Mountain biker off to Games
A Taupo¯ mountain biker is about to become a youth Olympian after being named in the cycling team for the Summer Youth Olympics at Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Sammie Maxwell, 16, will join another young Taupo¯ sportswoman, equestrian Briar Burnett-Grant, 18, of Taupo¯ -nui-aTia College at the Games in October.
Being selected is a huge achievement for Sammie, who has her sights set on becoming a professional mountain biker. But the timing couldn’t be any worse for the Tauhara College student, who has to sit level two NCEA exams in calculus, English, biology, physics, chemistry and sports science just two weeks after returning home.
Sammie’s event is a new road cycling and mountain biking series held on five consecutive days.
“The Youth Olympics is where they try new events so they have a road cycling mountain bike combined event,” Sammie explains.
“The first day is a team time trial and second day is the [60km] road race and then the mountain bike short course, a mountain bike eliminator and a criterium. You all get points based off your placings in the five events but it’s whoever gets the most points of your team of two. So you might completely dominate your field but your partner might not even place, so it’s important to work with your partner.”
It’s quite different from Sammie’s usual races and even her specialty, the mountain biking event, is much shorter — at about 20 minutes — than she’s used to. The mountain bike eliminator has teams of four race a short single lap, with the fastest two going through to the next round. The road race criterium is 30km in laps with some allocated as sprint laps and points given for winning prints, making it highly tactical.
While Sammie holds national mountain biking titles, this year she also began competing in road cycling, winning two Dynamo series road races in the Waikato earlier this month. She also took up cyclocross, a bicycle race which consists of multiple laps of a short course that can include grass, forest, mud, assorted obstacles such as logs and even river crossings.
“It’s so fun,” says Sammie of cyclocross.
“I really really love that high intensity and being 45 to 50 minutes with the really steep pinches and no suspension, it’s so fatiguing on your body. You get 15-second bursts [of effort] and then a five-second break and then a five-second sprint so it’s really on the gas the whole time which is right up my alley.”
Sammie is presently racing most weekends, whether mountain biking, road cycling or cyclocross, and during the week she does high-intensity training, gym work and Pilates. Even when she’s having downtime — she calls it being productively restful — she’ll still be stretching or rolling to aid her body’s recovery. She’s also been working with her coach Alex Fierro on mental aspects.
The trip is self-funded, with Sammie paying for everything. She and her parents will be fundraising for the estimated $4000 to $5000 needed, via raffles and a Givealittle page. However, the Youth Olympics is too good an opportunity to pass up and Sammie hopes this will be a stepping stone to next year’s World Cup in Canada. Sammie thinks the biggest challenge of the Youth Olympics will be having to be at the top of her game for five days straight. But, she adds, she’ll be waking up in Buenos Aires each morning feeling grateful for “this amazing opportunity”.
Sammie Maxwell, 16, pictured here competing in cyclocross, has been selected to represent New Zealand at the Youth Summer Olympics in Buenos Aires in October.