Many of New Zealand’s top XC MTB talent have found a home with the team over the last few years in both the Elite, and Academy squads fielded by the team. For owner and manager Sam Thompson, it has not been an easy decision to make. But as the team draws the curtains on its operation, he remains extremely proud of what they accomplished.
“The decision to close down NZXC Racing was extremely hard, as it has personally been something I have been extremely focused on for the last 4 years as owner, manager, and coach. It was something that I had always seen as important for MTB in NZ, and the vision from the start was to create a team that supported our talented riders to keep them in the sport, while creating a clear pathway way for up and coming riders, which without a doubt I can say we achieved.” Sam Thompson
The success of the NZXC project is easy to see. Currently 4 of the top 5 women (NZ MTB Crown rankings), and 5 of the top 10 men are members of the team. Unlike some teams in cycling, NZXC was more than just a marketing vehicle. Founded and owned by a passionate individual, it was developed around a shared vision of creating and developing a support network for athletes.
Most obvious was the professional set-up NZXC brought to the races, but behind the scenes it was much more. Be it coaching, mentorship, and athlete advisors. Or the training camps providing guidance in professionalism, nutrition, psychology, and coach development. NZXC’s influence on XC MTB in NZ cannot be underestimated.
“Being a part of NZXC was a great experience and provided me with opportunities and benefits I didn’t think were possible in New Zealand. Being under the management of Sam allowed us riders to focus on the important things; training and racing and the aspects that allow us to do this. We had a set up that I honestly think was better managed than some professional teams – the best part about it was you got to do it all with kiwis riders.” Kate Fluker (NZ Elite National Champion & Commonwealth Games representative)
It’s widely recognised that team culture and support is an integral ingredient for success in any sport, and the efforts of NZXC in taking that Kiwi culture onto the tough international scene have seen great benefit for New Zealand athletes in the last few years. Not just team members, but other kiwi riders who have gravitated towards the supportive culture offered.
“Unique to NZXC was that kiwi riders could travel and compete with a kiwi support team and culture. It enabled us to keep a group of people around us that shared many of the same goals and values and allowed for us as riders to exchange knowledge, mentor and support each other to succeed while also encouraging up and coming athletes. Big thanks to Sam, NZXC supporters and advisers, and fellow team mates for an awesome 3years. I have learnt so much, been supported all the way and seen fellow team mates perform at a top level of the world cup scene, making NZXC a team to be remembered as a huge success and hopefully a foundation of future teams to come.” Katie O’Neill (Founding team member. Current NZ Women’s XC #5 on NZ Crown rankings)
The closure of NZXC will initially leave an obvious hole on the domestic scene in New Zealand. The sport has been richer for their presence. But there legacy is most important. NZ athletes have always prided themselves on succeeding against the odds, finding a way to pursue their dreams. The work of Sam Thompson, and NZXC has shown how much of a positive force can be created when the motivation and determination of individuals can be collectively harnessed and driven in the same direction. Summed up well in the words of Kate Fluker.
“I am very sad to see all the hard work Sam has put into the team come to an end and selfishly it has made me realise how much more work I am going to have to do for myself this season! It has been an absolute pleasure to be a part of.”
The team members, management, and supporters would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone for their support over the last 4 years. Family, Friends, Sponsors, Event organisers, and Media. You have all played a part.
“This wouldn’t have been possible without all the people and companies that supported NZXC Racing over the years. Thank you, and I look forward to the future of the sport of MTB in NZ”