Sammie Maxwell is an awesome young rider from Taupo, New Zealand and we are super proud to have her as a Liv Ambassador. She's recently returned from her first big trip to ride and race Europe!
Over the course of 5 weeks, I got to experience the life of a professional athlete, touring around Europe, training and competing in XCO, and man what an experience!!
But before I could even get my first taste of overseas racing, I had to get there, *cue airport stress! This was my first ever long haul flight I was doing to without an adult, (but thankfully I had the company of fellow hub member and friend, Jessica Manchester) and learnt a lot about the do’s and don’t’s of airports. DO pack your bike box on the trolly standing upright so you can fit down the queue lines, DON’T forget to pack earplugs and a face mask to sleep, DO empty your drink bottle, DON’T board the plane needing to pee, it takes a while to take off!! But after over 30 hours of travelling, Jess and I arrived safe and sound, ready for whatever Europe had to offer us!
First off the bat was ‘Bike the Rock’, based in Haubach. With just short of 6 days riding under my belt since arriving in Europe, slightly jet-lagged and very under-experience I lined up for my first ever European race. The amount of effort every racer gives during racing never fails to amazing me, but these euros were a whole other level! After quite a shock, I finished 20th. Not a result I was happy with, and I went to bed feeling disappointed but not deflated. I was ready for the next race in two weeks time and ready to give it more than ever!
So with the first race done, we travelled to Albstadt where we would base for 2 weeks, training on the course (my first ever time of a UCI World Cup course) and prepping for our next race. I had a solid week training in week one and got some key high-intensity workouts done the second week, ramping down volume and replacing it for race-simulating efforts. I felt good, strong, ready to battle. It came to race-day and my mind was in a good place, I had pushed on this course during practice and knew I had lots to give, so when the start gun went off I gave it 100. I started seeded 26th and by the end of the first lap, I was sitting top 20. From here on I kept picking off riders one by one until I crossed the finish line in 13th! A result I was stoked with, glad to grab some valuable UCI points and even more experience.
As we left Albstadt for Nove Mesto, I was excited to see what I could do in a weeks time at the next UCI World Cup race. I knew I had some good legs by now, it was just a matter of experience and mind power from here on, something I was still gaining! So when I was sitting top 5 for the majority of start loop come race time, I was a little surprised. I made a few mistakes in the rooty sections when the pressure came (I leave that down to lack of confidence and experience), and a few girls slipped in front of me, but I held strong and finished 7th. Another improvement from the last race, some more solid points and my first ever top 10!
It was fair to say by now I was feeling like I had a place here racing overseas. Every time I lined up I found myself more excited to give it everything and see how it all played out.
My last weekend of competing was a big one, with back-to-back days of racing, and 6 hours travelling between venues, plus the stressful and time-consuming task of packing up all our gear and getting ready to fly home on Monday, it was a big task. Saturday hosted the “Jelenia Gora Trophy” race, which I finished 5th in. I was gaining some good momentum now, always improving from every race, and was loving my time here. I was learning more each race, like the importance of hydrating, getting a good warm-up routine, and how to deal with the pressure of racing. After cheering on the rest of the kiwis and handing out some drink bottles we returned back to our house Saturday arvo, packed up and hit the road, finally arriving at our hotel at…1am! After a short 5 hours of sleep, we woke up on Sunday for our final race. Travelling 1.5 hours and having breakfast on the road is not the perfect way to arrive at a race venue. Throw in fatigue from yesterdays race, a dash of altitude and only 1/2 a lap course practise it was fair to say I came into this race with NO expectations. Maybe that was what I needed, or maybe it was the wake-up my legs got from yesterday’s race…but whatever it was, it worked. After some of the toughest 70mins of my life, I crossed the line of my last ever European race for 2019 with a big number one in front of my name! The only thing that could come to my mind was “what has just happened” It was the perfect way to finish off an amazing campaign!
We celebrated with an early night and packing up the bikes, with the thoughts of the long-haul flight we faced, vivid in our mind. I couldn’t believe it had already been 5 weeks and I was going to be heading home the following day! It was an amazing trip, one that I would not be forgetting for a very long time! I had gained invaluable experience, vital race knowledge and made some precious memories. I think it’s fair to say I plan on returning next year!
To get a feel for Sammie's incredible trip, flip through her instastory