One thing this Summer has shown me is how much I truely love New Zealand, and how proud I am to be a Kiwi. We should all be pretty stoked to live in such a wicked place. I've been fortunate enough to go as far as Auckland, race in Napier, Tauranga and Rotorua, and travel through the little shanty towns of Turangi and Taihape, I've loved every minute of it... just looking at the path to Vegas you know you're headed for heaven..
Ever since riding in Rotorua at Christmas, I have been itching to get back and race. It's every mountain biker's spiritual home, and I always feel so in touch with the real NZ when I ride there. NDuro #2 seemed like the perfect opportunity to spend a weekend away catching up with mates, making some new ones, and racing bikes. I was elated to discover on Friday that every track on the course apart from Soakhole I had ridden before, and that the course followed all of my favourite ones! I was really looking forward to racing the course I had got to know and love in such a short time.
Since my terrible performance at Nationals I have been spending a lot of time looking at why I haven't been performing at the level I am capable of. A few things jumped out at me, so I have changed my approach to training and racing. I've been putting a lot more trust into what I have been doing, rather than planning everything. Put simply, I was just overthinking it all. I was getting too wound up because I didn't have a plan when things didn't go to plan!!
It's hard... to just trust that you'll be able to handle certain situations in racing. But I have always been quite a casual person who has been able to come through in challenging situations. After chatting with Stu Houltham a couple of weekends ago, I decided to approach some aspects of my race differently, so I decided to employ this new strategy in Vegas and see what I could do. It turned out to be both a dream race and a challenging one.
The NDuro start wasn't very fast unless you were in the Elite bunch, which worked in my favour. I just worked consistently through the first section until the pack strung out a little, so I could warm up into race pace. Heading into A-Trail, I was feeling great and got some epic flow on, which I used to start going at full race pace right up Direct Rd to the Summit. In fact I wanted to go full race pace until the end, and that's what I did.
Through Tickler I was railing berms and jumping doubles having just such a great time riding my bike, fast. Going downhills is one of my strengths, certainly the part I most enjoy, so when Billy-T came around, I was still jumping and pumping pretty loose. Big mistake! I flew over a lip coming down Billy-T, crossed up a large tree root with my front wheel, flipped the Berg, went over the handle-bars and slammed into a tree. I sincerely thought I was going to be pretty badly injured, but somehow rolled onto my back, facing the wrong up the track, had a little giggle, said to myself "I'm ok, I'm ok" and jumped straight back on the bike to have a great run down the remainder. My left foot was cramping pretty badly, but I just gritted my teeth in pedalled harder to make it go away. No excuses.
My next major challenge was at Sweet + Sour. This is an easy track, but at 2 hours I was starting to feel fatigued. This track always pisses me off, because just when you think it ends, it starts again on the other fricken side of the road!! After climbing up Lions Trail and arriving atDipper I was so exhausted I genuinely beleived I was going to collapse, I was digging so deep that I though very soon I'd come to the point where I had nothing left. I usually rip around Dipper lapping up the extreme berms, but I was crawling. Still, no excuses, I just thought of the time Lance hit the wall so hard he could barely pedal in the winning stage of the TdF, and that kept me going through Rockdrop. In fact I was so inspired by Lance that I decided to take the hard line through Rockdrop 44km into the race. I ended up nose wheelieing down and nearly going over the handlebars again, HAIRY!!!
The remainder of the race was pretty much a blur of pain and exhaustion, hanging out for cold water, but I was so motivated to keep going hard to the very end, which is what I did. It's a great feeling to love racing again.
And Gav, I found me a classy new box at Paka's Rotas! It is so solid that me and Rae could probably carry you around in it. Can't wait to try ;-)