Brendon Sharratt will be among those biting at the bit to get stuck into this winter’s cyclocross calendar, not least because a UCI sanctioned Cyclocross National Championships is coming back to our shores.  We spoke to Sharratt about his thoughts on the championships coming up on 10th-11th August in Christchurch.

RC:  First of all tell us about how you are feeling about the return of a UCI sanctioned Cyclocross National Championships in New Zealand. 

Brendon:  It’s really exciting!  I took last season off Cyclocross racing as a bit of a ‘winter break’ but now to hear the official news of a sanctioned Championship is the perfect way to start the new season. 

The last time we saw an official Nationals was 2013, held in down in Wanaka, had the potential but rider numbers were pretty low.  Fast forward 6 years and cyclocross has grown hugely, so I’m picking not just a well presented event but a strong turn out. Sanctioning the National Championships has been talked about for a number of years. Thanks to those who have been pushing for the sport and from within the sport the hard work behind the scenes has meant the pieces of the puzzle now all fit together.  

It’s fantastic Cycling New Zealand are getting behind this fast growing sport. Canterbury is a super strong region for cycling and there are plenty of amazing bike riders down south who will make for a great starting grid. The Southern Cross crew are really motivated and passionate guys…get yourself down there!!

RC:  How is cyclocross in New Zealand at this point in time? 

Brendon:  Cyclocross in New Zealand has definitely had a big growth time.  With a lot of road and mountain bike clubs tapping back their racing calendars through winter there has been a good uptake for riders to try something else.  It’s such a great way to keep fitness levels up there, motivate yourself in the colder weather and enjoy the short format racing. 

While it can be pretty brisk on a mid winter morning, races are normally 30-60 minutes and full on, so you keep warm!!  Cyclocross has a great atmosphere for families and most regions have kids races. There’s always riders to watch as the grades roll through and there are some great spectator moments with the mix of off camber, mud and speed!

Although he’s had a brief sabbatical, Brendon Sharratt has been far from idle; and he’s back ready to get stuck back into this year’s CX season, photo provided

RC:  How do you hope the sport of cyclocross will change in New Zealand with the return of the National Championships? 

Brendon:  While it’s a huge motivation for elite level riders to be in contention for the coveted jersey and UCI points that go with this, its major benefit is providing a structure, a set of expectations/guidelines for the national racing and this flows back to regional clubs where race fixtures can be geared to this timing along with providing the right type of courses to create ultimate success.  We want to see NZ riders hit the world scene so this is just another stepping stone to this.

RC:  Tell us about your 2018 year and the ‘sabbatical’ that you got to enjoy.  Why a sabbatical and how do you feel about how you’re returning to competition? 

Brendon:  It wasn’t so much a planned sabbatical, as much as it was just an acknowledgement of wanting to enjoy other parts of my life and the reality of spending a month or so out of the country the previous season being a bit of an experience I buzzed off for a while!  

2018 racing stopped after Karapoti Classic where I picked up a 3rd, prior to that I got to race gravel with the TankGuy Bike Box team in Palmerston’s UCI Gravel and Tar.  The winter was more about being around for family, following a few different passions. One of these was to launch Velo.Creations – my custom bike frame painting business, something that I never have quite had time to explore and within the first 9 months has proven the demand is there.  

I take retro and more recent frames from whatever condition they have got to, work with the owner to sort paint design, colour and decal options and then get creative with it.  It’s a part-time affair, I’m loving the history aspect which I delve into when working with an older frame and in comparison the more contemporary colours and designs on the modern frames.

I’ve already dipped my toes back into the competitive world and been enjoying the hurt coming back!  I did the Gravel and Tar again, this time just as the Gran Fondo, taking it out on a stunning summer’s day.  The North Island Mountain Bike Champs were held in Palmerston North so too close not to give it a bash, I stood up on the podium in 3rd with very young company!  And then back to Karapoti…does anyone ever stop doing this race!  And again up the steps to 3rd.  

I’ve really enjoyed these races, May will be when I start to nail down a bit more of a focus to Cyclocross. I like working with a 10-12 week ‘build up’ which includes racing rounds but works to the ‘aim event’.  I love the technical thought that goes into the training process, each year playing around a little with what’s working, new ideas and keeping it fresh.  The great thing about CX is that training sessions don’t have to be hours and hours, but so efficiently can be achieved with minimal terrain, minimal time and a mix of approaches on and off the bike.

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