After 2017 World Single Speed Championships I crossed the line buzzing. I was hooked on single speed racing. What was next? 2018 NZ Single Speed Champs. Waihi was to play host for the 2018 race. Ben and I rolled up early before the race and began the banter with the other couple of hundred riders. It was an overcast humid day at Morgan Park, there was a sense of excitement coming from all the riders. I went out to practice the start and finish sections of the race course. From there I adjusted my bike setup and then commenced the warmup.
All the riders were called into a cordoned off pen like a flock of sheep. We were briefed on how the race was going to run and the start process. (Single speed races always have challenging aspects throughout the race, often a unique start procedure and a beer shortcut). This year we were to ride round in the fenced off area until the music stopped. The fencing shaped a donut. I believe there was close to 300 riders all riding around in circles. They split the direction of the males from the females. So, we were riding into woman all the time. Those poor girls must have crashed more in the start than in the actual race. Music was blasting away. Our instruction was that when the music stopped, a section of the donut would open, all the riders had to race out and go! It felt like forever that we were riding in circles. My Strava upload looks funny because of all the circles I rode around in.
Making sure my glasses are clean pre race
Sure enough, the music finally stopped. The fence dropped, and we were out. Heart rate instantly above threshold as I fought my way to the front. Of the couple of hundred riders I was around 10th or 20th to depart the donut. I pushed on for the first kilometre and found myself leading the race as we entered the first section of single-track. I dug deep and made it up the first techy climb. I knew the start would shuffle the pack a little, however I also knew it wouldn’t be enough to take Garth and Tad (both former National and World Single Speed Champions) out of the equation. I was working hard to open the gap while my competitors were caught in event traffic from the other riders.
Nearing the exit of the first single track section my chain wasn’t sitting right on my rear sprocket. I shiver shot through my body. I thought to myself ‘What? This can’t be happening, the best start and now I’m having mechanical issues! This sucks’. I popped out onto a 4WD section of trail and it gave me the opportunity to look down at my bike. Much to my relief I spotted the issue. If I could see something, then it could easily be fixed. If nothing was obvious to see, then how could I fix the problem. All that caused me the scare was a bunch of dead stringy flax wound up around my rear sprocket. No wonder I couldn’t ride properly. I checked over my back and sure enough there was Tad. The reigning New Zealand Champ. I picked the material out of my gearing. (I ran a derailleur in the place of the tensioner). This allowed me to pull the flax out fast and easy.
I jumped back onto the bike and set off. Now in second only 50 metres beh
ind Tad. The riders behind me didn’t look organised enough to make any ground on us so I pushed on to catch Tad. We entered Blackhill park. The weavey single track section of the race that crossed back on itself a kilomillionbillion times. Tad was holding me about 30 metres behind him. I settled into a tempo and made my way through the single-track. We continued for the next 5 or so kilometres. From here Tad slowly opened the gap to me. His superior tight, techy line selection was that much finer tuned then mine. Garth the other veteran knew how to ride this type of trail also. He caught me. Knowing I didn’t want to hold him up I waved him passed and sat on his wheel. He gave me something to focus on and pulled me through the tight trails. (And no, I didn’t get my bar ends caught on anything, but there were certainly some close calls.)
From left to right Jack, Me, Ben, Troy all Tauranga Club members and good dudes they say.
Next up Garth and I rolled into the first beer stop. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Single Speed racing there is always a few random elements to the races. Generally involving alcohol. Now I was expecting a beer stop or two. And I don’t drink. Fortunately, there is always a B line option. Besides I was told that there was a chance the B line could potentially be the same time loss as having to stop and down a beer. But boy was I told wrong. After what essentially was Garths first pit stop and me taking the long loop our tracks remerged at the top of the steep climb. I estimate that I lost about a minute. Obviously, my sources of track info can’t have been too reliable. I couldn’t really complain though as I hadn’t practiced the course. Apparently, I was the only rider to take the long course. (There were a couple of hundred riders) Normally its like a 70% 30% split. I figured out that my detour had cost me another spot and I was now running 4th. Right I’m going to have to down a beer if there is another beer stop. I continued to push on and close to the rider in front of me. Grinding the up hills and making super uncalculated risks on the downhills. Somehow it paid off as I pulled myself back up to the rider in front.
As we wound our way through the forest suddenly there was what appeared to be a naked man on the course. Oh wait, it was Tad, (his outfit resembled a naked body builder, something a USA cheerleader just couldn’t resist…). I spurted out with confusing trying to ask if he was alright. He’d punctured. Poor guy, he was on track to winning yet another national title. Garth was now a wee while in front of 2nd place and me in 3rd. We rolled back through the beer stop and knew that we can’t have been far off the finish line. This time I downed the beer faster than you can say ‘she spilt it all down her top’. Then I punched it, I punched it as hard as I could up the climb. Passed 2nd place through the pitstop and now I was in the number 2 position. Hunting down my mentor and good friend Garth Weinberg. I pushed, and I pushed. I knew he wasn’t going to ease up on the pace because I’d be hot his tale. We completed the last lap, but I still couldn’t see him. He was just out of sight. The riders behind me were no where to be seen either.
Mountainbike Tauranga Single Speed Club Members in their outfits
It wasn’t long before I found myself riding the start loop in reverse through the twists and turns of the single track (not your regular start loop) and soon enough I could hear Uncle Ra (so he calls himself) of the microphone somewhat intoxicated hyping up the spectators as they knew the lead riders were on there way in to finish. Then I heard him call out, “Ladies and gentlemen I preeesaaant your 2000 and what year are we?… 18 naaaaaaathonarl championnnnnnn single speed GARTH WEINBERG”. Within the next minute I found myself crossing the finish. Garth was there congratulating me as I cros
sed over. I could feel the force in the air from such a great master as he gave me a sweaty hug. Uncle Ra had the microphone in my face as I was puffing and panting. Somehow, I got through a real real formal interview with everyone’s favourite Uncle Ra.
After watching the other competitors cross the finish I was stoked to see the lads Troy and Jack who I’ve been coaching in the Tauranga Youth Academy for over a year now coming in only a few minutes behind me in about 5th and 6th position. It was a real proud moment for me. The single speed now sits in the shed but is pulled out for special occasions. I look forward to banking some real Kilometres on that bad boy come summer later this year. Right now though 100% of my focus is on Whaka 100 2018. #oneofthetoughest
It’s been a while since my last race report. To be honest with you all, after arriving back from Italy and repetitively replaying 24 Worlds in my head over and over and the fact that half way through I ‘gave up’ has really got to me. The fact that my own mind bet me really plays with my emotions regularly. I guess it was the first time in my life that I fell short of a goal I really wanted to achieve. As Garth would say “It’s all just character building”. After his crazy efforts at 2016 24 worlds I like to build character often now. A few races have come and gone. None of which have had enough importance for a race report.
For the month after returning I went back to the drawing board. I’ve learnt that in the long term it isn’t sustainable to continue racing 24 solos on the world stage annually at my age. I will how ever make a comeback to the discipline a few years down the track once I develop more. For the remainder of 2017 and 2018 I will try my very best to attain as much experience in XCM Cross Country Marathon racing. This format of racing is slightly longer than traditional XCO type racing but a heck of a lot shorter than 24-hour racing. With the midterm goal of qualification for the 2019 XCM World Championships along with competing in World Cup races across the globe I feel ready to tackle the next challenge of my life. If successful, from there I could look toward continuing XCM racing or reverting to 24 Solo racing, however I quite like the idea of stage racing. It’s exciting to wait and see what the future holds for me. All I know is whatever I decide to target I will do so 100% committed giving my all to achieve my goals.
With all this fresh drive what better place than to start at the start. The Whaka 100 was my first MTB race aged 14. 5 years later I would take to the start line again for the 2017 Whaka 100. With the Nduro Events team promising the event to be one of the toughest it attracted riders from across the world. More than 100 international riders in fact from across the globe made their way to the Whakawerawera forest for the 2017 race along with 550 kiwis. All with the goal of proving they are ‘one of the toughest’. The race splits into three distances. 25km, 50km and 100km. In the past I have competed in two 25km races, two 50km races and two 100km races. This is my favourite event on the calendar with each and every year throwing up new exciting challenges. This is the event that means the most to me each year I take it on.
The Whaka TT Shootout kicked off the weekend of Saturday afternoon. Riders battled out for start positions in a qualifying flying lap type format. 700 meters of 4WD track followed by a tight techy single-track section of trail made for the perfect Shootout course. After placing 5th in the Shootout and the race last year I was determined to improve this year. With plate number 3 on my bike I had a big task ahead of me as a lined up for my TT lap after Garth Weinberg, Cosmo Bloor and in front of Jason English and Edwin Crossling four hot favourites for the win on Sundays race. I crossed the timing mat in full sprint mode. I dug as deep as I could maxing my heartrate out at 193bpm. I gave it everything I could. Crossing the finish line a few minutes after commencing the lap I had given all I could on the 4WD track and was able to complete all of my planned lines under the pressure of the Shootout. I crossed the line with a time of 5 minutes 20 seconds. Just milliseconds ahead of Jason. The effort was good enough for a front row start come Sunday.
That night I struggled to get enough sleep. Pre-race nerves and excitement was challenging me along with constantly worrying about slippery wet trails if the weather packed in like forecasts had suggested. The sun struggled to pierce through the thick clouds. The weather was ready to dampen the event. The riders and organisers however were not going to stop this from being the best Whaka yet. At 7:50 I lined up alongside Tadeas, Jason, Cosmo, Edwin, and Andreas who’d travelled from Norway to compete. From the front two rows I counted four current or former World Champions in 24 hour or Single Speed disciplines along with 2 former XCO and XCM World Championship riders. Not a bad line up for little old New Zealand. So, there was definitely talent on the first few rows of the grid.
(Cosmo leads me and Tad in the first 10km or so.)
The gun was fired and before I knew it I was off. Cosmo took an early lead as we weaved and twisted our way through the tight single track. Trails such as creek and grinder forced the riders to stretch out into one long line. I was in second place holding it steady as I picked my way through the twisty single track. After 15 minutes or so we appeared out onto a gravel road. I turned to look behind and all I could see was a wall of riders. About 8 wide and as far back as I could see the group of us meandered our way up some of the early pinch climbs. With no one wanting to go on the front to work and not attacks going away it was a weird neutral start. It allowed a lot of the unseeded riders a chance to catch the front pack. I took the lead as we swarmed into Turkish Delight and Soak hole. The Nduro team found a creative way of sending us through these trails. The tight loose single track challenged riders behind me. I held a steady pace on the front. Behind me however, gaps were forming as riders struggled to stay in contact with the wheel in front. The Yo-yo effect was burning some of the competitions energy while I held a consistent pace on the front.
We popped out onto the next gravel road and began what I classify as our first climb. Hot favourite Edwin took to the lead. I followed his wheel as best I could. Cosmo was still right there, Tad and Jason weren’t too far behind either. Once we crested the first climb I began picking my way down the exposed descent that is Gunna Gotta. Edwin led Cosmo and I pulled the gap back before long. We continued down the descent entering A Trail and Tickler. Once we popped out to Pipeline road Edwin received a bottle. Cosmo and I took the opportunity to have something to eat. Jason and Tad weren’t far behind us but we couldn’t see anyone behind that. It appeared to be a break of the top five riders. The five of us came together as we made our way along the gravel road before the next climb. Going up one of the steeper climbs in the forest I found myself again holding Edwin’s wheel. Well I did for as long as I could. As we climbed sidewinder my heartrate skyrocketed and I had to limit how much I was investing this early. Cosmo, Tad and Jason were hot on me heels but none had any interest in chasing down Edwin at this stage.
Tad glued to my wheel around 30 minutes in.
As we reached the top of the second climb Cosmo went on the offensive. He led me into the single track descent of Tokonohi and I followed his lead as we tried our best to reel in Edwin out in front. With a position switch half way down, we managed to catch Ed. Jason and Tad had dropped off a bit and the three of us found ourselves working together to extend the lead. We hit the bottom of the first big climb. The KOM stage one. I tucked in behind Ed and Cosmo and began to spin my way up the climb. It wasn’t long before the blew they legs off me. They held a steady tempo the whole way up. Unfortunately, the pace was too hot for me. I separated from the group and it wasn’t long before the 2016 Single Speed and 24 Hour World Champions caught me. I tucked in with Tad and Jason and continued to the top.
Once we reached Billy T I picked my way down the wet rutted trail doing my best to avoid treacherous roots and rocks. Puncturing at the top of the forest is a very real risk but I did my very best to limit it. The three of us continued to ride steady and before I knew it I had completed Billy T and Kung Fu Walrus. Jason and I had a gap to Tad. Jason wanted to push on insisting he wouldn’t get beaten by a single speeder. It would be a few hours before I would see Tad again. Jason and I worked together for the next 45 minutes or so sharing turns on the front as we navigated around the Green Lake and to the 50km half way point. It was here that we were told we were still less than 5 minutes off the race lead.
Together we pushed on. Jason worked extra hard pulling me up the climbs and I repaid his efforts by taking the lead and showing him the lines on the descents. In true Jason style he commenced having a conversation with me as we climbed lookout road on our way to the next trail No Brains. He asked how I was feeling and encouraged me to keep pushing as we were closing in on the leaders. I couldn’t respond. My heartrate was through the roof. Legs were burning. I could feel all my muscles sizzling as I tried to hold the pace. I feel I rode to the top at a consistent pace however once reaching the top Jason had skipped away and I was left on my own to close the gap to him as we made our way down the trail. That would be the last I would see of Jason until the finish line.
I struggled on solo. Commencing the next KOM climb now just over 3 hours into the race I knew it would only be a matter of time before Tad would catch me. I used every gear on my 11 speed cassette. I was questioning myself why hadn’t I invested in more gears as a climbed Pondy Elevator. Although it sounds like a straight forward climb it was more like finding the steepest, longest, biggest hill in Rotorua and riding from the bottom to the top… In a straight line. I had drunken my bottle I’d received from my brother at the 55km mark and now was struggling my way up this challenging climb. Although the rain continued to beat down on my jacket and my bike continued to grind with the mud on the drivetrain I pushed on as best I could. My mouth was dry, I was sweating hard yet continued to climb into the clouds. As I popped out into the exposed section near the top of our next trail Split Enz I caught a glimpse of Tad closing in. The wind howled and swirled as the rain pelted on my face. The whole climb had tree shelter and I unzipped my riding jersey and jacket to cool myself. But up here at the top of the climb Tad and I were really exposed to the elements. It wouldn’t be long before I’d start getting cold as I made my way down 3.5km trail.
Tad and I traversing our way through the clouds.
Once reaching the bottom of the Split Enz trail I had a small gap to Tad and did my best to maintain it. However, Tad gobbled up any time advantage I had pretty quick. He rode straight through me and set out to finish as soon as he could. I pushed on and gave it everything I had as I worked my way through the flatter trails. Only 10 minutes off the lead with 25km to go I was still on for a great race time. But, I couldn’t hold the pace. I slowly but surely dropped further and further back. Up the final large climb I kept telling myself that the faster a go the sooner I’ll be finished. Direct road seemed to go on for ever and I couldn’t seem to get on top of the gear. Yes, my smallest gear was even too much for me to continue pushing. Eventually I made it to the top and began the rooty, bumpy descent down Hot X Buns. From here it was pretty straight forward to get home. I picked my way through the next trails and crossed the finish line in a time of 5 hours 51 minutes and 10 seconds. Edwin took the win with Cosmo in second, Jason third, Tad forth and I was fifth with Garth not far behind in sixth.
The Nduro team strives to make Whaka 100 the toughest Marathon Event in the world. And if it were easy then everyone would do it. Over 180 of the bravest mountain bikers tackled the challenge this year. 169 can say they were one of the toughest. 12 riders failed to reach the finish line. Times ranged from the fastest rider, Edwin’s race winning time of 5:21:31 to perhaps the bravest rider taking 10:55:36. With the race growing each and every year it is no surprise to see more and more people flocking to Rotorua with the goal of completing the event and being labelled one of the toughest. Congratulations to all the riders taking part in the 25, 50 and 100km events along with the Nduro team form making the event something truly special to all the riders. Photo Credit to the Photos4sale team.
2017 WEMBO World Endurance Mountainbike Championships Finale Ligure, Italy
Part One: Preparation perfectionist
I set foot off the plane in Milan. My first time overseas in more than 7 years. I’d never raced or even ridden a bike overseas before. I had high expectations for Europe. Before I knew it we were on the motorway heading north in search of somewhere to train in the warm climate. Europe is truly next level. I won’t go into detail about how the system works over here or how different life is. We spent the first night in a ski village in the Swiss alps. The next few days consisted of travelling, riding and planning. Training was the number one priority over this period. We found ourselves in Germany in the 30 plus temperatures. Fortunately, the trip was timed so I could not only have the best training conditions and environments but also were able to witness fellow Kiwi Trek rider Anton Cooper place 3rd in the Albstadt UCI XCO World Cup. It was inspirational to witness one of the athletes you look up to have one of the best races of his life right in front of your eyes. Kiwis can fly.
This however is my story. I continued with the final training block before departing for an 800km journey south to Finale Ligure, Italy. Finale is one of the biggest gravity mountain biking destinations on the globe. Trail networks for hundreds of kilometres linking towns, villages and cities together across the dry baron steep Italian landscape. We rolled into town Monday evening to prepare for the race on Friday.
Tuesday morning was spent with Nicola and James from Kirkham Racing NZ on the course trying to navigate around the race venue. Studying where and how the pits were going to be set out, how long the course was going to be, where we were going and looking for difficult sections to practice. We discovered the race course and had 80% of it correct for when it actually came race day. I had lines dialed on the difficult sections. I knew I needed fast but smooth lines. In 24-hour racing it is vital to protect the wrists and hands. For me this is the part of the body that hurts the most. First time on trail also made me very aware how important my Ride 100% Speedcraft glasses would be with the striking sunlight and the excessive dust.
The two 2016 U23 World Champions. We met up to recce the course in 2017.
Tuesday afternoon Chris (Coach), Tony (Mechanic) and I ventured down into Finale Ligure town in search of supermarkets, bike shops and the other Kiwis. We stumbled across John White, Leonie Smith and Thomas Wood. After a quick discussion about the course, venue and climate of Finale we continued our afternoon explore. It wasn’t long before we came across #teambemis. Madeline Bemis was the co U23 World Champion from 2016. Since Rotorua 2016 we’d stayed in contact and along with Nicola Kirkham the three of us had decided to share two race sites. Chris and Tony went off to finish the shopping while I spent the remainder of the afternoon laxing in the shade along with a quick dip in the ocean before returning to the hills for a night ride. I knew the race lines and lap times would differ overnight and I wanted to simulate this as best I could prior to the race. It became apparent that the temperature wasn’t going to drop much less than 20 degrees overnight and therefore my Champion Systems Performance top and bibs would be more than suitable for the conditions. The dust however didn’t settle overnight and we realised that keeping the drive chain in working order was going to be a challenge. Squirts long lasting dry lube sure did have that covered. Chris struggled to keep up in with the night surrounding and went down onto the hard rocky terrain following me on a simulation lap breaking a rib. Chris wasn’t phased. He continued with the practice session without complaint so my mind wouldn’t be effected.
Madeline and I working our way through registration forms in Italian.
After some great night lap simulations, I woke up late Wednesday morning for my last few laps on course prior to race start. The course wasn’t marked so again we were doing the best we could with the material and information we had to ride a lap that we thought would be the race track. I worked out spots on the track where I could feed, Gu waffles and gels were among the nutrition plan and would sure be a treat in the race. Madeline and I met up for a lap. We discussed sections of the course for feeding, drinking, passing etc. The second lap of the day was with the other two kiwi boys Thomas and Cameron. We’re good friends now but hadn’t met prior to arriving in Italy. I videoed a lap of the course (80% similar too actual race course) and this footage will be uploaded to YouTube in the coming days. Lunch followed and then it was home for rest.
Trek Top Fuel ready to roll
Thursday was spent charging lights, Garmins and other devices that would be important for the race the following day. The race pack was picked up and number tied onto the Trek Top Fuel. A final supermarket run was made and a race plan was discussed with Chris and Tony. We planned how much fluids I was going to consume and worked out the Camelbak Podium bottles would be suitable for the job and I wouldn’t need the M.U.L.E pack which I’d been training with. We worked out when lights were going on, off and batteries would be changed. Everything was ready.
Jordan and I at race briefing.
Riders and supporters listing up at race briefing.
Part Two: A new start
At 10:00 am on Friday 2nd of June 2017 the Elite riders and Single speeders set off for the Le Mans start at the World Mountainbike Endurance Championships. Next, we (the age group athletes) lined up with a 5-minute wait for our start. The 5-minute wait went fast and before I knew it the final ten second countdown was on. The temperature was nice, loads of cloud cover and even a chance of rain in the afternoon. I had sunscreen on all the same and was prepared for whatever Finale Ligure had to throw at me. The next thing I remember is springing out of the start gate for the Le Mans start. A Le Mans start is when we all line up in our lycra, carbon soled cleats and helmets. We then had to run a kilometer before we could finally mount our bikes. I focused on running steady, not rolling my ankles and not falling over. After a few minutes of push and shove, climbing and scrambling around the Italian countryside I found my bike and departed from the pits for my first lap. The race laps were 10km long, with 350 meters elevation.
The Elite riders line up for race start.
Us age group riders tackle the Le Mans style start.
It is vital that the first six hours of a 24-hour race go well. It is vital that you do everything right at this stage of the race. Every extra calorie burned or poor line taken will punish the rider later. I found myself in about 30th of the age group riders with the Elite and Single Speed riders pushing on ahead. On the first few laps I scrolled through my Garmin screens (bicycle computer speedo) looking to see if I was matching my numbers. The lap was longer than we had practiced earlier in the week but there were no techy sections that hadn’t been practiced so I was able to push on in confidence. However, I had not set up my Garmin to display lap time. Instead I had two screens showing heart rate. This meant that for the whole race I would have to guess my lap times. I didn’t let it get to me and continued on. The Trek Top Fuel was in great condition thanks to Cycle Obsession back home and the body was feeling great with some help from Perimeter Coaching.
The first few laps went fast, I made sure not to show the other U23 riders my lines. I worked hard to stay on my bike on the climbs when other around me were already off pushing. I knew that as soon as you hopped off to walk or run a climb more energy would be wasted than riding. I continued to roll around with Jordan Butler (2nd U23 Male in 2016). We knew the other two kiwi boys were ahead. I had never seen a snake in the wild before and I have a huge phobia of them to say the least. On lap three I was descending on my own when dark coloured snake slithered straight across the track about 10 meters in front of me. I jammed on the breaks until it disappeared. So, I now could confirm that there were snakes around. More about this later.
The early parts of the race are not where the race is won. But it certainly can be lost at this stage. It’s vital to set yourself a sustainable pace in which you can keep an eye on who the competition is and where they are in regards to you.
Me trying my best to stay upright during the run.
A glimpse into how many bikes were stacked in the racks.
Part Three: To keep your balance you must keep moving
As we rode past midday the clouds cleared to reveal the sun pumping its rays down on us. Before I knew it, we were frying in scorching sun. There was no escape. With little shouter on course I did my best to ride on the sides of the trails to keep in the shade as much as I could. The first 3 hours a 710mL Camelbak Podium bottle was lasting me two laps (laps being about 40 minutes). But now with the sun fully exposed to the Italian country side I was consuming a 710mL bottle in 10 minutes. I was beginning to dehydrate! Prior to this race I’d never ridden or raced in heat this severe. It was so taxing on my body systems. The pit crew were onto it quickly as I was soon complaining of stomach aches from the high temperature (something I’ve never experienced before). I was switched to water in my bottles and handed two. One for pouring over myself and one for drinking to cool my body down.
Junior riders pushing up a hill on their way out to the track to support us riders.
We carried on pushing into the afternoon. The views over the coast were spectacular. I remember down in one of the bays a few hundred meters below the track lay some yachts and boats with people enjoying fishing and swimming in the beautiful Mediterranean Ocean. The water looked so inviting. I could hear the waves washing against the rocks far below and would love nothing more than a quick dip into the beautiful turquoise coloured waters below. It wasn’t long after thinking all about swimming that I caught the first of the other U23 kiwis. Cameron was feeling good around 2pm when I rode past him. We had a chat and exchanged a few jokes before I set off once again. At this point to my knowledge I was in 2nd with only Thomas Wood in front of me. However, I knew Jordan was hot on my heels.
Within the next lap or two I caught Thomas. Once again exchanged a few jokes before pushing on. I checked with Chris and Tony to confirm I was in 1st place. The word was yes. I now had my sights set on a top 10 placing in the overall. I didn’t however push myself too hard as I knew I had a long way to go. I was comfortable with the gap back to Jordan and my brain began to relax. That seemed to play out just like last year I thought. I thought to take it easy for until midnight and then push myself on in the early hours of the morning.
Lights on at around 7pm. The pit crew is put to work. James and Tony look after the bike. Chris feeds me, and the old man David behind the lens.
I continued to circulate matching my lap times together and focusing on heart rate zones along with cadence parameters. I continued to struggle with consuming food as the temperature continued to rise into the late afternoon. I consumed water with the odd gel. I needed carbohydrates, and was starting to worry both myself and my crew that I wasn’t getting enough. What was to happen next however would change everything.
Part Four: Through the gates of hell
“What position am I in overall?” I curiously called out to Tony as I rolled past our pit site. “Second position” he replied. What? How can I be in second overall? I’m way further down than that. Top 40 was my prediction and Tony was telling me I was second. My mind whizzed around as I tried to make sense of what was happening. Then it all clicked. Was I second in U23? I rolled through the pits further until I came across Chris who was waiting to receive my bottle. He confirmed that I was indeed in second place in U23. This can’t be happening! Why hadn’t they told me earlier (I was about 8 hours into the race at this stage). Who was he? When did he pass me? What did he look like? Where was his pit crew? All these questions and more shot through my head. My heart sank. My head was confused. My body felt dead, empty, useless, worthless. Chris told me the gap was around 5 minutes.
Throughout that next lap a lot went through my head and I came out thinking that all I had to do was chase him down. When I rolled through the pits the next lap I was told the gap was in fact 15 minutes. This really got into my head. I was second guessing everything. I still didn’t know who I was chasing and I knew the gap couldn’t extend by 10 minutes in one lap. What was happening? Then I felt a sense of betrayal. Why are Chris and Tony changing the information they’re giving me? First, I’m leading, then I’m in second by 5 minutes and then one lap later I was 15 minutes down (almost half a lap at this point of the race).
Later after the race I would learn that with the lack of internet connection and reception along with lack of results being posted that no one had results until around 8 hours in unless you were keeping notes on the opposition from lap one (which we weren’t with over 400 competitors). I panicked, all I wanted to do, all I needed to do is close that gap down, and close it down fast. I wanted to have him by midnight. This gave me 4 hours to close down 15 minutes. That means I had to be 2 or 3 minutes faster than him per lap until midnight. This allowed for him to attack and me to catch and have a battle for the remaining 10 or so hours. I began to close it down. 2 minutes a lap. It dropped to 13, then 11 and even as low as 9 at one point. He knew I was attacking and began to push back himself. It was at this stage I entered the gates of hell.
A little snippet of what the course looks like at night time filmed as Tony chases me down the trail on a practice lap earlier in the week.
Part Five: Dancing with demons
The steep challenging climb was described by Madeline Bemis as ‘Hell’. Although it was tough I felt that this next stage of the race was hell for me. I had entered the gates and now began to see demons from deep inside me arise to surface. Carwyn had now responded to my pace rise and we were trading lap times, giving and taking 30 seconds or a minute each lap as we rode into the sunset. This was until just over 13 hours into the race when I was picking my way down a rocky decent when I heard a bang. Following this there was a siss, siss, siss. I knew straight away that I’d punctured and was begging for the Squirt sealant to plug the hole so I could limp my way to somewhere with a pump. The tyre took a massive gash about the size of a fingernail. Sure, enough it was plugged and with about 7 psi left in the tyre I made my way around the next few hundred meters. I was sure to jump off and run through the big rock sections and pick tidy smooth lines for the rest of the time. I found a pump and got just enough air into the tyre to get me down the final decent to the pits. I switched my Top Fuel out for the Procaliber and set out again. Still hungry, still driven and still fast.
The next lap was steady but fast enough not to lose too much time. Mentally I was in a sound state. I made my way down the decent that I played victim to on the previous lap. I didn’t think to take a different line. I paid for it. Again, I received a flatty. Again, the Squirt sealant stepped up to the occasion. Again, with about 7 psi I limped around to the same tent for air and then back to the pits to switch bikes. I thought to myself that this wasn’t going to define me. This was just a challenge I had been thrown and I would work through it.
In terms of the punctures themselves they were entirely my fault. I was lazy, sitting down heavy on the bike. I had thick tyres on and both times the tyre was pierced through the roof in exactly the same spot. The sealant really saved me and allowed me to save some time getting back to the pits.
I set out for my next lap at the 11-hour mark. Lap number 19. I wasn’t at all rattled by the punctures. I knew I was still on track to bringing the gap back with small margins at a time but I also knew the gap was over 20 minutes now. I would have to execute the best 13 hours remaining I could. I felt pressure on my shoulders. I hadn’t come all this was to come second. I was so focused on doing the job right that nothing else mattered to me at this stage. I started the lap in a good place physiologically, but that was all about to change.
With the number of punctures riders were experiencing being so high the sides of the course began to full up with old tubes. People were changing their tubes out and leaving them on the side of the track. With the beam of light in front of me covering only a small section of trail I couldn’t see what else was around me. In the corner of my eye I was see these long thin black shadows. SNAKES! I would screech to myself. This didn’t happen once or twice but more than five times in that lap. From here it only got worse. The second 5km of that 19th lap would really get to me. The heat had punished me throughout the day and now it was time to pay. For the first time in my life I began hallucinating. It started with the big roots but within minutes I was perceiving every root to be a snake or some other form of wild creature. I took different lines, I lost balance on the bike, I struggled to keep on the trail. My mind was going insane.
It continued onwards. I wasn’t enjoying myself at all. I was in complete terror and shock. Why was this happening? What can I do about it? I tried a few mental mind tricks to get my mind to another place. But as I climbed up the techy climb around three quarters of the way around the track I deteriorated further. I became fearful of the rocks on course. The thoughts going through my head is what monster lives behind there, when is going to jump out at me, what will happen to me? Although the rocks were no smaller than a fist or no larger than a rugby ball I was still beside myself at what lay behind. Although my spiritual beliefs fall under no religion or category (if you can call it that) I still felt I needed help from someone or someplace else. I sent out a ‘wish’ for the strength to make it to the finish and execute a race that I would be proud of. Too little to late I guess. With my stomach aching all afternoon, the warmest temperatures I’d ever ridden in, the dust slowly fulling my lungs all afternoon and now the hallucinating ordeal along with losing balance on the bike I began to give up hope. Other thoughts going through my head included letting both tyres down or curling up on the side of the track until the sun came up.
It is rare to see a DNF next to my name in any race. It took lap 19 for my mind to switch polar opposite. I rolled into the pits. Stepped off the bike. Walked straight behind the campervan and demanded a ‘chat’ with Chris and Tony. After a short time and a few questions raised by Chris and Tony, I had given up. Helmet was off, shoes and socks came off. Into the camper to sleep it out until the morning. It was at this point I filmed the video below. It was so tough for me. But I honestly didn’t feel safe out there. Even looking back now if I were to be in that situation again I would still have a sleep but just make it shorter, get back on my bike and go again. But the situation I was in I just wanted the whole thing to just go away. FOREVER! I was done.
A look into my state of mind during the race when I ‘gave up’. I was fulled with terror and uncertainty.
Part Six: Midnight sunlight
I woke up after about 30 minutes sleep. I felt depressed, empty and pretty upset. I was in the middle of a nightmare and I couldn’t escape it. This was the new reality. I was awake for less than five minutes when Madeline rolled into her pit booth next to mine. I arose from the camper to go witness her condition. She was struggling. When I saw how she was feeling a spark was ignited. I was weak enough to stop. I wouldn’t let her do the same. I was already regretting the decision I forced myself into making an hour earlier. Chris and Tony were nowhere to be seen. I put my same socks back on, my achy feet were slipped back into my shoes. I strapped my helmet on and began rummaging through the riding gear for a light and battery. I didn’t give her a choice. Jumped on my bike and we rolled out for another lap, she was coming with me. It didn’t take long for me to realise that I didn’t have a stomach ache anymore. I was able to focus on riding, where I could position the bike. It was awesome just having an English conversation with someone. I gained strength in myself by encouraging her to go on.
The tent which had the small pump inside for me to pump enough air to get back to the pits.
After a few hour long laps. I got the news that I was still in third place. (I only lost about a lap and a half from stopping) The heat had got to so many people. The track had cleared out. Of the 400 people that started it was said that only around 40 were still circulating. A lot of people, myself included had under estimated how much the sun was going to take a toll on our bodies. The techy sections of course along with the ruthless climbs tore the legs off so many people. The dust was like a thick smoke that had fill our lungs all day. So many riders had become victim of the Italian climate and geography.
I continued to ride with Madeline until we both agreed she needed a rest off the bike with her deteriorating state. At around 3:30am I was lapped by Jason English. Jason the seven times World 24 Hour Champion was hurting. Cory was already more than a lap up on Jase and Jason like so many others was also struggling. After about a 10-minute discussion with the best endurance mountain biker in history I learnt a very valuable lesson. Everyone his human. I rode away and set out in search of Jordan Butler who was currently holding down 2nd place. Between 4am and 8am I was consistently one of the fastest riders on track. I pushed myself on and on.
Part Seven: What was I doing?
I found myself picking my way through the field like each rider was just an obstacle I needed to avoid. Jumping up the timing charts I was fast closing in on Jordan. I un lapped myself time and time again. I was riding like I never had before. I don’t really remember what I was feeling other than focus. By the time the sun came up at around 6:30am I passed Jordan and set out for Carwyn in first place. I was chasing the fairy tale ending, and closing in fast. I passed him twice in a few hours. “I could actually do this” I thought to myself. “I can still win”. At 8:30 I was told I only had to pass him one more time. We knew it would be close and I would need to race right until the very end. I was sure to execute all my lines to perfection. Make as much time where I could and places where I couldn’t make time I aimed to save energy. With the sunrise so came a lot of riders re-joining the race circuit.
The sunrises over Finale Ligure with a little rain.
At about 9:30am I got the news that the calculations were wrong and I was still a lap behind. This meant all he had to do was cross the line one more time and the victory would be his. I refused to believe it though. I told myself they were wrong. I continued to dig deep pushing my limits further and for longer. I commenced my final lap and set out to pass him one more time. I never wanted anything more than to see his orange and black riding jersey in the distance. Something I hadn’t seen for the last few hours but would look for him around every corner I turned. I knew if I could spot him no matter how far away I would be able to catch him. I rode the whole last lap but never got a glimpse of Carwyn. Too little, too late I guess.
Me pushing on in the morning. Lights still on I was so focused I didn’t turn them off.
Part Eight: Just a Kiwi boy
At 10:25am on the 3rd of June 2017 I crossed the finish line in second place. With 320km ridden and 11,000m of elevation I was happy to be finished but in no way at all happy with my performance. Since the race I have been able to look back on what happened throughout the ‘nightmare’ and pick out many positive points and points that need improving. I am proud of what I was able to accomplish in the early hours of Saturday morning when throwing myself back into the saddle and am already planning how I can improve for next time.
I’m 19 and I realise that I have a long path ahead of me in both the sport of 24-hour racing and other off-road endurance events. I endeavour to continue endurance racing and I look forward to making another appearance in Europe and haven’t ruled trips to North America off the list. For the first time in my life I have experienced an addiction. (No Granny, I’m not into drugs.) I am truly addicted to endurance racing, forever chasing that perfect race.
Me enjoying the descent early Saturday morning near where I picked up the punctures.
The small town Noli in the background lies on the coast.
I would like to congratulate Carwyn on well-executed race tactic and the strength of his ride that took him to the World Title. Also, well done to Jordan Butler on a steady race which took him to the bronze medal. I look forward to racing both lads again in the future. Kudos to Steve Day, Cory Wallace, Jason English for some excellent riding and giving me a fair bit of inspiration here and there now and then to push on.
Well done to John White, Leone Smith, Tim Caughley, Ronel Cook and of course Nicola Kirkham who each made the journey to Italy to represent NZL proud with some awesome riding and came home with a stack of medals and even a jersey for Ronel! Of course, the two other U23 kiwi lads Thomas Wood and Cameron Kerr for the quality banter and smack talk, awesome effort on the race too guys, it truly was tough out there.
Carwyn, Jordan and I on the podium.
2016 U23 World Champion Madeline Bemis who continues to inspire me to push the limits. She’s the toughest 18-year-old I’ve ever met and I am so proud of her effort this year riding to a 9th placing in Elite this year.
A big shout out to Mum and Dad for their ongoing support along with Lachlan (backup) Haycock and the rest of the family both in New Zealand and across the world. Thank you to all my friends and supporters. Knowing that I have the best support is inspiring for me to keep doing what I love.
Special shout out to James, Hayden, Marj, Laura, Jo and the old man for rolling up as my no.1 fan club. Garth Weinberg has been a top mentor for the last 2 years to help mold me into the rider I am today and I can’t thank him enough.
James and I the day before the race start.
Of course, there would be zero chance of me doing what I do without the team right there to fall back and catch me. Chris Willett and Tony Jump traveled across the planet to make sure I had the best possible shot at winning and I couldn’t have asked for a better pit crew!
Chris, Tony and I out for a ride in Andermatt, Switzerland just over a week prior to the race.
Finally, my awesome partners and sponsors who have supported on the pathway to Italy 2017.
Contract Mechanical Services.
Cycle Obsession Mount Maunganui
Tauranga City Sunrise Lions Club
Stainless NZ Ltd
Trek Bikes NZ
Brand Display NZ
Nduro Events NZ
Little Rocket NZ
Champion Systems NZ
Squirt New Zealand
Port of Tauranga
Trevelyan’s Pack and Cool
Ride 100% NZ
Gu Energy NZ
Can’t stop, won’t stop, never stop.
I may just be a 19-year-old kiwi boy. But I cannot wait to show the world how high kiwis can soar.
Thought I’d move mountains just by showing up, then I realised that I had to pick the shovel up. – David Dallas
After planning to enter National Single Speed Championships for a workout and a half on the weekend of the 22nd I found myself without a ride to Wellington. Instead I settled for a 12 Solo at Moonride Rotorua. Since Xterra a few weeks earlier I was hitting the kilometers hard. With a few 100km plus rides in the past couple of weeks and one 200km effort the legs were prepared for the pain they were about to suffer as I lined up for Moonride. Infact the mind was too. The 12 solo race fell on Saturday the 22nd of April 2017. 2 days prior on Thursday the 20th I had a plan to ride the night away on a 7km steep lap that resembled the 2017 WEMBO course.
So lets start the story there. Thursday evening around 7:30 I was joined by Sam Lord and we departed Tauranga for the hour long car ride to Rotorua for the 9 hour night ride. With no naps or extra sleep leading into the training ride I had thrown myself in the deep end. For those reading this that are close to me this will come as no surprise. We stopped in at a supermarket on the way to get some lollies and chocolate milk for recovery early tomorrow morning. By the time the clock ticked over 8:45 we’d hit the forest and were gearing up to ride.
It was a chilly autumn evening but both Sam and I were eager to hit the trails. I’d planned out what to eat and drink prior to leaving Tauranga and had it all sorted into plastic bags. So every hour I would finish the lap. Tear open a bag, grab out the contents stash the plastic bag inside my gear bag and continue on. The idea of riding 9 hours was because at WEMBO 2017 there will be only 9 hours of darkness as it’ll be summer in Italy. The temperature I Rotorua that evening however wouldn’t reflect Finale Ligure’s temperature. All night it averaged 3 degrees Celsius. The min got down to 1 degree. No wonder I couldn’t feel my feet the whole time! Anyway, the first 4 or so hours I was joined by Sam but by the time we got into early Friday morning Sam had had enough and disappeared off to the car to sleep.
I battled on on my own. Thankfully I had my headphones and with over 2000 songs on my Spotify I was able to party all night until the sun came up. I chucked on some Asher Roth for the first couple of hours and then felt it was more of a Kings of Leon evening. After I zoned in with my beat blasting in my ears and Samuel sound asleep the lap times began to decrease. In the first half I averaged 13.4 kph but by the time the sun had come up my average was up to 15kph. Oh and that is a pretty sweet feeling when the sun finally does arise in the morning. I rolled back to the car at 6:30am with high spirits, cold toes and deep down I knew I had just accomplished something pretty cool for an 18 year old. With over 130km and almost 4000m climbing I was thrilled.
After driving home on Friday morning I don’t remember much more. I slept the majority of the day but must have gotten up and cleaned my bike at some stage because my Trek Top Fuel was sparkling on Saturday morning, my Squirt Bio bike bottle was a little more empty. Also I had loaded both the Top Fuel and Procaliber onto the car. (I do sleep walk sometimes hence why I’m not surprised about all this).
When the sun rose on Saturday morning it looked to a be a crystal clear day. And it did indeed stay that way. After travelling back through to Rotorua, registering and setting up my pit tent I was on the start line before I knew it. I was surrounded by familiar faces. Cosmo, Jan, Bevan, Lewis, Bradly and Brendon all around me. It was 5 minutes to race start. So 9:55am. I had decided to wear the GoPro on my chest for the first lap and give a running commentary of the course. 10:00am rolled around as the pack of riders rolled off the start line. In endurance races I like to initially roll off the line and into the first single track as the first rider in my category and then I can count how many riders pass me, and I will know what they look like. I did this successfully and by the time I rolled out of the second trail (of five) they first 12 solos started to roll through. The Top Fuel had been dialled in thanks to Cycle Obsession Mount Maunganui and made my job a lot easier.
Photo: Anna Haycock
I found Hugh riding at my side. (Using me to set a steady pace for him to work with). Two solo rider rode ahead, one of which I would learn to be Tim Caughley and the other I never spoke to but ended up crashing out on lap two. I continued on the first few laps of the 8.5km course with Mum in the pits feeding me before my coach rolled up at 1pm to take over pit crew duties. I found myself with Nic Adams, Hugh Bootten and Tim Caughley working hard 5 or 10 minutes ahead. I made sure that he didn’t gain too much of an advantage. Gu fuelled my engine as I could dictate gaps to other riders as I pleased impacting on how the race would play out later.
Photo: Anna Haycock
4 and a half hours in I found myself with a gap on both Nic and Hugh. I decided not to wait and they could catch me if they really wanted. Not sure why they didn’t but I opened a gap on the two of them. Then 5 and a half hours in I came across Tim at the top of Lions Tail around halfway around the lap. I kept my consistent pace and continued plodding away. At this point my wrists would start to ache, but with the killer combo of Bontrager Evoke grips and Ride 100% I-Track gloves they were comfy as could be. Before I knew it the course had cleared out of 6 hour soloists and teams and it was just the twelvies left. This meant it was 4pm.
Photo: Anna Haycock
With a quick stop to reapply some Squirt Barrier Balm and chow down some pasta I continued on my way. I was sitting in the top spot at the half way point and had 3 experienced endurance riders less than half a lap behind. I had raced all 3 before but didn’t know much about them. They knew me well on the other hand. I pushed on. My Ride 100% Speedcraft glasses kept my eyes shielded from the setting sun so I could focus on the job at hand.
It was at this point that most riders begin to drop off. They see the sun disappearing and so does their morale. I just kept on going. Lap times didn’t flinch. Perhaps my Bontrager Dropline dropper seatpost kept my body rested on the decents so I had so much energy now in the second half of the race. I rode as long as I could before putting lights on as that little extra weight on your head can easily play mind games in your head. I rolled through the pits with a strong showing of supporters. I didn’t get to see everyone there but I did spot some of my academy riders and parents along with Tim from Nduro Events and Belinda from Brand Display NZ. Two of my awesome sponsors had come out to cheer me on. Awesome!
Perimeter Coaching top dog Chris Willett was working his magic in the pit tent and ensured a smooth transition into night riding mode. Applying some Squirt long lasting dry lube to my Trek Top Fuel and feeding me the Gu Nutrition goods along with other little secrets I was refreshed, warm and ready to hit some of the fastest lap times of the day… In the dark! My Camelbak Podium bottles kept me hydrated all day into the night and worked a treat with the ease of use Jet Valve.
Photo: Anna Haycock
I rolled out at 6pm. 4 hours to go. No problem at all. I whacked on my arm warmers and 100% brisker gloves as I rode around the next lap. I flicked my Ay Up lights on a little later and then challenged myself to apply Squirt Barrier Balm as I rode. I actually succeed in applying the chamois cream and now have another trick up my sleeve for the World Championships in a months time. Not a lot happened in the next few laps other than my legs started hurting and I lapped 3rd and 4th a couple of times and even managed to lap Nic who was in 2nd.
I was still so comfortable with my brand spanking new Champion Systems Racing kit. I couldn’t fault the performance kit all day long. Gu kept me fuelled into the last few laps. After 9pm I laid down my fastest lap of the day and then continued on to complete and extra lap after the clock finished. I called it my warm down lap. After I rolled over the line at 10:30 I had completed 27 laps. 230km and a fair few meters climbing. Pretty good day in the saddle. After a few wheelies and stoppies to celebrate I rolled up to prize giving, received my medal and $20 pizza voucher. Packed up in the cold and then jumped in the car and went home. Job done!
Tristan Haycock 1st
Nic Adams 2nd
Hugh Boottem 3rd
This won’t be the last big ride before leaving on the 23rd of May. But it will however be the last big race. #eyesfowarddigdeepstaypinned #restwhenyouredead
After focusing on strength, nutrition and flexibility for the last few months it was my first opportunity to try out a fresh set of legs along with new tactics, brand new Trek Top Fuel and a new approach to this race. Leading into the build up to a big race like WEMBO I like to trial lots of different ideas around race preparation and set up so when it comes to World Championships I could perform at my best. Xterra Mountainbike was the perfect opportunity to do this. The race was based at the Blue Lake in Rotorua. It was one 26km lap that needed completing and I estimated my race time to be between 1:15:00 and 1:20:00.
(The Startline from my point of view)
I snatched a front row grid position and when the starting hooter went off I was out of the gate like a rocket. This was my first opportunity to try out some new kit also. I had sweet set of Ride 100% Speedcraft glasses, along with a rad set of Ride 100% I-Track gloves, a smart Camelbak Podium bottle and of course my brand new Trek Top Fuel. Not to mention it was my last race in my World Championship winning Brand Display race kit from Champion Systems before my freshly designed kit rocks up mid April.
(Hammering out of the gate for the holeshot)
I hit the first corner in the lead with Karl Poole on my rear wheel and Taylor Johnston behind him. The three of us hit the first single track and began to wined our was along the lake side and then climb up into the forest. The three of us soon skipped away and formed our own group. We worked together on the road sections and by the time we reached the other side of the forest and began descending ‘Jeff’s Link’ trail we were attacking each other. I took the lead down the first descent and thanks to the Bontrager Dropline seat post I began opening a gap on the two hard tails chasing behind me. It took them until the top of the next climb to catch back up. At which point I was refreshed and attacking again. The Ride 100% Speed Craft glasses kept my eyes sheltered from the suns rays piercing through the trees.
I continued to attack as the three of us reach Taura. I once again could drop my seat post and work my way through the technical high speed trail and was able to open out a gap big enough to work with. By the time we reached the other end of the trail I was 20 seconds up on Karl and Taylor in 2nd and 3rd. I continued to push on. My crisp drive chain worked superb thanks to Squirt’s Long Lasting Dry Lube. I was able to lay the watts through the cranks as I continued to open the gap as I climbed up to ‘Pondy New’. I knew I had to just skip out of sight to stand a chance of keeping away from the two chasers.
(Passing Taylor and Karl as I begin my first attack)
As I worked my way through ‘Pondy New’ onto ‘Rollercoaster’ I kept myself hydrated with my Camelbak Podium bottle win the secret race fuel inside. Let’s just say that Gu had the goods in the bottle which allowed me to push on deeper and deeper into the red zone. I popped out onto a gravel 4WD track and then before I knew it I had hit ‘Sweet n Sour’. This bumpy, rooty trail was no match for the Fox factory 32 stepcast front suspension combined with Treks G2 geometry and the RE:activ rear shock. I pushed on and was able to maintain the gap through the tight rough single track. All while in comfort with my Champion Systems chamois working as great as always with Squirt Barrier Balm.
(Suns out. Starting to warm the crisp morning air.)
By the time I reached the end of the trail the 20 minute monster climb awaited. I knew that this was the make or break time of the race. I had to hold a charging Taylor Johnston off for the next 20 minutes while I worked my way up the mountainside. Then descend to the finish. I began chipping away at the bottom of ‘Direct Road’. I knew that the only way to win this is reach the top of the climb with nothing left in the tank.
(Bagpipes and hecklers helping me to the top of the climb)
I pushed and I pushed. By the time I reached the half way plateau I was suffering. I clicked up a few cogs and pushed on. #restwhenyouredead was the motto going through my head. I caught a glimpse of Taylor a few hundred meters back. I was determined to reach the top of the climb first. I wanted, I needed this more than Taylor did. By the time I reached the final section of the climb ‘frontal lobotomy’ (named for a good reason) my upper body was collapsing. I had worked so hard. I was giving everything I had to climbing the mountain. Finally, I reached the top of the climb. My legs, my lungs were all burning. I could barely hold myself upright on my bike.
(Crossing the finishline!)
I began to work my way down the high speed ‘Eagle VS Shark’ trail. I was broken. I tried my best to regain energy and strength. I sat down for the first section but soon stood up and began to look for any time I could in every corner and jump. The Top Fuel with the Bontrager Evoke grips and Ride 100% I-Track gloves ate up the breaking bumps like they were nothing. I popped out into the sunshine at the bottom of the trail and could smell the fuel of the lead moto not far ahead. I worked my way down the tight wet techy ‘Feeder Trail’ to the event village. I crossed the finish line with more than a minute to second place and a time of 1:16:40. I was ruined.
After some chocolate milk and restocking with some carbs and protein I was fine. Next up I am looking to head away to either National Single Speed Championships in Wellington or alternatively a 12 Solo at Moonride. Just over a month until we the team leaves for Europe. I am ready!
2 weeks after the Rotorua 8 I was still not back to full strength. The Helibike Rotorua 8 really drained me. With almost no riding for the previous week leading into the Tokoroa Summer Cup I was going in weak, low confidence and I had lost the edge of my fitness. Not to worry though. My Coach Chris Willet and I had planned for this to happen as the ‘pushing boundaries’ exercise prior to Italy to establish some limits. Now that the Rotorua 8 was over my goal was to recover and get back to full strength for the Moonride on the 11th of March.
(Top) Gun goes off. Bang! The race is off!
(Left) Me riding passed James to claim the lead before heading into the forest.
(Right) James Taking holeshot leading the race around the first few corners.
I lined up on the front row alongside two of my best mates. James Kirkham had made the voyage down from Auckland and found the time in his busy schedule in between National XCO Championships and Oceania Continental XCO Championships to race the Camelbak Summer Cup. Ben Mcleod lined up next to my other wheel so some quality start line banter and smack talk was taking place in the minutes leading up to the start. Other big names to feature on the start grid included multisport legend Sam Osborne, XCO hitter Taylor Johnston and younger brother Conner along with a few roadies from across the North Island. The 36km race awaited us. BANG! The gun went and more than 50 riders were gunning for the hole shot. James snuck through on the inside of me to grab the honours with me in 2nd as we rolled around the first few turns.
30 seconds later I was leading the pack out over the bridge into Cougar Park. Within the next few minutes Sam Osborne worked his way to the front and began to lay down a strong pace. Before we reached the top of the first (of two) climbs for lap one (of three) laps a lead group of five riders had developed. Sam was still leading and now Taylor was hot on his heels with James and Karl following with me on the back in fifth. I however couldn’t hold the pace. My back wasn’t playing ball today and I had no choice but to drop. My back was in agony and my body wasn’t feeling the love. I pushed and pushed and by the time I reached the top of the first climb on lap two I had caught James and Karl but within the next few minutes a lapse of concentration caused me to washout on a pine cone and I hit the deck. As I stood up and remounted my bike I struggled on. Now James and Karl had already skipped out of my sight and I didn’t believe I could catch them again. My break leaver and suspension remote had been bent and twisted around and I struggled to use either.
(Top) Taylor, James, Karl and I chase down Sam on lap 1.
(Bottom) The lead group of 5 riders forms.
After a bit of frustrated hitting and whacking I bent both around to line back up (enough to carry on with) and continued to push on to salvage my fifth spot. It wasn’t to be however as Neil Martin and Connor Johnston reeled me in like a fish hooked on a line and before I knew it I had been spat out the back and now in seventh. With the goal for the race being top 5 and now I was slipping away from both fifth and sixth place I wasn’t having a very good day. I continued trying to keep momentum going forward and my mind focused. Just minutes after being pushed back to seventh place one of my bottle cages had wiggled itself loose and now I had a mighty racket to carry round for the last lap and a half.
(Top) Lap 2, I am in contact with James (3rd place getter)
(Bottom) Loss of concerntration cause me to wash out and crash on a pine cone.
I continued and found myself entering a dark dark headspace. Mentally that third quarter of that raced was very tough. I was back much further than I would have liked to be and the time gaps to the riders in front were increasing. Why couldn’t the race be over already? I went out on my final lap with one of the countries best riders (in his day) Brad Jones hunting me down. I took my body to the limits but continued to make mistakes costing me more time than I was making. Eventually at the half way point of lap three Brad caught my wheel and sat behind me all the way down to the finish area. By now my back was so tight I found it easier to sit down on the descents losing more time but fortunately Brad was in no rush and patiently sat behind me. It came down to a 1v1 sprint for the last few hundred meters.
Photo Credit: BW Media Photography
(Top) Me in the hurt box desprately wanting to reach the finish.
(Bottom) Me tired but struggling on.
I managed to hold Brad off for a seventh position in a race where I hindsight I was capable of coming second if my day had gone right. It was a tough pill to swallow but I got it down and got over the downright awful day. Congratulations to Sam Osborne for winning, Taylor Johnston for snapping up second and James Kirkham for rounding off the podium. Moonride 12 Solo was meant to be the next big event but unfortunately has been postponed until the 22nd of April which is the same weekend as National Single Speed Championships. So decisions will have to be made around which event do I do. With less than three months until we leave for Italy I have some series work to do in order to keep up with the European boys come race day on June 2nd 2017 in Italy.