juliana bicycles

My love affair with the Trans Provence & why YOU should sign up for a multi day adventure race at least once in your life.

I’ve just finished up the Trans Provence adventure about a week ago. This was my sixth time going on this journey, so as you can see, it is obviously my all time favourite event and the highlight of my season every year for sure. People often ask me why on earth would you keep going back every year? My answer to them is that first of all, I love the challenge, I love the adventure and I love riding sick new tracks. The Trans Provence is a hard race, it is no walk in the park and that is why I am so attracted to this event and other similar multi day races like the Andes Pacifico in Chile and other “like minded” events.

The challenge is to keep your bike & body intact for a week of pretty insane, technical and very exposed trail riding. You have to be so focused and really on it for 6 - 7 days, so you can’t just race like a crazy lady from the start, as you’ll never make it through the week. It’s not just about going as fast as you can whenever you can, there is so much more to it, so many variables that will affect your week, and you cannot go to one of these events with the mindset of, o yeah, I’m going to win this race. O no, this race is not over until the last stage of the last day, as there are just so many things that can go wrong. There are different elements that can affect you than at a normal race, for example things like dogs on the tracks, possible hikers, getting lost, signs that may be down, tummy issues, fatigue, crashes and massive mechanicals far from anything, so you really need to be wearing your sensible cap at all times and have fun with it. These are adventure weeks, not race weeks. You give your everything of course, but you just have to wait and see how it all ends up after 6 days. This was my first race back after breaking my hand, so I was pretty happy to be able to hang on and get on to the 5th step with these fast ladies.

When people ask me why I love these multi day stage races so much & why they should try one, I usually start babbling on about the points I jotted down below:

  • A multi day event is completely different to the usual one or two day bike races that we attend. They are WAY more relaxed, way more fun, people actually drink a beer or two (or more) and you have so much more time to enjoy and appreciate everything around you, including WAY more bike time.
  • You get to know the people so much better, as you spend A LOT of time riding together, eating, camping, laughing and competing together, usually leaving as good old friends after a week on the bike. You get to meet & ride with people from all walks of life, not just the usual bike racers like at the majority of other events. I love this part, where you meet so many interesting, different people. After a few days of riding with someone, you may find out that he or she is a rocket scientist, or a multi millionaire or a rally car driver - whatever it may be, it is usually pretty interesting and refreshing to meet all sorts of people. Jeff Calam in the photo below has done 5 Trans Provence adventures with me, we’ve become great friends over the years, always having a mini battle amongst ourselves - it’s always been pretty close, but this year he beat me - think it was his new 29er wheels ;) He’s also waited for me on the low days, fixed my bike, talked my ears off, forced me to eat and we’ve high five-d way more than what you’re allowed to due to very high stoked factors!
  • You have to learn to rough it. Camping during these events are the best, but I love to camp, and that is not the case for a lot of people. Sometimes it can be some people's first time ever camping! Even a small thing like camping can make a significant impact on your whole week and affect your results, as people can’t sleep as well as they are used to, the snoring keeps them awake, it might be pouring it down, everything is always damp and the roughing it part can get them down after a week of tent life. This is what I love and what usually makes me feel a wee bit stronger towards the end of every week compared to most others.
  • You have to keep your bike & body in one piece. You’re only allowed one big bag at most of these events, and that includes your spares, so you only bring the basics, whatever you can fit into your bag. That is the whole point of these adventures. If you get to wash your bike and lube the chain after every big day, you should be stoked. These events are not meant to be all professional, where bikes get stripped down after every day and rebuilt, the bikes should be roughing it like we are. Why? This is where we learn to help each other. Share parts, figure out a plan to fix a broken frame, camaraderie and basic tools is what gets your bike (and yourself) through these weeks and trust me, your bike will never ever get as thrashed and beat up as during a week like the TP. Your riding will also improve like crazy as you just get thrown into the deep end and you learn to react, race blind, navigate and pretty much just hang on to survive the week! My trusty Roubion survived the week, a little battered and bruised just like the owner, but man, what a bike ;)
  • You get to see the most amazing places and ride the most amazing, varied singletrack. The scenery, the trails and the culture we get to explore during these weeks are one of the big draws for me. You go to a new area or country, you don’t have to rent a guide and you’re not having to stop at every intersection to double check the map and the route. All you have to do, is sign up to one of these events, and follow the route and the maps that you’re given - genius. What a way to explore an entire region or area. Take the time to look around, take photo’s, stop in the little villages to eat an ice cream or drink a coffee or beer or both. Soak up the atmosphere, the local food, the language and embrace the culture. That is what I love about these adventures.
  • You learn a lot about yourself during events like these. They are not easy and you’re not always going to feel great and have amazing race runs. It just doesn’t work like that, so you adapt, you learn and you accept it for what it is. Suffering makes you stronger to handle everything in your life in a better manner and suffering with other people really creates a bond between you that will in turn develop into great friendships. Below was Day 1 of this years race. A completely unexpected storm hit us the night before the start of the race, it poured the entire evening and this is what we woke up to. It was a tough, long, hard day, but one I will never ever forget. These hard days are the one’s that become the most memorable one’s - and the blue butt cheek I still have from a massive crash on stage zero!
  • You can eat, eat, eat and then eat some more, and us girls like to do that. Everything tastes better after a big day on the bike, you get to have dessert every night, you stop for ice cream, beer, pizza, chips, pastries and the occasional coke along the way, mmmmm, that’s why we ride bikes after all? Right ladies? Just remember to reign in the “bad habits” after the week ends and you stop pedaling for 8 hours a day ;)
  • You get to disconnect from the real world for a whole week. Usually these events are pretty remote, with very minimal WIFI and cell phone signals. Most of us are pretty antsy at first, but after a few days, you feel so liberated and free to not have to check your phone. Only pulling out the phone to take a picture of something beautiful or of a friend that is actually with you - real life, imagine that! Who cares what the rest of the Facebook or Instagram world is getting up to when you’re busy having the time of your life - or hanging on for dear life like I am in the photo below. Red earth day was WILD.

DO IT NOW. Find an event that may suit you near your home or that is in some foreign country that you’ve always wanted to visit, convince some of your friends to do the same and signup! It will be the best experience of your life and you will never regret it. 

My apologies if you get hooked on signing up for these adventures and become a total multi day event addict like I have become & it will leave you grinning like I am above ;)

Will I be back for my 7th Trans Provence next year? Gosh, I’m not sure just yet, but never say never...

Cheers Ash & Melissa for another wicked event! Huge shoutout to Sven Martin & Duncan Philpott for all the hard work out there getting all these bangers :)

Cheers Ash & Melissa for another wicked event! Huge shoutout to Sven Martin & Duncan Philpott for all the hard work out there getting all these bangers :)

Peace out, 

Anka

# do you even do bike yoga bro?

Don’t let me scare you away with the word YOGA in the subject line my fellow mountain bikers! Yes, the word yoga seems to have popped up everywhere lately, it almost seems as overused as the word “enduro” or “adventure” these days, or as trendy as coconut yogurt and paleo bread rolls (almost just as expensive too), but there is good reason why more & more people have become aware of this thing called Yoga, and that is the simple reason that people have started to realise that you need to do more of it to keep doing the things that you’re most passionate about. Yes. To improve your riding or racing you need to invest the time into doing these additional things to help with your main focus, or main sport - whatever that may be. In this case, I’ll be focusing on mountain bikers and trying to help them understand just how beneficial a few simple “asanas” poses can be.

I’m not going to try and impress you with crazy sounding Sanskrit words like Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana when I can just say up dog yo! I want to keep this simple and straight forward, no airy fairy business, just a plain and simple aid to help your body to cope with all the stresses related to biking, racing, traveling and of course those darned things we all know far too well called injuries. This is not to say that I dislike all the other yogic elements, but I’ll leave that up to you to explore & discover for yourself.

I’ve started with a few super basic warm up, stretching poses for pre and post rides. You can do these anywhere, even in your bike gear with your knee pads & helmet still in place. No need to go out and buy a new tight fitting, crazy patterned, neon coloured yoga outfit that will most likely break the bank for these moves (although it is pretty awesome that you can wear bold, crazy printed tights in a yoga class; but beware when you step outside the studio, you might get a few funny looks). 

Please do read the instructions and don’t just follow my drawings - I tried, but they’re far from perfect ;)

1) Childs pose (Balasana):

How to: Bring the knees to your mat & sit on top of your heels. Either have your knees wide open or touching. Let the torso drop down, and your forehead touch the mat.

Either extend your arms forward or take your hands back and grab your ankles.

Benefits: Gently relaxes the hips, the thighs & ankles. Relieves back & neck pain.

For how long: As long as you like & whenever you like.

2) Thread the Needle - shoulders:

Thread the Needle opens up the shoulders and chest, and relieves tension that builds up in the upper back and neck.

How to: Begin on your hands and knees, and bring your right arm across your body under your chest. Rest your hand on the floor with the palm facing up. Lower your upper body, resting your head and neck on the floor, keeping your left arm outstretched in line with your body. Keep your head facing to the left (towards the hand that is stretched beneath your torso). You can now either hold this pose as is, or lift your left arm off the ground and reach towards the sky, finding the position that offers the deepest stretch without being painful. Release and switch arms.

3) Downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana):

How to: Press your hands flat on your mat, especially the space between the index & thumb.

Bring your feet hip width apart.

Rotate your shoulder blades away from each other - hollow your armpits, lift your sits bone up & lengthen the spine, especially the lower back.

Benefits: Strengthens upper body

Relieves stiffness in the shoulder blade area.

Strengthens the ankles & opens the back of the legs - hamstrings & calves.

Energizes the body.

Rejuvenates the brain & heart with fresh flow of blood due to the lowered trunk.

For how long: Really feel into this one, walk your feet out, bend your knees, stretch those shoulders, move around, but then find stillness in the pose for at least 10 solid breaths. No point rushing any of these.

4) Pigeon (Kapotasana):

How to: From down dog, inhale & lift your right leg up, exhale & bring your right shin & knee down to the front of your mat.

If you can, move your shin to make it as parallel as possible to the top of your mat.

Extend your left leg back. If your right hip is very far away from the mat, you can place a block or a towel under it to help keep your hips in line/square to the floor.

Place your hands either side of your hips.

Inhale, look up, open your heart.

Exhale as you slowly lower your torso towards the mat on top of your front shin.

Extend your arms forward & rest your forehead on the mat, on your arms or on top of a block.

Benefits: Deep hip stretch.

Stretches the thighs, groin, psoas & the buttock muscles.

Relaxes the shoulders.

For how long: To really receive & feel the benefits of this pose, hold between 3 - 5 minutes, so do make sure that you’re in a comfortable position & use props, they’re your friends!

5) Squat:

This yoga pose opens up the hips and stretches the groin, ankles, thighs, and torso. It also helps with balance, concentration, and focus, which is always useful on the bike.

How to: To begin, squat with your feet as close together as possible, then spread your thighs and lean forward, fitting your body between your legs with your elbows forward. Press your elbows against your inner knees, pushing outward as you bring your palms together. Hold as long as you can.

6) Rag doll - forward fold (Uttanasana):

Another pose that I’ve found is excellent for easing back pain is the Forward fold. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and bend forward, letting your head, neck, and arms dangle. Relax and allow gravity to do the work. You can then ease into a forward bend and grab your feet with your hands for an even deeper stretch of the back and legs.

Forward bends stretches & strengthens the back, especially the lumbar spine, it stretches the front of the hips & hamstrings. It tends to slow the body down, and helps one to move inward. They are calming, soothing & unwinding.

7) Tree Pose (Vrksasana):  

How to: Find your balance, shift your weight into left leg, slowly bend your right knee, turn it out away from you (but keep those hips squared to the front) and place your foot either above or below your knee - never push into your knee. Find your balance, focus on one spot in front of you, and then lift your arms up to the sky. If you want more of a challenge, close your eyes or sway your arms in the breeze.

Benefits: Increases balance, focus,concentrations and strengthens the knees & ankles. Be mindful not to push onto your knee - place your foot either above or below your knee.

8) Reverse Pigeon - hamstring stretch:

This one is currently my favourite. Lying down on the floor and stretching out the hamstrings and opening up the hips after a hard ride feels so good!

How to: Lie flat on your back, legs outstretched towards the sky. Place your right ankle just above your left knee and grab the back of your left leg, pulling it towards your chest. You can keep your left leg straight, or you can bend it at the knee, letting your lower leg dangle. Allow your right hip to open up more and more as you draw the left leg towards you. Hold this pose for a minute or two, gradually deepening the stretch. Release and switch legs.

9) Seated Twist:

There are many variations of this pose, but regardless of how you choose to execute it, the benefits remain the same–stretching and strengthening the hips, spine, and shoulders. It reduces neck and back pain and helps build flexibility through the spine.

Twists increase flexibility to the spine & hips, helps to release tension around the spine, tone abdominal organs, aids in digestion, detoxifies & helps to quiet the mind. Helps to move every inward. They are integrating, balancing & uplifting

10) Corpse pose (Savasana):

How to: Lie on your mat & extend your legs forward. Open the legs as wide or wider than your mat. (You can place a bolster or rolled up blanket under the knees when in a studio). 

Rest your arms by your side & turn your palms to face up.

Relax your shoulders, arms, abdomen, hips & legs.

Slightly tuck your chin to lengthen your spine.

Relax & slow down your breathing.

Benefits: Calms the brain & releases stress.

Relaxes the body.

Relieves mild depression.

Reduces fatigue, headaches & insomnia.

Savasana lengthens & strengthens the spine, creating maximum space between the vertebrae. It integrates spinal curves and allows for deep rest & relaxation. It helps integration of the benefits produced during the yoga practice. Grounding, stabilising & expanding. It teaches us to surrender & trust, and is also a great place to practice visualisation of what you need to be doing, whether it is going through the race course in your head, motivational messages or just focusing on the task ahead.

For how long: In a class situation we allocate 5 mins of Savasana for a 60min class and a 10min Savasana after a 90min class. Really do make time for this. It is one of the most vital poses in yoga & gives your body the time to absorb everything you’ve done for it.

Next time I’ll give you a few strengthening poses that will help with your mountain biking antics.

Peace out,

Anka x

My complete Tour Aotearoa packing & gear list.

Ok, you guys, here it is, my complete packing list of what I took with me on the Tour Aotearoa. As a bike packing newbie, or rookie, whatever you want to call it, I really looked for these sorts of posts to see what people took with them, what worked and what didn’t work, as I had no idea where to begin, so I thought I’d post about my experience and hopefully I can help or assist with the packing dilemma of such a massive undertaking and adventure when you decide to go on your trip of a lifetime.

My life essentials for 18 days.

My life essentials for 18 days.

Bike Setup: Juliana Nevis carbon hardtail, 27.5 size wheels. This was my first time riding a hardtail - ever! I would have like to take a 29er with some suspension, but my final decision came down to the fact that I needed as much space as possible for my frame bags, so hardtail it was with a Rockshox RS-1 suspension fork (to give my broken hand a bit of relief). A lot of people had rigid forks, but I would highly recommend a bit of suspension if you plan to go off-road a lot like we did. I also added two things that I’ve never used before, the first one was Cane Creek bar ends, which I grew to LOVE. Except that you hook onto things that you never would have hooked onto before, so beware of getting high sided off cliffs. After I broke my hand, I also decided to add some Aero bars onto my already strange cockpit. A wee bit wobbly at first, but after 90 mile beach, I seemed ok. I used these a lot and it was great to be able to change up positions, although I did get quite sleepy leaning onto these at times. I would highly recommend these. Also great to dry out towels, clothing and as my helmet hanger. I went with SRAM 1X11 setup with a 30T chainring and it worked flawlessly. Crankbrothers Candy pedals, SRAM ROAM wheels (I’m not a carbon fan), Maxxis ICON tyres, SDG saddle.

Bike Bags: AlpKit bike bags from the UK. My initial decision to go with them, were the colours that they offered, not too many companies offer bright flouro orange bags, and I wanted to be very visible on the roads (I’m pretty nervous on the road). They were also quite a bit lighter than most other bags out there, and I just loved their whole vibe - all the bags worked like a charm. Highly recommended :)

1 x Custom Stingray frame bag.

1 x Koala saddle bag that I left on my bike the whole time and just re-packed every morning.

1 x Front 20L Airlock Xtra Drybag for my tent & sleeping that I just strapped straight onto my handlebars. To keep the roll nice and small, I wrapped my sleeping bag around my tent, wrapped my thermarest around my sleeping bag and synched them all tightly together to fit in the drybag. AlpKit do offer a stiff Kanga harness for the front, but I didn’t have the need for it, and I preferred the simplicity of just having the dry bag tie straight onto the bars.

1 x Roo pouch on the front of my drybag where I kept my headlamp, chain lube, bike tool and rag. 

1 x Big Stemcell on the front of my top tube where I kept my phone, snacks, little bike lock, spork, trail directions & more snacks. With my frame being a size small, I found this bag to be too big and floppy when filled to the brim and it would touch my knee’s when pedaling, so I mounted it on top of my stem, fitting perfectly between my aero bars. I glued some velcro to the top of this pouch for my Garmin, as the mount didn’t quite make it to me in time before the Tour. 

1 x Fuel pod pouch where I kept my water bottle, sunblock & it fitted a nice medium sized banana too. 

The bags were all really waterproof, except for the time that I slipped crossing a massive river and completely submerged my bike and myself under water. I also just ended up wrapping all my things in good old plastic bags before packing up as we had some crazy wet weather and rain storms on the South Island. I kept all my soft goods, like clothing in my saddle bag and then all my heavier things and food in my frame bag. 

Clothing & other gear:

2 x different brands of chamois shorts to change up the “tread” every day. I loved my Juliana Capo shorts and my Ground Effect Siren shorts. Make sure to wash my chamois everyday, I was riding with both of them everyday :)

1 x long sleeved hiking type shirt with mesh and ventilation. I loved this shirt and wore it pretty much every day. It dried quickly, didn’t really smell that bad and I didn’t have to worry about sunblock on my arms. It’s crazy how this shirt faded to the shape of my hydration pack. This ended up being my only shirt as I lost my other riding shirt somewhere along the way.

1 x short sleeved Mons Royal wool riding T shirt. You HAVE to take wool, it does not smell, trust me. Although I ended up losing this one, and I had to worry about sunburn with the short sleeves, this ended up being my chill shirt after riding.

2 x sports bra’s. One Lululemon and one woollen Mons Royal bra. In hindsight one would have been enough, as the days were so long, that once you were done, you never really bothered to wear a bra. Again, wool is the way to go. Never mind this section guys!

1 x pair of woollen Icebreaker underpants. They were great, but again, not really needed as you just end up going commando.

1 x comfy, loose Lululemon casual pants. These were my best. I dreamed of slipping into these during the day and when I finally did at night, they were just fabulous. I suggest loose, baggy pants to give your bum a bit of a breather. The last thing you feel like doing is putting on some super tight compression tights.

2 x pairs of woollen socks. One pair to ride in and one pair to put on at night. I could wear these for days without washing them, because they were wool.

1 x medium weight woollen long sleeved thermal. This was great for after rides, but could also be worn when riding in the cold.

1 x small, lightweight puffy with no hood. To keep it smaller & more compact.

1 x wool buff for those chilly days and also my beanie at night.

1 x orange hi-vis vest - Castelli- which I wore when riding on the road, but it also worked really well as a small windbreaker either over my shirt or under my rain jacket.

1 x proper rain jacket - no cutting corners here. I used an Acre jacket which was super lightweight and simple, but very waterproof, with pit zips to breathe. I also took the hood off this jacket as I was wearing my helmet, but took it with me just in case.

1 x pair of Endura rain shorts. I used these A LOT. In the end, your lycra would get wet, but it did give you a good few hours before you were soaked through.

1 x glove - I was wearing a cast on my right hand, so just took one of my Giro long fingered gloves, chopped off the fingers and had a short fingered glove for my left hand. I only wore this for sun protection.

1 x set of Leg Warmers which I bought on the South Island as I was freezing in the chilly mornings & evenings. I even wore them during the day at times (not shown in photo).

1 x Giro Montaro MTB helmet. Love this lid. Probably the only one on the Tour with a MTB helmet. Sven modified my helmet a bit to add a very dorky touch, but it was probably the thing that I LOVED most about my gear and so many people asked me where I got it from. He put three bits of velcro on the back of the helmet to attach a neck and ear fabric cover attachment thingy that I could take on and off, but left on for the most part of the ride.

1 x Oakley Radar sunglasses.

1 x Evoc CC Race 3L hydration pack for my water. Most people went with no pack to keep the weight off your bum, but I didn’t have room for bottles and I don’t mind carrying a pack. This one was great, it had a 2 litre bladder and enough room for a jacket and some snacks. It also had two small zip pockets on the waist band where I kept my lip block, chamois cream and snacks. I also attached my Spot tracker onto the back of the pack.

1 x pair of riding shoes. I started off with sneaker type, comfortable shoes, which I usually ride & race in, but due to them being too soft for the distances I was riding, and me almost having to withdraw from the ride due to strained achilles and those in turn causing major knee issues, I had to go to the nearest bike shop and invest in a super duper expensive pair of carbon soled xc shoes. They saved my ride. No shit. Lesson learnt. They were not so great on the off road bits where we had to hike a bike, but hey. I do however still have tingling numb toes from spending such long days in these hard shoes, so I would suggest an insert of some sort. I do still highly recommend my comfy sneaker type shoes for riding - just not when you're riding 12 - 15 hours a day!

1 x XS travel towel. 

2 x super lightweight dry bags. A small one for my toiletries and a bigger one for my soft goods I wasn’t wearing.

1 x Big Agnes Pitchpine UL45 sleeping bag - AMAZING bag.

1 x Big Agnes Fly Creek 1 Platinum super duper lightweight tent.

1 x Therm-A-rest NeoAir Xlight Small with a repair kit.

1 x Inflatable Pillow - probably could have left this behind, but it was so small.

1 x SnowPeak LiteMax stove with a Trek 700 Ti cooker & a Snowpeak TI spork - the long one, as the short one would leave your entire hand covered in food when you’re trying to eat out of your dehydrated packet. I carried this on the North Island, and ditched it for the South Island. Should have done it the other way around, but I found buying food was easier than cooking when I was knackered and finding dehydrated meals.

1 x Water bottle 

2 x Electrolyte tablet tubes. Restocking these whenever I could.

1 x Black Diamond ReVolt headlamp - I used this with normal batteries as it was one less thing to try and charge at night.

1 x Lezyne rechargeable front light - amazing. I ended up using all my lights A LOT and really fell in love with my sunrise and sunset riding hours. 

1 x Lezyne Zecto drive rechargeable rear LED light. Sadly lost this guy on the last day, but I used this ALL the time.

1 x Anker PowerCore 20100 battery pack. It is quite a weighty charger, but it lasts for days and could charge my phone and both lights at the same time.

1 x iphone & charging cable.

1 x Spot Tracker - which was great for people to find you & it made me feel a bit more at ease when I was riding by myself at night, as it had an emergency button if you needed to use it for some or other reason.

1 x Garmin Etrex 20 - once I figured it out, it was amazing. Long battery life and I’d just replace batteries along the way. Helped me from getting lost many a times and staying on our designated route. It also held up in the pouring rain.

1 x Kiwi bungee/strap thingy for anything and everything.

Tools: 1 x set of brake pads, multi tool with long enough tool bits, stand alone chain breaker, electric tape, pump, duct tape, spare valve, valve remover, 2 x lightweight tubes, spare cable, tire boot, puncture kit, plug kit, chain link, derailleur hanger, zip ties, chain lube, rag, small Leatherman Squirt tool, small PacSafe bike lock (used a lot on grocery runs) and spare batteries for headlamp & spot tracker. 

First Aid kit: Small packet of wet wipes for those days you don’t get to shower, plasters of all shapes and sizes, alcohol wipes, Compeed blister plasters - loads of these, as they are the only plasters that work on your bum. Yep, bleeding saddle sores, no problem with these guys. Just don’t try to peel them off, it is very painful! Strapping tape, Charcoal tablets & Immodium for upset tummies, lots of pain killers and Blistex for burnt lips.

Toiletries: small chopped off toothbrush, small toothpaste, talcum powder in small container, Paw Paw cream, small wash all soap for laundry and a small Dr Bronners peppermint body wash, lip sunblock and normal sunblock and sandfly repellant - a MUST have in NZ.

Food: I always had a can or packet of Tuna in my bag, a few nutty bars of some sort, a chocolate bar, a cookie, an apple or banana or two and then I would buy food and stock up whenever I had the opportunity to. Stores and towns were few and far between, so when I got to a cafe I would just buy whatever, chocolate milk, double thick milkshakes, iced coffee’s, chips, pies, avocado’s, nuts, chocolate, triangle sandwiches - which fits nicely into frame bags by the way. When I got to a place that made toasted sandwiches, I’d stock up, one to eat right away, and two to go please. I had cold toasties with a tuna packet many evenings for dinner. Lucky for me it was near Easter, so I ate A LOT of hot cross buns. When I got to a gourmet cafe, I’d really stock up on little quiches, pies, samosas and banana loaf. Yumm. I ate A LOT, but we needed it, riding between 12-15 hours a day. My fear was running out of food & my favourite was finding a cafe who served iced coffee’s with the ice cream and whipped cream - the works - those would give me an extra boost.

Things I started off with, but ditched along the way:

  • Casual shoes. I just rocked bare feet or walked around like a penguin in my bike shoes.
  • Short sleeved shirt - well I lost that one.
  • My cooker - I would just end up buying food instead whenever I could and stash it for later. It was easier and quicker.
  • Baggy shorts. I started off with these on day one, and even though they were super light, it was just not necessary to have with me.

I think I just about covered everything. It may bore most to death, but it was so helpful for me when I came across people’s packing lists when I was preparing for this trip. Remember, Less is BEST.

Get out there, go on an adventure & try something new!

peace out, Anka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home for the holidays & happy 2016 yo!

After quite a big break off the bike, it was time to pack away the gardening & DIY tools, and throw my leg back over my steed and get back to riding. I couldn't think of a better way to kickstart my summer riding than by jumping into the deep end and heading out on a big heli ride mission up Starveall mountain. An all time favorite of mine, in our backyard, which also just happens to be the very first heli drop we ever did when we looked at moving out to New Zealand, so it's quite special to me & always reminds me of why we moved out here in the first place.

The Starveall heli ride starts off on beautiful open tussock fields, with spectacular never ending views, and as you start dropping down, you ride through scree fields, massive rocky sections and eventually get to the tree line where you enter into the most beautiful, ancient, root cladded Beech forest that keeps you on your toes for the next few hours until you reach the river far, far below. To me, nothing quite compares to riding through a cornflakes cladded native beech forest with it's musty almost apple cider like smell.

Now that I was back on the bike, it was time to head to Nydia Track, one of my all time favorite places & tracks to ride for an overnighter with some visiting family who tramped in, while we biked. Nothing beats riding this track on a beautiful summer's day, catching glimpses of the turquoise water and the bobbing boats peeping through the podocarp forests, along the route. The best part of course is reaching On The Track Lodge, having a cold beer, amazing home cooked meals & settling into your cabin or yurt for the evening - not to mention the hot tub under the stars...

This photo above from Nydia Track, is what made me fall in love with New Zealand. The lush native forests & bush fascinates me & I'm in utter awe of it every time I set foot amongst these old, magical giants and to be able to ride my bike through these forests never gets old. They make me feel alive.

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Not that Sven & I ever need an excuse to head out on a road trip, but with my sister & her husband visiting us, we loaded up the trusty van and headed out on a roadie starting off on the beautiful East Coast to show them our new home country. We had a little evil plan to show them all our favorites, hoping to entice them to move out here. It's not hard to convince anyone of anything when the beauty of all these magical places, speaks for itself. The joy of having visitors, is that you become a tourist again and end up doing loads of things that we'd never do or have always wanted to do. It makes you see & appreciate so many other things and it forces you to slow down, something that we don't do often enough.

Our next stop was Craigieburn, for some more riding, hiking & cave exploring. The scenery out there is just breathtaking, and completely different to the East Coast. We hiked around and up and over some beautiful rock formations at Castle Hill, watched the sun setting and waded waist deep up and through a cave system with head lights. The riding is always phenomenal, the weather was great & we got to do a few bonus shuttles down cocaine Alley - the upside of having family who don't ride bikes, they can shuttle!

Early summers in New Zealand is not quite as warm as it's other Southern Hemisphere friends, but we got pretty lucky and kept dodging the rain. If anything, the low clouds adds to the mood & the beautiful lush rainforest really come to life in these conditions. I don't mind carrying gear with me to cater to the four seasons that we can experience in one day. It's exciting & ever changing. Theres no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing :-)

A highlight for me this summer has been the completion of the 85km long Old Ghost Road track. After 9 long, hard years of work and red tape, they connected the track for everyone to play on. We jumped at the opportunity to do our first ride through and immediately booked our bunks at the Ghost Lake Hut to go and experience this longest single track trail in New Zealand. We opted to do this over two days and one night which makes the riding a bit more enjoyable as you don't need to take quite as much gear and food along with you. What they have created up there in those mountains is just mind blowing, and I salute and thank each and every person that was part of this massive project. Bloody well done!

Of course riding with photographers, Sven & Duncan on such a perfect day, meant that it took us a wee while. They were like two kids in a candy store and just couldn't get enough of the spectacular vista's. I would recommend putting this one on your bucket list of absolute must do trails to experience. In my opinion, the West Coast is the best coast. It is just stunning, the riding is amazing, hardly any people live out there (it may be due to the huge sandfly population), but every single time we head out West, we are in awe of this place & what it has to offer, I literally have to pinch myself.

We've just decided to head further south, this time to Queenstown. Catch up with some friends, ride some new trails & to ring in the new year. Summer has finally decided to kick in on Christmas day, so it's time to pull out the vests, slap on the sunblock and head out (and drink some beers of course)! 

It's been great to be back at home, to have a bit of a break from the bike but it's been just as amazing to get back on the bike. I'm super excited about the new year and I've got some mega adventures waiting for me (I mean MASSIVE). It all kicks off around mid January, which is a bit bittersweet for me, as it feels like we've just got home, but time waits for no one and you need to just get on with it, make the most of every single day & be grateful for this wonderful life we get to live.

Peace out & happy new year to everyone!

Anka

x

Scuffers, Burners & good folk, it's not just about the shorts. NZO Active.

It’s funny how things work out sometimes, but then again it was probably meant to be…

On my very first visit to New Zealand in 2006 for the DH World Champs in Rotorua, I bought a bike T-shirt from a very “home grown” type vendor/stall. This doesn’t happen often, as I’ve never been a real fan of most of the bike apparel out there. This was different, the designs were clever, it was fresh and fun and funnily enough, I still own this T-shirt.

Fast forward a few years on and we find ourselves living in New Zealand (a dream come true) and on a road trip to the North Island to the bike mecca of Rotorua. Ever since I had bought one of Nzo’s T-shirts back in 2006, this company has intrigued me and I wanted to learn more about the people behind this brand. To me, it’s about the people, their products, how they run their business and what they give back to the community. When you’re new to a country, you feel this immense sense of pride and this loyalty to promote it and everything that it has to offer and I was on a mission to live & breathe everything kiwi, but I digress… Once in Rotorua, I stopped off at the bike shop to buy my first pair of Nzo shorts. It was love at first fit and I’ve never looked back since. I wanted to represent this kiwi company and have them along for all my adventures, journeys and races. A quick call to introduce myself & say hello to Gary Sullivan or Gaz as he is so well known and Glen, and they insisted I head over to Mount Ngongotaha for a cup of tea and a tour of their home workshop where they have been selling their shorts straight to the customers from their barn. Perfect.

I’m not too sure how many of you in the bike industry knows this, but in my previous life, I submerged myself in the fashion industry. I studied in Los Angeles, sewed, screen printed, bought, merchandised, designed, the whole lot, so clothing is in my blood and a passion of mine that has been put aside for many years to make room for bikes. To be able to visit a company like Nzo, who runs everything from their house, was a dream come true & something that I aspire to one day. After meeting the dynamic duo of Gary & Glen, I was even more excited about these shorts and everything else. They were the coolest couple, making the coolest shorts and they just got on board as one of my new sponsors.

Heading into the 2014 season, the Scuffers were my shorts of choice, combined with one of their many funky T-shirts and raglans, Gary also printed up some custom Kowai designs (along with other sponsors logos) for me onto merino raglans, so I had sweet “race” kits too. With this combo, I suffered through all the Enduro World Series races, survived the grueling Andes Pacifico race in Chile, the Trans Provence multiday stage race, loads of filming & photo trips, product and bike launches, clinics, adventures, missions, wet as a dog conditions, slipping, sliding, snow, crashing & burning and of course lazy days just lounging. I was covered, literally, for anything.

It was a no brainer that I wasn’t going to let go of these guys (or my shorts) with the formation of the Juliana SRAM pro team going into the 2015 season. I was pretty adamant that my kiwi Scuffers, my new kiwi identity was coming along for the ride, and of course my team mates; Sarah Leishman, Kelli Emmet & Juliana brand manager Katie Zaffke was just as excited to get a pair fitted to their derrieres to find out what my raving has been all about.

I don’t think there are too many companies, never mind “smaller” companies out there that will do what these guys have done for our team. The timing was impeccable, as they were just getting ready to launch their new ultra lightweight Burner trail shorts and Gary & Glen offered to match our shorts with our three different colored race jerseys. We now had red, purple and green to choose from, to match our jerseys. We could pick whatever color we were in the mood to wear on that given day and we could all rock a different color on different days to mix it all up and keep our new women’s team looking fresh and funky out on the tracks. Something different & unique to what everyone else is doing & wearing.

Besides their amazing shorts, they write up a fabulous blog, support endless events, are heavily involved in the biking community, participate in races, festivals and all the fun stuff that goes along with bikes. Every few months they release a funny new T-shirt that pops up on their site and they have also collaborated with the good people over at Ride Central in Rotorua for those of you who are more visually inclined. It is one freaking cool bikers destination store.

I don’t plan to change my shorts anytime soon, they’re stuck with me for many more adventures & races to come, and they’re made so darn well, that they will last for many more years to come. Trust me ladies, these shorts are keepers!

I’m getting ready to put my Scuffers to their biggest test yet, spending the Month of March 2016 in these shorts, pedaling 3000km from the tiptop of NZ to the very bottom along with the main man Gaz himself in the Tour Aotearoa.

Cheers to Nzo Active, Gaz & Glen for all your support.

www.nzoactive.co.nz

Whistler EWS #6 Roots, rocks & slippery moss.

The EWS tracks were riddled with roots, hundreds and thousands of them, surrounded by the most amazing, loamy, hero dirt one can imagine, whilst winding it’s way through some spectacular forests. Old man’s beard blowing in the breeze, with very thoughtful hand carved wooden signs naming the trails and low clouds that move slowly caressing the mountain tops and hillsides surrounding this spectacular valley we‘ve all grown to love so much. Oh, Whistler you are so gorgeous and so scary at the same time.

After the very demanding “Crankzilla” round we endured last year, of course we were all pretty scared coming into this round, wondering whether or not it would be a repeat of last years suffering or if the organizers would be kind to us… Turns out, they do have a gentler side and they wanted everyone to have a fun weekend of riding and racing. It was quite a relief to see all the lift access that we were allowed to use to access the trails, with very minimal climbing and very relaxed liaison times. Everyone seemed a bit relieved, but that didn’t mean that race day was going to be an easy day. Easy days don’t really exist in Whistler. Even though we didn’t have to climb much, it still took most of us the entire day to fit one run in on most of the stages. They were all amazing, they offered everything, they were super technical, steep, rooty, rocky, pedally, physical, long and demanding – a pretty perfect combination for an enduro race track and everyone seemed to love them. Again, none of them were easy, but practice day was a big, rad day out on the bikes soaking up the sunshine and the big blue skies.

Gary Perkin photo.

Gary Perkin photo.

We were all pretty relieved about this round, and then the rain came. It rained all day and all night and those relieved feelings turned into anxious worries & nightmares about how we were going to get down those root riddled tracks come race morning. All the practice went out the window, along with my confidence. Race day turned into a day of somehow getting down the tracks and surviving them. It wasn’t pretty, but of course we all did it. You just switch into this mode and get on with the task at hand. I felt stiff and scared and not too confident in these conditions, but we slowly checked the stages off, one at a time and every run improved slightly. By the time we got to stage three, I felt like I knew how to ride my bike again, stage four was actually fun for me and stage five was just a blast through the bike park and by the time we rode this stage, everything was bone dry & trustworthy again. Of course. Bloody Murphy!

Gary Perkin photo.

Gary Perkin photo.

I felt so ready and confident on all the race tracks during practice, but waiting my turn come race morning, I definitely felt a tad bit timid after the rain and I knew that I was in for quite a challenging day. Maybe it was a combination of the changed, wet conditions that we couldn’t practice on, but also maybe a bit of what happened at the last round in Colorado. Either way, I just wanted to get through this round safe & sound. These races are never easy, even when the stats look a bit easier, some other unforeseen element will jump in there to make it hard for us in some other way. It ended up being such an enjoyable day out. The girls all had such a laugh and such a great time cheering each other on, listening to all the war stories, the mishaps and the funny maneuvers that were pulled off to get down these slippery tracks. Falling off bridges, losing gloves mid race run, stuck upside down clipped in, it goes on and on, and those are the things that I remember, that makes these hard days enjoyable, and what makes me chuckle for weeks down the line. There were so many Juliana riders out racing at this round and every single one of them represented so well, racing and riding their hearts out. Kelli ended up in 12th place, myself in 16th and Sarah in 17th spot. It was great to have the whole team back together and out there representing again. Huge thanks to Allan, Mary & Tom for getting our bikes dialed and our bellies full all week.

Gary Perkin photo.

Gary Perkin photo.

The organizers were spot on with the ratio, the trail combo’s, the lift access and the liaison times. We had amazing feed stations with the most delicious mouth watering watermelon and a great atmosphere for everyone to enjoy. Cheers to everyone who worked so hard to avoid turning this round into “Crankzilla” two, you guys killed it!

Loving this chill day today, catching up with life and looking forward to a week filled with yoga, adventure rides, some laps in the park, women’s clinics and chilling at the lake of course.

Peace out,

Anka

x

ColoRADo EWS # 5 - 39'00 N 105'30 W

Colorado views never disappoint. Sven Martin Photo. We used to live in the US for 12 years, until 2011, when we decided to pack up everything and move to the other side of the world, or hemisphere to New Zealand, so whenever we do return to the US these days (which doesn't happen very often), it is truly a treat to catch up with all our old friends and race team mates from back in the day when we used to race all the NORBA races across the country. Somehow, we're all still racing bikes of some sort and still involved in the bike industry. It is such a small industry compared to others, but it is filled with so many genuinely good people, and we'll forever have this connection, these bike memories and this like minded passion that keeps taking us into the mountains and connecting us in far away places, and that is what racing is all about to me. Results from Colorado - does it really matter? I didn't win or top 5, or even top 10, but I rode my best, better than last year, got my jump back on, pushed my riding abilities and loved it, saw some old friends, met their children & made some new friends.

There were a lot of negative things going on at this event, but I'm too sick of bike politics to go into it, so instead of harping on bullshit, have a wee look at some of the bangers that Sven captured over the weekend. :)

Some of the race tracks for Day 1.

Stage 1 was down the Trestle DH track. Sven Martin caught me in the air.

The usual American laws & stuff. Oops. Just remember to wind down the window when you return the rental.

This was probably the shortest stage ever raced in the EWS, it was super sweet though, but over before it began.

Sven Martin Photo.

Stage 3 - Sven Martin photo.

Post race indulgence. We were in America after all.

Catching up with old friends & getting to know their kids is pretty awesome :) Thanks CG for giving Ryder your gloves - you have a fan for life.

Wiping the CO dust off the old girl, prepping her for the next day's race. Pretty tough keeping your bike, body & mind together for 3 days of racing & training.

Got this message whilst walking around the pedestrian mall in Denver on Monday after the race. A first for me. Luckily no one seemed too perturbed by it, either that or they were all just too crazy to care on 16th street.

I've been up in Whistler for a week now, waiting for the next round of the EWS to kick off over here. It's been wonderful to have some downtime. I've gone stand up paddle boarding at date night with Hannah Barnes, Seb & family, riding around Lost lake with Seb & his kids, meeting up with friends over chai tea latte's, more chic flicks & wine with Hannah, watching some amazing music under the moon, exploring some new trails, swimming in the lake, soaking up the hot summer sun and the highlight has been my month yoga pass that I bought. I've yet to skip one day of practice, I'm in heaven, this is exactly what I needed this time of the season to prevent bike burnout, especially in this crazy world called Whistler. Our 4 day practice starts tomorrow, look forward to a whole lot of riding coming up.

A highlight has been going on a 3 hour adventure ride and treasure hunt with Seb Kemp and some of the kids that he coaches. Amazing kids!

Peace out,

Anka

doyouevenrideinsnowbro? EWS round #4 La Thuile, Italy

These tracks had it all - loamy hero dirt, slippery, wet rocks, grass, roots, steeps, ups - perfect all rounder.

Peaceful prayer flags in the forest.

Love this shot that Sven got of me. Had no idea he was hovering high up in the tree when I rode past.

We had our fair share of pedaling over the practice days & race days. Climbing up towards the snowy peaks.

Stunning views, big mountains, this is Euro enduro.

Cheers to Matt Delorme for capturing this banger.

It was survival as we set off on stage 1 & 4 from the snowy, sleety, misty, freezing top of the mountain.

pretty flowers & sunshine were also aplenty.

Heading out on stage 2 on the other side of the valley.

Ciao Italy! Off to ride Verbier next with the darkcloudcrew.

[embed]https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10152541518117445&set=vb.47659052444&type=3&video_source=pages_video_set[/embed]

PS: cheers to Sven Martin for all the stunning shots & thanks to all the other hard working media dudes out there during the races - they are working and riding twice as hard as us lot and not getting any sleep while delivering the goods!

peace out,

Anka x

Back on the bike: 20000m down, painkillers galore, epic scenery, semi functional ankle = one happy girl.

EWS round 3 Valloire, France. Pretty spectacular mountain views.

It was time to head into the Northern Alps for round 3 of the Enduro World Series in Valloire, France. A town nestled at the base of the Galibier Pass in the Savoie region. A destination steeped in “Enduro” history, but a new destination for us, which is always exciting. Surrounded by big mountains wherever you turned was stunning, but I also felt a bit anxious, as this was my first weekend back on the dirt and racing since I messed up my ankle 5 weeks ago. By the looks of it, this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.

My Roubion

It turned out to be one brutal weekend of racing. It was amazing to be back on the dirt though. The format of the French enduro races are awesome. You show up on Friday, get registered and then go straight into racing on Saturday. First run down the mountain is a practice run, then you head straight back up and race it. Move on to the next track, practice run, then race run. Usually I love this format, but it took me a while to warm up and feel comfortable on my bike again, so there was really no time to get back into it before racing. Because I missed the Scotland round, I had a pretty crappy seeding number, which meant loads of traffic during my race runs, but what made it even tougher was the fact that they decided to run the women in the reverse order for this round – slowest girls first, which caused big headaches for everyone (The fast girls, the mid pack and the slower girls were all equally affected). Everyone was trying to get by everyone, which ended up being pretty chaotic. I had 7 girls that I had to pass and pull over for on every run, so Saturday was a bit of a write off for me and I just saw it as a day of getting back into it. Feeling very race rusty, hesitant and then all the traffic from both ends was so frustrating, but hey, that’s racing and you just have to get on with it. The upside of it all: there were 45 women racing! How amazing is that?

Dramatic mountain views wherever you look with lichen rocks to match my gloves.

We had another big day ahead of us on Sunday, and after realizing that running the women’s order they way they did on Saturday didn’t work, they let the fastest girls go first and that was brilliant. The tracks were amazing on Sunday, more technical, steep and flowy and I loved them. I felt so much better on my bike, hardly had any traffic and I felt like I was finishing in the mix with the girls that I usually race with. It felt great. I wish that we had another day of racing, as I was just getting back into it again.

Typical French tracks; taking fresh tracks to a whole new level. Trying to find and make tracks here!

Absolutely knackered from racing 20000 + meters of brutal downhills (and of course some punchy uphills) thrown in there over the two days. My arms were done and my ankle had had enough. All in all a great weekend of riding, racing, suffering and catching up with everyone again. Cheers to the crew for putting on another amazing round of bike racing & fun times.

Time to go for a swim in the med and some much needed time back on the bike - but first some rest for this old, weary body of mine. Huge congrats to everyone that managed to survive the weekend and to all the Kiwi girls killing it out there!

Kiwi girls representing! Gabby, Rosara, Meggie & myself having fun in the Alps.

Also, cheers to Sven for all the rad shots!

Peace out,

Anka

ROUBION BIKE LAUNCH: 44°05′37″N 7°03′04″E

I’ve been to a few press camps and bike/product launches over the last few years, and they’re all usually pretty amazing. You get to go to some exotic (for the most part) bike destination, get put up in a nice (usually) hotel, get fed local food and the beer & wine usually flows freely – and don’t forget the cool bike swag (we’re all still the same kids at heart asking for stickers but only in grown up bodies). The one constant has been the fact that I’d usually be the only woman attending these launches – for the most part. So, yes, they are great, but it’s also not that easy to always be the odd one out. This was just how it was, a very male dominant industry and if you wanted to be a part of it that was or is the norm.

It was time for my yearly nomadic stint to Europe for racing, riding, adventuring & promoting Juliana Bicycles and my first stop on this 6 month stint away from home was the beloved village of Roubion. A tiny French 12th-century village perched atop rocky outcrops, tucked away deep in the heart of the Alpes –Maritimes in Southeastern France. This area has a very special place in my heart. It is the main character of so many great memories shared with so many great friends and of course mind-blowing mountain bike tracks that just keep going from one mountain top to the next, meandering through old villages. These trails feel like home away from home.

So let me give you some background details as to the reason I was heading back there this time around. I fell in love with this area during the first Trans Provence race that I did back in 2011, and have raced it every year since then. I loved it so much that I also started guiding a few of the Trans Provence trips when it didn’t conflict with any other races or events and every time I return to this area, I just fall back in love with it, so it was a no brainer for me to head to these mountains to test my very first Juliana Bicycle when the Juliana Bicycles brand was launched at the beginning of 2013. I was given a Santa Cruz Bronson (or as I called it my small Johnson, or Bruliana) painted up as a Juliana to race, ride, adventure and put the feelers out there throughout the 2013 season and I chose my first guided trip of the season to put this bike to the test. After a week of schralping up and over the French mountains, I was convinced that this bike was the shizzle. It was amazing. It climbed with ease, descended like a mini downhill bike, handled well, just an all round perfect trail bike and I have never felt so good on a bike, ever and I knew that this bike had to be included in the line-up for other women to ride. Later that year I managed to take the Trans Provence win on this bike – one of the highlights in my cycling career, as that race to me is what mountain biking is all about. It’s long, hard, raw, blind; technical and you have to navigate your way down the mountain to try not to get too lost. It’s a proper adventure.

Fast-forward a year and a bit and I was heading back to my beloved village of Roubion, but this time for the launch of the actual Roubion bike that was now included in the Juliana Bicycles line-up. YES! The name Roubion, named after one of my favourite days during the stage race. Pretty exciting stuff if you ask me. I was heading out to the backcountry of France to shred some of my favourite trails on a bike launch with 10 other likeminded women. A first ever in such a male dominated bike industry, and I was feeling very excited and extremely proud.

We all met up in St Martin de Vesubie, where we got to know each other, catch up with old friends and share our common passion of riding bikes and exploring new destinations and trails. We had such a great gathering of women from the bike industry, all of us having worked hard to find our place in this industry and sticking to it. We had Nicole Formosa from Bike Magazine, Aoife Glass from Total Women’s Cycling, Janet Coulson from MBR, Faye Sanders from Bike Radar & Red Bull Bike, Berne Broudy, Sofie Schneider from Velo Tout Terrain, Carla Caballero, Mary Moncorge from Pinkbike and then Kathy Pruitt (Juliana’s demo bike queen), to help get all the women set up on their bikes properly, Katie Zaffke – the Juliana brand manager, Julia Hobson our guide and fellow Juliana ambassador, myself, Ash Smith – the main man behind Trans Provence and Sven Martin & Gary Perkin behind the lens capturing all the shenanigans. Our plan was to ride parts of the Trans Provence race starting where we would usually start day 3 of the race, and make our way to Roubion, and then ride in and around that area, finishing off at the bike park that they opened up just for us (cheers Ash!). It was lovely to get a little tour of the village, to learn about some of the history and to be welcomed by the Mayor, who was pretty stoked to see that some bike company in the US named their bike after their little village. We rode and rode some more, challenged ourselves, taught, helped, guided, informed, laughed, charaded (not an actual word, I know), crashed (that would be me) and ate and drank our way throughout the 3 day camp. Of course it wouldn’t be a proper Trans Provence experience without some torrential downpours, some hail and a landslide blocking off the pass. Building bonds, forming new friendships, riding bikes, sharing experiences and clogging our arteries with copious amounts of cheese. This is what biking is all about.

Everyone was super excited about this launch, as this was a first for all of us and a great indication of the commitment and direction of companies and where they were heading. They have invested and committed to a woman’s line of bikes and they were doing it properly. They were helping us to create our own separate identity and supporting us. It’s been a long time coming, but man, to see it actually come to life is a good sign of great things to come. Women have been waiting for this for a very long time indeed.

The Roubion will officially be released on June 1 – so stay tuned for more details about the bike and how and what it will be specced with and when you can expect them to start shipping to your house. Ladies, I suggest you sell that current bike of yours and make room for this beauty in your bedroom. She’s a keeper for sure.

Thank you to everyone who made this happen and for those helping to promote, grow and support the women out there who ride, live & breathe bikes. Time to heal up for a few weeks for me know, so I can get back out there on my bike.

Check out some other written pieces about the Roubion launch with lots more to come:

http://www.bikemag.com/gear/preview-santa-cruzs-juliana-brand-launches-6-inch-womens-bike/

http://www.bikemag.com/interviews/profile-anka-martin/

 Peace out,

Anka

 

EWS round #1 Nevados de Chillan, Chile: Ja, ja, ja, ja, ja! Vamos, vamos, vamos!!!!!

My Roubion. My plans for the weekend; ride every trail in the valley, from the top to the bottom.

O Chile, how you have crept deep into my heart as quite the special place. From never setting foot on South American soil, to going over to Chile twice in the past 2 months has been quite the new love affair for me. Of course the first time around, everything is always a bit strange, or different and it takes you a while to find your feet in any new country, but then the second time around, those things you thought were a bit strange end up being the things you love about a new country. The first thing that struck me about Chile in February when we went out there for the Andes Pacifica race was the hospitality of the people and their pride of their country. This time around, this notion was again confirmed by spending some more time with this passionate nation, ready to approach, embrace and engage at any time, place or moment. They are truly a warm nation and that is what made this first round of the Enduro World Series in Nevados de Chillan so very special.

Fish from above; thanks Dave Trumpore for this epic shot.

The fact that the tracks were absolutely amazing, the dirt – hero like no other, the scenery, simply spectacular and father Fall didn’t hold back in providing some extra spectacular changing fall colours to keep the photographers very happy indeed. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect; crisp, chilly mornings and evenings, which made for brilliant blue-sky days and the perfect temperature for riding bikes. Quite a difference from 6 weeks ago when we were suffering in the Andes mountains with not a tree in sight and temperatures souring well up into the 40 degree Celsius mark for the Andes Pacifico.

We had two days of practice, or riding, where we could practice the first three stages of day 1 and then the next three stages of day two the following day. They were full, long days of riding and it was brilliant. These two days gave us time to catch up with friends we haven’t seen since last season, to check out everyone’s new shiny bikes and bright coloured kits, to ride together, to scope out lines together and to revel in the spectacular scenery whilst hike a biking together. Yes, it was the first round of the EWS, but the two practice days felt like we were all just in one pretty cool place riding pretty amazing new tracks together. After these two days, you could feel all the hiking in your legs and your body felt like it’s been doing something; it was now time to race and repeat the past two days, just in a more serious matter I suppose, and without stopping to high five with your mates every few minutes.

Jon Cancellier pimping my ride with some matching decals - love our ghetto pits in the back of a rental truck #spiritofenduroyo

You could definitely sense a bit of nervousness at the start of the first stage; this was it, the season opener and this was when your silly brain would take over with thoughts such as; did I train enough or in my case, did I ride enough? Maybe I should have done some intervals and skipped the berry ice cream and beer after every ride this summer; they look skinny, they must be super fit…blah, blah, blah, the brain wanting to pull you out of your confidence zone and into your doubting zone. Fuck it, not much you can do about anything now, just go and ride your bike, have fun with it and see what happens hey. My goal for this first round was to not crash & get over excited like I did in the opener last year in Punta Ala, just ease into it, steady as, get rid of the nerves and finish the weekend with a top 10. That would be ideal and I managed to do just that.

Our weekend in a nutshell.

Day 1:

Stage 1 -  Candonga: Super downhilly stage with super loose corners, shoots, berms and high-speed sections.

Loamy, hero dirt like none other.

Stage 2 - G Del Diablo: This one had about an hour hike a bike to get to the start with a beautiful old Refugio and Alpine Beech forests with the most magical colours. It was a long and very physical stage with all the techie stuff near the bottom, long flat, sandy pedal sections and blown out loamy turns - it was a toughie.

The Refugio at the start of stage 2.

No words needed for this tunnel of Fall colours - Sven Martin

We covered the entire valley, from the top of the snowy volcano's to the Shangri La valley floor - here I'm pushing through the sandy flat to get to the good stuff on stage 2. Sven Martin Photo

Stage 3 - Dakar: Back up to the top of the mountain for this one; another old school downhill type track that was pretty straight down the mountain, soft, ruts, moto style until you entered the woods where it turned into the bike park with a few jumps and super fast berms to the finish line. So sick!

 

Day 2:

Stage 4 - Valle Hermosa: This day started off with a nice little steep hike a bike to the top of the start. It was another spectacular morning checking out the fumaroles – the steam coming out of the mountain with views to die for. It was tough to remember this stage, but it was very flowy, fast and flat towards the bottom, so much fun to start the day on.

yes, there was lots of hike-a-bike…pushing up here with Valentina. Cheers for the pic Gonzalo Fuentes.

I love this shot, heading up to the first stage of day two. Early morning reflections on this hike-a-bike. Thank you Claudio Olguin Parra for capturing this.

Calm before the storm, finding some quiet space to catch up with good friend Tracy Moseley before the start of stage 4.

Stage 5 - Olimpico: This one was my most dreaded one, as it was the most physical one, but also the one with the trickiest, tech sections and I never seemed to find much flow on it. Not much you can do about that, so I squished some gel into my body, ate a banana and went for it. It didn’t seem that long during the race, but there were way more flat pedal sections than I remembered and the flow; I couldn’t find much flow, but ended up being better than I thought it would be.

Stage 6 - Candado XL: I was so excited about this stage starting right at the top of the mountain in the snow with views of majestic mountains and snow covered volcanoes. So stunning. This was going to be a long one; 15 minutes or so starting off in really rough, barren, rocky, moon like terrain and ending up in the most magical, dark, loamy hero dirt of a forest with never-ending berms and steep shoots, it was so much fun! By the time I got the steepest part near the end, I was hanging and two finger braking just to make it down there and not blow it at the end.

The top of the world, stage 6 with Tracy Moseley, Ines Thoma, Isabeau Cordurier & myself - where did Pauline go?

Rugged, volcanic, blue skies, big country - what an enduro should be.

Last stage of the weekend, Stage 6 - what a stunning track.

The crowds were spectacular throughout the weekend, screaming and cheering and calling out your name as you went by. This was the general theme all weekend and it felt great. There were families and kids and competitors – amateurs and professionals, and everyone had a good vibe going. Maybe it was because it was Easter weekend, but whatever it was, it was awesome. The pit area was set up on this lush lawn area with the mountains surrounding us and no one wanted to go home. After practice people were just lounging about, enjoying the day and listening to some seriously good DJ mixes.

My Roubion hanging with her bigger brothers; the new Nomads.

I was super happy ending up with an 8th place overall for the weekend. Better than the 18th I ended up with last year, so that’s a good start. I loved racing on my pretty new teal Juliana Roubion; she did steal a few hearts out there that’s for sure, as the ladies (and some guys) are super excited to get their hands on one of these bad boys soon.

Catching some Southern Hemisphere rays - thanks for the photo Gary Perkin.

Well done to all the pinners out there this weekend and to everyone that made the effort to go to the little ski town of Nevados de Chillan for a bike race. A big cheers to the Montenbaik crew and to everyone who made this event possible. Matias, Eduardo, Chris, Enrico, Nacho and too many others to mention.

Of course it’s all over before you know it, with a mad rush to get everything clean and packed up again and to get back to Santiago for whatever is next. We had a mad rush to get Sven to his flight the next morning with a 4am departure and a 6 hour drive, as he headed to Cairns for the next round of the World Cup and I couldn’t get on a flight for 2 days, so I had a little city layover in Santiago, exploring the city and doing some fun non bike related things, which of course included some eating (ceviche) and shopping of course.

Piscola, pisco sour, pisco this, pisco that, but most importantly; no pisco, no disco!

more great street art.

Delicious fruit shakes!

so cool.

more cool street art in Santiago.

Hotel rooftop view in Santiago.

Santiago street art.

Street art in Santiago.

Santiago taxi interior.

Mosaic tile art.

Time for me to head home now for three weeks or so and to get everything ready for our next journey: our 5 month stint to Europe. Time to savor, appreciate & soak up everything that I so love about New Zealand and it’s beautiful forests, trails and people. The colours, the smells, the sea & the food…I already miss it, but there are more adventures waiting abroad and it’s time to go soon.

Kia Ora Aotearoa! O, Land of the long white cloud, how I love you!

 

 

10 days of Palta’s, ceviche, fruit cups, friendly people, heat, more fruit cups & the Andes Pacifico enduro stage race.

It’s pretty early on in the season for a big race, but this was one event that I wasn’t going to miss. I’ve never been to South America and I love being involved with new events, so off to Chile it was. Upon arrival it was anything but chilly, it was bloody hot. Heat like what we’re used to in South Africa, and I knew right then, that this stage race was not going to be a breeze. The heat is what was going to make this event a tough one, and the “anti-grip” dirt that everyone has been going on about.

Santiago was big, 6million people big, surrounded by massive Andes mountain peaks all around. It was dry, barren, polluted & dusty almost like Las Vegas, a city that just popped up in the middle of nowhere, but it was alive, colourful & bustling. It reminded me a lot of South Africa, the constant contrast between wealth & poverty. The shanties you drive past in your fancy car, the electric fences and gates in the neighborhoods. The maids. Only difference were the dogs, strays were everywhere, but they were all so friendly and non aggressive, unlike most South African dogs. Anyhow, those were my first impressions driving into Santiago. The greatest thing to me, were the friendly, warm people. Everyone, wherever you went were such amazing people. My lack of Spanish left me frustrated at times, wanting to communicate and chat, but our charade games would make do most of the time. We were welcomed into strangers homes like we were family, and that was to be the precedent of the entire trip. That and fruit cups. Delicious fruit cups.

The race was amazing. It was incredibly tough. We started high up in La Parva and finished up on the beach in Maitencillo. The 38 – 40degree Celsius heat turned it up a notch and the hike a bikes in the midday heat, made for some very long days out in the desert. The race stages were hard, technical, steep and strange. Strange in a good way, just weird to ride. Dirt like most of us have never experienced. You’d pick your line, go for your line and not even ever get anywhere near your line. This was to be the battle of the week, trying to pick and stay on line or on track. As soon as we’d feel a little more confident, we’d move to a new area with slightly different, anti-grip dirt and the learning curve would start from scratch. It was fun to try and figure this out, but also frustrating at times when the track looked straight forward, and usually you’d be able to let it go, but you just couldn’t out here. Not to mention the size of the cacti & its thorns that loomed around every corner. Besides the giant sized cacti, the rest of the vegetation scattered along the tracks were also thorny and they didn’t move. Our hands and forearms were cut up & battered to smithereens, and our legs looked like we fought with some samurai masters. This is what I love about these sorts of adventures. Everything was new, everything was exciting, and everything was scary. This is what riding bikes is all about to me. The adventure of all of this, thrown into a race with all the variables and the unknown factors is what excites me and why I love to do these sorts of events. It is a race, yes, but it is an adventure. It is an adventure with a group of awesome likeminded people and you have to embrace anything and everything that gets thrown at you.

It was like a reunion of sorts with all our friends meeting up from all over the world for another suffer fest. The dark cloud crew’s early reunion with loads of other familiar faces from previous adventures. Sven had a really bad first day, riddled with mechanicals, flats and of course crashes, that made him decide to focus on photographing the rest of the race. Everyone struggled with the stages, they were hard. Everyone crashed, got lost, got stuck and such, but everyone finished off the long days with a big smile and a sparkle in the eye. The food & the Chilean red wine helped ease the aches & pains after each long day, with loads of speculation of what the following day was going to be like. During the day, when you’re struggling, you keep thinking of the end of the race, but when it comes around, there is that sad, flat feeling of the adventure being over. The Dark Cloud crew had their fare share of mishaps – as usual, but nothing too serious. We all made it. We survived the crazy Chilean backcountry and crazy tracks. I ended up taking the win, with Pauline Dieffenthaler in second and Julia Hobson (fellow Juliana ambassador) in third place. In the men’s, Jerome Clementz took the win, with local Chilean Nico Prudencio in second and Francois Bailly-Maitre in third. Chris Ball also killed it as usual and Will beat me this time around. Damnit!

No rest for the weary as we managed to do some laundry and head South for about 5 hours to the mountains of Chillan to check out the area where the first round of the EWS will take place in a few weeks from now. Feeling pretty tired and beat up, all I wanted to do was sleep on the beach and eat more avocado everything, but it was time to do some more riding and exploring. I was loving this area. It was green and lush with beech forests – it felt like home! I loved seeing the smaller villages and towns and the quaint houses and gardens, this was the Chile that I had pictured in my head. We rode & explored for two days, did bits and pieces of one track; hike a biked to some steaming hot fumaroles to catch the most stellar sunset and to cook an egg. It smelt like Rotorua. It was breathtakingly beautiful. I wanted to keep going further south, to see more lush forests and lakes, but this will have to do for now as our time has run out.

We bee lined it back to Santiago, got home around 3am, woke up at 7am to wash & pack our bikes and to get to the Aquitaine Winery by 10am for a wine tasting tour with Eduardo at his family vineyard. This was a first for me, drinking wine at 10am, blending my toothpaste with tannins. Bloody hell, was it tasty. I could get used to drinking these delicious wines on the terrace at 10am. It was time to head home, back to NZ.

It was a whirlwind trip, with a wonderful race, in a magical country. It has been a little teaser of a big country that I cannot wait to return to and explore properly. Thank you Chile & its amazing people & scenery for a wonderful adventure. Thank you also to Mountain Works & Santa Cruz Bicycles Chile for all your help & late nights helping me with my bike, and to all the organizers for putting on such an amazing event. Eduardo, Nacho & Matias, Maria Eugenia & her family, Montenbaik, Sarita & all the chicas who ran everything. Cheers to all the drivers and everyone involved, it was magical and unforgettable & I’ll be back!

Next up: Trail riding trip with the SRAM family in Craigieburn forest & Nelson.

Peace out x

Dodzy Memorial weekend of stoke.

As soon as we wrapped up our 8-day Juliana video & photo shoot, we barely had time to do laundry & wash bikes before we headed out to Wairoa gorge for the DME. A weekend filled with good friends, great memories and amazing bike tracks in the middle of nowhere surrounded by beautiful native forest. I wasn’t feeling tired at all, after filming non stop for the past 8 days, and leaving for Chile for a big race on the Monday following the DME, but I wasn’t going to miss this for anything – knackered or not, we’re going to the gorge to ride or race or hang out – whatever you like to call it – enduro-ing these days. The skies opened up for an entire day & night only to leave all the really techy tracks even more techy & slippery, but the sun was out and it felt like the perfect summer weekend. The tracks that we raced on this year were some of the hardest ones built out there and the slippery conditions made it really fun and also really unpredictable and bloody scary. Saturday was super fun, catching up with everyone, and riding some new tracks. I thought that by Sunday things would have dried up a bit more, but in fact it ended up being even more slippery. My goal was to get down the mountain, have fun, try not to crash too many times and to get to Chile on Monday for the Andes Pacifico stage race.

Well it started off well, and it ended off well, but the end of my 2nd run was pretty great until right near the end where I lost all my biking skills and crashed myself silly for a wee while and even getting jammed up in-between some trees. Not ideal, but no damage done, except for some major bruising. I knew right then that there was no chance of getting on the box that day. The girls that ride out here are absolutely amazing bike racers & riders, especially on the gnarly shit. One small mistake with this lot and you’re off the back. Of course you feel that little bit of disappointment – that is normal, otherwise you wouldn’t race, but that was washed away quickly when you think about the actual reasons for being out here in the first place. This is not about you or I or us, or racing this is about the great memories of an amazing friend & person, and celebrating everything that he was so passionate about. Cheers Dodzy for creating such an amazing playground. In the end Rosara smashed us to take the win, with Harriet in second place and Gabby in third. Super happy to see Gabby up on the podium – it made my day & I knew that this was a special weekend for her. Justin Leov took the Elite men's win & Sven got a pretty sweet looking first place trophy for the mantelpiece that we don't own - well done everyone!

Thanks to everyone for another amazing weekend of playing on bikes!

Next it was time to do laundry and pack up to head out to Chile. Andes Pacifico, here we come!

No better way to end a day of shredding & racing bikes with good mates.

Fire, Salad, Dog. Juliana does Nelson.

Fire Salad Dog. Juliana does Nelson. Cable Bay campfire.

It’s been a while since I’ve had the time or the energy to actually sit down and type down some thoughts. It’s been hectic to say the least. My off-season has not been “off” or slow by any means. I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as February is nearing its end, which means I’ll get a few weeks of actual off-season downtime, I mean training. It sounds like I’m winging – don’t get me wrong, I’m most definitely not. I wouldn’t want to change anything about my life. I’ve loved, absolutely loved every minute of every day – well the 6am wake up’s got a bit old, but that is so ingrained in my body clock right now, that I find myself enjoying all the early mornings and waking up with the birds and the beautiful morning light.

Let’s start at the beginning; it will be short and sweet, I promise.

The best lounge ever.

The Juliana Bicycles product launch happened over here in Nelson – very exciting stuff. Gary Perkin flew out here a few days earlier to shoot the entire Juliana bike line up. We took each bike to a well suited, different looking location to best portray each bikes characters and chose a different theme/story line & outfit for each bike. That was full on to say the least, as there were 6 bikes and myself which meant early mornings & late nights, but we got it done in 3 days and we had a blast. There were 2 firsts in that weekend for me; first time on a 29er (which I surprisingly loved, shhhh) and a first time on a hard tail (which I also enjoyed). Never too old to try something new – like they say; do something that scares you everyday (that would include hard tails & 29ers in my books). Even though I tried & enjoyed them, I won’t be trading in my trusty suspension bikes any time soon though, but I can appreciate and see the need and the right place for all the different models that I rode.

Summer days.

Katie Zaffke – the new Juliana Brand manager joined us later along with the Anthill film crew to capture our women’s backcountry adventure that we were heading out on for the next 4 days. We had an awesome crew of girls, all of them from such amazing, varied backgrounds and all of them Santa Cruz riders/racers & adventurers for many years, so it was just fitting to have them all join me on our new Juliana Bicycles adventure – promoting strong, interesting, badass women who can ride bikes properly. I mean were talking ER doctors, bird researchers & hydrologists that also smashes any sort of bike ride and race for fun on their weekends – how awesome is that.

Nydia Track lunch spot with the girls.

So this is heading for a longer piece than I anticipated, so summing up the amazing 8 days of the Juliana video & photoshoot, here goes:

Not a bad view.

Awesome bikes, amazing friends, a lot of riding, pushing, repeating and waiting. Many early mornings, lots of driving, late fish n chips dinners, too many flat whites, camp fires, bird watching, tree deciphering, learning, watching, laughing & vajazzling – don’t ask! Banter, shredding, Go-Pro’ing, crashing, laughing, bonding and showing the boys how to ride little bikes – Juliana Bikes. I no longer feel sad to not ride a Santa Cruz branded bike – I love my Juliana Bicycle and feel really proud and special to be able to represent the finer side of the best bike brand in the world.

Riding bikes.

Thank you to everyone that made this happen, to all the boys that had to put up with us and to all the girls that gave up their time to make this video shoot a reality. Hoping we all look really fast & that all the women go forth & buy Juliana bicycles!

Cheers Harriet, Anja, Katie & Bob & also CJ, Matty, Mike, Boyd, Sven, Gary & everyone else who made this happen.

single digits & the grand finale.

By now, everybody must be so sick and tired of hearing about Finale, and about how amazing that place and the final race of the season was, with all the epic photo's with the shimmering blue sea in the background, well, yes, it was pretty freaking amazing. In fact, in all of my years of racing in really cool places, this little sea- side town on the Italian riviera, has managed to jump to the top of my favorites list, it has found a special place in my heart and I'll definitely be back for more next year. It was our first time over there this year, never being able to wait out 3 more weeks after the end of the season to go to this race, I mean at that stage of the season and year, it's just another bloody bike race isn't it? Jon Cancellier has always been the one singing love songs about Finale, about the amazing tracks and the amazing place that it is and he's always tried to get us out there, so when it became the final race of the enduro world series, we had no more excuses. Finale it was. Now, I can fully understand Jon's love relationship with this little town. The place, the people, the food, the sea, the amazing colors (pantone's that just don't exist in the new world), the old people that are an integral part of the community, the cobblestone's and church processions, the old walled medieval city that you ride your carbon bike through whilst window shopping the most exquisite leather boots & hand bags on route to the special stages - absolutely everything about this place is awesome. This is the kind of place that English people relocate to and write books about.

Anyhow, back to the racing. We all knew we were in for a big weekend, being known as one of the toughest enduro races on the Superenduro circuit, as far as technical tracks go, but also as far as the liaison stages go. Big days, pedaling everything on the bike. The stages were released two days prior to the race, so we had some time to find & check out the different special stages, which is not so simple to find your way around tiny little medieval villages and roads. Most of us were able to get about 2 or 3 runs down each track before racing, which was great as the tracks were pretty full on. They were mentally & physically pretty draining. I'd say the most technical and demanding of all the races we've had this season, so it was great to practice the very precise tech sections before having to race them - especially when you're all jelly legged from pedaling the liaisons & all the pedally bits in the stages! (Hat's off to Tracy Moseley who pedaled the entire loop, both days & didn't do one shuttle run during practice and still managed to win - you bloody legend! That my friends, is "the spirit of enduro").

We had 4 special stages on Saturday with 45km of liaison stages & 2 special stages on Sunday with about 30km of liaison stages, so we had to be prepared for a big day out on the bikes. Luckily the cloud cover on both days made it just bareable to pedal up & around the mountains in full face helmets & back plates without shriveling up from dehydration. Of course we had to do the most technical stage twice, which also happened to have a nasty, rocky, uphill section in it right before the scary descent - perfect when you're seeing little white spots. Our day was cut a bit shorter after stage 3 as they cancelled the last stage due to a big accident earlier in the day. I was looking forward to that stage, as it was a flat out, fast, loose downhill stage, but I was pretty happy to head back to Finale and eat some gelato. Well, the gelato had to wait, due to Sven & the media crew racing down stage 4 after hearing the news that it was cancelled with Sven charging ahead only to stop dead on one of the many rocks (due to the heavy camera bag apparantly), flying over the bars & smacking himself silly and sampling some of the very rocky terrain with his hands & elbows. So it was off to the Italian hospital to check out his head and to get some stitches in his elbow. Too many team Dark Cloud members around this weekend... Thanks to everyone for looking after him - cheers!

Happy that he was OK, we sampled some more of the delicious red wine - which is perfect post concussion medicine and ate some more delicious ligurian pesto pasta made in heaven, I swear, followed by the gelato I never got to eat earlier and the most decadent cappuccino's that we're not supposed to drink after 11am in the morning - for no apparent reason, you just don't, but we ignored that rule and consumed as many proper cappuccino's as possible. The racing on Sunday was great, the whole weekend was amazing, the vibe was good. Everyone was of course racing as usual, but there was more of a relaxed atmosphere amongst all the competitors. We all wanted to do our best, but as far as racing, things were pretty set for the overall, a few points here and there, with the general feeling of everyone just wanting to enjoy & savor this last weekend of fun on our bikes. I did come to this last race with a mini goal, besides savoring this last race - I wanted to become a single digit. I was sitting in 10th place for the overall series results, which I was content with, but I really, really wanted to become a single digit, so that was my final goal in Finale, which I managed to achieve, while having an absolute blast. I ended up in 8th place for the weekend (with a massive crash near the finish line of the last stage of the season), and that managed to put me into 9th position for the series overall. Happy girl. (It must have been my spiffy new sombrio outfit that Aaron sent over to me for the last race - thank you Aaron!).

Sven & I were asked to design the first ever enduro world series trophy this year, with Simon Muir creating and making all our ideas come to life. This was such a huge honor & such a huge responsibility, but in the end they turned out beautiful and we couldn't have imagined anything better to present to these talented, amazing bike riders to remember their & this special year.

Below is a little description behind the meaning of the trophy:

"Close-up on the trophy, designed by Anka Martin and Sven Martin and built by Woodguards' Simon Muir: eight tiny compartments each contain a relic from one of the race destinations - soil from Punta Ala, alpine rock from Val d’Allos, a bottle of Genepe from Les 2 Alpes, bark and aspen leaves from Winter Park, old man’s beard moss from Whistler, white organic linen from Val d’Isere, to symbolize the white-out conditions, and fresh chestnuts and sand from the beach of Finale Ligure. (A final compartment remains as an empty invitation for the champions to add a personal memento from their year of racing. Wonder what that will be?)."

Of course the weekend and the season couldn't just wrap up, it had to end with a bang, or more like a massive thunder & lightning storm with torrential rain flooding the pits, cutting out the electricity and leaving everyone soaking wet and shivering. Perfect. The thunder cracked so loud in these little narrow cobblestone streets and the lightning lit up all the nooks & crannies with shutters slamming, bells's chiming, rain pelting and pantone colors popping against the black skies. Nothing could dull the vibe & excitement that was present, this was the grand finale. SRAM organized a big party for Jerome, with champagne & a big cake to celebrate his victory - which we happily celebrated with him & everyone else who shared his excitement, until the wee hours of the morning. What a fitting place to end the season which started on the beaches of Punta Ala, Italy, then stretched into the big, scary, snow capped glacier filled mountains and now back to the beaches of Finale Ligure, Italy, where bike checks are done on the beach and the pits struggle to keep the sand out of the seals. O, and where parking tickets apparently don't mean much & tow trucks don't exist - or as Italian, Simon Cittati from SRAM puts it: "It is merely an invitation to pay". We were invited to pay quite a few times over the course of the week...

The season was over, we made it, sort of, we're going home, we had fun, we made new friends, good friends, we bonded - again, I rode well, I am happy, I'm content, I am relieved, our van survived, I LOVE my bike, I love my new big - well sort of big wheels, I loved our new adventures. Now it's time to chill, time to reflect, time to reconnect & to start making plans & plotting adventures for next year. Ciao!

Thank you to everyone that supported me this season: Will, Rob & Mary-Anne from Juliana Bicycles, Jon Cancellier (for the sickest bike ever & keeping it in tip top shape all year), Keeton, Marty, Todd, Dani, Simon, Evan, Dawson & the whole SRAM family, Aaron from Sombrio clothing, Fred & Fabien from URGE helmets, Tyler from SDG, Michael from Schwalbe, Stikman at Troy Lee Design, Jo Jo from G-Form protection, Blick & Dani at Oakley, Kevin at Camelbak, Andy at Crankbrothers, and so many others for various things & of course to Sven for all his support along the way & all the pretty sic shots he got of me ;) A huge shout out to everyone involved with the EWS - you guys killed it and made it happen. Bikes are rad. You guys rock!

diary of my Trans Provence week

The Trans Provence is always the highlight of my season. It is a week filled with amazing, unknown, wild & crazy trails, where we trek up and over many big, vast mountain ranges, starting near Sisteron, making our way all the way to the beach in Menton. I love this point to point style adventure, where you are actually moving, pedaling & pushing yourself across mountain ranges and valley's and that sense of satisfaction that you feel when you get your first glimpse of the sea shimmering in the distance. It's pretty exciting stuff & that is what keeps me coming back every year for more adventures. Last year we had some bad luck with Sven getting heli vacced off on the last day and then Jon Cancellier getting carried out 200 meters from the finish line with torn ankle ligaments - not ideal. Mix in there some crazy rain, thunder, flash floods & hail storms on exposed mountain tops with not a tree in sight, then you start understanding how a small group of riders started calling ourselves Team Dark Cloud. Not satisfied with unfinished business, Team Dark Cloud had to come back this year to make sure that everyone finishes up, get's to plonk into the med, look at Smail's speedo du jour & to give a puff on the old cigar.

Base camp Day 0: Clamensane

Home for the next week

So here we are, Trans Provence 2013 Day 1: Clamensane - Digne

The day started off sunny & cheery, only to turn to shit as soon as we got to the top of the mountain of stage 1. This was dejavu - exactly like last year and how we came up with Team Dark Cloud to begin with. We had to laugh & just get on with it - was this to set the precedent of the week to follow? I set of on my first special stage on day 1 in a hail storm - this was going to be a long, tough week, and Team Dark Cloud already lived up to it's name. This day was the biggest day yet - we fought, slogged & dragged our bikes through clay & mud the entire day. I was knackered.

Day 1 - happy girl.

Day 2: Digne - Colmars

The sun was shining as we set off under blue skies on day 2. We had a big old hike a bike to tackle first thing in the morning - just what we needed to loosen up our sore, aching bodies & awaken blisters from the day before. It was going to be a good day as the sunny skies lifted everyone's spirits and filled it with banter, laughter and lots of war stories.

Day 3: Col de Champs - Guillaumes

This is a morning of big views & big mountains, as we get dropped off on top of the Col De Champs - it is a sight that will take your breath away and the gateway to the Maritime Alps - a sign that we're heading in the right direction. The first special stage of the morning was a write off for myself and many others too - starting off with getting lost, falling into a hole & then slipping & getting stuck in my bike on the wooden bridge right at the finish while the clock ticks away. To end it off I gave the bridge a good punch with my knuckles as I slammed into it - ouch. All of this before a proper coffee.

Day 4: Guillaumes - St Sauveur sur Tinee

Once day 3 rolls around, your body has sort of got used to the shock of everything and you actually start to feel good and get into the swing of things. We had surprise today, we got to ride a chair lift for two of the stages in the Roubion bike park. It was fun to change it up, but these were my worst two stages of the day - way too groomed and perfect I reckon, I didn't know how to ride normal stuff! It was a good way to mix it up with all the other riders and hang out a bit. At this stage, we had no idea what Ash had in mind for us for the last stage of the day. I have no words to describe this last stage. It was wild, very sparsely marked, super exposed, almost 30minutes long and at the end of the day when you're mentally & physically already a write off. Most of us got lost somewhere along the way, crashed a few times, almost died a few times, but we all lived to share the stories at a local pub on the side of the road. It was awesome. Thanks Ash for keeping it real.

Day 5:   Valdeblore - Sospel

So day 4 was supposed to be our easy day, to rest up for the biggest day of the week, but it sure didn't feel easy to any of us and day 5 was looming ahead of us. It was a long slog heading out in the moon glow from the camp site and silently pedaling on through the morning fog. The fog never lifted and just got thicker as we made our way up into the mountains, creating quite a sullen atmosphere, as you didn't hear much laughter or chatter this morning. It took us about 3 hours before we reached the start of the first special stage that morning and we still had a long way to go. My goal was to hold back and get through these next 2 days without doing anything silly - I was in the lead and I wanted to keep it that way. All I had to do, was not crash, flat or have a mechanical - easy huh? Holding back is not easy when you're loving the tracks and you just want to pinn it, but this is what had to be done. After the first 2 special stages, we had a bitch of a road climb to get to the 3rd stage - 20km on the road with super tacky tires & 6" trail bikes are not that enjoyable. We got on with it, as that's what you do in this race, but we all cheered up when we were welcomed by local hero Nico Vouilloz at the start of the 3rd stage. How sick is that. I think we all tried to pinn it even harder after seeing Nico, but unfortunately Olly our South African friend was a bit too inspired and pinned it into some rocks, smashing his face and dislocating his shoulder pretty badly. Our day was about to get a whole lot longer & Olly just inducted himself into the Team Dark Cloud crew. He got heli vacced out of there, but Team Dark Cloud had another stage to finish up for the day. Not the nicest thing to have to do after seeing your friend off in a heli, but we grabbed a headlamp from one of the shuttle vehicles, turned up the volume to some Irie reggae tunes, mellowed out and smashed out the final run of the day - which happened to be my fastest run of the day after we all decided to go steady - oops. Having too much fun.

Day 6: Sospel - Menton - The final countdown!

Yes, the last day has arrived and we're all jonesing to get our tired assess into the Med, but we have to get there first. It was an amazing day exploring a whole new Sospel valley, even making a quick jaunt into Italy for a quick cappuccino after one special stage. The stages were very physical today, with uphill running, boulder clambering, challenging navigation and some long ass sprints, or maybe we're all just tired from the whole week, but it was no rest day today, we had to work hard to dive into that sea in Menton. On my last stage, I kept messing up, doubting myself that I was lost and that I was throwing the whole week away - even turning back at one point to double check a sign - amazing how my mind was playing tricks on me. Anyhow, I got down, I made it, I kept my lead and I took the win. I was very, very happy, as this event is a very special event to me. This is what riding mountain bikes is all about. It is the adventure, the camaraderie and all the experiences that makes this event so special. It is wild, raw, dangerous & everything that I love about racing little bikes as fast as you can down crazy technical blind tracks. Ash, thank you - you nailed it man. This is and will always be what everyone keeps harping on about these days - "the spirit of enduro", or as I prefer to refer to it, riding our bikes in sick places.

Mary-Anne & I enjoying some Italian coffee in Olivetta during a liaison stage on the last day.

Cheers to Team Dark Cloud and every single person that completed the week - you guys & girls are awesome (especially the girls, as this is not an easy week). Heal up to all the injured riders too.

All the lads - I mean girls! (Missing Fay with her broken hand & Kat that went on the first wave)

Our crew grew stronger this year, we were planning on being a bit more cautious this year, to make sure we all got to the damn beach, but when you clock into that balise, it is not in any of our gene's to hold back. We all freaking pinned it and we all lived to tell the tales. We took care of Ollie, we encouraged Todd, we rode for Michael Bonney. This week was way more than a bloody bike race, it was filled with many emotions, reasons, passions, decisions and friendships and that is what makes this week a standout week. Times are forgotten (well maybe not the 1sec that separated Nico & Jerome after a week of racing!), but these memories we create on our bikes will be shared & remembered for many more years to come.

One more TDC shout out - we didn't do too shabby either taking the win in a few classes & the fastest TDC awards goes to Jerome Clementz, who had to go and loose by 1 sec, but killed all of us!

Anka Martin 1st Pro Women's (32nd overall)

Sven Martin 1st Masters (also 2nd Am & 15th overall)

Chris Ball 1st Amateur (9th overall)

Team Dark Cloud

Paul Smail never disappoints.

Cheers Team Dark Cloud - until we meet again in February to explore Chile!

Peace out,

Anka x

time to reflect.

Where have the weeks gone to? They have been flying by in my world with so many things happening all the time, that you just keep moving on from one thing to the next, with no time to stop and think about the amazing thing that you did yesterday, or the day before yesterday, or last week, you just pack your bags, catch the next shuttle, drop off the next rental car and fly to the next destination, unpack, deal with jet lag and carry on. To me this is my way of trying to live a normal life, to just pick up and carry on, looking ahead at the next event, venue, country, language and or food and putting the past whatever it was behind and moving right along to the next thing.

So, I'm going to keep this update short & sweet, because it's way past due and it's time for me to look ahead and move on.

I'll start back in Canada at the crankworx festival in Whistler.

1) Enduro World Series round #5 - enduro race of epic proportions. One solid, big day of adventuring on our bikes, mostly outside of the bike park on some sick, scary, pretty awkward, tecky new trails - it was incredibly awesome & I ended up 9th overall. The organizers definitely stepped up their game and put on one hell of an enduro race.

crankworx enduro

A big old day out.

2) All day Sombrio photo shoot the day after the all day enduro race - I wasn't tired at all! It was such a fun day though & I got to see some new bits of Whistler. Any day spent with Lindsey Voreis & Aaron is bound to be a fun, entertaining day!

Sombrio photo shoot

3) Escape the madness that is Whistler village - YOGA, YOGA, YOGA! yessss please.

4) An all day filming day on top of the world in the rain for the new SRAM Pike ad - and no, I was not going downhill all day, I was actually climbing uphill a hell of a lot - I was AIR. Pretty exciting stuff and a first for me to do some filming work. Quite excited & nervous to see the final product.

SRAM pop up store - so sick!

5) Free ladies XC & DH riding clinics offered by SRAM and a part of Rebecca Rusch's Gold Rusch tour. Unbelievable turnout from all the ladies and we loved helping them get more confident on their bikes. Although a pump track session in the rain was a bit sketchy.

Free SRAM ladies clinics & free swag from Aaron at Sombrio.

6) Headed up to 100 mile house in the middle of Canada somewhere for Rob & Shanna Parkin's wedding by the lake. It was such an awesome wedding, but we were zooming back to Vancouver at first light as we had a 6 hour drive to tackle to catch our next plane back to Europe for the next race.

Rob & Shanna's wedding.

Arrive in Lyon, France - bonjour good coffee & croissants  - and cheap food!

1) Met up with Jon Cancellier in Lyon, loaded up our trusty old van who waited in parking lot 5 patiently for the past 5 weeks & headed straight to La Thuile, Italy to meet with Enrico and his crew for some filming.

Grande Mont Blanc

2) Up early for an all day filming affair with Sven & myself featured as the couple who like to adventure on our bikes. They are making this to promote & showcase this relatively unknown riding area & also because it will be the Enduro Des Nations venue for 2014.

3) Up even earlier and heading over to Val D'Isere, France for the 6th round of the Enduro World Series.

4) Pretty knackered from jet lag - I opt to nap whenever I could.

5) Up even earlier than before - like 7 am early and on the lift for Saturday race day. Massive over the bars to wake up to. Sunshine & dust to begin with. Massive hike-a-bikes to the top of the start, then turning into massive storms, fog and no visibility with most of the girls getting lost somewhere on course, it made for a vary exciting, very varied day of racing.

6) Yep, you guessed it, on the lift at 7am again, this time the surrounding mountains were covered in snow. Yes, snow. No practice, straight into racing, holy shit, locked out shock - dammit, sick mud, long tracks, freezing cold, awesome. Super physical stages, so much pedaling, so much concentration, so cold, so happy to survive & end up in 7th overall.

7) Another early morning rise, this time to eat amazing French pastries and copious amounts of cafe creme's at the most amazing bakery in the morning sun. Bliss, but not for long. Rush, rush, rush, pack, pack, squeeze and Sven, Jon & myself are on the road again, back to Lyon airport so they can catch the next plane to South Africa and the World Championships.

8) Thank F#@K I'm not going anywhere. After dropping them off, I had a leisurely 2 hour drive into the "a la campagne" - the quiet French countryside back to the little village with 60 people where my parents & my sister lives. Where the pace is a tad slower, the streets are quiet, the food is fresh & where I can go to find some peace & quiet and just sit down to reflect and think about all the amazing happenings of the last few weeks. I can think about all the high's and all the low's that go hand in hand with racing & traveling. All the should have's, could have's and would have's. All the fun times, the nervous times, the scary times and the o my God I almost died times. I can think about all the money I spent on coffee, pastries & food in Whistler - but I choose to eliminate those thoughts & marvel in all the good memories with good old friends & bikes.

Good times with good friends.

Time for some mellow country road rides, yoga, yard chores, drinking red wine with dad and cooking with mum. Happy girl.

Thank you Sven for the AMAZING shots!

Peace out, Anka

Canadia part one: float planes, bear spray & overpriced groceries.

We made it to Canada hey! So good to be back here. We got here a week before the Crankworx craziness sets in, and it has been such a treat to experience Whistler that is a bit more quiet than during the actual festival. Except this week, they had a massive Wanderlust yoga festival in the village and everyone was walking around with a yoga mat and neon colored hot pants.. don't get me wrong, I love yoga, and I teach yoga, but this seemed a bit showy for my liking, but you know - don't judge, that is very un- yoga like of me, but it did make for some great people watching. I'm just not a fan of practicing yoga with loads of people watching you and taking holiday snaps while you're down dogging or in some other vulnerable type position.

This will be my 10th year coming to Crankworx festival - o my word, where has the time gone to? So, needless to say, you become a bit blase about everything up here and you do take it for granted. This was the first year however that I didn't throw my bags into a corner of the hotel room and rush up to the park to get as many laps in as possible - what the hell was wrong with me? All I wanted to do, was get out on my trail bike for a spin through Lost Lake and take in the beauty of this place, and stunning it is. Am I just getting older? Have I just been here too many times? What gives? Not sure why, but all I wanted to do was explore all the fun, never ending trails around the bike park. They are steep, technical, fast and o so much fun. I find them way more technical than the park trails and you get to jump into one of the many lakes on your way home.

Best bike shop in Pemberton - The Bike Co.

Anyhow, last year I did my first trip to the Chilcotin mountains and I desperately wanted to go back and share that wonderful backcountry experience with Sven & some good friends, so we planned a spontaneous float trip out there. It is a 3 hour (bumpy as) drive from Whistler to get to the Tyax lodge where we stayed over for the night and caught the float plane in the morning for a 9am drop off at Warner Lake. Once dropped off, we were equipped with our map, bear spray & bear bells and singingly made our way up & down the singletrack (as to not scare the grizzly bears) towards Windy Pass, then Lickey Trail and then down the most amazing singletrack trail back to the Tyax lodge, 7 hours & 41km later we jumped into the lake, drank beers, ate fries & burgers and jumped back into the rental car (beast of a truck) to head back down the bumpy gravel road (that ruined all our bikes) to Whistler. A must do experience and definitely my highlight while out here in Whistler.

Float plane goodness.

Good times with good friends.

Warner Lake from above.

Chris the Grizzly.

O, and on a side note: how do people that live here afford to buy groceries? It is mind blowingly expensive!

Next up is the 5th round of the Enduro World Series this coming Sunday - it's going to be a killer, one big day out on the bikes - they're going to kill us, I cannot wait & I'll update you once we've conquered Sunday.

Peace out, Anka xxx