Above: Cole Lucas at Whakarewarewa Forest, Rotorua. Photo by John Colethorpe, Eivomedia.
Cyclists from around the Globe are heading to Rotorua this month to take part in the Crankworx Festival. Hamilton’s Cole Lucas is one of a handful of Hamiltonian’s competing. He’s heading into the event having placed third at the recent 2015 Nationals (U19s), which is over the same track being used for the downhill event at Crankworx.
When it comes to pedal power, there’s not much Cole Lucas can’t or won’t do.
The Hamilton teenager is fast placing his stamp on the sport of downhill mountain biking and already has a swag of awards to his name, including Waikato Secondary School Bike Sportsman of the Year.
This is no sport for the faint-hearted. It requires skill, tenacity and absolute fearlessness. While technique is crucial, it’s largely all about the speed – riders can clock about 3.3km distance in three and a half minutes.
The St Paul’s Collegiate-student started racing BMX bikes as a seven-year-old and his passion for two wheels has never waned. After four years competing in BMX, Cole took to riding in the Redwoods, began mountain bike racing and hasn’t looked back.
He’s had a cracker year, winning the U17 downhill event at the 2014 Oceania Mountain Bike Championships and taking out the U17 downhill event at the North Island Secondary Schools Mountain Bike competition.
He’s not solely about the fast paced action either. Cole has the guts and determination for bigger events, coming first in the Solo Dawn to Dusk 2014, a 10 hour endurance race of who can complete the most laps.
And he recently picked up the Hukkit Sick Trick Comp with a big back flip, at Skyline Sprint Warrior 2014.
This year Cole is setting his sights further than the shores of New Zealand, working towards making the 2015 Junior World team and hoping to race in America and Europe. He is also keen to try his luck at more enduro races.
2015 marks his first year competing in the under-19 division but injury put paid to his goal of a top five finish in all rounds of the 2015 NZ MTB Cup Series. After compressing two vertebrae at a big air competition in Queenstown last year, Cole has had to refocus on recovery and fresh goals.
With plenty of competitions still ahead of him, the ultimate end goal is to turn professional and race the world circuit.
As he progresses up the ranks, Cole is expanding his training regimen beyond time on his bike. He works with Hamilton physiotherapist John Appel and does classes at Advance Physio, including Oov, which he says is great for his core strength.
“I’m soon to try yoga, which will be interesting,” he says.
His nutrition has also come under the spotlight and he’s adjusting to thinking more like an athlete than a teenager.
“Now that I’m training more, I’m realising the importance of how good nutrition makes the difference. It is something I’m working on.”
Juggling his sport and the demands of school is an ongoing battle and sometimes late nights are the only answer. Cole is also keen on rugby, skiing, wakeboarding and cross country – time permitting.
From a sporty family, Cole acknowledges that he is fortunate with the amount of support he receives from his parents and older brothers.
“I’ve been biking from a young age with my older brothers and we’ve been going to Rotorua on family holidays since I was born. There have been many days spent riding in the Redwoods.
“I have a brother who is an extreme white-water kayaker, and my other brother enjoys rugby, mountain biking and up until recently, boxing. We all enjoy riding in the Redwoods and it becomes a competitive day out. The whole family is very supportive and turn up to as many events as they can.”
Mum Tracy acknowledges that downhill is a high risk sport.
“Injuries are inevitable and sometimes we wish he had never started,” she jokes.
“We are delighted with what he has achieved to date and as long as he continues to work hard to achieve his goals and remains passionate about the sport, we are happy to support him.”
To date his injuries include a broken wrist, broken fingers, compressed vertebrae, concussion and lots of lost skin.
“The focus is on constant improvement, through more overseas competition so I can experience technically harder trails. Plus I need improved fitness and minimal injuries to the body.”
Dedication to the sport is just one of the keys to successfully progressing and as well as training every day after school Cole heads to the Redwoods most weekends.
“Having ridden BMX for four years, I found the transition to downhill quite easy because of that background.
“Right now my immediate goal is a good result at the upcoming Crankworx downhill competition.”
Quick questions with cole Lucas
What are the costs involved to start competing? The biggest expense is the bike. When you start out you can pick up a good second-hand bike for $3500. Then you need a full face helmet, neck brace, bike shoes, knee and elbow pads, plus gloves.
Does gear constantly need upgrading and how important is the bike itself? Having a bike with good components is really important. I ride an XL Banshee Legend with 26 inch wheels. I have grown a lot in the past 18 months so have gone from a medium to the XL. The next change will be the new Banshee Legend model that is out mid-year and will have 27.5 inch wheels.
This is where most downhill bikes are heading. Parts do get broken, and the bike needs servicing regularly. The guys at Velo Espresso call me ‘the wrecker’. I also need a constant supply of bike tubes.
What is the greatest personal moment for you in the sport? Winning the 2014 Under 17 Oceania Champs.
What is involved time-wise in terms of training? A minimum of an hour a day during the week and then weekends at the Redwoods in Rotorua.
What is your favourite ‘healthy’ meal? Pasta bake.
What is your favourite meal/food which you find hard to resist? A good burger.
What else do you do for your overall wellbeing? Enjoy general fitness.
Where are you based? Hamilton – not the easiest place to live when you do downhill mountain biking.
Have you any sponsors etc who assist? Bruce Davey from 3 Sixty Sports for the bike, Matt and Andrew from Velo, Marleen Wholesalers for bike parts, Huss Clothing.
How do you escape the pressures of being an athlete? I’m not at that stage yet, I just enjoy what I’m doing on the bike.
Favourite Website: Pinkbike.com
Favourite Magazine: Revolution