North Island XCO Champs 2021

3 min read

Words: Sam Shaw
Photos: Cleland Wallace (where credited)

Kia ora. Grab a coffee (or a tea), a scone (or two) and sit in for a breakdown of the recent North Island Cross Country Mountain Bike Championships.

Race ready

Saturday - Travel Day

Up early as usual for a coffee, oat pancake and straight into loading the Hilux Surf with: one times Transition Spur, one times Ground Effect Slim Jims, one times Ground Effect Berglar, one times (pair) Shimanooo cross country shoes and one times POC Helmet – the must haves that I tick off before leaving for a cross country event (everything else can either be salvaged or raced without if I forget them). Once those were secure the rest of my stuff was randomly boofed into the Surf package.

Back into the house for some ukelele and yarns with the flatmates before making the 4 hour commute to Palmerston North with a few water stops on the way. I even managed to find about 10 human dumps in what seemed like our most pristine forest. Just gross.

Rolled into P-Naughty around 2pm and unloaded into Matt Miller and Sasykunya’s whare. Matt and I made our way out to the infamous Arapuke trails (the race venue) for a few laps of the race track. Back home for a feed, pearla sunset and an evening playing Settlers of Catan. Pwerfection.


Palmerston North on a great day

Sunday - Race Day

My favourite thing about Olympic style cross country events is the sleep-in. It's always afternoon racing for Racing always commences in the afternoon for the Pro-Elite and Under 23 categories. Sooo slept in (until 8am haha - am I old if I think that’s a sleep in?), waking up to the sound of coffee beans blending into the gooooods. Coffee, bike maintenance, some ukulele, some sketches, and three Harraways pancakes later we packed into the truck and headed to Arapuke.

Arrived 50 mins before the scheduled start at 12.30pm. Got a race plate and stamped out a great warm up along with a few yarns. Thankfully found Michelle Millington as a last-minute feeder (my usual tactics) and gave her my waters for each lap. Some more warming up. Then into the start gate and awaaaay we went. I started strong and felt very comfortable with the pace Cameron Jones was laying down. We managed to break away from the field instantly and continued to build a gap over the next lap.


Getting in the groove. Photos: Cleland Wallace

Coming into lap two I hadn’t drunk anything and was starting to feel a weee bit average so I dropped off Cam’s wheel. He gradually pulled away over laps two and three. As this was happening, I settled into my own race, starting to drink normally. I ate a carrot. A bit of a stupid idea, but I decided that I would try racing on just carrots and water as I have a personal thing against gels, cola, and all those nasties. Turns out carrots are the worst thing to eat while you’re putting your body under this kind of workload.


Putting in the mahi for the win. Photos: Cleland Wallace


The fully nutrional carrot

Anyway, feeling vaguely refreshed I got back to business on laps 4 and 5. By this stage Cam was 40 secs up. I hussed, and closed the gap on lap 4, then rode away on lap 5 to take the win. Stoked! Will try some better nutrition at the next race.


The mens podium - baggies and carrot. Photo: Cleland Wallace

We had prizegiving and all that jazz. Very stoked to have the North Island Champs Jersey back in my little mitts. I biked back into P-naughty for a warm down. Matt and I packed up the Surf and I made tracks back home to Rotorua with a pit stop at Lake Taupo for a swim and Butchers Pooool for a spa. The life of luxury in New Zealand.

Monday - Holi-Day

Coffeeees, tea and all day on the bike for the long weekend, the dream.


Long weekend bike views


3 Responses

Tony McCormick
Tony McCormick

10 February 2021

Congratulations Sam! Thanks for sharing the whole experience in such good style! As for the carrot … you didn’t actually say where you got it from or whether you actually thought at some previous time that you would take a carrot on the race!? i.e. a considered decision or some very random thought!?

Joy Burt
Joy Burt

10 February 2021

Too old to do this stuff now but how I wish it was possible in my day. Endurance events call for ripe bananas and cold tea sweetened with honey in my experience.

Brad Sidley
Brad Sidley

09 February 2021

great story and commentary with a touch of humour – epic

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