Queenstown mountain biking ace Kate Fluker starts another year of big-time competition at nearby Cardrona Alpine Resort this Sunday.
The reigning cross country champion, who represented New Zealand at last year’s Commonwealth Games despite only taking up the sport in 2010, will compete in the first round of the mountain bike nationals.
The 27-year-old, however, will only compete in two of the four rounds, plus the nationals in Rotorua, due to funding constraints and because there are no ranking points at stake.
Her main focus will be the Oceania champs in Australia, next month, before she rejoins the World Cup circuit in Europe.
Fluker admits she’s found it a bit hard to get motivated, after she and partner, downhill mountain biker Reon Boe, came back “in a lot of debt” after racing overseas last year.
However she’s happy with her form after taking out the women’s division of a race at Bannockburn, near Cromwell, last Tuesday, despite getting a puncture.
“The cool thing is I haven’t stopped improving so each international season just gets better.”
After only three World Cups in Europe last year, for example, she got her world ranking up to 22nd.
Her worst result in a World Cup race was a 25th placing, and her best was 17th in Cairns, Australia.
“This year’s goal is top-20 in every race.”
However Fluker says it will again be hard because without ranking points early on, she’ll start near the back of the pack.
It’s also hard competing against riders from well-funded teams.
“That makes successes so much better, having done it that hard.”
Fluker revels competing well against women who’ve ridden since they were young, compared with her four years’ racing.
She admits she was overwhelmed at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, last July, where she finished a disappointing eighth.
“To be chucked into this massive event, I was just like, ‘what am I even doing here?’ I’m not used to that, I’m used to going and riding in a World Cup and no one even knows.”
Fluker says her next big goal is qualifying for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, next year, where NZ’s not even guaranteed a slot, then the Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast in 2018.
“We’ll reassess after that, but being so close to home it would be pretty silly not to give it a go.”
Meantime, she’s looking forward to competing at Cardrona. “It is an amazing track, it’s natural,” she raves.
She reckons North Islanders might struggle because they’re not used to rocks.
Her competitors better bring plenty of spare tubes, she warns.