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Volvo Cannondale's Mountain Biker Kashi Leuchs
By Vaughn Trevi
Date: 6/15/2002
Volvo Cannondale's Mountain Biker Kashi Leuchs

By our Kiwi Correspondent, El Jefe'

Kashi Leuchs is New Zealand's highest ranked cross-country rider and finished 2001 with a World Cup placing of 8th overall. Last year was easily Kashi's best year to date with two podiums on each of the NORBA, European Cup and World Cup circuits.

As a member of the powerful Volvo Cannondale Team, Leuchs has had to compete with teammates Cadel Evans and Christoph Sauser before he can even step up onto the podium himself.

Kashi has been selected for the New Zealand Commonwealth Games team along with Susy Pryde and Sadie Parker and hopes are high among the kiwi fans for a good performance in the games. Leuchs has along with Susy Pryde also been drafted into the NZ road team for the games.

First of all Kashi, you had a good year last year with a late peak giving you some pretty good form for the Worlds. What did you feel was the highlight of your year?

Taking 2nd in Durango! It was my first time to make it onto a World Cup Podium (which means to finish top 5), and to jump straight onto the 2nd step felt amazing. Of course I was also a bit bummed for missing the win by just 8 sec!

Any disappointments?

Yes, after blowing in the World Champs I was definitely disappointed. I had trained really, really, hard for that race. I had spent 2 weeks with the team at high altitude, and was feeling great. Then 4 days before the race I was sent to hospital by a tiny stupid bee, and I was forced to take cortisone, and other harsh drugs that probably caused my lack of glycogen, and eventually my big bonk in the last lap!

I see last year you had at least 27 races mapped out for you to do. It must be difficult staying fresh, itís not like you can just sit in at the back of the bunch in a MTB race?

Actually I like to race a lot, itís fun. Sure, sometimes I just wish I could spend more time at home, and with Helena, but its just part of being a pro. This year is easier than most too, as I will just make 2 trips across to USA, and I can now drive to most of the European races, because of living in France.

What do you know about the Commonwealth Games MTB course in the UK ? Have you had the chance to pre-ride it at all?

I have heard itís a bit of a roadies course. I would probably prefer something very technical, but we have got to take what we get.

The Commonwealth games road racing event is on August the 3rd, 5 days after your MTB event. Do you have any idea what your role will be in the road race or how you might be able to contribute?

By the sounds of it, the road race will be quite flat, which will not suit me too well. I will wait and see, but I'm quite sure I will be there to work for other riders, which is fine by me.

Do you know who you will be up against from the other Commonwealth countries, obviously the Canadians are deep with talent and the Aussies are notorious for rising to the occasion?

Of course the Canadians Roland Green and Ryder Hysjedal. From Australia, Josh Flemming and maybe Paul Rowney. For Britian Liam Killen.

So far the good money would have to be on Roland Green after pretty much dominating the world scene last year. Do you think about other riders and what their weaknesses are or do you tend to concentrate solely on your own strategies?

The first two world cups this year prove that Roland is beatable. He is still riding super well, but I will just focus on myself, so that I can ride better!

Are there aspects of your training that you have concentrated on this year to make yourself even more competitive, for example, starting fast, technical riding skills or pacing?

I have done a lot of big gear, strength work during the winter, and I feel my starts are suffering. But I think this is a good stage to be in, and I feel my form should be good in time for the Games.

Is this something that you do each year, draw up a list of possible weaknesses to work on?

Definitely. After the season my coach and I always analyse what we can do, and how to do it.

There have been a few changes to the World Cup Circuit this year, down from 8 rounds to 5, and I see they have dropped the time trials that were a part of last years format. How do these changes impact on your year, and were you a fan of the TT's to start with?

Actually I liked the TT's, but I really sucked at them so itís probably better for me like this. I don't think having fewer world cups is a bad thingÖ next year we should have 6 again, and that will be perfect. It allows for the other series to grow, like the Euro Cup for example, and also bigger festival events and marathons.

We have seen a few mountain bikers jump ship to the road in the last few years, Rasmussen, Cioni and more recently Cadel Evans. Some of these guys were successfully established riders when you were just getting into the scene. Do you think itís a case of boredom and they are looking for a new challenge, or do you think that the road scene offers more to a rider in the current economic climate?

I think they went for different reasons. For some it was because they could no longer find mountain bike teams to pay them a good salary. For others, like Cadel, I think itís more a prestige thing. In Europe road cyclists are very highly respected, especially in Italy. They are the serious athletes and us mountain bikers are just having fun. (I prefer the fun life!)

Is it something that you could ever see yourself doing?

I don't think so, but you can never say never.

Did you think that your old teammate Cadel would do as well as he has done in his first year as a road pro?

I don't think anyone in the whole world, including Cadel, could have guessed that. During the Giro I was just watching in total disbelief... until he blew.. then it became real again!

Different riders train in different ways, some preferring to do the majority of their riding on the road, the others on the dirt; what works the best for you and why?

I train mostly on road, but I don't train like a roadie! The difference is that I don't do mega miles... instead I focus on quality training, and full recovery. This is especially important when you want to stay fresh for a long season, racing and travelling every week.

Is the style of training you do similar to what many amateur athletes tend to do with a pyramid of base, strength and speed, or do the Professional athletes have a different formula?

Many Pro riders follow that formula, but I do not. I have just done some of my longest rides now, and I am in mid season! I'm not saying that the normal theory does not work, just that itís not the only way to train!

What are your views on diet these days. Some people are pushing a diet higher in proteins or fats as an alternative, is this something you have looked into?

Diet is very important to me. I focus my energy on eating high quality, naturally healthy foods, instead of worrying about Protein, Fat, or Calories. My coach Benoit has taught me how to eat... not just to be an athlete, but to be a healthy person. This is something I plan to use all my life!

Are you a fan of supplements or do you tend to think that a balanced diet covers most situations?

I do use certain supplements, e.g., Protein drinks, BCAA tabs, and multivitamins, but I try to get as much as possible out of a natural foods.

You have been based in Annecy, France, for a few years now and have recently joined a local road racing club. What are the things you can do over there that you couldn't do back home in NZ?

Well the road club works more like a team. I only race with them occasionally, but if I wanted I could go with them every weekend. They take care of everything... transport, lodging, entries, they even supply the bikes for the good riders.

What are the major differences between being based in France, rather than Sweden where you first started out on your European campaign?

In Sweden I had no hills at all to train on, so that made training for the World Cups very difficult. Also, France is so close to where all the big races happen, so we can usually drive to the events. From Sweden we would have to fly.

On the other hand though, in Sweden we lived with Helena's family who took care of us, and helped us focus on riding. They are a cycling family, with both Helena's brothers also racing MTB.

Where would you recommend other riders serious on moving into the big time to race, Europe or the States?

I always tell the other riders to come to Europe, because itís so much easier to find high quality races. It doesn't really matter where you go, as there are good races everywhere, and almost every weekend if you want. Plus itís a lot cheaper once youíre there.

What do you miss about NZ?

Relaxed, laidback people. Lazing on a sofa in a nice cafe. Camping out during some of the NZ National races, and just hanging out and having fun. Over here itís all just a little too serious!

Do they have hokey-pokey ice-cream in France?

No, but I can find Marmite!

Are you listening to any interesting music at the moment?

France has got quite a lot of international music, but mostly the MTV stuff. There are actually a few good French bands too.. like Noir Desire, and Le Palmers.

Thanks, and good luck for the rest of the World Cup and the Commonwealth games.

This interview can also be found on Kashiís website.

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