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!
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.
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!
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!