Here at MarathonMTB.com we know there are so many things to get excited about each year. From new events, trips planned to some of the world’s iconic races, mountain biking holidays, a new coach or new gear – there’s always something on the horizon to keep you motivated.
All of our team riders are just the same, and they typically map out their goals for the year and find what really motivates them for their targets. Here’s a look at what our riders are excited about in 2018, and why.
This year I’m looking forward to going to World XCM Champs (assuming I qualify!). I missed out last year after having that massive crash that wiped out my whole season, so this year it means more than ever. The race itself (in mid-September) is called the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. ‘Cime’ in Italian means ‘tops’, or ‘peaks’, and the race is a tour of the three battlement-like peaks that tower above Lavaredo in the Dolomites in Northeast Italy.
While 2016 World Champs at Laissac in France was in many ways a very contemporary XCM race, with lots of singletrack and a more XCO feel, this year’s World Champs is Pure. Classic. Euro. Marathon. That means ski slopes, gravel mountain roads, grassy paddocks, and lots and lots of climbing. It’s the kind of racing where I really cut my teeth and found my limits and got hooked on XCM in 2013, so as much as the course won’t have many technical challenges, it’s one I’m really looking forward to.
There’ll be plenty of other challenges to make up for the fact that it’s only 17% singletrack. It’s a very long marathon – I expect to take at least 6.5 hours to complete the course. Women will race 98 kilometres and do 3,600 metres of climbing. That’s tough!
Qualifying, and managing to get to the start line of a World Champs is a special privilege and one I don’t take lightly. My goal would be to better my 20th place at the 2016 event, and I admit I do have top 15 in my head, but having had a couple of really tough years on (and off) the bike I know that if I get to the startline fit and healthy, and get through the race without any major mechanicals or mishaps, whatever I place will be a real victory.
Well after I do XCM Worlds I’m effectively going to retire from – er – the life I have now. I’ll keep fit and keep racing, but I won’t be doing intervals three times a week and I’ll probably race a lot less XCO and keep my cash and my leave from work for the fun stuff. That’s where The Pioneer comes in. So far husband and mixed pairs race partner Mike has done it twice and I’ve stayed home, training up for other things.
This year in November we’ll be heading over to New Zealand to race together for the first time in a couple of years. And for the first time EVER we’re going to race FOR FUN. The race itself is a great adventure and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see some really wild parts of New Zealand. Marathon stage racing is really what I love doing: getting out on the bike for long days in the saddle then backing up and doing the same thing again the next day, forming some great friendships with people from all over the world, and experiencing a landscape by bike. So in a way I’m looking forward to two things – stepping back from racing seriously and seeing what that feels like at The Pioneer. I can’t wait.
I’m looking forward to a lot this year so I’ve chosen three events. Easter in the Alice is a really special race to me. The thing I’ve always loved most about mountain biking is the grass-roots, community feel you get when you go to club-run events, and Easter in the Alice is the best of the lot.
All the locals get involved and you feel like you’re a part of something. The trails are amazing, the scenery and the weather are always postcard perfect. The race attracts a huge number of women and it’s been great to see it evolve and grow, all the while staying down-to-earth and keeping fun at the heart of each and every stage.
In 2018, I’m really looking forward to seeing how the Pioneer race pans out. With a logistical centre around the tourist mecca of Queenstown, the sublime trails of Alexandra, and simpler logistics, it could be poised to take a position right up there with the Cape Epic as a premier stage race.
I’m hoping to be on the start line and grovelling up the hills – the alps of New Zealand hold a special kind of beautiful brutality, or perhaps it’s brutalistic beauty – with the ice-carved slopes, dry tussocks, and massive alpine crossings.
I’m also just intrigued to see what the mountain bike world does in 2018. Bikes are getting increasingly capable, E-Bikes are challenging almost every established notion in cycling out there, and new standards and technologies are emerging at an alarming rate. Perhaps after some stagnation there’ll be a renaissance for cross-country based events, or perhaps the lines with Enduro riding will blur further and further. Either way, it’s guaranteed to be fun. As I get older, my distaste for the congestion, traffic and lack of singletrack of road riding increases – I’m just excited for all the micro-adventures that exploring amazing trails provides. I’m also keen for the races that blur that line with Enduro – from the Whaka 100 to the Coppermine Epic
The Tour de Timor is on my radar. Since it’s inception this race has long intrigued me. A bike race to promote peace in a neighour’s country that has experienced a traumatic past. Upon researching the event more and seeing it’s respect from government leaders like Jose Ramos Horta highlights how powerful this race is to the local people/economy. I’m super excited to be heading there in 2018 and experience first hand what this often overlooked corner of the globe is actually like.
I’ve also got an opportunity to race the Rincon de la Vieja – which I’m crossing my fingers comes to fruition! As part of the only inhabited continent on the world that I have never raced on, this is one I will be SUPER motivated to get to. With an epic climbing profile, this race has attracted many a mountain goat from all over the world.
Although I am not a climber per se, I am moving to a part of Australia that has nothing but climbs so will be looking to hone my climbing and drop some weight to give this Central American epic a solid crack!
I’m also really stoked on a new wheel set I’ve just fitted up. I have just upgraded the hoops on my Norco Revolver to an XTR Race wheel set and am excited to give these a solid workout in a race. On first impressions they stiff, with a nice wide rim profile offering good traction and solid power transfer. Very important for a bigger rig like myself!
I’m lucky in that one of the things I wanted to go and do for fun was in January! The Snow Bike Festival was a blast, combining lots of things that challenged me with doing something I love in a country I love visiting.
My next big goals are supporting Imogen (my wife) at the National XCO and XCM Championships, and then in June I’m travelling to Sri Lanka to race Rumble in the Jungle.
The Crocodile Trophy last year reminded how much I like longer stage races. There are times to feel bad, to feel good, to have problems, to solve them and to go through just about any emotion. Best of all, you come away with immense experiences and some new friends.
August and September will hopefully involve a trip to Europe to watch the XCO/DH World Championships, and then support Imogen at the XCM World Championships. With the support race the day after the big race, I’ll be keen to test myself on the same course, and like Imogen I’m looking forward to some old school marathon racing in big mountains!
But the true treat will be racing The Pioneer with Imogen. We were meant to do the first edition together but an injury prevented her competing. With a brand new course that promises to be all killer, no filler, the end of November can’t come soon enough!
So that’s what we are looking forward to – what’s on your radar for 2018?