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
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.
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.
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!
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. 126.96.36.199.1.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jack Compton 1st
Edwin Crossling 2nd
Sam Osborne 3rd
Eden Cruise 4th
Tristan Haycock 5th
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)