Ben Oliver’s first year in elite ranks

Ben Oliver’s first year in elite ranks

The 2019 season was the start of me racing against the Top dogs of Mountain Biking. After 4 years in the U23 category to some success, I was now having to work my way up the ranks of full on Elite racing.

The Goals for the year were pretty simple, points, points, points. I needed UCI points to increase my World ranking so I could start races further up the grid, but also the extra incentive was points for New Zealand’s Olympic ranking to try and qualify spots for the Olympics.

This was a different plan of attack to other years where I really focused on a few races and results. I liked the idea of changing up the 2019 season and going to new places and varied races on the calendar in the search of points.

The year started off with a Points hunting trip to South Africa with some Cross country racing and my first ever MTB Stage race the Tankwa Trek. This was a pair’s race and joining up with Eden Cruise we got through the 4 days finishing 10th overall with some solid points in the bag. Stage racing was a good way to get points and also great training for the approaching Cross Country season. The NZ season was over in a flash then on to Europe.

It’s a fine line between racing enough and also having enough time to rest and train. I started my European campaign in May and was all but nonstop racing 6 weeks or so. I got a taste of Elite World Cups and was happy with a 37th in Nove Mesto Czech Republic. The next Block was a bit hectic with 6 days of racing in 9 days but was some of the best times of the year. I raced to a 4th place in Poland the week after Nove Mesto on a tight funky track. Last minute plans to Greece meant it was a quick pack up and off to start a Stage race a couple of days later. Joining fellow point hunter and good bugger Cam Ivory of Aussie, we travelled to Molyvos on the Island Lesvos, Greece. It was a wicked spot for some racing, swimming and eating. The racing was tough and hot, I got better as the race went on gaining some time later in the week to narrowly miss the podium. I managed to win the final stage and to top off the week I won the Cross County race 2 days later around the streets and stairs of Molyvos.

Photo Credit: Ego Promotions

Rest, recover and back to racing was the next plan but this is where the season started to turn pear shaped. I had a nice wee break in Switzerland and then a few training weeks in Andorra. Unfortunately just starting training again I got a stomach bug and even when I felt better again my training was messy and recovery not flash. This lead to some subpar performances in the following World Cups. On better news I moved my World Ranking to 45th from around the 90’s at the start of the year. This meant the World Cup Short tracks were now a possibility. 20 mins of full gas tight racing, pretty savage but good fun. My best was a 29th but I knew I wasn’t riding great and still trying to get back in form.

By July my body was needing a proper break but the need to hold my ranking meant I didn’t want to miss any races. Racing sucks when you are battling but I tried to make the most of it and prepared as well as I could for Worlds in Mont Saint Anne, Canada. It is a favourite course of mine because of its hard technical nature so I wanted to put together a good result for NZ. Everything was looking good until the week of the race where I got a fever that drained all my energy, resulting in a race with on strong start followed by a lot of going backwards.

I flew home after that to get myself sorted and so missed the last World Cup of the year. For an Up and Down season I was happy to see I can be competitive in the Elite field and have contributed a fair amount of points to the NZ Olympic qualification tally. 2020 will involve some more point chasing, bigger goals and some more adventures. Definitely learnt lots and I am now enjoying the NZ summer. So far I have had a large rest, got back on the roady to race Tour of Southland, studied a bit, will start working again and I can’t wait to jump back on the Enduro bike.


Ben’s top products this year

Camelbak Chase Bike Vest is the ideal training and stage race companion, I wouldn’t travel anywhere without it. 

Lezyne Tubeless kit – these tyre plugs have saved me big time on training rides and would be a quick option in a race to fix a cut tyre. 

Abus Airbreaker is the lightest and comfiest helmet I have used and looks good while protecting yournoggin.

 

Banner Photo Credit: Cullen Browne