Xterra Mountainbike 2017
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!