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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.


  1. Well fought and a solid ride Dirk. Looks like well placed for the rest of the year. Best of luck.

  2. Hi Dirk, just enjoyed reading your 2014 Blogs. It seems you getting tougher competition
    in NZ as well. It must be more motivating to tough it out and your own level will increase. Say are you doing any races in Europe this Northern Summer? I' ll leave Switzerland in August and make my way back to NZ via Arizona. Will be back home on 14 September. I'm so looking forward to that. Greetings and good luck for the further events. Hans