MTB World Champs - Day 3

It was rest day for me today with no time on the bike. I started off with breakfast at 8:30am then I watched some of the Under 23 Men’s XC race at 10am and saw Marcus and Clinton have a good start to their race. The NZ results are as follows: Marcus Roy 22nd; Clinton Avery 27th; Luke Mills 51st; Matthew Dewes 55th; Stephen Butler 56th; Jacob Bauer 57th and John Gray 61st. Again the Swiss dominated with Nino Schurter taking the gold medal; Tony Longo from Italy took silver and Max Plaxton from Canada took bronze.

During the Under 23 race I caught up with Kevin Sinnott from TV3 for a quick interview. It’s always fun to chat with Kevin as he’s so into covering cycling and knows what he’s talking about. I also had interviews with Jane from the Christchurch Herald and Chris Barclay from the NZ Press Association.

I forgot to mention yesterday that there are groups of school kids having field trips to the Championships, becoming more aware of the sport of mountain biking and experiencing first hand a World Championship in their back yard. I was high-fiving the kids, having pics taken and Bevan was handing out Maxxis stickers (which the kids just love). It was pretty cool for me, and I hope inspirational for the kids.

After only seeing the guys race a couple of laps I headed back to the hotel for a final massage at 11am with Sue McOnie. The whole massage experience is really special – not only are massages great for the recovery but it’s a quiet time where you are alone with your soigneur (massage therapist) and you can chat about anything whether it’s to do with cycling or not. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Sue and we’ve had some great laughs.

Though we’ve been having breakfasts and dinners at the hotel we’ve been fending for ourselves for lunch so after lunch in my room I was off to the airport to collect my sister-in-law, nieces and friend. I spent a few hours with them and my parents who arrived from Masterton. Then it was back to the hotel for dinner.

So there ends my very low key day. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t make it to the 4X finals (Jill Kittner from the USA took the women’s title and Michal Prokop from Czech Republic took the men’s title) but I hear there was a fantastic turnout of spectators and some very exciting racing. There’s still more to come.

MTB World Champs - Day 2

Well another fine day but again it was damn cold – this morning started off at minus three degrees!!!! Even with long fingered gloves my fingers were freezing when I arrived at the course. Today I practiced some starts and rode a hard lap, also testing out the Maxxis Medusa’s. Admittedly the course had dried out with yesterday’s fine weather and with the large number of riders racing and training on it. But the Medusa’s will be my tyre of choice if the weather man is right and the rain comes in on race day.

While at the event village I checked out the expo area and visited some of my sponsors. Maxxis have been inundated with requests for mud tyres as it seems the European’s have come to the NZ winter without any. I caught up with Bevan Burgess (Maxxis), Bryan Hall (Pearl Izumi), Dave Collins (Trek), Ross Lewis (Jamis), and Kila was helping out at the Bike Vegas tent.

This is my 6th World Championship and before having the support from BikeNZ most years I’ve paid a visit (at least once) to the Shimano tent for some tweaks to my componentry and they have kindly provided new chains and cables, etc. So it was great to welcome the same head mechanic from Holland to NZ. It was his first time out here and he was enjoying his experience despite the cold weather. He is here until Monday night so will only get one day when he’s not working to visit Rotorua before he flies back to Europe to provide support at the World Cup in Schladming, Austria. From there he’s off to the Road Worlds in Austria then Roc d’Azur in France. It’s pretty full on. Many of the European riders are also heading back home on Monday to compete in the final world cup the following Sunday. It’s a shame that the calendar didn’t allow them to have more of a break in NZ.

After that one last hard burst of training, it’s time to put my feet up and freshen up for Sunday. We’ve got three massage therapists looking after the 72 athletes. Elissa Brittenden looks after the downhillers while Sue McOnie and Paul Jesson are taking care of the cross country riders. We’ve each been allotted a massage two days out from our race but it is possible to get others if the therapists are not busy, however priority goes to those racing and next to those with injuries. The therapists are also busy at the course doing warm up rubs for the riders and being at the finish with towels, water and food.

The U19 Men XC race started at 11am. We had Jonathan Coates, Kelvin Drower, Nik Ferigo, Carl Jones, Duncan O’Regan, Thomas Reynolds, and James Williamson representing New Zealand. They all had solid rides and were all happy with their performances except the bad luck of the day was Nik’s broken chain in the first lap. Since he had just passed the top tech zone he had to run the descent to the next zone losing valuable time and he eventually got pulled out under the 80% rule with one lap to go. Carl Jones had the best result finishing in 32nd place. But it was a trifecta for the Swiss with Mathias Fluckiger blitzing the 4 laps in 1 hour 19 minutes, averaging under 20 minutes per lap. Impressive!

Also today was the Downhill seeding. It was a pretty clean day with no serious broken bodies or toys and it seemed that most were happy with their times. Sam Blinkinsop seeded first in the Junior Men’s downhill in a time of 3 minutes 17 seconds. JK seeded 9th in the Elite Men’s and Vanessa Quin seeded 6th. Saturday is the day for the finals.

Tonight there was a criterium for mountain bikers on knobblies (fat tyres, no slicks allowed) just outside our hotel. A German guy took out the Junior category and Paul Bishop took out the Senior category. There was a supportive crowd out there watching which made for a fun evening.

Well, that’s all for today. The Under 23 Men race tomorrow so I’ll hopefully get along to see some action (for a couple of laps at least).

Photography by Graeme Murray -

MTB World Champs - Day 1

Well in total contrast to yesterday it was blue skies and sunny weather in Rotovegas today. Wahoo. Bring on the racing.

The junior girls (under 19) and Under 23 women took to the stage in the first of the cross country racing. Monique Avery on her home turf was the best of the kiwis leading the charge in 16th place. Kathryn O’Neill took a spill early on but with a little encouragement she finished the race in 24th, meanwhile Hayley Robertson didn’t have such great luck and got pulled out of the race with the 80% rule. (Any rider 80% slower than the leaders first lap time will be pulled out of the race.)

Here is Jenny, Gen and I enjoying the sunshine and supporting the girls. We were out there cheering hard for Carissa Wilkes, Michelle Hyland, Michelle Bellamy and Fiona Lynsay who all performed well in the Under 23 race. They got 18th, 22nd, 25th and 26th respectively. The Chinese girls who took gold and silver were incredible. I’d seen them practicing earlier this week and they were spending heaps of time on the technical parts with a coach cracking the whip (pity I don’t understand Chinese). I was pretty impressed with their technical skills, but also their power on the climbs. Ren ChengYuan was the favourite going into the race with some fantastic World Cup results earlier in the season and even last year she bet me in two European World Cups after starting the race at the back of the grid! She flew past me pushing monster gears. They’re definitely on track for Beijing. Here’s a pic of the Under 23 start and the 2 chinese girls on the first lap riding the rock garden.

Again, I’m loving bumping into loads of kiwi’s at the racing. I unexpectedly caught up with Meshy Holt & Jeff the Ref (Jeff Alexander) recently home from the US, Director Doon (Brendon Cameron) and Manu who were all enjoying the sunshine, the spectating and supporting the kiwis (especially roadie and only semi-converted mountain biker Michelle Hyland). And then there’s the load of cycle industry reps – Wayne Mason (PRV), Paul Davies (FIL) and Mike Stylianou (Santacruz). I also finally got to meet photographer Frank Bodenmuller from Germany who kindly gave me some photographs from the World Cups last year. Most of the Euro’s that I’ve spoken with are enjoying their visit to NZ, loving the course, but all are agreeing it is dam cold. That’s no surprise really - I’ve spent the winter here and I’m finding cold too. All the marshals and volunteers on the course seem to be soaking in the atmosphere and always give a wave and a shout of encouragement as we’re practicing on the course. I know I’ve said it before, but it really is very special to have the World Championships here. And it’s so exciting to have so much kiwi support.

Behind the scenes we’ve got 4 mechanics working hard to support the 72 kiwi riders. Here are some pics of Oli (rubber gloves and all), Matt and Declan working last night.

Let the Championships begin

Tonight was the opening ceremony and boy was it cold. It was a very unique opening for the internationals introducing them to some of the Maori culture with a Powhiri (welcome), wero (challenge), whaikorero (speeches of welcome), singing, poi’s and of course a haka. All the athletes and staff by country paraded from the Sound shell near the Lake to outside the Novotel Hotel, a short 5 minute walk. The rest of the opening was only 45 minutes long but since it was so cold we were keen to get back to some warmth. I really felt for the Maori group providing the entertainment as they were dressed in very little, the traditional Maori costume. Brian Lopes (a multi World Champion downhiller from the USA) gave a great speech on behalf of the athletes and the Rotorua crowd were fantastic during our short parade.

Today the weather consisted of everything – it was freezing cold, then the sun came out, then hail and rain and mention of snow at the top of the hill! The course was extremely slick and greasy in places with some riders finding it difficult to stay upright. There was a lot of tyre changing going on. I tried out the Maxxis High Rollers. They weren’t too bad and I didn’t have too much trouble getting traction on the climbs however I am going to try out the Medusa’s. The weather is bound to change between now and Sunday so the lines will change but I do want to be happy that I’ve got a good idea of what tyre’s I’ll run in the different conditions. Today’s training consisted of a couple of hard laps. Tomorrow will be a recovery day.

Kashi, Clinton, Rosara and Carl represented NZ in the relay this afternoon and came home in 10th place, each having a pretty smooth run. They raced in the rain the hail. 1st were the Swiss, followed closely by the Italians and Polish.

The not such great news were the crashes today. Downhillers Joel Daniels and Holly Kernohan-Smith both did damage to their elbows, Joel significantly worse than Holly, putting them both out of racing. Also, Under 23 XC rider Lauren Koedyk mildly concussed herself, the second time in 10 days so she’s out of action for tomorrow. It’s very disappointing for the riders when so much preparation has gone into this one race. I really feel for them and wish them speedy recoveries.

Last night the whole NZ team got together again for a team photo. It’s quite a mission to organise 70 odd athletes and 12 or so staff into one photo! Then we had a photo for each category. I managed to get a couple of snaps.

Top photo is the Women's XC team - (L to R) Erin Green, Robyn Wong, Rosara Joseph, Jenny Smith, Brenda Clapp, Gen Whitson, (Front) Sonia Foote & Annika Smail. Second photo is the Men's XC team - (L to R) Kashi Leuchs, Mike Northcott, Eric Drower, Tim Wilding, Stu Houltham, Mark Leishman, Wayne Hiscock, Aaron Tuckerman. And the third photo is team Wellington - Declan Cox & Oli Brooke White (mechanics), Tim Wilding & Wayne Hiscock (Elite Men XC), Paul Larkin (assistant), and Robyn Wong.

Besides that, all is going well at camp. The Doctor has been kept busy, the swannies dealing to injuries, the mechanics to broken bikes, but all in all most are in good spirits and amped for their racing. First up tomorrow is the Junior XC Women followed by the Under 23 Women. I hope the weather is good for the spectating.

Latest Media Action

Domion Post
Check out the back page of Friday's Dominion Post - Wong will be riding high at mountain bike world champs

NZ Institute of Chartered Accountants Journal
On a roll for Rotorua

Hit out at N-Duro

My last hit out before the World Champs didn’t end so well. I missed one of the arrows and cut the course short by about nine minutes – doh! I was really disappointed when I unexpectedly arrived at the start/finish after 2 hours of racing, but I’ve put it behind me and focused on the positives of the race. I raced hard and felt good, solid on the climbs and nailing the single track. I was duking it out with Mark Fry for sometime before we hit Haro then before I knew it he was no longer in sight. He finished in a time of 2 hours 11 minutes so had I stayed with him I would’ve been 4th female behind Canadian Kiara Bisaro, Kiwi Annika Smail and Swiss rider Maroussia Rusca. Anyway I was happy with my race and I fulfilled my goal of a final hard blast regardless of the official DNF (did not finish). Results will be here soon.

The atmosphere was so alive with many international teams and riders either racing or training on the Whakarewarewa forest trails. Our ‘short course’ was apparently close to 40km however there was the option of the longer Highlander course of 70km. The winner from the Netherlands broke the Highlander course record by over 30 minutes in a time of 2 hours 58 minutes. Very impressive.

On Saturday afternoon most of the team checked in to the Ibis hotel and we had our first team meeting to introduce the staff and explain the logistics for the week ahead. It was fantastic to catch up with everyone and feel the excitement amongst the team. John Kirkaldie (aka JK) was announced as our team leader and flag bearer for the opening ceremony on Tuesday – a well respected rider and quite fitting for the job since he is retiring after these World Championships.

We stayed at the Ibis hotel during the Oceania Champs and we're back here again for the 9 days of camp so I knew what to expect as far as facilities and room size. Breakfasts and buffet dinners are provided and the chefs are catering with healthy food for the riders. We’re sharing the hotel with the Aussies, Austrians, South Africans and Brits. And I’m sharing a room with Jennifer Smith who is based in Colorado, USA and who has been at two World Championships with me in the past.

Today amongst the drizzle a group of XC riders headed out for a very light spin. Others have been on the trainers or some were keen to get in some leg speed with the motor pacing. This will be on my agenda a little later in the week. Official practice on the race course starts tomorrow after UCI (International Cycling Union) inspection to ensure all is safe.

This afternoon I did the café culture thing and paid a visit to the local hangout, Zippy’s café. I’m just loving catching up with so many passionate mountain bikers from all over the country. And what I love about mountain bikers is that there is no pretentiousness or airs and graces – everyone is so friendly and down to earth.

What a winter!

Well, there are only 8 days until the World Championships, right here in New Zealand. I can’t believe that the time has come around so quickly. It doesn’t seem that long ago that the kiwi team met up in Livigno in Italy to acclimate to the 2,000m altitude for last year’s World Championships.

My last blog entry was about enduring my first winter in 6 years, and to be quite honest I wasn’t looking forward to the cold weather and was very apprehensive about how I would keep up the motivation. But I’m happy to report that I’ve had a great time being home and have enjoyed doing things differently.

So, what has been different? The training has been different because I haven’t been racing full on, then there’s the balance with work, and of course the social life. After the Com Games I took some time off to enjoy myself. I kept active but I didn’t find myself riding my roadie. I was struggling to find that little x factor and to set my next goal. This continued for a couple of months. I knew Worlds was an option but I was concerned about the training and (lack of) racing in NZ. I didn’t put any pressure on myself to make a decision, and I have to admit that I was a bit worried that I didn’t want to race anymore, but one day as I was walking down the street, it hit me like a bolt of lightning and I found it, I found my mojo. I decided that I would race Worlds. I guess I’m like most athletes and I don’t do things half heartedly. I give 110% to achieve my goals but to do so I need to believe it and know why I am doing it.

World Championships in my home country! That is too great an opportunity to let slip by. So another reason to race is “because I can.” Part of my decision required that I didn’t put the pressure on myself or feel external pressures to perform. This is easier said than done as I know I’ll always have the internal pressure on myself. But it is important for me to remember that first and foremost I do the sport for the love of it. And that is what I was going to do – enjoy it.

I got into some longer rides which incorporated many café stops as a good friend and keen training partner is addicted to caffeine. Dave Liow was back helping me with a program at the gym. I was running off road at least one day a week. And I started an initial program at IO (recently re-branded from Body O2), a passive altitude simulation program.

I’d just like to say thanks heaps to IO for their program – it’s a really easy way to boost the energy levels and assist the recovery. It consists of breathing through a mask for 5 minutes at a reduced oxygen intake, then 5 minutes at normal levels for an hour a day. From day one I was at the equivalent altitude of Mt Cook (3,764m) and by the end I was at 8,850m, 850m below the summit of Mt Everest. I did an initial 3 week program in May, then a top up week in June and now I’m doing a final top up 10 days out from the World Champs. It’s difficult to isolate the sole benefits from the altitude simulation while I was actively training, however I felt I got a huge energy boost and generally felt good during training and recovery. I’d highly recommend it. And it’s not just for athletes.

As for training, my SRM cranks have been the best training gadget and it has kept me honest in my sessions. There’s no cheating the SRM! In my longer rides I kept a good tempo power output and with a few of those rides each week I felt I developed a decent base. I raced every weekend in June with the Tour of Taranaki, the N-Duro 33km MTB race, the 1 day, 3 stage Twin Peaks tour in Palmerston North and the Craters of the Moon MTB race in Taupo. The Twin Peaks tour was bitterly cold with an average temperature of 7 degrees celsius!!! I was disappointed with my result and my form, but then the 150km two days earlier probably didn’t help. It was all great training though and the results were seen a week later at the MTB race in Taupo where I won the 40km race convincingly in 2 hours 12 mins (18 minutes behind the Men’s winner, Tim Wilding). Sonia Foote was suffering from a cold and finished 7 minutes later. Results.

I had a couple of weeks off racing but then found a local duathlon that I thought would be fun since the run was off road. I really hate the thought of running on the road. The venue changed to Belmont Reserve and the distances shortened so the long course was a hilly 5km run, a flat 24km cycle and then a hilly 2.5km run. I didn’t have too many expectations of myself but I really wanted to push the bike leg, and to make things more challenging I didn’t use one piece of aero equipment. I didn’t start off particularly fast in the run and came into transition as 3rd female, with the leader Katherine Magee having a good two minute buffer. It took me a good 12km into the cycle to pull those two minutes back then I rode solidly to pull two and a half minutes into the lead by the 24km mark. I had to laugh at this report from the organiser Bob Welsh…

“In the woman's race Katherine Magee has been unbeatable in the last two races and I had no reason to think this event would be any different. It was not until half way through the first run that her parents told me she didn't expect to beat a Robyn Wong who is a bit handy on the bike apparently. I obviously do not read the right newspapers/magazines but I now know who Robyn is (doh)!!

Katherine opened up a 2 minute lead on the first run but oddly enough some impressive cycling by Robyn wiped this lead out not far into the second cycle lap. At the end of the cycle the 2 minute gap had swung to Robyn's advantage, an advantage that she held to the end of the race. The third lady home only was 3.5 minutes after Katherine was Robyn Holland.”

Anyway I had a fun day out. And Congratulations to Katherine who just competed at the World Duathlon Championships in Canada and won Gold in her 20-24 year age group.

On July 10th BikeNZ announced the NZ team to compete at the World Champs and I was thrilled (and relieved) to be named as one of the eight elite women cross country riders. The team consists of 70 riders competing in XC (cross country), DH (downhill), 4X (four cross) and trials. Here’s a link to the profiles of the NZ riders. The full team is here.

The second mountain bike race in the N-Duro series was held later in July – this time a 50km loop on wicked single track in the Whakarewarewa forest. This time no mechanicals. There had been some solid rain during the week so the tracks out the back were a little greasy but it all added to the fun. I won in 3 hours and 5 minutes while Clinton took out the Men’s field in 2 hours 21. The day before I took the opportunity to pre ride the Worlds course and check out the recent changes – the new rock garden, the change to the jumps and a new single track section near the top of the climb. It was looking great and the changes are a huge enhancement.

I was traveling up and down the countryside getting in as much racing as possible so I was back up to Taupo on July 30th to race their local club teams race which I chose to ride solo for three and a half hours. We were back in the Craters of the Moon but this time a short 6.8km figure eight circuit. My plan was to race the first 4 laps hard then ease up and reassess how I was feeling. It was a good blowout and I was pretty knackered when I stopped at 3 hours 20 minutes and after completing 9 laps or 60-odd kilometres. Carwyn May won the Individual Men’s race with 11 laps. Results here.

My race was all the sweeter knowing that I’d raced the first of the long standing Balfour Pennington handicapped road series the day before. This series I once won, back in my first year of road racing in 2000, but since then I haven’t been in NZ for the series. Back then I started racing in Limit and with only 30 odd racers it was somewhat different to the 150 riders competing off 6 different handicaps. In 2000 I think I was lucky if there were 3 other women racing. This first race of the season attracted 20 women. Cycling sure has grown in the capital and the PNP club continues to go from strength to strength. I was thrilled to mix it up in Break and feel pretty strong amongst the boys, doing plenty of work and finishing the sprint off in 4th. I was 6th female on handicap and got the fastest female time.

The following weekend was the 2nd round of the BP series with a 35km out and back course from Wainui to the coast. We had a bit of everything from sunny blue skies to strong winds and rain but it didn’t hinder our break group putting down the hammer and executing a pretty decent time with an average of 40kmph. I got 6th in Break, 3rd female on handicap and fastest female time.

Last weekend in the 3rd race of the series (and my last since I’ll be in Rotorua during the final race) I suffered a bit more in the windy conditions and the surging group and though I was amped for a solid ride up the hill to Mt Crawford prison I was badly positioned and didn’t stay with my group in the final few kilometers. I got 9th in Break, 4th female on handicap and fastest female time.

I thought I would recover fine for the first round of our local Penny Farthing PNP MTB series the next day but that wasn’t to be so. I wanted a big blowout and wanted to practice a hard start so I lined up against the Pro Men. A couple of minutes into the race and I knew I wasn’t feeling great but it was early days and I kept telling myself that I would come right. It didn’t happen. My legs were toast. I was working Saturday afternoon so maybe that affected my recovery. Other than that I’ll remain positive that it’s a good time for this to happen. Anyway, big ups to Marco and the PNP club for organising the race and catering for the national team riders, some traveling a fair distance to prepare for the World Champs – Carl Jones from Whakatane, Luke Mills from Nelson, Clinton & Monique Avery from Rotorua, Matt Dewes from Taupo, Stu Houltham and Mark Leishman from Palmerston North, and fellow Wellington riders Tim Willding and Wayne Hiscock. All in all there were 194 riders and with $5 of our entry fee we donated $970 to the Makara Peak Supporters Fund. Clinton took out the race with Hiskey hot on his heels and onlu 45 seconds behind.

Well, I’ll leave this update here for now and promise that I’ll post if not every day, then every second day during my time in Rotorua. I’m heading up there tomorrow.