Mountain Biker Extreme – Erin Greene
21 September 2014
Media Release – Available for immediate release
Mountain Biker Extreme – Erin Greene
It is mountain bike racing that demands endurance for twenty-four hours, with only the most essential breaks. Erin Greene, from Dunedin originally but now living in Queenstown, has won this event at the national level three times and has placed fifth at the world champs on the two occasions that she has entered. She is an outstanding New Zealand athlete who is little known outside the mountain biking fraternity, but someone who will be worth following when she competes in her third world champs in Scotland on October 11th. Already this year she has pitted her endurance in the twenty-four hour national event at Rotorua during ANZAC weekend where she finished first equal with the leading male, David Rae. She has also just returned from an eight-day mountain bike race in Italy.
Iron Bike kicked off at Limone Piemonte on July 26th and, 550 kilometres with 23,000 meters of ascent later, finished at Sauze d’Oulx on August 2nd. This is an event that has been dubbed the hardest mountain bike race in the world, and Greene had her share of incredulous friends when she announced that she had registered for the race. Comments from previous competitors include “Beyond a bike race! A biblical challenge of epic proportions that will push you further than you thought you could EVER go!” – Rickie Cotter. “The hardest most dangerous torture you can endure on two wheels! A true test of mind, body and soul.” – Richard Samuel. “A mental struggle day after day,” – Dieter Luypaert. “It’s like the biggest day ride you ever did, but with up to three shorter high intensity races thrown in the mix to elevate the pain levels, every day for 6 days in a row. In other words, a very tough event” says Greene.
Her daily journal certainly indicates the epic nature of the race. “Day 2: 10hrs 50mins, 4510m of ascent.” In her more familiar 24-hour races a 20 minute ascent is considered a long climb, in this race, climbs could go on for 3 hours. Hard enough to imagine even without the intense electric storm with giant hailstones that accompanied the last ascent on one day. Greene reports that such storms lasted for around 3 hours on a number of days. She has a mental attitude that sustains her; the journal entry goes on to say that the hailstone dumping made “the final descent quite slippery but fun.” Given that her final few kilometres on this day also included a puncture, it is the mental approach needed to keep going. The previous day had finished with riding through water around the outside of a man-made swimming dam and day 6 included a descent of 4000 stone steps down through a fort. Greene had a crash during this section and had to do repairs. Mental and physical strength - and tactics needed!
Timing it so that her main competitor had a three minute start out of the feed zone was a strategy used by Greene as she does well by ‘hunting down’ others. She also has other techniques that help her keep going. . . And going. .. And going. She tells of how she does “laps for certain people and at times has their name or initials written on her handle bars” where she can see it. On one such occasion, it was for someone who was recently deceased. The initials were P.H. and at a certain point she realised that the letters also stood for ‘pedal hard.' While she was in Italy, the Commonwealth Games were on, and television here gave us some pretty good coverage of biking events. For Greene the imagined image of her friend Kate Fluker, a mountain bike competitor in the games, with her legs going round and around very fast was helpful a helpful tactic.
Greene achieved her goal in Iron Bike; she finished in the top 30. There were around a hundred international competitors, of which only three were women - and she wore the women’s leader jersey for the first five days of the race. Greene placed 2nd woman after a very close race with the female 1st place achiever, and 28th overall. It is a massive achievement to even be an official finisher as certain sections of the event had to be completed in set time frames which made the whole race more demanding. The demands for Greene went on after the race was over each day. “I really should have had a support crew with me. Every evening was like a puzzle with trying to fit in bike and body cleaning, eating, washing riding kit, pitching my tent, trying to get to sleep at a reasonable time. Not all things were achieved every day to the level they should have been which hampered my performance a little unfortunately”. Even getting clear about instructions can be challenging when it is in another language, also adjusting to other cultural differences – “For a Kiwi it was a bit of a culture shock to find scrambled eggs, soft cheeses, bruschetta and endless amounts of nutella on mouth destroyingly dry crusty bread, however I was that hungry and in need of energy that it all went down and tasted fantastic. However, over all the experience, scenery and people made it an extraordinary week”.
“Competitors in long distance events can peak in their mid-thirties” observes Greene, who is 32, so she’s still got some time on her side. Her winter job on Ski Patrol at Coronet Peak helps contribute to her fitness then 12 – 15 hours training a week, coached by Val Burke of Wanaka, fits around that. She lives her passion for her sport, and her summer job is at R & R Sports which is where she met her partner Tom Lamb, who does his share of cycle racing. Lamb is originally from Scotland so it will be a visit home for him when he accompanies Greene to her 24 hour World Champs 11th/12th October. Having him there will mean that Greene will have a support crew and no doubt she will draw on her incredible mental and physical stamina as well. It couldn’t’t be done without it. The pair will pay their way to the race at Fort William in Scotland as Greene also did to Italy and to previous World Champs in Australia and other stage races in South Africa and Mongolia. It is her enduring can do attitude, her gratitude for the sponsorship of some gear that comes her way and the support of those who follow her that see her representing New Zealand. Strongly riding, biking round the clock on tracks that would scare most people in daylight.
Images for Erin are available from an image library: http://www.eringreenebike.com