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.