Leyland drives herself through pain

HELL FOR LEATHER: Margaret Leyland leads the elite women over the first river crossing in the Karapoti Classic.
HELL FOR LEATHER: Margaret Leyland leads the elite women over the first river crossing in the Karapoti Classic.

After only 18 months of mountainbiking, Margaret Leyland reveals she no longer has the prettiest legs.

They are covered in scars, war wounds from tumbles on cross-country terrain as one of the keenest members of the Manawatu Mountainbike Club.

When 38-year-old Leyland arrives at work as a horse vet, her colleagues also ask her to show them the latest damage to her knees and elbows.

Not that she spares her $10,000 bike, either.

"You can't be too precious," Leyland laughed.

Last year at the Karapoti Classic in the Akatarawa Ranges, her goal was to break four hours, and she came "nowhere".

At the weekend she not only finished third in the gruelling event, but broke three hours.

"I had only 19 seconds to spare," she said. "I knew it was very close and I was going hell for leather."

She even led the race for the first 100 metres, so proud of her river crossing. Winner Kim Hurst caught Leyland after 200 metres and told her to stay on her wheel.

Last year, Leyland was so inspired by Hurst's winning speech - she is a doctor and also in her 30s - Leyland got herself a coach and knuckled down. "It is just very exciting; you get to see cool places and the mountainbiking community is so friendly."

When with the Manawatu club, she noticed there were large numbers of men at events and only a handful of women, so she set about organising women's rides and it took off. Three Manawatu women finished in the top five at Karapoti; the downside is Leyland is moving to Wellington.

She trained as a vet in Bristol, England, before working at the Massey University equine hospital and then into private practice. When young, she rode horses in England and tried a few triathlons.

In 2011 she entered a multisport event at Waikaremoana which included mountainbiking.

"I thought, ‘How hard can that be?' After the mountainbike leg I was exhausted, totally trashed.

"I fancied a change, went to the Manawatu club skills sessions and loved it."

She also survived the 2012 Coast to Coast event, but that had only road biking in it.

A world champion is aged in her 40s so Leyland figures time is on her side, and there isn't the formality there is in England. "In New Zealand anyone can have a go, even on a knackered old bike."

In six weeks she plans to contest the Contact Epic around Lake Hawea and in June she is off to Canada for a 7-day stage race in British Columbia.

Manawatu Standard