Thursday, 10 October 2013

World Eliminator Championships 2013: Worlds, From The Mind Of A Rider….

Worlds, From The Mind Of A Rider….

It has been a whirlwind year for me, as anyone who keeps up with me on social media would know. I can’t believe was back on the 1st of September, the memories are still so fresh in my mind it feels like yesterday, and I can’t see them fading any time soon.

In the lead up to the UCI Mountain Biking World Championships, I was in Asia for a UCI categorized Tour of Borneo. I flew directly from Borneo to South Africa on what was already a very tight schedule, and quickly became a nightmare journey. Only 30 minutes before I hopped on my first flight I began to feel slightly ill, but hoped it would soon pass. Unfortunately, it was the onset of food poisoning from my last meal in Borneo, and my flight to Kuala Lumpur was spent being violently sick. Needless to say, I didn’t make friends with any of the people sitting near me that flight.

When I arrived in KL I check myself directly into the medical center to try and rehydrate myself as quickly as possible, and make sure it didn’t turn into something more serious. My body was seriously hurting, but I hoped it would be over soon. I was still sick throughout the flight to Abu Dhabi, but then started to feel comparatively more human on the stretch to South Africa, my final destination.

When I got to South Africa I felt comfortable, almost at home, as I had stayed here during two world cup races and already had my bearings of where I was. I found myself guiding the junior riders around town and on the course, which was a new and rewarding experience. I don’t really consider myself to be the most serious or mature person, so it was interesting to act as a mentor for those riders new to racing at a world level. I surprised myself with my ability to be able to pass on some of the things I have learned, while trying not to overload them.

During the week I was very chilled, as I hadn’t specifically trained for the cross country or the eliminator, and was deliberately avoiding putting any pressure on myself. This was in contrast to last year, when I had been racing the World Cup circuit in Europe, and had high expectations for how I would perform. I was going in as an unknown quantity and I enjoyed not being under pressure. In a way it was my race to win and the other world cup eliminator riders race to lose! 

In the Cross Country I was planning on having a good crack on the first lap and see how my XC form was. In the starting area I was enjoying the hype of the race and soaking up the very special moment that comes with representing your country at a world level. The gun went and I started moving up on the fence, only a few hundred meters later, to find myself at a complete stop. I saw bodies and bikes piling up in front of me as I just managed pull up before plowing into American rider Todd Wells. From that point the race was a bit of a write off, so I just rode the course enjoying myself, and being back on my MTB. I was dialing in my skills and trying to get up to speed after road riding so much in the lead up to the race. It’s not often you get the chance to ride in a World Championship event!

As soon as I finished the XC race, I was suddenly hit with a nervous feeling, uncomfortably similar to 12 months prior. I knew I had to put it all on the line to get a result in the Eliminator race. It’s an event where anything can happen and it usually does. One mistake in the grading time trial (TT) and 100 other riders could pass you to take your spot as one of the 32 finalists. It’s hard to control all of the variables that come into play, and from experience I knew that you could only control a few aspects of the event.

Race day came, and I was happy that we got to compete in the morning. I woke up, had breakfast, and tried to calm my nerves by chilling in my room before heading down.  Rolling down to the course in Aussie green and gold I was hit by a feeling of pride, and how lucky I was to race for Australia. In the warm up, I did a few sprint efforts, trying to get the engines firing on all cylinders so I could explode out of the gate in the TT and stamp my authority early.

In the time trial I had a good start, but then overcooked the first corner, sliding out both wheels, which forced me to put a foot down. This put me on the back foot and I had to make up the lost time over the rest of the course. Through the rock garden I nailed my line and pedaled with purpose in the key open sections. I crossed the line in top 5 and after all riders had finished I was 6th…. GAME ON!

The nerves eased after I had a good TT, as I knew I might be a shot at the title in the knock out rounds to follow. In the round of 32 I was the final heat, which was an advantage, as I was able to observe how the other races were playing out on the big screen. I had a good draw and would only have to battle the world cup leader in the final round. I had a difficult contest with an Italian rider throughout the first round and almost lost 2nd place at one point. Luckily, I was able to use some of the experience I had gained racing last year, and was able to hold position.

Onto the quarterfinals and it was a case of chasing the Frenchman, Titouan Perrin Ganier, once again. He had been very competitive in the previous heat, and was very fast off the start once again. I was being cautious on the line, so as not to get disqualified for breaking the starting laser, a piece of technology I was slightly nervous of, as I had not raced with it before. I managed to hold 2nd and progress through.

Straight into the semifinals, I found myself getting squeezed out by the French and Italian riders in the first straight. I was in third and knew that without a few risks I would be outside the top four, and going home. In a split second decision I decide to lay it on the line and take the inside line, on the not so beaten track. Expecting to cause chaos I was surprised to be able to slip passed the other two riders ahead and take the lead! From that point I just focused on riding my lines and managed to hold off the chase from behind. I was through to the final and the world title was almost within my grasp….

Time was flying and the big final was looming! I span the legs on the trainer and said to the Aussie crew, ‘Well, I’m obviously going inside again’. I could see that Daniel Federspiel was nervous, which made me calmer. In the start gate I was in a different lane, which made it difficult to get in a good position on the line. The start commands rolled through the speakers…

I was slow off the line and slotted into second on the wheel of Fiederspiel. I swung off his wheel into the pinch onto the sharp right corner and in an almost textbook overtake, I snuck up the inside again and snatched the lead! Straight into the rock garden I bounced off the rocks and made it to the bottom safely. Into the ‘buck jump alley’ it was a choose-your-own-adventure, but I held my line. On to the uphill rocks I got my path dialed without a hiccup. Then straight onto full power pedaling up the dirt road. Hitting the left handed up hill corner I kicked out the back wheel on the uneven surface, and almost lost it. I could hear the other riders right on my wheel again…

Coming down the dual single trail into the gap jump I almost rolled my tire off the rim, with the force I hit the corner. Through the rock field I slotted the middle line and got straight onto the pedals up the final straight hill. I was only just in front and I couldn’t look back in fear I wasn’t strong enough. A few meters before the line, and I knew I had it and could claim the win! I was the 2013 Eliminator World Champion!

I’ve watched a lot of world championships victories over the years, but only ever dreamed of winning the exclusive rainbow jersey myself. I rolled over the line and totally lost control, succumbing to the overwhelming emotions I was feeling. I hadn’t ever thought it was possible.

Standing on the podium, I had to hold back the emotions I was feeling. I was thinking back to my oldest brother Daniel, who inspired me to start riding more seriously. After a car hit him when he was training the mid 2000’s, he has always served as a motivator to keep me focused on my goals. His hopes and dreams of being a professional athlete were taken away from him in that moment. Since then, he has continued to inspire me in how he survived and continues to live life to the fullest with the hand he has been dealt. I was also thinking about the rest of my family and friends who have supported me throughout my cycling career. Especially my Father and Mother, who have always been incredible in the way they support all five of their crazy boys.

I have been so incredibly lucky to have such a supportive network around me. With Giant Bicycles Australia signing me up in December 2012, knowing that I was going into surgery the following week. It just shows the blind faith people have in me sometimes. If someone reeled off the racing I would be doing and the results I would achieve over the past 10 months I wouldn’t even believe it. To all of my associate sponsors. SRAM components, Adidas Eyewear, 4Shaw clothing, Schwalbe Tires, Torq Nutrition, Falls Creek-All Season Resort and Garmin Australia. It has been a wild ride…

Now I look to the final part of the year and there is still heaps more fun and exciting racing to come. I recently got back from China where I was racing my first international cyclocross event. I didn’t get the result I was hoping for, but it was definitely a unique adventure. I also just competed at the Australian University Games in the Gold Coast proving to RMIT that all of my special consideration applications aren’t for nothing, and I actually know how to ride a bike.

In just under a month I will hopefully head to the beautiful Cape-to-Cape MTB stage race, an event that I am keenly looking forward to.

In November I hit up the new and exciting Hell Fire cup. Entries are still open and the racing looks super fun. If you are on the fence then just bite the bullet and get involved with the festival of mountain biking just outside Hobart city. Get to and register today!

There is also potential for me to sneak a final weekend of racing in Forrest for ‘The Forrest Festival’, before I finally get a break from the bike, and I head to Japan for a holiday with my very tolerant and patient girlfriend. I can hardly wait to be shredding through the trees in some deep lines, swapping my bike for some skis. It will undoubtedly be another wild expedition.

Let the adventures roll on…

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Looking forward and looking back on 2013...

This year I have neglected the website and focused on the convenient/less time consuming promotion through social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The website has been dormant waiting for me to find the motivation to string some words together to form a stream of my thoughts and reflections of the events that have been unfolding in my life.  As so much has happened since I last updated/posted it is inconceivable to recollect all of the races that I have done or adventures that I have been involved in. I have decided to pump some life back into the website and get it going once again.

It has been a whirlwind 2013 to this point and there are no signs of it slowing down. I’m sitting in a hotel room in Kota Kinbalu (Borneo/Malaysia), reflecting on the racing and travelling that has unfolded over the past 7 months. It is crazy how vastly different this year has been in comparison to last.

The varying experiences and the rollercoaster ride I have been on board has made it one of the most enjoyable years of my life. With National titles and broken bones I have been on my toes at all times trying to balance multiple aspects of my life. At some points it has almost got me completely overwhelmed and trying to get my head around everything has been a huge challenge. Big decisions have been made along the way and it has really been a great developing experience.

This year has been a year to take a step back and Asses what I want to do in my cycling and where I will go next. It has been so sweet to have the freedom to choose the races I want to do and promote my sponsors through multiple outlets and disciplines.  

I have gone from racing the National Mountain bike series to racing road bikes in the UCI Asian tour with the National Road series and cyclo cross series throughout the year. This has all been made possible from the support from all of my sponsors, friends and family. I have been unbelievably lucky to be involved with so many awesome companies and brands that are like minded and focused on promoting and developing through working with athletes and keeping in touch with what is going on in the sport of cycling.

Who has been backing my wild adventures for 2013:

Giant Bicycles Australia has provided me with overwhelming support. The 2013 range of bikes is of a premium standard. The crew involved with the brand in AUS is so supportive and adaptable to my crazy schedule. They have provided me with vehicles to get to races, tents, chairs, clothing etc. Without a company like Giant backing me it would not be possible to go on these crazy adventures racing my bike.

In conjunction with Giant I have been lucky enough to re-establish the relationship with SRAM bike components and their associated brands (Rock Shox, Truvativ and Avid).
Torq Nutrition has continued supporting me by supplying the best nutrition known to anyone who knows anything.
ADIDAS Eyewear has come back on board supporting my vision with killer optics. I’m super happy to be using some of the best optics in the business and the new and evolving products are constantly on the cutting edge.
Schwalbe tyres are a new relationship and one I have been super stoked with. Working with the BikeBox team to promote the quality range of tires that Schwalbe has to offer has been so sick. The whole range of road, cyclo-cross and especially MTB is in brief…Impressive. The amount of tyres that I have needed access to this year is phenomenal because of the multiple disciplines and having a full range to choose from has been priceless.
Champion System custom clothing has been working with me this year on creating a personalized cycling kit. Using the Giant template we mixed in all of the sponsors to make a pretty loud and proud set up. I like the ‘VAN MAN’ across the back shoulders as it makes me feel tough!
4Shaw have been above and beyond in the support throughout the year. I have been rolling into so many races with fresh looking socks with premium sock height all year. The work done by the man ‘Dion Shaw’ is always impressive and the enthusiasm and passion he has for the brand is inspiring.
Falls Creek is a new partnership and one that I feel is valuable in the whole scheme of things. As a ambassador for the Falls Creek summer season it is an area that I feel passionate about on a personal level as it is so close to home and the potential for having a really unique experience in summer at Falls is a worthy concept to promote. It is such an untapped special part of the world and is truly going to be a great place to go shred some trails in the very near future.
Garmin GPS bike computers have been a long time supporter of my cycling and every year they assist with getting me on the most up to date bike computers on the market.
ENVE Australia has supplied me with some incredibly capable and versatile wheels. I have used the same set racing on the road and on the cyclo-cross rigs. It is a rare thing to find a wheel set that can handle the load, stress and strain that I put through it and the ENVE’s have dealt with it better than any other wheels I have used.  
The Victorian Institute of Sport has been helping me massively throughout this year and being in Australia has enabled me to get into the GYM and pump some very small amounts of iron. They helped me work through my shoulder rehabilitation post surgery. The staff have also worked with me on tuning the pins coming into the racing season.   

Satalyist Giant Road Cycling Team has been an awesome group of lads to have the pleasure to ride with. From day 1 in Thailand I have been honored to ride with this fantastic tight knit unit. I was welcomed with open arms and had riders sacrificing their own races to assist in my race to enable the team to get a top result. I have been on a steep learning curve on the road scene and it has only been getting steeper of late!

It is hard to express my gratitude to my sponsors and supporters and no matter how much I promote them it never feels like enough. I’m just a super lucky guy to be backed by all of these awesome companies.

I guess the highlights for the year so far have been the Australian National Eliminator title, Tour of Thailand, Jelajah Malaysia, Melbourne cyclo-cross national series round (Darebin Parklands), Castlemaine Winter Series round with Super-D and Cross country (Random but fun day), National Eliminator wins.  I could go on in way too many details, but I just need to punch out some words to lay things out a little.

So looking forward I have the Tour of Borneo as a guest rider for the local Asian team ‘Corbusier’ (Say it with a French accent). Then I’m off to the Mountain Bike World Championships in South Africa. It is going to be a crazy few weeks with some hard racing and high-pressure situations and I hope I’m ready for the challenges ahead.

After South Africa I have a few days to recover and relax then I go to China for the first ever Cyclo-cross race to be held in their country! This should be another interesting and exciting experience with the wild man Lewis Rattray.
Things go domestic after that with the Tour of Tasmania, The Warnie, Cape 2 Cape and HellFire cup all scheduled for the next few months. As I said it is not slowing down by any stretch of the imagination and I don’t really want it to. It is too wild to tame the adventure filled beast that is my life at the moment.

More stories to come soon….


Tuesday, 29 January 2013

2013 Starts NOW! Winning at Sandown CCCC Criterium.

Almost a month into January 2013 and I pinned on the number for the first time since shoulder surgery (2 months ago). I have been on the bike for a while now and it was only last week when I was given the all clear from my surgeon Mr. Greg hoy. So with that reassurance that all was going well I decided to ease back into racing with the twilight Crit at Sandown raceway. With good training and no racing or intensity I was a little anxious about racing in fear that I would be dropped off the line! 

The A grade bunch rolled out and I tucked in near the front to test how the legs were feeling. At about 10min in, I followed a few moves and nothing was really getting away. Around the 15min mark I was off the front again and the pace was on, the bunch responded and all was back together, until I decided to go again with a small group of 5 riders. One rider was Adam Semple and recently back to racing after injury we were both questioning if a break away at this early stage was going to work?!?!   

 5 riders became 4 as the strong winds made for very tough racing. The bunch was closing with around 15min to go and I pushed the pace up the back straight. Semple disappeared off the back and was eaten by the chasing peloton. Down to 3... The gap hovered at a similar distance for the a while and small groups were trying to get across. Luckily the other two guys in the break were riding strong and to my surprise I had good legs.  
 The last few laps I was expecting to get the two lap count, but it never seemed to come. It was like the organisers wanted us to be caught or liked to see us suffer :-) There was some confusion as we were lapping the other grades which lead to us doing extra laps!

When we finally got the two laps to go call we made sure that the catch was not going to happen and we would stay away for a three man sprint....
Coming into the final lap it was one of the tricky situations that we couldn't sit up and play 'cat and mouse' because the bunch was behind and still chasing hard! I did the final turn up the hill and watched for the sneaky early attack, sure enough Drew Morey (black and red kit) went early and I jumped onto his wheel...

This gave me a sit and I was able to wind up for the sprint from there. Riding across the line first and well and truly in the hurt box!

It is always a good race and with the extra few laps we had 78min of racing! I rode home with the little power house sprinter Rico Rogers, who was in the bunch ready to pounce if the break was caught :-).

Another first for the night was my first Official race wearing and using the Giant Equipment! The bikes are awesome and the support from the who Giant crew has been exceptional. They have welcomed me into the team and supported my unquestionably over the past few months even though I hadn't raced for them before. So a massive thanks to the Giant Team, looking forward to more racing in the future. More sponsorship announcements to come :-)...

Monday, 3 December 2012

New Sponsors for 2013... Giant Bicycles!

Last week I signed a contract with one of the biggest bike brands in Australia.... Giant Bicycles.

This was the official press release:

Giant Signs Mountain Bike Athlete Paul van der Ploeg

Paul to race NRS road series for Satalyst Giant and race off-road for Giant Bicycles Australia

Giant Bicycles Australia this week is excited to announce the signing of renowned Australian mountain biker Paul van der Ploeg who will represent the brand both on the road under the Satalyst Giant colours and off-road in Giant team colours next year. 

Van der Ploeg who has established a fierce reputation on both the local and international MTB circuits had this to say about signing for the company, “For 2013 I'm very excited to be signing with Giant Bicycles as they are at the very top of the mountain bike industry. Giant is synonymous with mountain biking and is virtually a household name throughout Australia and the world. I really look forward to working with such an active brand and one that is really forward thinking in promotion and development of a top level product. It is an amazing opportunity to be working with Giant to develop myself as a rider and to keep promoting a world class product.”

Paul will race the all-new XtC Advanced SL 29er 0 and Anthem X Advanced 29er 0 at mountain bike races next season both locally and abroad as well as the TCR Advanced SL on the road.

Giant Bicycles Australia’s Brand Manager Alistair Wilson had this to say about the signing, “We are thrilled to have signed Paul for 2013; he has proven both locally and internationally on the World Cup Eliminator XC circuit that he is an extremely talented athlete as well as being a very well-rounded person who we are proud to have associated with our brand.”


So with the Felt world cup team folding I was left with no choice, but to look for a new bike sponsor. In a fortunate series of events (mainly Lach Norris signing for a road team in 2013), I'm super happy that they have an opening for me and are able to support me for my 2013 racing campaign. 

It was a stressful and unfamiliar experience to be exploring other possibilities for bike sponsorship. I started riding for Felt bikes in 2005 when I first began racing mountain bikes as a junior. I have tried to be as open and honest with everyone along the road and it is important to me to do the right thing by all of my current sponsors and I have given them the opportunity to continue supporting me as I really value loyalty towards a company or brand that has supported me. I'm very excited about my future with Giant and hopefully it is the start of a great partnership.

Very exciting times ahead.....

More updates to come as things unfold. Make sure you follow me on twitter, facebook and instagram for the most recent series of events as I haven't had much time to update the website since returning back to the crazy Aussie lifestyle :-).

Ciao for now!

Monday, 10 September 2012

MTB World Championships Sprint Eliminator, Photo Journey to 8th place!

Here is a few photos from the Eliminator world championships.... pretty amazing scenes out there. 

Full story to come, but for now the pictures will have to suffice as we have a road trip back to Offenburg to get done. Hope to get the blow by blow out before I fly back to Aus.... 

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Team Photo and Sneaking some laps...

The 2012 XC and Trials World championship team...

Getting some laps in on the Worlds XC track :-)

Splashing around in creek!

Worlds Week 2012.... Lets do this!

It is that time of the year again when all of the countries from around the world invade a specific location somewhere around the globe.

There is something very special about the world championships and the electric vibes that are in the pit before one of the biggest races of the Mountain Bike season.

On todays course scoping and shredding we bumped into former female world champion Irena Kalentieva which was really cool to chat to her and just have a random chat.

Everyone is trying to peak for this race and it is such a chalenge to get everything right and make it all come together on the day...

Let's hope that prep keeps going well and the Aussie team can put together a good team relay and everything. It is a bit more important when your racing for your country and pulling on the Australian National team clothing. 

Exciting times to come over the next few days :-)    

Saturday, 1 September 2012 Interview:

Interview with AlleyKat

I did a direct copy of the interview or you can check it out at the original source on their website by clicking on the link above....

Get to know a Pro Mountain Biker: Paul van der Ploeg

ALEX AUGUST 29, 2012 2
I've known Paul van der Ploeg for a number of years now. Rewind a bit from these friendship beginnings and I was following Paul in magazines, witnessing him pulling whips over jumps for the paparazzi on his full-blown XC race bike. This, in typical PVDP style, was of course mid-way through winning a cross country race against the best Australian cyclists!
I would not be at all surprised if Guinness World Records knocked on the door today to award Paul with the most down-to-earth professional athlete on this planet. There is time for a joke with Paul up until the last milli-second on the start line (think Usain Bolt before smashing out a 100m Olympic record) – this behaviour is in great contrast to many riders of his caliber who struggle to talk to anyone around them in the 24 hours leading up to world-class mountain bike events.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Barmy Belgium City MTB challenge weekend!

Chris, Hans, Sepp and myself taking a post race happy snap after the CMC sprint race in Waregem, Belgium.

Click on the 'read more' link for the full story of last weekend :-)

Friday, 17 August 2012

Website revamp: What do you think?

Not sure if anyone has noticed that the website has had a bit of rearrangement, revamp and shuffling around (thanks to some help from Alex Denham). Let me know what you think by dropping in a comment to test out the new commenting system. I'm trying to make it easier for everyone to keep up with the updates and freshen up the look of the site.

There is also a new Twitter link and Facebook page link on the side bar...

Check it out!

Wanted for having too much fun in Offenburg!

The two individuals bellow are wanted for having too much fun on mountain bike in the Black Forest near Offenburg. *NOTE* Other members of the gang are not pitured:

The character on the left is extremely dangerous and there is concerns that he is enjoying himself on an uncontrollable level. The bandit on the right is emotional and excitable, all he needs is a mountain bike and he wont be seen for days! If you see them in the Offenburg area don't approach them as they will brighten and enhance your mood positively. 

Seriously the past two weeks have been awesome fun and it is thanks to a visit from Alex Denham and Kitty J. Webster. Read on if you want to be informed of the activities...

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Croatia escape MEGA photo Report! Filling in the blanks

Instead of the normal day by day recap of event's I think it is time I mixed it up a little. For the missing stories including the adventures of Croatia there was 2 weeks of fun times and great memories. So to make it more interesting and less wordy I think I will let the photos tell some of the story and I will just put in the highlights of the trip. 

Old Town Zadar was one of the many cool places and highlights of two weeks of exploring this awesome country!! 

PLEASE NOTE: I have also cosen not to include too much riding related stories as the photos are from Juliettes old school film camera and didn't make it out with me on the training session. I can tell you that the Garmin Edge 800 is an amazing bike computer and the details of its magic will come out in the full review of the 800. 

Here we go....

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Getting my explorers on :-)....

After another tough world cup I needed to get back into the forest and ride my bike for some fun times and good vibes.... soaking up some vitamin D is just what the doctor ordered after being a drowned rat on Saturday in the race.

Monday, 30 July 2012

World cup Final Val D'Isere: Playing in the mud on a Saturday afternoon.

So the world cup series for 2012 has been run and won. Nino managed to clean up with a win at the world cup final and the overall series (even after missing 2 rounds). It is safe to say that he is an absolute machine and the clear favorite for the Olympics in two weeks....

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The sun is shining and the mountains are high....the scene is set!

      Soaking up the morning sun with the Aussie Duo :-)

Two days before the MTB world cup final here in Val D'Isere. Caught up with Future Olympians Dan and Bec for an easy spin in the wild part of the world. So fingers crossed that the weather stays nice and the track stays fast. It is not the best course for me with a lot of climbing and not much challenging technical sections. 

But anything can happen on the day and I just hope that I can race a solid race and get a good result on the board. We also have the extra chalenge of being at 1850m above sea level and I haven't done much altitude training this year (Unlike a lot of MTB'ers), so that will be interesting.