North Canterbury mountain bike riders Anton Cooper and Ben Oliver have always been an inspiration to me, and their success internationally is a track I have wanted to follow. But it was watching my mum compete in the Lees Valley Challenge around the age of ten, and then an opportunity to compete with a friend in the Huxter relay at McLeans Island, that were my first taste of mountain bike racing. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Cross country racing is my main discipline. I love the enormous physical effort you have to put into a ride. I do a little bit of downhill and enduro for the variety, and over the winter I get on the road bike and also do some cyclocross too. The hardest part is a lot of my training is on my own but I do like to catch up with my cycling mates and riding the single tracks, building big jumps, and seeing what tricks we can do.
With a number of podium placings over the years, often against older opposition, this year’s South Island Secondary Schools Cross Country title out at Methven, was a great result and preparation prior to leaving for the Oceania’s. Attending the Oceania Championship at Mystic Park, in Victoria, Australia, in the U17 grade, alongside the Elite events and riders such as my idols Cooper and Oliver was an amazing experience. My race began really well too, with a train of three Kiwis (Ethan Rose, Adam Francis, and myself) leading the pack after the first lap. By the end of the second lap we had opened up a good gap over the rest of the field, but lost Adam to an unfortunate puncture on the way down. So it was looking like a sprint to the finish between myself and Ethan, who is from Christchurch. We have always had a close rivalry, and know the other’s strengths and weaknesses.
I managed to get in front on the final lap, and slowed the pace a little to try and recover my legs a little for the sprint to the finish. And what a finish it was. We were neck and neck coming into the finish chute. My legs were cramping up but I was able to push through and cross first, winning my first Oceania title.
I was really pleased with my race management. This season I have been working hard on my race craft and endurance. Putting it all together in the biggest race of the year was brilliant and it felt great that all the hard work had paid off.
North Canterbury seems to be a breeding ground for top mountain bike riders and it is definitely my dream to be picked up by the NZ performance hub and ride internationally in UCI World Cup events, and also represent New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games. It is awesome to watch Anton and Ben do it, and the path they have forged proves to me that I can do it too if I continue to work hard. I am extremely grateful for the support I have received to race internationally, especially my friends, family, Chain Reaction Cycles, The North Canterbury Cycling club, Specialized NZ, and my amazing coach Marc Prutton.