Video: Farewell Justin Leov

Justin is one of the good blokes. Always approachable with his inviting goofy smile. We’ve really enjoyed watching our brother from across the ditch racing the World Cup DH circuit and then transitioning to the top level of the Enduro World Series. We captured him ripping through the trails of Blue Derby ahead of the 2017 EWS season; watch, enjoy, crack a smile and perhaps a tear as Justin shares his personal farewell. 


Coming to Whistler this year I knew it would be the last roll out here for me. It’s been one hell of a ride but the time is now right for me to hang up my boots. Finale Ligure in October will be my last official race and then I plan to be at home a lot more next year to get into a few projects and more time spent with my family and kids.

My wife and I have just purchased a block of land which used to hold National Downhill and Cross Country races when I was in my DH career. It’s been many years since the tracks were used and with the trees cut from the land two years ago, a lot of work needs to be done to get them reinstated. We have just replanted 28 hectares in trees so now it’s time to get the tracks back in. We plan to have accommodation on the property so anyone wanting to come visit NZ and do some trail building get in contact!

I’ll also be coaching next year so I won’t be completely removed from the industry; two wheels once in the blood stays for life I believe!



I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the people who have influenced my racing career. My manager Martin Whiteley, the guidance, professionalism and friendship, thank you.

Jason Marsh for the first years of help while in Europe. Teaching me to sneak into hotels in Switzerland to get free showers haha!

Gery Peyer for the two seasons on the Suspension Center team when I got my first World Cup podium, and for putting me up in Bern, Switzerland, for the summer.

Chris Conroy, Hoog and the Yeti Cycles crew for signing me up. Damion Smith for coming and getting me when I broke my collarbone at a race while he was on vacation. The Trek crew, Ray Waxham and the awesome engineers especially Dylan Howes . Mark Fitzsimmons from Fox, many years and some really good times. The Go-Karting and Fitzy’s block moves on the Frenchies will always be burned into my mind! Justin Frey for the tuning, awesome years.

My mechanics over the years especially the late Chris “Monk Dawg” Vazquez, thanks for keeping the bikes running sweet. Ben Arnott for being rad, and soigneur Paul Schlitz you are awesome! Never knew anyone who brought a keyboard to a race and played in the pits while we were practising.

The Canyon crew, Flo ( RIP), Larry for being an incredible mechanic and then stepping up to being Team Manager. Fabien Barel for advice and belief.



To all my team mates over the years, these are the people who really make the races good times. Sharing lines and setups and good mates! Thank you. My coach Steve, cheers for keeping me fit and on track.

Adidas Sport eyewear, David and Reini thank you for the support with this diary and everything else you do for our sport.

Théâtre des Opérations, Jean-Pierre Coupé for advice help and getting these Diaries translated into five languages.

Lastly my awesome wife Victoria and all the #teamleov family. You can’t do this game without a strong support network at home!

To all the fans. Thank you very much. One last outing, see you all in Finale Ligure!

Justin.

Justin Leov joins Canyon to Defend EWS Team Title

The Canyon Factory Enduro Team (CFET) is proud to welcome one of the world’s top enduro riders, Justin Leov to its ranks. Justin completes the team’s roster to join Joe Barnes, Ines Thoma and Ludo May for 2016.

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Together, CFET will set out to defend their Enduro World Series Team title. As New Zealand’s fastest, Justin will be nailed on as one of the favourites for individual wins and the series overall.

For Canyon Founder & CEO, Roman Arnold, bringing Justin on board enhances CFET’s standing as one of the strongest outfits in enduro.

“Welcoming a top rider like Justin to the Canyon family is really exciting. Throughout his career, he’s shown his complete commitment to racing and that’s reflected by the fact he’s in the mix at every event he starts in. Justin is a great ambassador for the sport and for Canyon. Our team has progressed over three seasons in the EWS to become series champions in 2015. With Justin now on board, we’re confident we can reach new heights in 2016.”

At 31 years old, Justin has three EWS campaigns behind him having made the switchover from World Cup Downhill in 2012. After finishing third in the 2014 overall rankings, Justin stepped up to become one of only a handful of riders to win an EWS round in 2015 at Tweedlove and was leading the overall series before a crash in Whistler took him out for the rest of the season.

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With a new team and new setup, Justin is gearing up for everything 2016 can throw his way and has his sights set right on the top.

“I’m really happy to be given the opportunity to work with Canyon and to be around such passionate people. The presence they have at the EWS shows they are really into enduro. That’s what I’m about too. Every weekend I’m aiming to be up there, I just want to race and know I’ve pushed so hard that there was nothing more I could give. When you cross a finish line and you can’t hear or hardly see anymore because you’ve given so much, that’s what I live for.”

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Having fully recovered from the shoulder injury sustained in Whistler, Justin is now back out on the trails getting in the hours on his new race bike, the Strive CF:

“I frigging love my bike! The Strive gets me excited every time I ride it. It’s such a beast in DH mode, eats up the trail and sits just right but I love that I can climb the thing without that sacked out feeling you usually get from an aggressive 160 mm bike.”

The 2016 EWS circus kicks off in Valdivia, Chile, on 26 March. From there, Justin, Joe, Ines and Ludo will fight it out across eight rounds worldwide to make it another awesome season!

Justin Leov’s diary #6 – EWS Whistler

Sitting on the couch with my arm in a sling was the last thing I thought I would be doing at the end of the Whistler EWS.

My series lead took all of about 2 minutes to disappear in Stage 1.

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I lost my wheels on a slippery wooden bridge and knew as I hit the ground that my shoulder was dislocated. The next 45 minutes walking off the mountain I experienced some of the greatest pain I have known in my career. Getting to the hospital and finally getting it back in along with some pain relief was like heaven. A big thank you to the guys who helped me off the mountain, your support was really appreciated! I am now left with the thoughts of what could have been for the remainder of my season.

Injuries aren’t something you ever plan for, but in the back of your mind you know they can strike at any moment. It goes without saying that I am pretty gutted at the timing of this injury. Although my shoulder was separated and relocated fairly simply, there is a break inside the shoulder which needs to be fixed. This means surgery and a 3-6 month intensive recovery period. I have chosen to fly back to New Zealand for this. Sadly I have to sit out the remaining EWS rounds in Spain and Italy.

Looking back it’s been one hell of a year and I must remind myself that I have  achieved a lot. My first win in Scotland was a highlight for sure but also having consistent speed each weekend has been a huge confidence booster for me. Knowing that my training and equipment is dialled and where it needs to be to challenge for wins is also reassuring knowledge. I will carry these positive points forward and build on them for next season to come back stronger, faster and hungrier for the win.

I’ve been stoked this year to see new competitors pushing hard and being rewarded with exceptional results. Greg Callahan in Ireland was a perfect example. That whole race was incredible, I will remember the amazing crowd at that event for the rest of my life, it was a privilege to stand on the podium in 2nd at that round and soak up the atmosphere! Richie Rude is another example of an exceptional athlete making a name for himself. The younger guys are on the charge which keeps us “experienced” racers on our toes. That’s only good news for the racing and means exciting nail biting finishes to come.

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I must also say I think last week in Colorado was a reminder to us all how precious life is! Although I never met Will, we as mountain bikers all share the same passion and must remember how strong the bond is that we all share. Enjoy the trails and racing but appreciate your riding buddies. We’re all part of the same family!

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Lastly big thanks to my supporters behind the scenes who made this diary happen this year. Adidas eyewear for being so supportive and pulling it together for me. Théâtre des Opérations for the productions and keeping everything on time! My wife Tory and my manager Martin for editing my numerous grammatical errors and also you guys for reading and showing support!

Off to get a new shoulder now and start the road to recovery. Looking forward to seeing you guys out there real soon!

Justin Leov – Staying ahead in the Enduro World Series

Preparations for Samoëns couldn’t really have gone much better for me. I’ve had plenty of good riding in Finale both on and off road and temperatures have been in the mid to high 30’s every day so it’s been great for getting used to the heat.

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So leaving for France I was in a good head space and excited to be back into the Alps on the longer more demanding courses. These are typically my favourite courses of the series and my preferred racing format for Enduro.

The weather was looking good once we arrived but forecasts suggested we could be in for a thunder storm or two over the weekend. From previous time spent in the Alps I’ve experienced this all too well and knew what to expect. It was going to be important to have both dry and wet weather eyewear ready to go at all times. I’ve been caught out without the right eyewear before and it can be a costly mistake so I had my Roll Offs, ID2 goggles with the dual lens to handle the cold or hot conditions and my Evil Eyes Evos all setup ready on standby for what ever was going to be thrown at us.

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Being able to walk only one stage of the course this year was a new aspect to this style of racing for me. The stage we walked would be raced without a practice so again a new format which would be an interesting challenge.

I felt a bit rushed actually when race day one came around. I’d spent the day before running about the town getting organised and the day seemed to disappear quicker than expected. Actually finding stage 3 to walk took longer than planned and then hopping into bed knowing I needed to be at the pits at 7:15am was all a bit rush rush rush. I was running a million miles an hour in my head and sleep wasn’t coming, one of those nights you wished to have an on/off switch.

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Up early for the first day of racing and on the lift for a practice run on stage one. This would be a physical and demanding course, but I was excited as it would be a tough one on the body and serious time could be made. A totally dry course which had rocks, roots, fast and slow sections a real mix. Looking at the sky it was black and temperatures just started to drop…I knew what was coming!

Yet before I left the pits for race stage 1 the rain started and as we were half way up the gondola ride the lift was shut down as thunder and lightning began. Waiting in the lift when you see that kind of activity around is always a bit of a nervous time. They won’t run the lift until the storm clears and you could be waiting a long time. We were lucky this time and within 10 minutes we were away again and the sky looked like the storm would be passing soon and fine weather would follow. A bit of a course delay would also hold up things so to get everyone through the day, one stage was cut from the race.

Dropping into stage one I started on the attack. The roots in the dry were slippery and having not practiced in the wet there were some bits you needed to hold on for. I felt really good and my run was going to plan when I came to a wooden bridge which prior to an uphill section. As soon as my wheels touched the bridge I knew I was going to crash and I hit the ground hard. My saddle was twisted and I had to knock that back straight before taking off again. Due to this bring before an uphill section I had no speed and was forced to run it. Now the heart rate was on red line and I needed to be fast and clean for the rest of the run. Coming out of the woods for an open section of grass there was a helicopter picking up the injured rider that had been our course hold. It was extremely windy and the course tape and grass was blowing everywhere. Slightly distracted for a second wondering what was happening I misjudged the next corner and could see I was either going to clip the marker pole or go through the tape. Aiming for the pole I hoped to shoulder it and carry on but it jammed between my forks and bars and I was thrown over the handle bars and onto the ground. Getting up I noticed my stem and bars were twisted so I kicked the front wheel to try straighten it out. Nothing with the first two kicks, and the third buckled my front wheel so I jumped on and tried to finish the run with it twisted. I was gutted, it was almost impossible to ride and I was a lot further from the finish than I thought. I didn’t hear a rider catching me coming into the finish but Jerome had caught me and he was third off so that meant I had lost a minute!!!

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Riding back to the pits I was totally gutted, my weekend had gone from hero to zero on the first stage! I needed to ride fast in every stage now and there was no chance to crash again, and the body was feeling the effects of the tumbles. I pressed the reset button and went up for a practice on stage 2. This was a shorter more DH style stage, I really liked the dropping turns and it was a lot of fun to ride. You needed big brakes and clear vision on this one! With the sun now out again the conditions were also improving and it would be less slippery for the race so things were looking up!

The heat had returned for stage 2 race. On the line it would have been around 30 degrees and I was keen to push on for a fast run. Things went to plan and crossing the line I had put in a solid stage to finish 4th. This was a much better effort this time but still some work to do.

Now onto stage 3 this was a 40min ride from the pits with no lift access to the start; this was the stage we walked yesterday. To be honest it was a stage I knew would be my weakest link for the weekend, it had some fun sections but I knew it wouldn’t be a race winning stage for me. Being 1.9km in length I planned to ride it smooth and not let a mistake cost me with any crashes.

Dropping in things were going well but I was braking too much and fighting the bike in sections. Hitting my rear derailleur on a tight switchback corner didn’t help either and now I had only had the biggest gear to deal with. Entering the main rocky area I braked quickly as there was someone on course walking up! With everyone yelling at her I actually thought she was trying to stop me as a rider has fallen. Not the case, she didn’t know I was on course and soon jumped off. I finished out the run disappointed in my stage and losing another 11 seconds. What a day!!!

Going into day two I was sitting 17th overall and I had the series lead slipping from my grasp. My goal now was to attack and try get some positions back. If I could get closer to the top ten then maybe I could keep the series lead and that was my principle motivation for day two.

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Stage 4 was a longer stage, a good mix again of everything and very freshly built. It would be a stage to push on but also one to respect as the tight switch back corners would be hard to ride on the limit without a moment or two. I set off smooth and made sure to be slow enough for the danger bits. One small misjudgment and I couldn’t slow the bike down enough to make a corner….not crashing but I went through the tape. I pulled the bike back on course and didn’t lose a lot of time. The rocks were coming out of the corners and the blown out lines were hard to push on without risking a lot. Another corner caught me out and this time my front wheel pushed and down I went. I was up super fast and able to finish the run without any more problems. I was able to still put in a top ten finish for the stage so with one more to go I needed to keep up the pace but be on two wheels!!

Stage 5 was a middle length stage and I liked the style a lot. Fast, some great rocky sections and a lot going on. I hit my lines all the way down and put in a good effort to be clean. Another top ten finish but not what I had hoped. I’d certainly fought some battles this weekend and came out second best a few times so to see I had at least pulled myself back to 12th overall was something positive to take away. Richie Rude put in an impressive ride to take his first overall victory so I was stoked for him, and I knew he would be getting closer to me in the series points. A quick math calculation would reveal I had managed to keep the series lead by 40 points so that was another positive for me to take away.

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Heading to Colorado it’s going to be some exciting weeks of racing coming up. France you have been a tough one to me!!

Behind the Scenes, Justin Leov’s First EWS Win

It’s Not Over ’til it’s Over!

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With back to back EWS weekends I think everyone knew it would come down to who could recover the best from Ireland. It was in Peebles last year where I managed to score my first podium ever and with two days of racing so much can happen, so it’s an exciting race. Coming from near perfect conditions in Ireland it was almost a given before I checked the weather forecast that we would see some typical Scottish weather over the week. It was pretty much what we expected but with extreme changes, we would see everything from blue skies to sideways rain with ice, axle-deep mud to fresh dusty loam! The week would see a lot of woollen clothing, rain jackets and waterproof gloves and our nutrition requirements would be huge this week.

So with the Tweedlove EWS there are basically two aspects, day one on the Innerleithen side and day two at Glentress, a few kms up the road. The first day at Innerleithen would see the more DH style trails; we would start with a physical stage but once through that it would be tight trees, tree roots and who could stay on. Day two on the Glentress side would have a mix of technical stages in the woods and flat out hammer to the wall endurance stages. This is where I learnt last year the race is won or lost and carrying speed while being in top physical condition would really make the difference. With these facts I had a simple game plan. Get through day one without any major dramas and then put all my energy into day two where the freshness would pay off.. Hopefully!

Practice this time around was over three days, it allowed a day on each side and one day of ‘choose which ever stage you want’. Learning these courses requires energy and there is always the fine line of how many times do you want to climb back to practice versus saving the energy with a single run. This time around we chose to ride both stage 1 and 2 twice and then a single on stage 3 and stage 4. For a first day of practice this was around 2000 meters of climbing. Getting the morning done with mild conditions we soon got to experience our first weather patterns coming in and rain showers to play in.

For the second day of training we would see rain on and off all day. This would break into blue sky moments at about a ratio of 20mins dry to 10mins wet. The climb back out from stage 5 would also show us sideways rain and being blasted by ice which felt like being on a windy sandy beach! Today we opted to start with a single on stage 6, then ride stage 7 twice then stage 8 and finish with a couple of stage 5. This meant we could learn the fresher DH style courses and save energy on the longer more physical stages by only riding once.

After our morning roll down stage 6 it was evident this would be a key stage. It was nearly 13 mins long on the camera footage and had three decent climbs which would totally break up the field. I knew there would also be some controversy about this stage.

It was so physical and basic in terms of technical aspects that some people would be struggling to be able to handle it.

None the less I was happy, physical is what I train for as well as technical. We’re not just racing Downhill, Enduro is meant to be in my opinion a mixture of both. With another 1800 meters climbed today in the rain I was starting to once again feel the body.

The morning of the last day of training I was feeling quite tired so I canned my original plan of a run on stage 1, 3 and 4 and opted for a single run on stage 1 and then put the feet up and rest the remaining day. It was the right call for me and by evening I was feeling human again and ready for the abuse I was going to get the following days.

Race Day 1: Innerleithen 4 stages with a forecast of blue skies! Happy days.

With around 7 hours from start to finish, this would be a stress free day in terms of liaison times. Each stage would allow us to cruise up and not have to drop the hammer at any point in the day to make a start time. Beginning on Stage 1 this would have us pedal straight out of the gate and then hit awkward speed zapping rocks before settling into the run on freshly cut wooded sections and steep chutes. It was a bit of shock to the system for first stage of the day and for some reason I felt a bit flustered. Crashing on right hander near the top of rocky section I instantly swore to myself and pushed on for the rest of the run annoyed. Not the start I had hoped for.

Stage 2 was wide open fast and some bar grabbing trees which were damn close at high speed.

I liked this stage a lot and felt good in training going fast. This time around I threw down a fast run without crashing and slotted into 2nd for the stage behind Richie Rude. Back on track.

With a timing check and a feed station I didn’t bother refilling my bladder as there would be water 30 mins up the next climb at another feed station (well I thought there would be at least) arriving there I was gutted to see all the water had gone and I would be on my own for the next hour before they hopefully refilled the water if I was lucky!

Stage 3 was flat out fast up top above the tree line then a moment of darkness as we entered the woods Clear and sharp vision is essential in our sport, in such conditions even more. High quality lens is a must. I had a clean run with no mistakes so another one checked off and happy for the final stage of the day. Climbing back up for stage 4 had us pass the previous empty feed station once more. Luckily for me this time there was water and I was a happy man. Neglecting fluid is something that you never want to do in these races.

Final stage of the day and this one would race us further down the hill than stage 3. It would be a similar terrain with tight woods and plenty of roots to deflect the wheels off line. Unfortunately for me it wasn’t to be a clean run and although I felt my riding was well under control.

I misjudged my speed into a right hander and down I went for the second time of the day. Finishing the stage I was annoyed again with myself for giving up some more time to leaders.

Official time check would show I was 20 seconds down for the day behind Richie Rude and in 9th position.

Frustration didn’t last long though and my focus changed to day two and how I would need not only a clean day but there would be no way I could leave anything on the stages. #fullgas!

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I woke on Sunday to read some really disappointing news. The event would be cut from four stages today down to two due to some predicted weather and high winds that could potentially bring trees down in the forest. I could totally understand the safety aspects and knew the call needed to be made but still, I was gutted. I thought at this stage I could bring back enough time in two stages to maybe get back to a podium finish but that would be riding the socks off it so to speak. I thought my chances of being able to win would be a far push.

Setting off for the day we had much colder conditions than our previous day of blue skies. Cold winds and rain showers reminded me of the practice days before and with only stage 5 and stage 8 it was going to be super short day in the elements. Stage 5 would be a short fresh downhill stage that finished on slippery roots. The ruts were deep in practice so everyone was going to have a mission of stage for the race. It didn’t take more than a few corners and I realised this was going to be a tough one to stay clean. The mud was incredible, every rut wanted to grab your wheels and if you slowed your speed down too much the mud was so thick it could throw you off as well. It was one of those stages you had to go fast and hold on and whatever you did, keep your feet on while in the ruts! I managed a fast clean run and 3rd for the stage. Richie had had a real problem In this stage losing his lead and with my clean run I had moved up the ladder to around 5th. I needed to empty everything I had for the final stage of the day if I was to achieve my goal of clawing myself back into a podium position.

There was a couple of key points to stage 8. It started further up the hill than previously planned due to the day being shortened. It now would have about 2 mins of stage 6 on the start of the stage and this is all bike park style corners where speed carrying is really important. We then would climb a short section before hitting the wide open part of the run and where it got fun! The middle of the run was again all about carrying your speed through flowy turns before the most aggressive short climb followed by a fire road downhill and then grind up the last short hill to have a fast and flowy descent to the finish.

I needed to be aggressive for this one and I planned to hurt myself massively on the pedalling.

I would say this run was on the edge for me, I had some moments where I was at the seat of my pants but just held it together and then the hurt I put though my legs was incredible. This was one of those runs when I was in constant fight between wanting to stop pushing so hard because it hurt so bad and the desire to want to win so bad it pushed me to hold it at the absolute limit. I remember the feeling of not enough oxygen as I crossed the finish line but with nothing left on the stage I was totally happy with my day and super exited to see how I had done with the weekend’s standings.

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A short 10min ride back to the finish arena and with the final time check I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on the timing board. I had bloody done it! I had brought back not only enough time to hit the podium but had just sneaked past Florian Nicolai and Greg Callaghan to take my first ever EWS victory! It was my biggest dream come true, speechless it didn’t really sink in until the podium and hearing my name called out as the winner, I couldn’t wipe the cheesy grin off my face. What a bloody weekend and what a bloody day!! Taking over the series lead from Jerome was another unexpected surprise and with a dominant ride from Tracy and another solid ride from Rene once again we were the top team for the weekend. You just can’t ask for anything better than that!

I feel hugely proud to be series leader. It’s something to hold with respect and I’ve always looked up to the riders holding it.

Heading into a short break it’s now time to have a regroup and freshen the mind and body again. The next round in France will be another battle and will have its challenges but getting back to the higher mountains is something I’m really looking forward to and seeing some long stages again will be a lot of fun!

 

See you out there

EWS Race Diary: Justin Leov

It has been a busy few weeks since the last EWS round in Scotland. I have been on the road with Trek World Racing helping the Downhill guys go fast at the World Cups. Coming from Leogang, Austria I was excited to get back into my own racing after watching fellow Kiwi riders Brook Macdonald and George Brannigan both step onto the podium. I learnt a lot from being on the sideline of the Downhill World Cup and much of it I wanted to apply to the French round of the EWS in Valloire.

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Road tripping from Leogang to Valloire was a combination of Italian espresso stops and epic photo opportunities via Mount Blanc. Caffeinated and well rested I was ready for a big weekend in the mountains.

Back to the French format of racing, 1 practice run and then into the racing, there is no advantage here with this format, everyone races at the same level.

Course walk Friday revealed we would be racing on virgin courses, a lot of which was raw rock, totally natural forest sections and in some places the grass had been freshly cut in the last week. Back to the French format of racing, 1 practice run and then into the racing, there is no advantage here with this format, everyone races at the same level.

Race day one:

Stage 1 was a rocky start to a mixture of fast sections, climbs and an epic wooded section. My Carbon Trek Remedy 29er was feeling good on the terrain and after my practice run I was too. Into the stage race and I had a good smooth run to start the weekend coming in 3rd. My confidence was high and with the time gap to first I knew I had it in the tank for the next stage. A few odd chain noises in my run and some skipping in the gears revealed I had a mashed a link on a loose rock, on with a fresh chain for the next stage.

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Stage 2 and this stage was to be raced twice today. This course was the longest, mostrocky and physically demanding of the weekend. It had a unique start straight into a short snow section, which with the hot weather was rapidly melting and getting some big ruts in it. A lot of riders would hit the snow and in the blink of an eye their front wheel was swallowed and over the bars they went. This lead straight into a technical uphill which could cost you anywhere from 10-20 seconds depending which card you were dealt. I had a strategy for the section; hit it fast, be aggressive and brace for what ever happens next. It seemed to work well and I flew through. I knew the first challenge over and now it was a matter of keeping the intensity up. The run was going good but I was riding too aggressive for this style of course. I wasted some energy in a few seat of my pants moments and saving myself from cartwheeling down the hill, however I crossed the finish line and managed my first stage win. That was a pretty awesome feeling! I have known for a while I could win a stage but to do it finally was a great.

I had a strategy for the section; hit it fast, be aggressive and brace for whatever happens next.

Having just raced stage 2 and going up to repeat it for stage 3 I said to my mechanic and team manger that I was going to tidy up my run and settle down a bit. Slow down to go faster! I was at the top a little earlier for this stage so I decided to walk down to the snow and check out how it was looking in the plus 30 degree heat. The ruts had doubled in width and depth. My strategy from before needed reviewing, so I found the deepest rut which looked the most solid underneath. I planned on hitting it smooth and a touch slower to make sure I wasn’t pulled off my bike. As I dropped in I setup wide to get straight on to the rut and held my breath, the big wheels just flew through the rut. I passed the section clean once again then focused to nail the rest of the epic run. By backing off just a little and focusing on a clean ride through the sections that caught me out before I could feel the time I was making on my previous run. Smooth pedal strokes, some big efforts from the legs and I crossed the line to put in one of the best runs I could of asked for. Another stage win! I was on a high, I lead after the first day with just over 30 seconds advantage. What a day!

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Race Day two:

So it seemed the previous days riding had taken its toll on my bike I needed a set of pedals, new chain, derailuer and a tire change. My wheels now resembled eggs rather than their original shape. Ray did an awesome job with my bike and going up for the first stage of the day all that was on my mind was ride smart. I could afford to lose some seconds but crashes and mechanicals weren’t an option if I wanted to keep the lead.

Stage 4 a shorter course with some gnarly rocks and a steep wooded section that was again all natural. Nothing beats the feeling of drifting around on loose fresh soil. After bumping up the tire pressure, the plan was to treat the rocks gently and to ride smooth. The stage went well and I finished in a good position of 7th, but was disappointed having ridden a little too conservatively. It seems unnatural riding to be careful, but it’s the smart thing to do when trying to maintain a lead. It seems my competition had some problems on this stage and I was definitely surprised to see my time gap had been extended out to 38 seconds. Two more race stages left.

So it seemed the previous days riding had taken its toll on my bike I needed a set of pedals, new chain, derailuer and a tire change. My wheels now resembled eggs rather than their original shape.

Stage 5 and this was a faster longer stage with a couple of climbs to get the legs burning. I had a good feeling about this stage, it was one that had its risks but with a solid setup and a bit of luck I could hold on to my time. Well I thought so at least! Before leaving the pits Ray picked up on a cut to my rear tire. On with a fresh tire and even a little more pressure (just to be safe) I knew I had the best chance of getting through. This was the strongest tire we had in our possession.

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I dropped in off the start line and hit the rocky sections with care coming through clean. But after this I misjudged a section and in the blink of an eye I was off the course, dam it. I pulled my bike back up on the course and having lost maybe 5 seconds I knew it was still totally fine. It wasn’t long and I was back into the groove with my run. What happened next is the one thing I didn’t want to hear, the sound of a small rock cutting through the casing of my tire. That awful sound of hissing as the air deflated along with my dreams of my first EWS victory. I hoped I could ride the rim all the way to the finish and get down without loosing too much time. Within a few mins I knew this wasn’t the case and my weekend was over, I was absolutely devastated. A 38 second lead with two stages left and now 2 mins down.

That awful sound of hissing as the air deflated along with my dreams of my first EWS victory.

I sat in the pits and thought about what just happened, why? What could of I done different? Why, Why, Why? Racing can be so cruel sometimes! I made a plan, no point in giving up. One more stage and I had nothing to lose. No more conservative riding, on with a fresh tire and on the lift with one goal in mind, to win the last stage. Redemption.

I did a good warm up for the last stage and on the line I was ready to leave nothing on the hill. My run clicked into place and crossing the line I had set a good time. Watching the other racers come down and realise I had once again won another stage was something positive to take away from a devastating day.

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I had brought myself back into 11th overall for the weekend. Not a win for the round, but enough to keep me in 2nd overall in the points for the series. That is something to be thankful for! What a weekend, I’m totally beat. There was a lot of learning at this round and my experience is building.

Thank you to all the support from the people who get me here:
Trek Factory Racing Enduro, Bluegrass Protection, Met Helmets, Fox Racing Shox, Shimano, Bontrager, Adidas Eyewear, Stages Power Meters, CNP Nutrition

Three weeks until La Thuile in Italy and if one thing is for sure, it’s going to be a great battle!

Justin

Deans Bank – New Zealand

The Lake Wanaka region of New Zealand is renowned as one of the upcoming mountain bike hot spots of the world, with over 500km of tracks on offer.

Justin Leov rides the Deans Bank trail, in Wanaka, New Zealand on a beautiful Autumn day. The trail is a 12km loop (approx 45 mins) accessible to riders of all abilities with incredible views of the surrounding mountain amphitheatre and into New Zealand’s largest river – the mighty Clutha.