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Hard yards pay off for teen mountain-biking champ

Flagstaff Team

At just 16 years of age, Westlake Boys’ Sam Buckley punched above his weight in recent national mountain-biking national champs, winning the under-20 category. Sam took the title at the National Schools Mountain Bike Championships, held in Dunedin from 4 to 6 October, in a race over 24 kilometres, including 700 metres of elevation. Asked what was the key to his success, Sam has two words: “Training hard.” He averages 200km a week through the year, rising to 300-400km through the recent competitive season. Most of that cycling is in three training sessions a week with Westlake’s road-riding team, but he also goes mountain biking twice a week, including riding with the Jafa Kids Academy at Woodhill on Wednesday evenings. In addition, there are two sessions of gym training per week.

The under-20 category is assessed on a student’s age on 31 December, by which time Sam will be 17. A significant challenge was breaking his arm last year on a trail at Maraetai, but he maintained his cycling regimen using a wind trainer for about six weeks. He was a little nervous getting back into mountain biking after the injury. “I held back a bit, but I got back into it pretty quickly.” Westlake’s road cycling team recently came third in the Auckland schools’ team time trials, held in Pukekohe. Sam plans to try out for the New Zealand team going to the Mountainbike World Championships in Germany next year.

This article originally appeared in the November 8 edition of the Rangitoto Observer.