"When I crossed the line to be crowned 2020 Oceania Champion everything felt whole again." - Izzy Flint
Oceania Championships 2020: An update on MERIDA athlete, Izzy Flint.
The Build Up
After an enormous amount of time off from racing, a recently dislocated kneecap and not a single XC race start since Reef to Reef in August, my 2020 kicked off with a bang in New Zealand last week. I went to NZ with absolutely no clue how I’d end up. I was just super stoked to be travelling with some cool people and just getting back into the swing of things, hoping that 2020 would be my year.
After riding around Dunedin for the first couple of days, my legs started to know about it…. Man, that place is hilly! The course also had a fair bit of climbing and it wasn’t overly technical which didn’t particularly suit me but what was going to be was going to be regardless. So there was no point losing any sleep over it. I had my MERIDA Team Nine Hardtail which was absolutely perfect for the course. I just hoped my climbing legs would rock up, come race day.
After exploring all the best coffee, cafes with good munchies and the least hilly way to ride home we arrived at race day. I’m not an overly superstitious person but there is one thing that must happen before I can race…. for every important race I must wear a new fresh out of the packet pair of socks, that my mum has given me (yes… I own a lot of socks). There’s only ever been two races where I haven’t worn a new pair of socks from mum and both times I ended up in hospital! Call it silly or superstitious but it works for me.
Being in the positive and chilled head space is key for me going into any race day and NZ was no different! After having to hang out at the event for most of the morning before my race to help feeding some of the guys I was traveling with, it seemed to take forever for 1pm to roll around. After watching the boys smash it in the earlier races, I was absolutely stoked for them which just lifted my mood even more! After a couple of last minute special good luck messages from family and friends I was ready to rumble. I was feeling really calm and collected going into the race… I had a bit of a race plan in mind, but I was also just happy to see how it all unfolded!
After starting hard and slotting back into 3rd place up the first climb, I wanted to give my legs a chance to see how they were feeling. Halfway up the first climb I jumped back across to Phoebe, who was in the lead and just sat with her for the first lap. Unfortunately, when we come down the descent for the 2nd time Phoebe took a nasty tumble and I found myself in front. It was earlier than I had planned to lead but these things happen. It was funny, something about this whole race was different. I wasn’t feeling the pressure, I was really hurting but also just having the best time! I just rode my bike! With 2 laps to go I started to cramp really badly… both my legs in my quads, hammies and calves. I think it was just a huge shock to my system having to dig that deep and it was hot and I was slightly under hydrated. Luckily for me my mind is good at overriding most normal pain receptors and I kept pushing… well more like creeping, but just giving it everything I had to get back around to the finish.
When I crossed the line to be crowned 2020 Oceania Champion everything felt whole again. I felt like I’d finally found myself again. I just felt like Iz…. and for anyone who saw my post-race MTBA interview they would probably know what I mean! I was lucky enough to have a couple of really special people at the race who knew just how much this meant to me so to share that moment with them was unreal. For me, celebrating and being with your loved ones adds so much more than just the result! This isn’t one I will forget!
I then spent a couple days after the race exploring NZ which was absolutely incredible. We hiked Roys peaks; a 5-hour mission with breathtaking views! Saw what Wanaka had to offer and of course visited the luge in Queenstown. Being highly competitive meant I definitely won the luge races, but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t admit the competition might have let me win. It was lovely to be on holidays for four days where we didn’t touch our bikes and experienced places from a non-bike perspective. NZ is unbelievable!
I'm now reset and ready to focus on National Champs in 6 weeks, a Junior World Series race at the start of April and then building to up to Worlds and some European racing in the middle of the year. Onwards and upwards I say!
2020 is looking GOOOOOODD!
Read more about Izzy Flint here.
Photograpy: Gemma Wells