluctant to lead although I was keen to have a go at pushing the pace through the middle section of the course but didn’t want to waste energy fighting for the lead into the down hills. Generally I felt fairly comfortable everywhere except for the steep climbs, particularly the road climb coming at the end of the lap and I had to fight very hard to stay in touch almost every time up it.
Photo C: Mead Norton.
By the 4th lap of 6 however I was starting to struggle and got dropped twice, both times managing to claw my way back to the others. But I was swinging and the 5th lap proved too much for me and I lost contact up the Challenge climb, this time for good. I chased hard but the damage was done. I had a lap and a half to go and knowing I was comfortably in front of 4th place I was able to ride my own speed to the finish crossing the line a minute behind Sam who had beaten Anton in a sprint finish for the win.

Photo C: Sam Thompson.
I was a bit disappointed with third place but Anton and Sam are both hugely talented riders who were better than me on the day. I am however happy with my performance and the effort I put in I just wasn’t fast enough to get up for the win this time and have to be satisfied with my ride.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

2014 NZ CUP #2 Nelson.

The second and final round of the NZ Cup series took place in sunny Nelson. With a pretty good race record here in the past it has become a favourite venue of mine and it was good to be back again in 2014. I felt I rode much better in Nelson than the previous round in Wellington. Had a solid race and improved on my result as well moving up from 3rd in Welly to 2nd behind Anton Cooper.

It was a fast start to the race with Anton, Sam Gaze and myself getting away from the rest early on. Anton led and set a pace that was right on the limit for me. I was struggling a bit to stick with the other two and after about half a lap the slight gap that had been opening and closing between us became too big and I lost contact at the bottom of one of the climbs making a slight mistake on a tight switch back corner.

Before I knew it they were well gone and although I chased hard for the next two laps I couldn’t make any impression on the gap and fell further behind. Heading into the third lap I caught Sam who had run into trouble trying to stick it with Anton and so rode into 2nd position. Nothing really changed from there for the rest of the race. I had a decent gap over the boys behind and just had to focus on my own race and keep pushing to the finish.

The course was fast and dry as usual and I enjoyed riding hard and mindful of the fact that this will be the last big race before Nationals I wanted to make sure I put in a good honest effort. The last laps were uneventful with no issues and I finished comfortably in 2nd place.

Less than two weeks to go now till National Champs at home in Rotorua so I will be doing some fine tuning with my training making sure I finish off my preparation the best I can.  This Sunday we are having a “mock” race on the course racing a reduced number of laps and this will be a good final test of the form. I have been pleased with the progress made over the last month and all going well should be in pretty good shape for Nationals.