2013 New Zealand National Championships – Rotorua

Following on from the last round of the national series in Hunua, the final race of the shortened domestic season, the national championships were held in Rotorua last weekend.  Due to the amount of times that the downhill scene visits Rotorua we often see the same lines being used on the Taniwha Dh track, however this year the organizers had spent a bit of time making a few changes to the track that made the course better than ever! This coupled with a fantastic weather forecast made racing an exciting prospect and with a strong turnout for the pro-field there was everything needed for a great race!

Race day morning practice
Race day morning practice

With 8 shuttle buses being run there was no shortage of lifts up to the top and riders were taking full advantage of this smashing out practice runs trying to get used to the changes.  Practice day went well for me, I was enjoying the fast and rough nature of the track and the changes that had been made improved the track immensely. I have always liked riding at Rotorua and practice day was no exception with skids and whips aplenty throughout the day. After spending several hours pinballing my way down the hill I had somehow managed to avoid crashing and I went home feeling highly confident for racing the next day.

Race day was another stunning bluebird day, exactly what you want for a downhill race!  I headed up the hill reasonably early and got my first practice run in whilst checking out a couple of sections that I felt deserved another look. Feeling good, I headed back up for the Elite practice session and did a full run that left me in a good headspace for Seeding.

Seeding at the National Champs is different to seeding at a National Series. While in the series both runs count because you can get points for each run, at the National Champs the only run that counts is the race run and so the seeding run doesn’t have a lot of importance. That said you still want to have a good run so you know where you sit against the rest of the field, starting my run I knew this was the case and so put in a solid run but definitely held off in the pedaling as I knew I had to save myself for the race run. Finishing the seeding run in 11th I knew that was a good platform to build off for race run and set about getting some energy back before race time.

More and more practice, the spectators shirt is pretty comical aswell.
More and more practice, the spectators shirt is pretty comical aswell.

After a sandwich, banana and a Powerade it was back up the hill for the final domestic race of the season, warming up I felt confident and ready and went into the start-gate calm and collected and then it was time for the countdown. Off out of the start hut and into the forest, I had a decent start heading into the trees and let the brakes off a bit in the top section. Despite a couple of small errors things were going good and I pedaled hard into the middle section, over braking a couple of sections in here but generally trouble free and I was off into the lower part of the course.  A solid lower section, over the jump and across the line to end my domestic season, initially I thought it wasn’t a bad run, 2.59.03 and I was into 3rd, but as the riders kept coming, my position started falling and I ended up 14th on the day. This was initially a disappointment but seeing as the times were super tight with only 4.5 seconds separating 6th to 14th and with 3 of the riders ahead of me being from overseas and therefore ineligible for a NZ ranking (bumping me up to 11th) I am not too unhappy given my luck this season and am now going back to the training to prepare for a Europe season that is going to be amazing!


Race run scrubbing.
Race run scrubbing.

I would just like to say a massive thank you to everybody who has helped me out this season,  Peter Burke and Burkes Cycles, Kashi Leuchs and Black Seal imports, Adrian Armstrong, Daley Tapa and of course my parents and Girlfriend, Cheers!


2013 New Zealand national series, Round 4 – Hunua

For the final round of the National series we packed up the car yet again and headed north to the sleepy town of Hunua which, situated in the  Hunua ranges, would be playing host to its first national round in 7 years and so for many of us this would be our first race here which always makes things a bit more exciting as things are always new and different, wide eyes aplenty!

Good times going fast!

After not being allowed into the forest on Thursday for a track-walk due to the Kauri die-back disease (An infectious disease that is threatening the Kauri trees in the area). We drove in on Friday morning and straight into practice it was! Having watched a couple of helmet cams of the track I had a fair idea of where I was going and as there weren’t many lines on the track it was easy to get up to speed and get comfortable with going fast.  However as the day continued I found that something was increasingly amiss, I was feeling light-headed and my stomach was increasingly unsettled. I decided to call practice early and drive home, having to stop for 5 minutes as I thought things were about to become even more unpleasant than they already were however this was just a precursor for what was to come.

Nice and sunny in Hunua!

Once arriving back at the camp, I felt worse and worse until eventually it all came rushing out and all over the ground. From here things really kicked off and as I continued to vomit intermittently throughout the night I also had the runs to contend with and just to top it all off I had the hot and cold shivers as well.  Needless to say this made for an utterly miserable night during which I was unable to keep anything down and managed to get a grand total of 3 hours sleep, certainly not what you need before a big race! Waking up on race morning feeling like death warmed up, I managed to eat half a banana and had about 3 gulps of juice and headed  up for one practice run to see if racing was going to be viable or not….

Getting to the bottom alive and with my bowels still in the correct position I figured that racing was go, had some more juice and tried to muster up some energy for seeding. For anyone who came across me in the next couple of hours I was a sorry sight, sitting down, head between my knees and unable to move apart from the 30 metres from the tent to the port-a-loo’s. Nonetheless I managed to vacate my position in favour of the shuttle bus and off to the top we were. Sitting at the top waiting for my run I did a vague form of a warm-up which resulted in me almost emptying what little was in my stomach into my helmet. Flagging this idea, I sat in the start hut and just cruised down the hill into 16th place,  4.5 seconds off 15th.

Goin over the big stepdown in Hunua, this bad boy was about 55ft, not a small leap!

From here on out the tiredness set in from the lack of sleep and I was becoming even more like a sloth than before, however I managed to down some more juice/energy drink and jumped on the truck for the ride up the hill. Sitting at the top I just decided to have fun and not worry about what was going to happen. So I pedalled hard out of the start hut and had a good run considering the circumstances taking 8 seconds off my time finishing in 2.43.42. This wasn’t too bad considering how ill I had been but unfortunately it just wasn’t enough to lift me out of the wooden spoon position.

After the race things have gotten better and I am now just focussing on getting fit and ready for the National champs this weekend in Rotorua where the honour of the wooden spoon will be bestowed upon someone else!

2013 New Zealand national series, Round 3 – Levin

Following on from the 2 southern legs of the National series, we all headed north to Levin for the 3rd and penultimate round in the shortened series. Levin always has a good track and this year was no exception with the fast and rough course looking like it would provide some very tight racing come Saturday afternoon. The weather leading up to the event had been perfect with 7 days of sun leaving the track dusty and fast, after a year of little riding, the morning of practice was spent getting the track back into a used state with the pine-needles being skidded off the track and the hard clay base being uncovered.

Having some fun in practice on one of the good sized jumps on the course.

By mid morning things were going well for me and I was starting to step the pace up a bit, having fun being on my bike and enjoying the atmosphere of a good weekend out. From here on it was all about getting faster overall down the track and by the time practice had finished I was a happy man and stoked for the racing that was to come!

An early wake up was called for on race day, a nice drive up the Kapiti coast and then before I knew it the kneepads were on and we were into the final practice session. Not a lot had changed since the day before and so I felt comfortable going fast straight away and after doing two runs during practice I sat down and fuelled up ready for seeding. A dusty ride up the hill in the back of one of Levin’s infamous box trucks and into seeding we went.

Practice, practice, practice!

My seeding run started out pretty well, hitting sections with confidence and accuracy but I felt like there was something missing. This was unfortunately reflected in my time come the finish line with a time of 3.03 slotting me into 15th place.  Not happy with that, I sat down, had some food and tried to think what could be improved upon for race run. Having identified a couple of things, off up the hill I went and after a bit of a delay due to a nasty injury sustained by one of the young racers we were into it!

Race time!

“3…2…1…GO!” Pedal, pedal, pedal out the start hut I went and into the track, after narrowly missing a big hole in the first turn I relaxed a bit, got into a good headspace and set about trying to go fast. About ½ way down the track things were feeling solid so I kept at it and very nearly came a cropper on a big old log that had rolled out onto the track but kept things together and carried on down, arriving at the finish line trouble free I wasn’t sure what to expect as the timing board started to flash my name up. On one hand it I felt it had been a solid run but on the other hand I knew I hadn’t been 100% on the edge but when 3.02 popped up on the board I had no idea what had happened. While I knew that my run hadn’t been 100% out there I knew it was still a solid run and to only go 1 second quicker left me highly disappointed. As I watched myself go further down the rankings I didn’t know what I had done wrong but it was clear that something was amiss.

From now my goals are simple, to prepare for, and to achieve a good result at the One-off national champs in Rotorua 2 weeks from now.  See you all there!