Oliver Shaw just turned 23-years-old, but he’s already a seasoned XTERRA veteran.
“I started XTERRA eight years ago at the New Zealand Champs which are held at Rotorua every year. I’m from Rotorua and always wanted to do the race and my Dad thought I could do quite well if I trained for it,” explained Shaw, who was just 15 when he did his first race.
Turned out Dad was right, as the young Kiwi has been a force back home and in Maui through the years. In the height of his amateur career in 2012 Shaw finished 25th overall, second amateur, and first in the 20-24 division to win the XTERRA World Championship.
Now entering his third year racing as an elite Shaw has his sights set a little bit higher, and rightly so as he could just be the favorite to win Saturday’s iconic XTERRA Motatapu off-road triathlon on the South Island of New Zealand.
“I’m not too sure if I am the favorite even with Braden sitting this weekend out,” said Shaw, referring to fellow Kiwi all-star Braden Currie who won XTERRA Motatapu three years running but will sit-out Saturday to give his body a rest after a grueling slate of races that included a big win at Speight’s Coast-to-Coast adventure race a few weeks ago.
“Dougal Allan is also racing and he is fresh off a 2nd place at Challenge Wanaka just over a week ago so he will be in very good form and looking for the top step as well,” said Shaw. “It’s great to know that I am capable of challenging for the race though and I am looking forward to getting out there and giving it my best!”
Last year Shaw had an impressive season racing across the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Region, placing 2nd at XTERRA Motatapu, 3rd at XTERRA Guam, 4th at XTERRA Saipan, 3rd at XTERRA New Zealand, and 7th against a stacked field at the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship.
With a refreshed training routine courtesy of Kiwi legend Richard Ussher, this could be the year Shaw really breaks out.
“I’ve been pretty fortunate to link up with Richard Ussher who is guiding me through this season. It has been an exciting change from what I have been doing in the past and I’m hoping it help me progress to the next level as an athlete,” said Shaw. “Training has been going really well lately and I have been building nicely for the upcoming XTERRA season.”
The young-gun did have a bit of a set-back last weekend, however, at the Oceania Cross Tri Champs in Australia.
“Right in the middle of having a great race I broke my chain in the worst place possible and ended up having a pretty spectacular crash on concrete,” said Shaw. “It left me with a few bumps and bruises but more concerning, a lot less skin then I started with. I’m sure I will recover in time for Motatapu this weekend, but I’ll have to be careful this week.”
Asked if he considered sitting out Motatapu, Shaw said “no way.”
“XTERRA Motatapu is an absolutely awesome race! Both scenic and challenging it has everything you could ask for in an XTERRA. Even though I’m not the strongest swimmer, I love the swim in Lake Wanaka with clear cool water in the middle of the mountains. Out onto the ride and my favorite part is no doubt the huge amount of river crossings you have to take…the best part being that all the crossings get bigger and more challenging as you go! The best part of the race though has to be the run. Only 15km in length, it is more like a half-marathon in time, with the biggest climb I have ever had to do in an XTERRA. It’s worth it though as the view at the top and on the way down are simply breath taking. You can’t lose focus though as the descent is one of the most technical out on the circuit, and then finishing with a few river crossings just finishes you off,” said Shaw.
Indeed Motatapu is longer than your typical XTERRA, combining a 2km swim in Glendhu Bay, Lake Wanaka, 47km Mountain Bike and a 15km mountain run over the historic Miners Trail course. While this is just the fourth year XTERRA Motatapu has been part of the World Tour and offered up 14 qualifying spots into the XTERRA World Championship, it’s the 11th anniversary for the weekend of events that attracts thousands of competitors with races in mountain biking, an off-road marathon, adventure runs and triathlons.
“I think it is an achievement in itself just to finish this race. It’s probably the longest XTERRA on the circuit and leaves everyone who finishes struggling to walk for the next few days (just ask Renata Bucher…) but every time I finish I always think I have to come back and do it again. I was second last year so I’m looking forward to having a great race again and hopefully challenging for the win!”
New Zealand has a long and strong history with XTERRA. It’s hosted the XTERRA New Zealand Championship since 2003 and is home to a pair of XTERRA World Champs – Hamish Carter (2006) and Nicky Samuels (2013). Maybe with the help of Richard Ussher, Olly Shaw will “usher-in” the next generation of Kiwi greats.
Here’s some excerpts from our interview with Shaw this week: