Build up to the MTB World Champs in Livigno

About Livigno
Livigno is at 1812m in altitude which is high enough to effect athletic performance thus most of the team arrived early at the Worlds venue to acclimate. Livigno is located in Italy, very close to the Swiss border and is in a valley that stretches for 13 km between two mountainous chains that reach an altitude of 3,000m. The small village has a population of only 5,000 people and is famous as a duty free area.

Training in Livigno
After my recent disappointing races, my coach Reidy revisited my training to tweak the final weeks leading up to the World Champs. This past week I’ve had a number of longish days so I took the opportunity to check out a few mountain passes and the spectacular scenery – on Tuesday and Wednesday I climbed up to Val Alpisella at 2,268m, Thursday to Malga del Monte at 2,213m, and Friday (on the road) up to Paso di Foscagno at 2,291m. The latter was one of the GPM’s in this year’s Giro d’Italia. Now I’m getting in some recovery and freshening up. Next week – final touches and taper.

The Course
The lap is long at 12.1km – quite unlike any other elite cross country course because of the length but apparently because of the figure 8 style spectator viewing and TV access is still adequate. The most challenging aspect is the amount of steep climbing. We start with a loop over one side of the valley. Off the startline we go straight into a steep 4WD climb and continue to climb and descend on a mix of singletrack and 4WD before a wicked singletrack descent with switchbacks brings us back to the valley floor and a grudge along the flat to the event village. The second loop with a large man made bridge takes us over the main road through the town and into a steep grass climb. This climb is really nasty with some decent pinchers (nose of the saddle stuff) and after 10 minutes of this the legs are really screaming! There’s little recovery as next up is some flowing up and down singletrack. Finally a fun descent leads into the river bed for a fast power through the boulders and back into the valley then a similar grudge along the flat to the event village. Phew – that’s one lap. We’re not sure how many laps we’ll be up for but practice laps are taking an hour!

The NZ Team
The team consists of 27 riders (cross country and downhill) and 8 support staff. We’ve got a mint hotel only a few hundred metres from the course and are getting fed very well. Here’s the press release:

The strongest team ever selected to represent New Zealand has been announced to compete at the 2005 Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships in Livigno, Italy August 28 – September 4.

Included in the 27 member team are two defending World Champions –Vanessa Quin (Women’s Downhill) and Scarlett Hagen (Junior Women’s Downhill) as well as three other riders who have achieved top ten results on the World Cup circuit this year.

2004 Olympic Cross Country representatives Kashi Leuchs and Robyn Wong are included in the team, as well as 2005 New Zealand Champions John Kirkcaldie (Men’s Downhill), Mike Northcott (Men’s Cross Country) and Rosara Joseph (Women’s Cross Country).

The full team is
Elite Cross Country Men
Kashi Leuchs (Dunedin), Mike Northcott (Mangakino), Wayne Hiscock (Wellington)
Under 23 Cross Country Men
Marcus Roy (Te Anau), Aaron Tuckerman (Blenheim)
Elite XC Women
Rosara Joseph (Wellington), Sonia Foote (Rotorua), Robyn Wong (Wellington), Jenny Smith (USA)
Junior Cross Country Men
Clinton Avery (Rotorua), Luke Mills (Nelson), Carl Jones (Whakatane)
Junior Cross Country Women
Michelle Bellamy (Nelson)
Elite DH Men
John Kirkcaldie (Wellington), Des Curry (Rotorua), Nathan Rankin (Levin), Justin Leov (Blenheim), Tom Holland (Rotorua), Craig Pattle (Rotorua), Glenn Haden (Wanganui)
Elite DH Women
Vanessa Quin (Tauranga), Jenna Magill (Auckland)
Junior DH Women
Scarlet Hagen (Queenstown)
Junior DH Men
Mike Skinner (Auckland), Samuel Blenkinsop (Wanganui), Kieran Bennett (Nelson)
Cameron Cole (Hamilton)

The Program of events

Wednesday August 31: 13:30 - Team Relay*; 20:45 – Official Opening Ceremony
Thursday September 1: 09:30 - Junior Women XC; 12noon – Junior Men XC
Friday September 2: 13:00 Under 23 Men XC
Saturday September 3: 10:30 – Junior DH; 12:30 Elite DH
Sunday September 4: 11:00 – Elite Women XC; 14:15 Elite Men XC

*The team relay consists of 4 riders from 4 different categories racing one lap each. This year the NZ team is Kashi Leuchs, Rosara Joseph, Marcus Roy and Clinton Avery.

For more info check out

Big thanks to PNP

I want to send out a huge thanks to my local cycling club PNP (Port Nicholson Poneke) for their kind financial grant given to assist me in my build up to the World Championships. The Club has gone from strength to strength over the past few years with growing membership, and there are many people putting in a heap of time and effort to organise safe racing and encourage and develop our riders. Thanks PNP!

For the past two years I’ve had roles in the PNP Club as Women’s Club Captain and as a Committee member on the track, women’s and high performance sub committees however this year I resigned since I would be overseas for over half of the year. When I first started road cycling the number of female racers was very low, just a handful on a good day or just me on a bad day. This was disappointing so I (along with Fanny Lariviere and Susie Wood) started the “Capitelles” group, promoting cycling to all levels of women in Wellington. Our group of women still meet on Monday nights to ride around the scenic bays route and learn about anything cycling – from bunch skills and pedalling to bike setup and training - and it’s a great way to meet other female cyclists. Back in November 2002 I wrote an article for the former “Cycling NZ” magazine – you can find it here.

Anyway, this weekend sees the start of the PNP Mountain Bike Series – a 5 race series at Tunnel Gully (Upper Hutt), Mt Victoria (Wellington City), Harcourt Park (Upper Hutt) and two races at Makara Peak (Karori). This is Marco’s second year of organising the series for the club and he’s done another fantastic job building on last year’s experience and striving for a bigger and better series. My personal sponsor Penny Farthings has got behind the series as a Gold sponsor providing $5,000 worth of spot prizes so everyone is in to win. I remember some of my first mountain bike races in Wellington in Brent Hoy’s “King of the Forrest” series. I have very fond memories of the chocolate fish and the spotties so needless to say I was very sad when the series folded and left a big hole in cross country mountain biking in the region. So it’s brilliant that PNP has got behind the sport and adopted Mountain Biking into what was traditionally a Road and Track Club. I now encourage and challenge the roadies in the club to get into the dirt and give the racing a go. Myself, I’m especially excited about the race on Mount Victoria which is my stomping ground just 200m from my house. What is so special about this venue is that a World Cup race was held there in 1996 and the course is likely to be similar, and only one race per year can be held on Mt Vic. Thanks Marco and PNP for getting this series going. And good luck to all those who are racing at Makara Peak on September 4. For more details check out

Swiss Power Cup, Samedan – August 20, 2005

The forecast for race day was bad and it held true. It was raining hard in the morning and very, very cold – do you believe only 5 degrees? And this is summer? Luckily we weren’t racing until 2pm and by then it had stopped raining and started warming up a little. Phew, we could ditch the arm warmers but we still raced with poly props.

The course was short with one long uphill on a 4WD track with a couple of sharp pinchers then a real fun fast downhill on single track with some switchbacks, grass, rock, and tree roots. The climb was where the business would be done.

I started off well, not going too hard like last week and I held a good pace up the hill. We were racing at the same time as the Junior boys and the Amateur men so there were always riders around, some very aggressive and agitated to be on the single track behind a female! We were racing 6 laps and on each climb I seemed to fade. Again I wasn’t having a good day but I kept it going to finish 10th.

Rosara had a stormer to finish 3rd and make the podium. Wahoo. A Big thanks to Selby for feeding me and tuning my brakes.

When I think of Samedan, foremost in my mind is the cold weather and our accommodation in the bunker. The “bunker” was an interesting experience. It was beneath a school with no windows or external light. It had a series of solid, fireproof doors, and illuminous arrows led to the exit. There was a locked room for “magasins” – guessing it wasn’t a reading room! The sleeping arrangements consisted of a tiny room but accommodating 30 people - 5 people side by side, 3 levels high and on 2 sides of the room! There were numerous checklists on the walls, alarms, fire extinguishers and ventiliation ducts. It was very eerie to have no idea of the time of day or what the weather was doing outside. The 3 star hotel in Livigno is absolutely luxurious in comparison.

Let the Adventure begin…

I had a busy few days in Limoux organising my 5 week adventure through France, Switzerland, Italy and Scotland. After a few last minute dramas organising a rental car big enough for myself, Rosara, Selby, 4 bikes and Rosara’s bike box, I left Limoux on Saturday for the French Alps and another Maxxis Cup International. Luckily Europcar upgraded me from the Renault Kangoo to a Renault Megane Station Wagon! A pretty mint car with automatic everything – lights and wipers are on sensors, so no worries about remembering to activate the lights for the hundreds of tunnels in the alps! Saturday traffic in France was pretty bad and though mappy estimated the drive to be 6.5 hours it took me a long 8 hours, but I enjoyed some very pretty mountain scenery and was very happy to have the ipod tunes.

Maxxis Cup International, Montgenevre, France – August 7, 2005
Montgenevre is another ski resort in the French Alps, about 10km or so from Briancon (another town that the 2005 Tour de France visited), and in the same region as the last Maxxis Cup in Les Orres. The race started at 1800m in altitude and ventured straight up a wickedly steep climb, probably around 200m of vertical climbing – a granny gear climb! In short, I stacked it on the first major descent when I was sitting in 2nd and chasing Cecil Rode (since I knew she was a wicked downhiller). Doh. I lost a fair amount of time and once upright again I was in 3rd place. At the top of the circuit we passed into Italy, close to Sestriere – so in and out of Italy 3 times in one race. It was a very technical course with loads of steep descents, loose rocks and boulders. I was pretty happy to finish 2nd given my crash and I was very happy to be on the podium and get some prize money.

Swiss Road Racing – August 9 & 10, 2005
I picked up two kiwi friends enroute to Switzerland from a road race in France. Don Oakly is racing on the road and living in Gryon (close to the UCI centre in Aigle and not far from Lausanne) for the summer season. Heath Turnbull and Nick Ross (aka Jock) are with him for a short time so it was great to hang out with the guys and also take in a couple of races. First up we did a 24km Individual Time Trial in Langenthal on Tuesday. There were quite a few women there and some very full on TT bikes. The course was mainly flat but the last 800m was all up. Wahoo – I won and bet the next female by over a minute. I was pretty happy with that given that I don’t consider myself a time trialist.

We stayed the night in Bern and the following day did a criterium in Brugg. This race was part of a series and it’s known that some pro’s occasionally turn up for training. I entered the Women’s race which was with the Junior Boys. I had a good race and was near or on the front for most of it, however I misunderstood the points system for the first 2 across the line every lap (which was different from the Men’s race going down to 4th every 5th lap) and didn’t gain any points so even though I was the first woman to cross the line I didn’t get a placing. It was all good training and a very fast and smooth 800m circuit used by the Military.

Here are the results:
Time Trial

Swiss Power Cup, La Chaux de Fonds – August 14, 2005
I collected Rosara and Selby from Neuchatel on the Saturday before the Swiss Power Cup race in La Chaux de Fonds. I was very fortunate to stay with Ted Kurmann’s famiy in Les Planchettes and had a fantastic time catching up with them and learning about the farming life in Switzerland. I had so much fun and enjoyed many great meals. Thanks heaps Rosi and Albi.

The race was a disaster so I’ll keep it short. It poured with rain on Sunday and the course turned to mud. The morning was cold at a mere 8 degrees. On the second part of the asphalt climb my legs were not feeling right and I felt myself going backwards, but I was optimistic that they would come right. That never happened. I kept going for the training, trying to recover and go hard again, but there was nothing in my legs. After 2 laps I pulled the pin as it was doing me no good – it was cold, I wasn’t enjoying it and the possibility of crashing was high given the conditions. Rosara did well and finished 5th.

Thanks to Nicholas Siegenthaler, Team Manager of Scott Suisse Allianz; Adrian Jost, mechanic for the Swiss Power Team; and Selby for all their help on Sunday.

Training in Grenzach-Wyhlen, Germany
I’m loving this travelling around and catching up with friends. This week I stayed with Sebastian and Ute in Grenzach, not far from Basel, just over the Swiss border in Germany. Again their hospitality has been fantastic and I’ve had the most relaxing time – some good training, a little shopping, making some new friends (and new supporters for Livigno), sampling some mountain bike trails, and having many laughs. Thanks Ute and Sebastian.

Now we head to Samedan to the next Swiss Power Cup on Saturday. Then from there we head to Livigno to meet up with the World Champs team.

Tour of Charente Maritime, July 30-31, 2005

It was a 5 hour drive to St Jean d’Angely in the Charente Maritime region of France on Friday afternoon. We stayed at this amazing Abbey which has a wealth of history – founded in 817 it was once used as a Monastery but destroyed during the French revolution and more recently reconstructed and used as a Centre of European Culture to house groups of foreign students.

Though run for the past 6 years this is the first year the tour is a national event, thus according to French Federation regulations open to 3 international teams. The 13 participating teams included the kiwi team, the Ukranian team and French national, regional and club teams. Last year’s winner Beatrice Thomas was back and riding for the regional Charente team.

Stage 1: Tailleboug – Jonzac, 80km
We awoke to rain and it really didn’t look like clearing but before we knew it the sun was out. Then over lunch the rain was back. I thought the day would continue like this – however we were fortunate for a dry, sunny race. The initial plan of attack was to sit back to let the race develop. That didn’t last long and within the first 10km the kiwis were attacking off the front. We made some breaks – Toni, Dale and I were away with Beatrice Thomas but the Ukranian team decided to bring this back. The first GPM (or QOM - Queen of the Mountains) was at 9km which we had decided any one of us who had the legs should contest. There were no signs leading up to the QOM, just random markings on the road, so I went too early but still got 3rd and 2 points. We all worked for Tammy, our nominated sprinter who did an awesome job taking 2nd, 2nd and 4th in the day’s sprints giving her the sprint jersey. At the 2nd GPM I got up for 2nd. Soon after that climb Tammy broke away with Ukranian Kateryna Oxana taking the first 2 places on the next and final GPM of the day and I got 4th putting me 3rd overall for the Polka dot jersey behind 2 Ukranians. The winds were pretty strong creating a bit of gutter action and splintering the peloton. Tammy broke away from Oxana to take the stage win with 16 seconds over her break away partner. Paddy went solo during the 2 laps of the small 3km finishing circuit and gained 29 seconds over the peloton. The diminished peloton of 27 finished 1 minute 27 seconds behind Tammy. I sprinted for 5th so finished 8th in the stage. An excellent day for the team.

Stage 2: St Jean d’Angely, 5.1km Individual Time Trial
Though short at 5.1km, it wasn’t particularly fast as it was hilly and on dead narrow roads. I was such a geek leaving my aerobars in Limoux so I was totally road setup against most others with the minimum of aerobars and some riders even had the full on TT bikes. Nevertheless I was pretty happy with my 9th place and my time, giving me a some confidence that I can improve on my time trialling.

1. Tammy Boyd 8:56
2. Toni Bradshaw 9:04
6. Dale Tye 9:18
9. Robyn Wong 9:20
16. Carissa Wilkes 9:34

Stage 3; Loulay – Aigrefeuille d’Aunis, 83km
Again the rain fell just after lunch but it cleared nicely for a dry stage. Today we were going to protect Tammy’s leader’s jersey and sprint jersey and take hold of the QOM jersey. At the first sprint of the day Tammy took 2nd, retaining the Jersey, but obviously put out too much power and broke a spoke in the sprint. After a wheel change Tammy was back in the action, but it wasn’t too long after that Carissa was having some bad stomach cramps and had to pull out of the stage. In the next sprint Tammy took 3rd which put the Ukranian into the lead by one point. This meant that Tammy had to beat the Ukranian in the 3rd and final sprint, and yay for Tam she did it. It was a full team effort - Paddy did some awesome leadouts and Toni, Dale and I chased breaks. The QOM leader bet me in the first GPM and held the jersey but for the next two, the mountains were more like false flats and I powered away to take maximum points in both. The Ukranian didn’t feature in the 2nd set of points so I took over the Jersey. Wahoo! This is my first jersey overseas. The stage was dominated by us. Attacks would go and the black jersey was there. In the finishing circuit, Toni went solo and despite the team trying to block, she was caught right on the line. Disappointing for Toni, but a fantastic effort. It ended in a bunch sprint with Beatrice Thomas taking the win, Toni in 6th and myself in 7th.

We cleaned up – Tammy taking 1st, Paddy 3rd, Toni 4th, Dale 6th and myself 9th in GC, aswell as the Teams classification, the Sprint jersey and the QOM jersey. It was a highly successful and totally enjoyable weekend.