Pre Italy Departure Review

What am I doing here?

15 months after Rotorua 2016 I find myself sitting on an aeroplane next to my coach Chris Willett and mechanic Tony Jump. Where could I possibly be going. None other than the beautiful Finale Ligure. The 2017 World Endurance Mountainbike Championships is beckoning.

When I crossed the finish line in Rotorua as I earned an U23 world title Italy 2017 crossed my mind but I never saw it as a realistic goal. I hadn’t travelled overseas since around 10 years old. The cost to not only get myself there but someone to support me would be immense. I found it very daunting. When I completed my 21st and final lap in 2016 I was relieved, but I was still hungry for more.
Within the first few minutes of sitting down at the conclusion of the race I was asked about defending my new World Title. I was in no state to think clearly. All I wanted to do is have a shower and get some sleep. My answer was ‘I guess you’ll have to wait and see’. Rotorua didn’t put me off 24-hour racing at all. I love the race format, I love the people, I love the atmosphere, I love pushing the limits, I love riding my bike.
I met with Chris not long after the race and we discussed the possibility of travelling to the other side of the globe with enough support, training and experience to go back for round two. Before I knew it here I am. But believe me I have had anything but a smooth run in to this campaign.

March – June 2016.

What better place to start then the beginning? After I crossed the finish at 11:22 am on the 21st of February 2016 I don’t remember much. I remember that I had the most painful stiff shower of my life. Not only were my legs seized but my upper body was too from the consistent jarring. I remember waking up early in the evening back at the cabin at the Rotorua Holiday Park to get ready for prize giving. I remember not being able to hold a pen to write my speech for the awards ceremony. It was an awesome feeling walking into prize giving, looking around and knowing that every single competitor in the room with you shared the same experience and from now on I will have a connection with each one of them. I felt like I was a part of something big.
As the prize giving worked its way through the categories the U23 females came up. Madeline Bemis springed her way up to the stage and without hesitation gave one of the best speeches I’d ever heard from a 17 year old. Next up was the U23 men. 3rd place Ryan Hunt, 2nd Place Jorden Butler and in 1st place Tristan Haycock. I made my way up to the stage confident I could deliver a satisfactory speech. Once I turned around to see a room full of hundreds of people including some of my heroes, supporters, sponsors, friends and family I stumbled my way through the questions from the MC. Let’s just say if I take a step of the podium in 2017 I will be better than before.
For the week after the race I had all of my bikes confiscated. Chris took care of them and I wouldn’t get them back for a week. I wasn’t too worried as I had to wait for swelling from the race to go down (The human body loves to pedal for that long so much so that it goes all puffy). I don’t remember much of Monday except rocking up to a club night to show everyone my medal and brand spanking new rainbow jersey. Two weeks after Rotorua I found myself at North Island Secondary School Championships. I knew it was unrealistic expecting myself to win the XC race so instead I decided to target winning the U20 overall best rider by attaining points from the XC, DH and TT races. I did so successfully and was crown the U20 champion.
The next week I found myself battling it out at Cadrona Ski field and National XCO Championships. I rolled home in 6th. (I was pretty happy with the result as it wasn’t even a month after World 24 hour Champs). The following weekend was Oceania XCO and XCE Championships in Queenstown. I snapped up at bronzed in the Elite Men’s category of the XCE and an 11th place in U19 for XCO.
After this I found myself getting back into a routine at my final year attending Tauranga Boys’ College. Not a lot of training was taking place as I was enjoying having a break from the race. However, I relied on my base fitness to carry me through each and every race I completed in the next few months. Results from this time include; 4th at Xterra Mountainbike 1st in 6 hour Solo at Moonride, 5th at T42. Finally, a 3rd placing at Craters Classic. From here my base ran out and performance began to decrease.
Meanwhile off the bike with the guidance of Mum I began to seek support for Italy 2017 from companies around the country. Shout out to those first on board around this time. Nduro Events and Brand Display New Zealand didn’t hesitate to support me again along with Squirt New Zealand joining them. Trevelyan’s and the Port of Tauranga provided financial assistance. Another New Zealand Company Contract Mechanical Services came on board as my primary financial partner. Without this team it would be highly unlikely for me to be sitting on this plane right now.

July – September 2016

These were for sure the 3 hardest months of the year for me in 2016 from both a mental and physical viewpoint. I struggled to rebuild strength, fitness and moral. These are also the coldest months of the year in New Zealand. I struggled to complete long rides and left multiple gaps in training peaks. To be honest I wasn’t 100% sure that Italy was still realistic. I doubted myself. Races over this time didn’t go great and although I didn’t become ill I still struggled to give all I had. I was having issues with bike setup and began to second guess a lot. I kept myself occupied over these chilly months with the odd race, and trips to Mount Ruapehu for skiing and snow bike missions.

October 2016 – February 2017

October rolled around and as the country began to warm up I found myself on a plane to Dunedin for National Secondary School Championships. I aimed to attain the National Overall U20 crown by gaining the maximum points from the XC, DH and Super D race. I had one of my best mates James Kirkham join me. His target was to win the XC. I worked for James in the first half of the race setting him up to ride away from the field to take the national title. Meanwhile I blew out half way through the race and rolled home 4th. The Super D (One stage enduro race) was going great. I was on a stunner of a run. Unfortunately, I was going too fast. Missed a corner and lost around 10 seconds trying to get back on track. This punished me as I finished top 5 but only 3 seconds off the leader. The DH couldn’t have gone much better. Kris from Cycle Obsession sorted me an enduro bike for the DH and I made my way to the bottom in one piece with a decent enough time to put some of the DH specific guys in their place. However, it was not to be my weekend as the mistake made in the Super D cost me the win. On the positive side I still had a grin ear to ear as I was loving being back on the bike again.
Later in October I lined up at Whaka 100. A 100km race through the forest in Rotorua. Within the first few kilometres I found myself in the lead group along with riders such as Samuel Gaze, Jason English and Edwin Crossling. I hung on as long as I could be as I had just begun my build toward Italy in June my climbing legs struggled to keep the pace. I rolled home top 5 five hours later.
The following week I rode a strong 12 hour solo at Day night thriller to take the open men win and was my first true gauge on how much work needed to be done over the next 7 or so months. I continued to gain support and signed a deal with Trek Bikes New Zealand attained an ambassador role. Little Rocket had set this amazing website up for me and began to process logos for my racing kit. Camelbak New Zealand supported me with product so I was able to begin some long training rides and sufficiently hydrate myself to get the most I can out over each session.

Also over this time I worked closely with both Perimeter Coaching and Mountainbike Tauranga to create the Mountainbike Tauranga Youth Academy. I have been the head coach of over 25 different riders from 10 to 16 years old. I find it so rewarding to develop these kids into young athletes. I am keen to take up a career in coaching so this is the perfect place to start. I feel that I’m not doing too bad a job either. With multiple Regional and National Champions, I couldn’t ask for much over a better start. They youngsters are getting so fast they’re able to come within contact with me at club racing.

Mid November I had my final day of high school, forever. Following the last day of class I had my final exam and then the next day the Huka XL. I finished 4th place in a talented field and was really finding some great form. Throughout testing over this time with Chris I was smashing previous numbers. I was getting fitter, stronger, smarter and faster. Over the Christmas New Year period I always do some of the biggest rides of the year. This included multiple 200km plus road rides and more than my fair share of 100km plus Mountainbike rides.

January and February included the Nduro Summer Cup which I wrapped up a 1st place in Open men and blow myself to shreds at the Nduro Rotorua 8. After really poor weather the 8-hour race was shortened to 5. I purposely had gone out riding a 3-hour place aiming to blow up and limp my way to the finish line for the remainder of the race. With the rain, I popped around 3 and a half hours and found that the race had been reduced to 5 hours. I took home $100 prize money and a gold medal on my brand-new Trek Top Fuel. Trek was now going over and above to support me.

After an article in the local paper the Tauranga City Sunrise Lions contributed a financial gift following a presentation speech about who am and what I’m doing. The Lions are truly some of the kindest people I have met. Along with Mountainbike Tauranga agreeing to hold a fundraising event for me Steel and Tube New Zealand partnered with me for 2017.
March was a tough a tough time. I worked through the bike set ups and found a love for using dropper posts. So, I now run them on both my hardtail and soft tail. I had some poor weather and struggled to fit quality training in. I worked through a few tough weeks and when the sun came out I found myself spewed out on the road after being struck by a car. Yes, one morning I went out training and a car turned in front of me. I hit the left hand rear door and was flung over the roof. Landed down onto the road very hard. (Yes, it is just like the movies). I picked myself up and scrambled off the road. Fortunately, nothing was broken. Well I was okay. But, after the impact the bike wasn’t so lucky.

After the accident, I was reluctant to ride on the road. My coach gave me a lot of mountain biking instead. I continued to plod away. Some big days in the saddle mixed in with some tough high intensity sessions. I worked my way through. Fortunately, over this time I started studying a ‘Bachelor of Sport and Recreation’ at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology. I am excited to be on the High-Performance Sports Scholarship for 2017. Since starting I have enjoyed learning about anatomy, nutrition and exercise prescription. In the second half of the year we get new subjects to study including coaching. I have settled into the class well with friends from all over the country and am thoroughly enjoying studying. I note down questions and what not from lectures and then go back to Chris Willett (Coach) and am able to apply new theories and ideas on the bike to make marginal performance gains.

April went great with a win in the Xterra Mountainbike and some solid training blocks completed. April was a balancing act working to maintain high concentration in the classroom and continue to improve my form on the bike. May has been exciting. Obviously reaching my performance peak for the race has been hard work. I had some final efforts to complete before boarding the plane on the 23rd. This included a Solo all night missions with over 100km completed and a lot of climbing in preparation for Italy. I rode the same loop for 9 hours in darkness. Feeding and pacing myself the whole time through zero degree temperatures that Rotorua had to throw at me. I rode Thursday night into Friday morning. I then went back home to Tauranga to sleep for the remainder of Friday. The very next day at 10am I found myself lined up for a 12-hour Solo at Moon ride 2017. I rolled home first a few laps ahead of my competitors at the end of the 12 hours. Sunday was again spent sleeping and recovering. Monday, I went into Toi Ohomai to study but caught an illness that I struggled to shake for 2 weeks.

A few days prior to departure for Europe I recovered from the illness but I had struggled to fit high intensity training in. I was very tired and nervous of what awaited. On the 20th of May, I waved good bye to the boys at Cycle Obsession and thanked them for all the support they’ve given me, packed my boxes up, fitted the Trek bikes inside and then before I knew it I was on my way to Auckland airport.
I’m not sure what to expect in Europe. I’m scared, excited, nervous but most of all thankful for the opportunity. I have the support of many awesome companies, individuals and people from around New Zealand. Without you all I wouldn’t be on this plane right now.

THANKYOU!

2017 Helibike Rotorua 8 Race Report

After a few days of rain the Mountainbike Tauranga club rolled up to Waipa Carpark for the Helibike Rotorua 8. The club had 12 solos and 3 teams which was a great turn out. The Junior Academy riders rocked up in strength also. The Tauranga team set up all together as the rain belted down. We grabbed a quick snap and then lined up on the start line.

The Tauranga Academy line up for a photo while everyone is still clean and dry.

Photo: Sam Somerfield

The start line was one row spread out across the field so everyone had a fair chance of getting to the first corner first. The 10 second call is made and then before I knew it more than 80 of us were sprinting to be first into the single track. Off the line, I wasn’t great. But by the time we had worked our way to the first trail (Rockdrop) I had wiggled my way to the front of the field and was in second behind the lead rider which was a team rider.

The race format had us riding an 8.3 KM loop as many times as we could in 8 hours. There were both solo riders and 2 to 3 person team riders. Along with this there was a 4 hour race which started with us at 12:30 and race the same loop until 4:30 where as we would carry on until 8:30. The teams could change riders each lap but us solos were in it alone until the end.

I followed along in second place for nearly all of lap one but once the two of us reached Rosebank the lead team rider made a mistake and I slipped through into first. I crossed the finish line completing my first lap in a time of 23 minutes 54 seconds. I knew this pace was far to fast to maintain for the race but still prior to the race my coach Chris Willet and I had planned to ‘push the envelope’. We need to establish some endurance boundaries so I know how hard I can push when it comes to WEMBO 2017.

On my way through rock drop on the opening through laps. At this stage the course was still dry.

(Photo: Allan Ure, Photos4sale)

I carried on battling with the two top 8 hour teams for first place overall for the next wee while. Then around 2 and a half hours in the rain really began to hammer Rotorua. Within minutes the course began to slow down. Corners lost grip and ruts began to form. The two leading teams an myself however  fought on. It was tough to eat, drink on the short technical course. I found that as the teams would put a new rider in for each lap they would sprint of f for the first half of the lap on the climbs and then I would pull back the lost time in the second half on the decent to the end of that lap.

One a mission! Photo: Allan Ure (Photos4sale)

Now 3 hours into the race the rain was well and truly here. Lap times from everyone was very slow. I found my lap times were in the low 30’s by this point but I was still on par with the top teams. The course had been so ripped up now all the riders were forced to run multiple climbs and it became scary on the descents. I rolled through the pits around 4 hours into the race. My shoes were full of mud which had turned hard creating new pressure points on the bottom of my feet. This became so painful I had to stop and do something about. 4 hours in I had my first break. I sat down for no more than 3 minutes. Ripped my shoes off, saturated my socks in water to rinse of the clumps of dirt. Filled my shoes with water and then banged my shoes back on my feet. It was also at this point I received the news that the race is going to be cut short to 5 hours because the course was nearly at the point of being unrideable and there for I only had time for 2 or 3 more laps. I grabbed some food and headed back into the damp forest. I was lapping some of the other top solo by this stage but because I had stopped I had lost contact with one of the lead teams. The other still sat behind me hunting me down.

Having so much fun in the rain! Photo: Mead Norton.

I planned to get 3 more laps in. All I had to do was cross the finish line before 5:30:00PM to go out for one final lap. This meant I needed to do two laps in under 60 minutes to fit the final lap in. I set out to achieve my new goal but it was tough. I dug myself so deep and buried myself so hard that it took me a week to recover. The rain was starting to eat away the track by now so much so that loads of teams and solos were pulling out. I found the course a challenge. I struggled to keep my momentum around the course with new roots being exposed and ruts developing all over the show. I pushed on and completed the next lap and when out again. I worked and worked on my own. I had opened a gap to the second team behind me but still wasn’t gaining on the leading team in front of me.

Eyes on the prize. Photo: Ezra Newick.

For the length of the race I went to some dark places. Darker than I had at WEMBO the previous year but I kept my composure and timed my run through the start finish to be 5:29:58PM. I had 2 seconds to spare and was enabled out for my last lap. I wanted to ride another 30 minute lap but it wasn’t doable. I had blown up. I dragged myself up the first climb ‘Rockdrop’ only to find myself minutes later walking through one of the exposed trails alpha. The ruts were so deep by this stage that the trail was truly unridable.

Heading out for the final lap. Legs are burning now.

Photo: Someone in my pit crew.

I passed 5 or so other riders on that last lap but it really dragged out, however on the bright side the rain had stopped and the forest was starting to settle. Once I reached the half way point in the trail ‘Soakhole’ I was second guessing coming out for this final lap. But as I walked over and uphill root section (Rare for me as I never walk in races.) I thought to myself how much of a lovely evening it was for a bike ride and how lucky I was to be fit and healthy and have the opportunity to be doing what I was doing. As I reached the 4 km point of the lap my Garmin told be me that my lap time was 23 minutes already. And  I was only half way round. Fortunately it was all downhill from here. I began to descend toward the finish. Ten minutes later I came across John White in the final trail ‘Rosebank’. John is a bit of an legend and knows his way around endurance racing better than most. Not to mention his super friendly character and entertaining stories. Also John will be traveling to compete at WEMBO 2017 in  Italy with myself and around 5 or so other kiwis.

All done, and its still light! “Where is all the food?” Photo: Pit Crew

John and I cruised down to the finish line and rolled across at 6:15PM. I completed 11 laps and was first solo and was beat by only one team also on 11 laps. I was rapt to finally reach the finish and in honesty would have really struggled to last the full 8 hours in those conditions. I was rewarded with $100 prize money which went towards repairing my drive chain after the hammering it suffered over the hours earlier. Next up for me is the Tokoroa Nduro race on the 5th  of March and then followed by the 12 hour solo Moonride on the 11th of March.

Until then. Ride on followers!

I got to share the top step of the podium with the Female Solo winner Nicola Kirkham!

Photo: Anna Haycock

 

Camelbak Summer Cup #3

Warming up on the rollers
Photo: Ezra Newick

After the first round of the Summer Cup in Palmerston North being super windy and the second round in Tokoroa being cancelled due to a storm. It was time for round three. Mountain bikers from all over the country journeyed towards Rotorua. Athletes came from as far north as Northland and Auckland right down to a strong Wellington team and even riders from Christchurch. Longmile road was where the event village was set up. With the start/finish at the foot of nursery road.

 

We rocked up to the Longmile Road on Saturday afternoon. I joined in with some of the Palmy riders for the course practice including Gareth Cannon (Round One Winner), Max Taylor and Ne il Martin. We shot round a lap of the course in about 45 minutes. I predicted that race lap times would be around about 40 minutes. I had recced the course a week prior so I was confident I knew where I was going. The practice ride was spent discussing expensive bikes and parts, lines, passing sections and of course just general Mountain Bike banter.

Sunday the 5th of February was race day. I rolled out my brand-new Trek Project One hairtail Procaliber for its first race. After having a chat to some of the competition and setting up my Garmin and GoPro cameras I jumped on my crisp new bike and began my warmup. Before I knew it the riders were lining up on the start line. After jumping a few barriers I snuck into the second row on the grid behind the points leader Gareth Cannon and some roadie on the front row. I had my good mates James Kirkham and Ben Mcleod right behind me to talk some smack with on the start line before the race. After about five minutes of chatting and a two minute briefing the countdown had started. 5.4.3.2.1.

The Long Course line up ready for the 40km showdown. Photo: Ezra Newick

In typical Mountain bikers style everyone departed on about 2. I was able to get a great jump initially but was caught behind Gareth who was squeezed by the roadie and the barrier in the first 10 meters. After clearing the start/finish arch I was off. I began to pick my way through the field. By the time we reached the gravel (about a kilometre into the climb I found myself leading out the aggressive pack). I flicked down a few gears and began to save energy for the remainder of the start climb. Before I knew it I was getting swamped by riders from all sides. NZL hub riders left right and centre.

They were attacking all over the road along with the big guns like Edwin Crossling, Jack Compton, Sam Osborne and Glen Haden. Gareth shot through along with Eden Cruise and Taylor Johnston. It wasn’t until the first of the roadies came through that I started pulling back some places. Once we reached the top of the climb and began the single track of grinder I found myself in 8th. Taylor Johnston stuck to my wheel down grinder with Hamish dragging off of the back of him.

What the front of the race looks like. Photo: GoPro

 

Sam Osborne, and Taylor Johnston on the offensive at the top of the first climb.
Photo: GoPro

By the time we had reached the halfway point of lap one the situation was Edwin, Jack, Gareth, Sam and Eden out in front. Then a chase pack of myself and Taylor. We had snuck passed Glen Haden and Hamish had snapped his seat post causing him to retire. Taylor and I continued a high-speed game of cat and mouse along the gravel roads and through the forest. We would serge off the front of each other attacking anyplace we could in hope to try break one another. But we learnt it was better to ride conservatively and consistently to make up time. Three quarters of the way around lap one of three 12 kilometre laps Taylor had once again attacked and it was of three 12 kilometre laps Taylor had once again attacked and it was my turn to play catch up. Although I was in 7th I knew that I could catch Taylor along with some of the guys in the lead bunch because their pace was far too hot for them all to maintain.

Chasing Taylor down the descent nearing the end of our first lap.
Photo: GoPro

Sure enough as I rolled across the start finish after completing my first lap I caught a glimpse of Taylor working to catch the wheel of Gareth. Lap one time was 39:00. The remainder of the four man lead bunch were still out of sight. I knew that I had to catch Gareth and Taylor otherwise they would work together and ride away from me as they are both NZL hub riders. I closed up the gap in the first section of the lap and sat with Taylor and Gareth until we reached the gravel climb half way through lap two. After a few attacks at the bottom of nice road (not sure why they called it that) the three of us began to work together. Gareth pulled some big turns and by the time we reached the single track of ‘Sweet and Sour’ Taylor attacked. I was forced to go with him and before long we had dropped Gareth.

 

Chasing Taylor and Gareth. NZL Hub boys teamwork. Photo: GoPro

Taylor was relentless with his attacks. Once we hit the bottom of ‘Lions Tail’ (the final climb of the lap). He must have had shifting issues because I came passed him and he was off the track putting his chain back on. By the time I reached the top of the last climb of lap two I spotted Mr Cruise hauling along the flat gravel road on his own. I was now in 5th position chasing Eden in 4th and had Taylor working to catch me in 6th. After the descent to the start/finish I had one lap remaining. My second lap time was 39:59. My hard work on the descent had pulled back some time to yet another NZL hub rider. I continued the offensive now on lap 3 and was rewarded by catching Eden with 6km of racing to go.

After getting a sniff of catching Eden I was off!
Photo: Ezra Newick

However, I found myself in a position that I hadn’t been in before. In the past I had beat Eden on one occasion. That day I was riding strong and sliced through him to continue my pursuit for the National Cup. However, this time was different. I had caught him to close to the end to open out a gap so I knew that it was going to come down to a sprint. I also knew that the rider that leads into the trail ‘Turkish Delight is almost certainly going to win.’ He had worked this out too. In all honesty, I was unsure of what to do. I just knew that when we reached Turkish Delight I had to be in front. Eden knew exactly what to do. He slowed up. He slowed up big time. My heartrate dropped and their was nothing I could do. We were cruising through the single track, 5km from the end and we weren’t pushing many watts. After a few minutes, I worked out what he was up to. I knew he wasn’t tired and that he was just playing games with me. Then I realised that he was waiting for Taylor. I slipped passed and did all that I could to remake some time down ‘Dragons tail’. Taylor caught us before long.

After 30 minutes of chasing I finally caught Eden.
Photo: GoPro

We climbed to the top of ‘Lions Tail’ and began the ride along the gravel road towards ‘Turkish Delight’. After Turkish, all we had was ‘Old Exit’ and then a 70 metre sprint to the finish line. I knew that they both were going to attack along the gravel road. Because I knew both wanted to be in front of me. I kept my cool and worked out it was near impossible to beat both. But this didn’t stop me from trying. I positioned myself so that I could both defend against Taylor and I could counter Eden’s attack. We rolled closer and closer to Turkish. I switched to the inside line for the entrance to the trail. I had my eyes over my shoulder the whole time so I could look for the attack. I made it easier for us all by clicking up a few gears, and blatantly standing up. The others did the same. The boom I saw Eden go. I turned around and began laying down the watts. I was in the right hand lane and we were about 400 meters from the right hand bend that marked the start of the trail. I pushed and pushed. Eden slipped around my left hand side and began to come across next to me. This forced me into the drain on the right side of the road. I didn’t give up, as he thought I had accepted his mark of authority I began to push even harder. Now only 200m from the beginning of the trail their was still time to regain the front position. I felt good I continued to push harder and harder. I felt if it had of been a side by side drag I could have beat him. But in this case he just kept moving further and further towards the right. 20m from the start of the trail I accepted defeat, and glanced over my shoulder to see where Taylor was. We had just dropped a small gap back to him. I was about to slip in behind Eden and still in front of Taylor. Some great tactical racing from Eden that I learnt a thing or to from.

Eden and Taylor’s Sneaky hand signals, were caught on camera!

We wound our way back down towards Longmile road and the finish. Taylor new every inch of trail on the way down. I let Eden slip a small gap but it was the right thing to do as I knew that it was better to execute my lines on the descent to perfection and not leave any passing room for Taylor.

Eden attacks, Its time to power it to Turkish Delight.
Photo: GoPro

This was the safer option than pushing hard to stick with Eden, risking opening gaps for Taylor to slip through. I knew I could hold off Taylor in a 70m sprint to the line at the end of the single track. I also knew that if I were to sprint Eden he would just run me into the barriers or just beat me with outright power. We entered the last corner and Taylor and I began to wound up. Taylor switch sides before the line and cost him too much time. I finished 1 second behind Eden and Taylor and I were given the same time.

Taylor and I sprint for the finishline. Edens just out of shot.
Photo: Ezra Newick.

Final Results:
Jack Compton 1st
Edwin Crossling 2nd
Sam Osborne 3rd
Eden Cruise 4th
Tristan Haycock 5th

The Gold Medal for winning the 2017 Summer Cup.
Top step honors. Photo Ezra Newick
Photo: Ezra Newick

This set me up good for the overall points for the series. My consistency allowed me to win the Senior Men age group along with 2nd overall behind Edwin. The next event for me is the Rotorua 8 on the 18th of February. An 8 hour Solo race from 12:30pm to 8:30pm in which I am to win. Also the points gained in the Summer Cup for 2017 have shot me up to first on the National Rankings for Junior Men and 10th in Open Men.

Camelbak Summer Cup #1

The first race of the year is always an important one. In my opinion it sets the rhythm for the year. In 2016 I had a great start with a 2nd at the National Cup in U19. However, this year there is no National Cup. Therefore, I found myself lined up on the start line the first round for the Camelbak Summercup held by Nduro Events. After a wearing in a fresh drive chain from the week before I found myself ready to go. It’s always tough racing 2 weeks after Christmas and in regards to building to peak for World Endurance Champs in June the goal was to go for a top 3 in Open Men. So here I was at a brand-new park called ‘Arapuke’ in Palmerston North, on last season’s race bike, in the howling wind alongside the likes of Gareth Cannon and Edwin Crossling. I managed to squiggle onto the front row in the unseeded start.

 

(The first few meters of the races. Hamish, Gareth and myself lead out the pack.)
(The first few meters of the races. Hamish, Gareth and myself lead out the pack.)
(Out of the start Gate with Hamish and Max behind me.)
(Out of the start Gate with Hamish and Max behind me.)

Before I knew it, we were climbing the first gravel road. And bam the legs were going for thanks to that secret Endurance Christmas training… Somehow? Anyway, as we reached the first single track I found myself in second behind local lad Gareth Cannon. We wound our way to the top of the first climb and began the decent. It only took a corner or two for Gareth to skip away from the rest of us. The Arapuke Trails have a weird sort of flow to them. They become deceiving. In photos and even just standing on the side of the track they look fast and flowy but when it comes to railing the corners as fast as you can it is hard to keep upright. It was clear to see that Gareth had the course dialled. He knew exactly where to rest, exactly where to make up the time on the rest of us and he knew how to win. By the time we reached the bottom of the first decent I was still in second place with Hamish Dodd, Max Taylor and Edwin Crossling. The 4 of us waved goodbye to the rest of the field. And after the first few corners of the climb none of us could hold the wheel of Gareth. By the time we reached the top Edwin was determined to catch Gareth and went on the attack. Max, Hamish and I looked at each other as if to say ‘Do we really want to try keep up with the front two and then blow up with half the race to go?’ The three of us sat together for the next 10 minutes.

(Top of the first climb. Max in foreground with Edwin behind about to fly past us chasing down Gareth.)
(Top of the first climb. Max in foreground with Edwin behind about to fly past us chasing down Gareth.)

20 minutes into the 36km race the situation was Gareth out in front with Edwin in hot pursuit. Meanwhile Max Taylor, Hamish Dodd and myself were battling for 3rd to 5th. Behind us there was a gap back to Ben Eagle, Ben Mcleod and Taylor Johnston. Before we finished the first lap Hamish pulled a 10 second gap on Max and me. I wasn’t too worried cause I knew I would be able to close the gap later into the race so I continued my plan to conserve energy and ride home strong. Max Taylor was hot on my heels as we crossed the finish line 8km into the race finishing our first of four laps. I had never ridden with Max prior to this weekend and the young gun surprised me with his skill, strength and even endurance. He clung to my back wheel like glue. His local knowledge allowed him to capitalise on my mistakes on any decent and he knew the fastest most efficient lines on the climbs. Part way through the second lap he lost his patience and went out on the attack after Hamish. I underestimated him and by the time we finished our second lap he’d caught Hamish and 2nd to 5th place were all together again.

(Not sure if Max is being cheeky or he is just really pushing it.)
(Not sure if Max is being cheeky or he is just really pushing it.)
(Hamish Chasing me.)
(Hamish Chasing me.)

With 2 laps remaining things got real tactical. Gareth was still pulling a larger gap on Edwin. Our little battle pack was about a minute down on Ed and we weren’t losing any more time to him. However, Taylor Johnston had broken away from the two Bens behind and was chasing the 3 of us down. I have raced Taylor plenty in the last few years and I knew the course suited his aggressive style of racing.

(Taylor Styling it up for the GoPro mid race.)
(Taylor Styling it up for the GoPro mid race.)

All I could do is try and prolong him catching us. After becoming tired from dragging the group for the lap Hamish pulled a small group on us and much to my disappointment Taylor had caught Max and I. We rolled round through the start finish to head out for the last lap. Hamish was once again 10 seconds in front of Me, Taylor and Max. There was some action in the pits. Taylor hadn’t set his feed up efficiently and was forced to cut across the track. Max who was also reaching for a bottle got squeezed and had the choice of either taking out spectators or going down hard on the gravel road. His instincts chose the latter.

(Max about to go down hard!)
(Max about to go down hard!)

Completely oblivious to what was happening behind me I had Hamish in my Crosshairs and I knew I had to catch him in the first half of the last lap and gain track position for the single track to the finish. I worked and I worked to catch him. We played cat and mouse. He knew I was coming and the gap would stretch from five seconds to 15 and back again. Meanwhile Taylor had pushed hard to get back onto my wheel. And Max had jumped back onto his bike and was chasing all three of us down. Half way through the last lap I knew I was just behind Hamish (five seconds) and I planned to pass him on the Gravel road at the top of the climb. Taylor was still latched to my wheel up the long switchback climb. Half way up he started talking to me. What? Taylor never says anything to me while we race?

Then it computed that he was telling me to hurry up and catch Hamish. I still didn’t react to his comments and kept my tempo consistent. By the time we were ¾ of the way up I could sense he was struggling. I chose not to attack but I knew I had to do something to take advantage of his suffering. I flicked up a few gears and continued to climb to the top. I reached Hamish’s wheel as I began to get tweaks of cramp in my legs. Once at the top of the climb I turned to see a massive gap back to Taylor. Hamish and I continued to push on.

(Me deep in the Hurt Box.)
(Me deep in the Hurt Box.)

10 minutes later Hamish and I found ourselves with two climbs to go. And we knew that the one of us that rode over the last climb into the single track was almost certain to win. I was hurting. I couldn’t get the lines sorted and half way up the climb Hamish rode away from me. By the time I reached the top of the climb and began the decent Hamish had once again opened a gap and this time I doubted myself to close it down. I rolled down to the finish and crossed the line in forth place. I turned around to find that Max had recovered from his crash and was smacking it to the finish of his home race. Kudos to Max for riding a great race and never giving up.

 

Final Placings:

1st  Gareth Cannon

2nd Edwin Crossling

3rd  Hamish Dodd

4th  Tristan Haycock

5th Max Taylor

I was a little disappointed I didn’t make the podium but it was a good wake up call to how my form was and it was nice to start racing for the year. Next up is the 2nd Round of the 2017 Camelbak Summer Cup in Tokoroa on the 22nd of January.

(Photos from Photos4sale and the go pro mounted to the back of my saddle.)

Lake Taupo Huka XL 2016

After being inspired by Sam Gaze’s effort in the criterium on Friday night I was ready to go Saturday morning for the 2016 Huka XL. I had never done this race before, however I knew the trails and was aiming for a top 8 after seeing the super stacked entry list. I found myself warming up at 7:30 AM on a crisp morning in Taupo for a 4 hour bike race. Just another day at the office. 8:00 AM ticked over and as it did the Elite Mountainbike field rolled out. After a sluggish start off of the start line at Whaka 100 a month prior I was not ready for Henry Jaine’s attack right from the start. Edwin Crossling and I worked to close it down over the first few kilometres but eventually we found ourselves on the wrong side of the race tape and had to slow down to cross back onto the race course. I was relatively confident I knew the riders that were going to be battling for the top 7 places. Around about 10km into the 85km race Henry Jaine, Edwin Crossling and Sam Shaw had slipped away from the chase pack. The chase pack composed of Neil Martin, Gareth Cannon and myself. The 3 of us had no interest in catching the big hitters in the front positions but we were more concerned about riders catching us from behind. After working together along the river trails past the Huka Falls and the Prawn Farm we found ourselves being caught by the third group. Fortunately, Gareth was onto it. I flicked up a few gears, took a few risky lines and found that the two of us had skipped away and were now battling for fourth and fifth. I was focused on conserving energy and watching for Gareth’s strengths and weaknesses. We both knew that there was no point riding solo with 40 kilometres to go, so although we attacked each other we were sure stay together. Gareth and I continued to blast around the Craters of the Moon MTB forest with Neil hot on our heels, only 30 to 60 seconds behind us. I was lucky enough to have Joe Sutton out on course handing me bottles and giving me information around time splits. After Gareth and I shook Neil at around 60km we found ourselves at the bottom of the dreaded grinder trail. Meanwhile five minutes ahead Sam Shaw was still chasing down Henry and Edwin and couldn’t quite bridge the gap. As Gareth and I started on the dreaded climb we wound our way around a few corners, before discovering a washout bank. I was on Gareth’s wheel at this point. He hit the washout and his bike went down the bank without him. I came around the corner and locked up the breaks to avoid the carnage, but ended up going over the bars and landed upside down dangling down the bank. Once I had realised what had happened and climbed back up the bank Gareth had gone. I jumped on my bike and set off after him. I worked out he had a 10 second gap which grew to nearly 20 by the time I had adjusted my shifter back into the correct position. I knew he was the stronger climber and would continue to pull the gap out, even up to a minute. If I didn’t do anything this could be the last I see of him. However, on the other hand if I wasted too much energy now trying to chase down his attack on the steepest climb in the forest I would surely blow up later and suffer all the way to the finish line. I decided to work on closing the gap but not entirely. By the time we reached the top of the hill I had pulled it back to 10 seconds and soon closed it right up over the next few decents and pinches. Within 20 minutes I found myself receiving another bottle from Joe and noticed that Gareth had issues receiving his bottle. I saw this as an opportunity to attack and repay the favour to Gareth when he attacked after our crash a little earlier. I stood up and began the onslaught of the climb. However it was a common hill for XCO races and Gareth being an XCO rider knew the fastest lines up. After missing the first rock garden on accident and taking the B line I found Gareth had pulled a 20 second gap back to zero. I sat up, had something to eat and drink and planned where I was going to make my next move. I knew we still had around an hour of racing to go and I figured that if it came to a sprint Gareth would clean me up. I found myself leading the him through the trail ‘State Highway Fun’ which is a bumpy trail but still pretty high speed. After 5 minutes of resting I attacked once again. This time Gareth was unable to get the power through the pedals with the rough terrain. I continued to push from there through the rest of the ‘Craters of the Moon’ park, getting glimpses of Gareth as the trail would zig zag around the pine trees. Edwin and Henry were still locked together in a dual around 10 minutes ahead and Sam Shaw in third was still slogging on around 5 minutes ahead. I continued to open a gap over Gareth and when I hit the trail leading back towards Taupo in the last 10km my determination and adrenaline took over. I pushed on as I was worried about getting caught. Edwin crossed the line in first with Henry right on his wheel with a time of 3:49:08. Seven minutes later Sam finished with a time of 3:56:06. I rolled over the line at 4:00:52 having pulled 5 minutes over Gareth, which was unexpected. I was absolutely stoked with my result of 4th place with some big names in the race. The next major race is the Rotorua 8. Until then I will be trying my luck at Nduro Events Summer Cup in Palmerston North, Tokoroa, and Rotorua.

huka-xl-c-2016

Whaka 100 race report

The 2015 Whaka 100 was a weekend full of excitement, determinations, tactics, strength, endurance and satisfaction for me.

On Saturday the 22nd of October, I arrived to Waipa Carpark to another great Nduro Events atmosphere building. The start finish shoot was set up along with the event village and the course. It didn’t take me long to register and hit the trails. I was keen to learn the lines of the TT (Qualifying) course. The course began with some Zig Zags through the event village and then up Mud pool road before shooting down the grade three trail Rosebank. After a few practice laps I decided the qualifying course would take around seven and a half minutes. Throughout my practice laps I spent time looking at different lines and learning to flow the corners as the course was changing with the amount of rain the forest had had. After waiting around for 30 minutes at the event village I was called up to the start line where I had a joke or two with the event organiser before getting into the zone. Out of the gate I was quick to clip in and got off to a brisk start. As I spent the first few minutes of the lap climbing the legs were in agony, heartrate through the roof but I pushed on. Once I hit Rosebanks single track there was no time for  a rest as I had to get my flow on rolling down the trail. I was able perfectly execute all my practice lines and smash it to the finish. My time was 7:26 and I ended up in 5th place.

On Sunday the 23rd as I travelled back through to the Whakawerawera forest I watch the sunrise out of the car window and the weather looked as though it was going to hold off. After my warm up I lined up on the front row thanks to my TT the previous day alongside the likes of Jack Compton, Gary Hall, and big names like Edwin Crossling and Commonwealth Games silver medallist Samuel Gaze and I knew 7 times Elite World 24 hour Champion Jason English was only a few rows behind me. The gun went and the initial jump off the line was frantic. To get clipped in and out of the event village being chased by over 200 riders was always going to be difficult, especially when it is alongside some of your childhood heroes and role models. After the first ten or so minutes the lead pack broke from the field consisting of Jack, Gary, Edwin, Sam and myself, however I knew Jason was not far back and would be hunting our pack down. After being caught by Jason around 10km into the 100km race I could have a bite to eat and start my taking on board hydration.

I was sitting comfortably in the lead group with some of the biggest names in the Mountainbike world. I was comfortable with the pace that Gary and Jack was setting on the front of the group and I focused on choosing fast, smooth and economical lines to save energy, time and my muscles for the test ahead. We began hitting the climbs around 15km into the race. I knew climbing was going to be my weakness and I would need to be on top form to hold pace with these big engines. We began the first climbs and as I expected Jack and Sam were sitting at the front pushing the pace with Edwin hot on their heels. Eventually the pack began to split and I found myself battling for 3rd to 6th place with Gary and Jason. We did however keep in contact with the 3 leaders until 30km into the race. From here Sam, Jack and Edwin rode away. Jason plodded along behind as his 24-hour legs haven’t got the power to bridge gaps unlike the XC and Marathon specialists ahead. I found myself catching Gary riding up Hill and Moerangi roads. At the top of Moerangi Road we hooked a left turn and began our decent down a ruthless ‘Kung Fu Walrus’ towards the green lake.

After popping out of the grade 4 trail onto the fire road I was less than 100 meters to Gary. I decided it was a great chance to take on some nutrition. Gary spotted this and as I packed my mouth with a bar Gary began to ride away. By this stage we were 50km into the race. I was giving it all I had to catch him. I was able to get a glimpse of him riding up Lookout road on my way to ‘No Brains’ trail. At this point my legs began to seize up and I was forced to back the pace off. However, it could have been worse. A few minutes in front Sam was attacking off the front of the race leaving Edwin and Jack behind. However, by the time the top 3 reach the bottom of ‘No Brains’ Edwin and Jack had pulled Sam back in. But, it wasn’t because they were faster. Samuel Gaze the 2016 U23 World Cross Country Champion had cracked. By the time they had begun the biggest climb of the race they had dropped Gaze and Gary and I were quickly reeling him in. As I climbed up to the top of ‘Time Warp’ I spotted Sam. After smashing it down a brand new ‘Split Endz’ trail I found myself promoted to 5th place.

Before the race I had set myself the goal of placing top 5 and I was within reach of it now all I had to do was finish without anyone else passing me. I knew the gap ahead to Gary was only growing and I needed to switch to a survival mode a pose to an attacking mode. I continued to slog it out on some of the best trails Rotorua has to offer and before I knew it there was only 5km to go. But then I spotted something in the corner of my eye. I had been caught. I dug deep almost in tears of pain I pushed on through ‘Rockdrop’ and ‘Rosebank’ somehow able to pull out a solid gap and cross the line in 5th. Of the 205 riders entered in the Whaka 100 only the toughest 145 riders finished. In the U19 age group I stormed away to win by 1 hour and 15 minutes over second place. The excitement for Whaka 2016 is already building. The next big event I plan to focus on in the build to World Championships next June is the Huka XL on the 26th of November where I aim to place top 5.

(Photos courtesy of Ezra Newick)

 

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12 Hours from the book to the lead

Textbook race on Saturday. Everything went smooth. Awesome to come home 1st in Open mens after racing for 12 hours Solo at the Day Night Thriller in Tokoroa.

I was happy with 170km in the tough conditions on a tight track. Couldn’t do any of it without all my support especially Tony with his spot on pit crewing, thanks to Doug for sorting the gazebos for the crew and all the support from riders on course.
Perimeter Coaching
Cycle Obsession
Tony Jump
Garth Weinberg
Ben Mcleod
Kirkham Racing NZ
Nduro Events
Little Rocket
Trevelyan’s Pack and Cool Ltd

Cheers everyone, pedal on!

NZ Schools Podium Finish

It’s always tough when you give your best effort but still don’t achieve your goal. After making a small mistake in one of the races I suffered by loosing 10 seconds time, 2 places and a lot of points. I struggled on and fortunately was still able to salvage a U20 2nd Overall Podium at New Zealand Secondary School Mountainbike Championships. I came three seconds short of winning, 3 seconds, so close yet so far. Although I suffered this heart break I still had an awesome time away in Dunedin with James Kirkham, Josh Oxenham, Blake Ross, Adam Swinburne and Kerry Oxenham. Congratulations to the national champions and I am especially stoked for Kirkham Racing NZ winning the XC!
I’d like to say a massive thankyou to everyone who has helped me especially Mum and Dad (Anna, David)
Cycle Obsession for looking after me making sure the bikes were tuned.
Perimeter Coaching
Nduro Events
Little Rocket
and everyone else who is continuously supporting me.

Taking on the Gambler

Cheers to Taupo Mountain Bike Club for the sweet day yesterday. The Gambler was a rad day although the weather didn’t play ball. Personally it was great to be back on the bike in a racing environment.  Enjoyed every minute of the four hour tactical race. Congratulations to Carwyn on smashing everyone with 60 points and Neil on 59 points in second. I was able to snatch a third place off of a charging Garth Weinberg with 57 points. Looking forward to the next race at the end of the month.

NDuro Winter Series Round One

Yesterday was definitely a learning day. Couldn’t win overall, but I could learn. Nduro Events Winter Series round #1 was a crisp start.

Not sure what got to me, the cold, fatigue, lack of strength and energy or just not in the game. Either way I have a lot to take away from yesterday and it was a great reality check where I am, and where I need to be. Giant Bicycles New Zealand Anthem ran sweet all day long. Unfortunately I was the one that couldn’t keep up. On the upside I was still able to salvage a 1st in the junior category. Onwards and upwards from here.