New challenge for Leov
Just when it seemed that Justin Leov's competitive mountainbiking career was over, new life has been breathed into it.
Leov, who cut his teeth on downhill racing when he lived in Marlborough, forged an impressive career on the international scene, riding for the Colorado-based Yeti Cycles team and, since 2009, for Trek World Racing.
During that time he was up with the best downhill racers in the world, with a best finish of sixth overall in 2009, which included fourth and fifth placings in World Cup rounds.
He has just signed a new two-year deal with Trek for the upcoming World Enduro Series, and will ride his Trek Remedy and Slash machines in at least four rounds.
However, his downhill racing career is over at this stage.
Speaking from his home in Christchurch this week, Leov said he knew it was time to quit downhill racing.
"I knew while racing this season that in the back of my mind, I had had enough of it. I was looking for something else. If the enduro opportunity hadn't come along, I was planning on doing just recreational riding and concentrating on my building."
Leov has just started a building apprenticeship in Christchurch. He said the opportunities in the earthquake-ravaged city were massive for his trade.
However, he was sure he could combine his new job and enduro riding without compromising either.
"Since the enduro has come up, it's good, because it means I've got a fresh new look on it and staying in a sport and a team that I know so well."
Enduro is fast growing in popularity, and Leov said that if it became an Olympic sport, he would love to have a crack at representing New Zealand on sports' biggest stage.
Enduro is similar to a car rally. It is usually contested over a weekend, with three races on Saturday and two on Sunday over flat or undulating terrain, with races lasting anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. The person with the quickest combined time wins the title.
"It is fitness-based, and you've also got to be very consistent," Leov said. "Get a flat tyre or have a crash and you can wreck your whole weekend."
Leov still considers Marlborough home. When he lived in the Taylor Pass, he had a mountainbike playground right next door.
"I definitely miss Blenheim. I lived down in Dunedin and now we are in Christchurch, but I always think back to my roots.
"I've got a lot to be thankful [for] about that place. I had access just up the road at the Gentry farm, John Meek's property. That's pretty much where I got into it and learned to ride."
The 28-year-old and wife Victoria are returning to Marlborough this weekend for a friend's wedding.
One thing is certain - if Leov attacks enduro with the same skill and enthusiasm as he did downhill racing, it wouldn't surprise to see him among the world elite in that discipline.
- The Marlborough Express