Kate Fluker is back for a tilt at an amazing sixth consecutive win in the Skoda Mountain Bike Race at the iconic Macpac Motatapu on March 4, confirming her entry just last week – not that the Queenstown rider was ever in any doubt that she would race one of her favourite events.
The 2018 Commonwealth Games hopeful is fresh off defending the Open Mixed category at The Pioneer (with fellow Queenstown rider Mark Williams), so knows she has the training miles in the legs, the question is whether she has the speed to race at pace over the 47km distance.
“I hope I have some speed, I have nationals this weekend! It is quite different riding the stages each day of the Pioneer so this weekend and then at Motatapu will be very interesting to see. The change is physical but also mental – The Pioneer was all about pacing each day, in shorter races you can’t afford to do that, you don’t have the time! As soon as the gun goes you have to be going as hard as you can and maintain that speed for two hours, you don’t want anything left in the tank.
After the disappointment of missing the Rio Olympics after breaking a collarbone in a World Cup race in May last year, Fluker still very much has ambitions to race for New Zealand at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, and an event like the Macpac Motatapu is perfect to transition from the longer Pioneer stage race to the shorter one-off race similar to a Games event.
“Motatapu is really where mountain biking began for me, it is the first event I ever did and going back reminds me of where it all started. It is cool to be a part of the whole event, from the nervous energy at the start at Glendhu Bay to the atmosphere at Arrowtown, it is pretty special.
“The majority of the course is accessible on this one day only – you can’t ride this course any other time. You can ride the last river trail section of course, that is open to the public but from Glendhu Bay this is the one chance a year, that makes it all the more attractive to me.
“I am often asked about the scenery, but to be honest I never really see it, you have your head down and you are not really taking in the sights. One year I will do that though, I have said that I will ride a little more socially when dad decides to join me.”
Fluker has a new angle to her riding this year, with a new coach in her corner in the shape of former road pro Matt King as she looks to unlock her full potential in the sport over these next 18 months.
“I have a new coach to change things up as well. Matt has worked with Brownlee brothers (Great British triathlon pair Alistair and Jonny) and Team SKY in Europe. He knows his stuff and we have a pretty good relationship. He has a different style and technique to what I have been used to in the past, and it seems to be working so far.”
As well as the change in coach, Fluker is taking a different approach to her racing and training this year and leading into 2018. With the crash in France ruling her out of Rio and with the death of two close friends (mountain biker Kelly McGarry and close friend Kat Turner), the 29-year-old has put less pressure on herself in 2017.
“Normally the disappointment of the crash and missing Rio are the kinds of things that drive you, but dealing with the loss of two friends has changed my perspective a little. Things got on top of me a little last year and at one point I was in a bad way and wasn’t sure what to do. Part of that process is that this year I was going to be a little easier on myself and ride for the right reasons. So, in regards the actual riding disappointment, I have put it behind me I think, more so than using it as motivation.”
The competitive flame still burns strong in Fluker though, and she is looking to the next fortnight for strong performances as she defends both her national title at the Cardrona Alpine Resort this weekend, and the Macpac Motatapu race on March 4, to kick start that campaign for the Gold Coast.
“It will be cool to win nationals again this weekend, as mentioned after last year I am trying to have a more relaxed year, but it is always nice to win nationals. These races are important for next year with the Commonwealth Games being in April on the Gold Coast. I will head back to the World Cup Series – I will have to do a couple to get selected for the Games, but 2017 is quiet year on World Cup front.”
Fluker says there are no secrets as to her strategy for the Motatapu, with everyone knowing of her strengths on the climbs.
“I tend to go as hard as I can from the start, not a great race strategy sometimes I know, but I need to utilize the hills where I am strongest and not do anything silly in the rivers – you have to pick your route and sometimes you have to get off and walk rather than go in the drink. So for me it is go hard on the hills and maintain my momentum through the flat area in the middle.”
March 4, 2017
Wanaka to Queenstown
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