Travel | Nelson NZ – One City’s Enduro World Series Stars
New Zealand, most often thought of in the world of mountain biking as a mecca, a hotspot and hub for cyclists. A country with its heart firmly in the outdoors lifestyle it’s not surprising that it produces some pretty talented riders. One city in New Zealand it seems is producing some of the top enduro female riders, three from the same place in fact and all well capable of an Enduro World Series top ten finish! I thought long and hard and I can’t think of another place in the world where one town has three current riders aiming at the top of the enduro game and certainly not female riders. What’s more the city has a population of less than 60,000 people situated in an island with a population of just 680,000!
This town is Nelson, situated in the top of the south island it has some of the best and most technical trails around. Everything from roots to rocks, switchbacks to steep chutes, sprints for the lungs and uphill for the legs. When the three riders I’m talking about use these sorts of trails as their training ground I’m not surprised that they are shredding fast and hard alongside being some of the fittest ladies I have ever met. Three ladies, three different backgrounds but one town and one common aim – a full Enduro World Series season in 2015.
First up is Raewyn Morrison, a 25 year old physiotherapist and the only born and bred New Zealander. Raewyn, Rae to her friends, grew up in the North Island on the Kapiti Coast near Wellington. Her roots as a child are placed in downhill riding, being taught skills by Kapiti MTB club. On moving to Auckland to study Raewyn found a distinct lack of hills and the downhill bike had to be laid aside in favour of a cross country machine. She was equally as talented in the cross country field though, soon racing elite XC regularly at national level. In 2012 New Zealand was hit by the ‘Super D’ bug, a precursor to the Enduro races we know today. Super D is one long predominantly downhill stage, raced once with fastest being the winner. Raewyn took these races on riding her XC hardtail and was Oceania Champ (competition between NZ, Australia and Pacific Islands) in the same year. As soon as ‘enduro’ racing hit the New Zealand shores Raewyn knew that this was something she wanted to be involved in. Unfortunately her progress was hampered in February 2013 by a massive crash over an innocuous jump leaving her with a broken hip. Rae was off the bike for 6 months but her tenacious nature meant in just the 7th month of her recovery she was racing again and winning!
2014 for Rae saw her take on two of the Enduro World Series rounds in Canada and America. These races took place as the New Zealand summer season was drawing to a close and as privateer’s Rae and her partner Mark Dunlop (another EWS top 50 contender) went out with bikes that had already put a hard season behind them. Despite an immense amount of bike maintenance Rae came 14th in Whistler, a race recognised as one of the toughest of the series. Both Rae and Mark used these experiences as a huge learning curve, Rae has trained hard and worked on mental practices to ride in a more tactical way safeguarding against the risk of crashing. Her training includes racing against her peers in both downhill and enduro, one of those girls Meg (see below) has the same goals this year as Rae so there is a healthy amount of competition between these two, despite which they are good friends and regularly ride together.
Raewyn and Mark have secured sponsorship as ambassadors for Giant New Zealand, you won’t miss them as they whizz past on identical orange Giant Reigns! Raewyn has already begun her race season with racing local and national events in New Zealand. The next race for her is the ‘Trans New Zealand,’ an epic 5 day multi stage enduro in the Queenstown and Christchurch area. From here she has entered all of the EWS rounds and will no doubt smash some other races along the way. Raewyn has her sights set on a top ten finish in each EWS race this year, with a stacked field of world class riders competing this year this is no mean feat, having met Raewyn first impressions are of a girl with a hunger for success. I have first-hand seen her determination and focus when racing I am excited at her prospects and sure she will achieve her goals!
The second lady shredding hard in Nelson is Meg Bichard. Meg is from the UK but moved to New Zealand after completing her studies to be a vet when she was 25. Originally with a passion for climbing Meg cast aside that pastime in favour of mountain biking. Not long after starting riding Meg, thoroughly in love with the sport, took on the Megavalanche in 2010 coming 3rd! Surprised at her own success Meg now realised she had real talent in this field and racing took on a whole other level. Being injured in 2011 stalled her plans for a while but by 2012 and 2013 Meg was racing full throttle with a lot of success gaining valuable experience in the world of enduro racing alongside her partner, Ed. During this time Meg also obtained sponsorship from Specialized New Zealand, riding an Enduro 29er as one of their ambassadors. Other sponsors helping Meg on her quest for race wins were local Nelson companies; Sports Therapy, chiropractor Love Day Clinic, MTB skills help from Chris Mildon, Coppins Bike Shop.
All this preparation was in readiness for her 2014 race diary, Meg took on local races in New Zealand during their summer, with a number of wins, so when the rest of the world’s race season hit she was fit and ready. Meg took part in three Enduro World Series rounds (Tweedlove 7th, Valloire 7th and Whistler 8th place), she raced a round of the European Enduro Series, coming third, raced the Megavalanche where she came a very respectable second in front of Manon Carpenter in that mud fest! She also took part in the SRAM Specialized Enduro in Kirchberg coming second behind Anneke Beerten and won a round of the BC Enduro!
Lately Meg has also secured support from Alistair Jamieson of trailAddiction and also his partner Serena Hobson who has been using her skills as a personal trainer to increase Meg’s strength and flexibility. Meg will be flying the flag of the MTB guiding company trailAddition on her jersey in 2015. She will be racing this year as a privateer again on her Specialized Enduro 29. Her race plans begin in March this year with the first round of the Enduro World Series in Rotorua, NZ. From there Meg will follow the EWS around the world with some additional races thrown in such as the pairs enduro race Enduro2, the Trans Savoie and also the Megavalanche again. Meg’s main focus will be on the EWS though where she also is aiming for a consistent top ten finish throughout the year. Meg has a quietly confident but modest air, she is well equipped to make her mark on the enduro world this year, I’m already excited for her and eager to cheer her across the finish line!
Last but by no means least on the list of three is Anka Martin. Anka, born in South Africa lived in California and then in 2010 made Nelson her home with photographer Sven Martin. Anka made the decision to stay in Nelson after being taken out riding with the locals, loving the scene and loving the sense of community. Anka got hooked on mountain biking whilst in California, exploring trails and being curious about what was around the next corner. She raced downhill bikes for many years and also some multi-day marathon type events, the type of training setting her in good stead to be a pinner on the enduro scene. Anka recounts the time when she used to race the Megavalanche on a bike with three front chain rings, stopping every few minutes to pick up a dropped chain!
Through five months of the year during the European summer Anka and Sven take to the road with Anka racing professionally for Juliana Bicycles and SRAM taking on the EWS races, the Megavalanche and the Trans Provence. For the rest of the year at home in New Zealand, Anka is busy recuperating but also helping promote the Nelson area with press camps and launches, showcasing the trails to the world. Anka states the riding in Nelson is so good and so technical that when she goes to race elsewhere nothing seems so scary as her local loop – this is definitely part of the recipes for all three girls success along with varied terrain and accessibility of tracks. The Department of Conservation in New Zealand does a large amount of work to help riders make the most of the area.
Last year in 2014 Anka continued totting up a long list of successful results during the Enduro World Series and the Trans Provence, never being off the podium day to day in that race. She works hard, trains hard and embodies the spirit of Juliana Bicycles by going out there and having an awesome time whatever is thrown at her. She can not only be found racing stages of the EWS though, she also MTB guides in the Provence region on France in her down time! Anka also plans to go on a few adventure trips in 2015, exploring, enjoying the journey and making memories. Anka humbly says she just wants to get round this year’s racing in one piece, I am in no doubt she will do this and more. She is aiming as the other girls are at top ten finishes in the EWS. She will also be doing the Trans Provence again and the Megavalanche depending on the privateer race budget. I enjoy following Anka’s progress each year, this year will be no different!
Anka is a firm advocate of New Zealand as a great training ground for young racers. She states there are plenty of opportunities to ‘practice’ racing and hone skills. Wherever you live it takes a huge amount of commitment to race overseas and New Zealand is no different. Anka, Meg and Raewyn all know that it may takes many months and years of persevering on the world circuit before you start seeing the support and result you are hoping for. It’s something these ladies do without a moment’s hesitation, they take each step or knock back as a learning curve in the knowledge that with time it well get easier and better. So, just prior to their EWS missions this year I sure you will all join me in wishing these ladies the best of luck, then check out their facebook pages and blogs and follow their progress!
Words: Rachael Gurney
Photos: Sven Martin and Digby Shaw