The last few races of the 2019 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup have seen jumbled time sheets in the junior mens field. Is this proof of mounting pressure on the juniors who at the start of the season were consistently on top? Theres a number of riders including two of our own Hyperformance Hardware Young Gunzs among other kiwi potentials who have been part of the group of riders closing in on established riders through the world cup season. Tuhoto-Ariki Pene and Finn Hawkesby-Brown have also been selected to represent New Zealand at the upcoming UCI World Mountain Bike Championships to be held in Mont Sainte Anne, Canada. They just got back from Europe where they competed in their first world cups of the 2019 season. This was Finns first trip to Europe as a first year junior and Tuhoto’s second trip after much success last year. We caught up with both Finn and Tuhoto this week. With World Championships approaching in the coming weeks read on to gain an insight into their experiences so far this season and preparations for their trip to Canada.
1. Do you feel like you met the expectations you put on yourself before you went away?
To start with I had a goal of qualifying in the top 20 for the 4 World Cup races I was doing. I managed to qualify for Andorra and Val Di Sole which I was really happy with, especially qualifying 7th at Val Di Sole. Unfortunately I was riding with a shoulder injury which meant I couldn’t push as hard as I would have otherwise. However, I also did 2 IXS European Cup races and came away with a 4th and first place in those which I was really happy with.
I know I have. Before I left I wrote down my goals for 2019-2024 apart of my 5 year goal plan. A couple of my goals were to win a World Cup and also to get 2 podiums! So I’m happy to say I met my personal goals.
2. What aspects of downhill racing at an international level are different to racing at home?
The tracks are generally much longer and are all higher speed than the NZ tracks. They seem to have a mixture of key technical sections with easier bike sections between, except for Val Di Sole which is full-on the whole way down!
Definitely the terrain and the altitude. The way the the track gets carved up pretty much every single run, it’s basically like there’s a brand new line every run. For me this is cool! This gives you the adaptive skills, that are prime to being a mtb racer.
3. What single experience on the trip do you feel contributed most to your learning as a mountain bike racer?
At all the races there was a big time gap between the end of practice and the start of the seeding / race runs. So you have to learn to predict and adapt to the changing conditions.
As a young rider in the mtb game I really set focus on getting to know people, riders, sponsors and having good contacts. To my benefit I have a lot of people, whanau, friends, always keen to help me out with my bike maintenance, accomodation, flights, riding gears and just genuinely supporting me and what I do.
4. Of your strengths which ones will be most important to maximise for the demanding Mont Sainte Anne course?
I built up a lot of strength in my hands and arms which will be really important for the long, rough track at Mt St Anne.
I think endurance and mental game. Apparently the track is a nice long one. which means I need to stay smooth and comfortable on the bike. My mental game is something I need to keep on track and in the moment. Personally mentality is 90% of my ride, the rest is faith I get down safe as and the bike stays in one piece.
5. Of your weaknesses which ones will be most important to form a strategy to manage for the Mont Sainte Anne course?
There is a risk of hurting my shoulder again so I will need to get it well strapped up and ride smoothly.
A weakness would be balancing my health and nutrition with training and racing. Getting into a good sleep routine always benefits me. Not only that but making sure I’m eating well and resting enough, which we all know as a rider is hard to do. I gotta feel at my 110% when I’m up on the horse.
6. Keeping in mind your strengths and weakness - what strategy will you adopt for your mountain bike world championships race run?
I just want to be smooth and keep a good flow going in my run.
First of all good organisation. Making sure I have the necessary gear with me and my bike is running at its best. This way I’m less stressed and always sure I’ve got what I need. Also I need to adopt a good sleeping pattern so that i get up fresh and confident. Another thing I could add would be improving my visual memory for my lines.
7. For Tuhoto only - You have proven that you have continued your learning and you have been getting more consistent each race while maintaining your raw speed. For your next events which are your last on the international level as a junior
I’ll be flying out on Sunday 25th August to compete my last race as a junior at the World Champs In Mont Sainte Anne, Canada. I want to get to Snowshoe, USA for the last World Cup but at the moment I haven’t got enough funds yet. But I am excited to go off with a blast!
8. For Finn only - How was your first European racing experience? What aspects of European racing do you think are most different to anywhere else in the world e.g. weather conditions, the type or depth of competition, the style of track, the height of the mountains, the types of food to eat or anything that's even a wee bit related… How in future will you train or adjust to manage these challenges…?
Since the tracks tend to be much longer I will definitely be doing more top to bottom runs in my training. Long enduro stages would also probably help. The weather patterns in the European alps is quite different to home, with really hot days with unpredictable thunderstorms. After the thunderstorms the tracks can also dry out again quite quickly so you need to be able to ride the tracks in any condition even if you are racing it wet after practicing it dry (or the other way round). I have also learned quite a bit about the bike set-up (mostly the rake) and I had to set it up differently for each race. It was all a really good experience and I am looking forward to getting back again next year having my shoulder surgery.