After a short and busy off-season Justin’s 2015 EWS race season started right at his doorstep in Rotorua, New Zealand. To find out what his off-season looked like and how he performed at the first race of the season read his personal race diary entry:

Bei solch technischen und abwechslungsreichen Stages wie in Rotorua galt es besonders aufmerksam zu trainieren.
With technical and varied stages proper training was key in Rotorua at the first round of the 2015 EWS.

I often find the offseason comes and goes really fast! This year even more so with an earlier round landing in our home land for once! The offseason was a time warp blur for me. I had a lot going on as usual. Tory, Luca and I jumped straight into moving towns from Christchurch to Blenheim. This is where mountain biking first started for me as I grew up in The Malborough Regine, so this really is coming home! I had a lot of work finishing our house with a few weeks off the bike, and these turned into long days on the tools.

With the house finished we moved in just before Christmas and my next challenge was to get stuck into recovering the knee and wrist injuries I was carrying through the latter part of the 2014 season. With the help of the All Blacks doctor and my coach we were able to figure out what was going on and put to work a plan to correct my weaknesses in the muscles which were contributing to these injuries. Back into the training and some work to be done!

Nach einer arbeitsreichen Off-Season hat Justin rechzeitig zum Rennen in Rotorua seinen Rennspeed gefunden.
After a busy off-season Justin was back at his racing speed just in time.

My training has been strong this offseason but it was touch and go if I would be able to even race in Rotorua when 2 weeks out I crashed while out on a training ride and tore my calf muscle. This is a painful injury and it came at the worst possible time in terms of where I needed to be coming in. Skipping the NZ Enduro event to focus on physiotherapy and recovery was all about getting strong enough to be able to race the opening round of the EWS! These are the type of things that do happen in our sport and managing them is something I’ve had plenty of practice with during my career of racing.

Looking toward EWS #1 and building up a fresh rig for the season I decided to ride my old trusty 29er. This year I have stepped up to the 160mm fork up front (up from the 150mm that I ran last year). With a little time on the bike I felt ready and rearing to go! Course maps were released which I really liked the look of but with the forecasted weather I knew this race would be a tough one and that it had the potential to take out a few people.  It’s always gutting to see your fellow racers with injuries and when the current Enduro world champ and good friend of mine Jared Graves announced he would be sitting out the race due to an injury he sustained at home I was really disappointed for him, and also for the race to not have his presence. See you in Ireland buddy!

Die ersten Wertungsprüfungen waren die schwierigsten und gefährlichsten.
The first stages were the most dangerous ones.

I woke up on race day feeling excited, being a home race I had my wife, son and coach all trackside and I was pumped for the event. We had our most technical and dangerous stages first up so I had a plan to ride it smooth and try to keep the wheels on the ground.

I started my day messy but with no crashes and a 4th place stage. With short liaison stages there wasn’t time to muck around so straight onto stage 2 and a more flat out and go stage. I nailed this stage and felt happy to have a good feeling on the bike. I ended up winning this stage but I wouldn’t find this out until after the race (a bloody good surprise!) with another “pin it” stage coming up my consistency was there and I rode clean. 4th stage of the day and this would be a physical one. I was just pipped by Jerome and I knew he had been training like I had in the offseason! Now it was time for a sketchy stage, stage 5. A short stage but deadly roots and commit or die type sections. I had nailed this stage in training every time but I had respect for it; it could bite on any run. Unfortunately my luck ran out this stage and I hit the deck, knocking my head hard enough to put my full face to good use. I knocked my visor back up and re-adjusted my goggles, as perfect vision is key in a fast sport. With a final whack to my brake levers I could then finish the stage.

Für das Rennen entschied sich Justin für den Fullface, was sich als die richtige Wahl herausstellen sollte.
Justin chose his fullface for raceday which was definitely the right choice as he hit the deck hard in stage 5.

With two stages remaining I knew I needed clean runs now to make back some time. Stage 6 was a DH stage and I knew that would be a good one to ride clean. I managed to piece together a solid run. Now to get back to the pits before the final stage which was going to be in front of the Crankworx crowd and live on TV. This stage had a good mix, super tech up top and easy to crash, then wide open on the DH track with space to let it go, then a pedal in the middle which would spin your gear out and some good sized gaps. Leaving the pits I forgot to tighten my pedals and as soon as I got on the hill I remembered but being the last stage I didn’t take any tools with me. With the TV broadcast we would be held some extra time before dropping in and the light was starting to fade especially in the dark wooded section right off the start this was only going to add to the already tech woods!

Die erste ausgabe des Crankworx Rotorua bot perfekte Rahmenbedingungen für den Auftakt der EWS Saison 2015.
The first ever Crankworx Rotorua was the perfect setting for the start of the 2015 EWS season.

Dropping in I struggled in the first corner or two. I had my game face on but it required a settled approach so I backed it off just a little bit. Hitting my lines I got out of the first woods clean and set out to attack the DH part of the course. Boosting the upper jumps felt like my DH days and I had the 29er humming. With clean riding I was making up time but my cleats were loose enough to be giving me a few wild moments. Coming into the finish line I was trying to hit a gap I knew only a few people were clearing but I had to pull the pin when I lost my foot out of the pedal and nearly threw myself away. Finishing in 3rd for the final stage I was surprised to see I had finished 4th overall but only 1 second from Wyn Masters who had bagged himself his first ever EWS podium.

Am Schluss war Justin sichtlich zufrieden mit seinem Ergebnis.
Justin was perfectly satisfied with his overall performance for the day.

I was stoked to see how close the racing was, it was a battle not just with the times but with the conditions and the terrain. Surviving was a good feeling!

With round one in the books I’ll now be working hard for the next round in Ireland. There’s plenty to do with planning and training but I’m totally happy to have begun the season once again. See you out there!

Words: Justin Leov | Photos: Ale Di Lullo

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