Spoke's resident food maestro (maestress?) Sarah Wadsworth was the subject of Frankly Thursday a few weeks back, but now she's stepped away from the oven and gets behind the keyboard to bring us a look at US import Alex McAndrew. He's been hanging out in the Wadsworth's hood in Wanaka, so Sarah sat down with him after a ride to find out more before he leaves our shores.
When I first met Alex he was wearing a bright red shirt with an outline image of a mountain biker riding a bull, with the letters MTBVT on it. My friend Prairie (fellow American) looked at me and said, “Vermont”? Alex wears his roots from Vermont proudly, yet humbly, and he has a lot to be proud of. Hell, I wish I was that cool at 22! For that matter, at any age. Aside from his ability to float on his bike while hootin’ and hollerin’ his excitement over rough terrain, he has been a local in Wanaka for the past couple months, working as an intern with Al at Blue Shark, fixing all your Fox shocks. He is, um, a bit overqualified... After graduating uni as a qualified mechanical engineer, he was offered a nice job with FOX Racing in the States, yet decided now is as good a time as any to give it his all to race some World Cup Downhills. So, the job will have to wait. In the meantime, he’s been the subject of some inspiring videos, doing a bit of coaching, and enjoying his commute along the Clutha to work, while getting as much time at ‘The Gondi’ as possible. He leaves in a few days to return to the States, and his journey to World Cup-ness, yet we won’t quickly forget this goodie. Oh, did I mention he has real excellent taste in good tunes? Good luck with the journey Alex!
Full name: Alexander Joseph McAndrew.
Where are you currently based? Wanaka (for another week).
What do you like about living where you currently do? Proximity to all the mountain biking and the awesome people that participate.
What do you dislike about living where you do? That I have to leave soon!
How did you start out riding MTB? I grew up on farmland and didn’t have TV so mtb was toy of choice.
First bike? A Nishiki Hill Raiser (kid’s 24 inch mtb)
What was the best thing about this bike? It had gears and knobby tires and bull bars. I still have a photo of me in rubber barn boots and a dept store helmet, 3ft off the ground on a jump my dad built for me...terrified...with the fear of god in my eyes.
How many years have you been riding at Elite level? Two.
What do you see as the highlight in your racing career thus far? US collegiate national champ in 2011 in Angel Fire, New Mexico, in 10 inches of snow...and receiving a stars and bars jersey. The Canadian Open 2012 in Whistler was another highlight because it was the wildest track I’ve ever ridden.. 12 points in the air, all over 25 ft... Just to survive it and to make it through a course like that.
When do you remember first learning about NZ and its MTB culture? Probably when I worked at FOX Racing where I was an intern while getting my mechanical engineering degree. The guys there talked about NZ quite a bit. Then, on a chairlift at a World Cup, I rode up with one of the FOX guys and he suggested I work for the FOX distributor (in NZ) during winter... and he made the connection with Al here at Blue Shark in Wanaka, and it all fell into place. It quickly turned into a decision rather than just an idea.
Had you heard of Wanaka before? No.
Favourite place to ride? Vermont (Waterbury and Cadys Falls)
What rocks about Vermont? There is so much varied terrain for mtb, and the culture itself is growing faster and faster with new trail networks popping up everywhere- with more technical trails, breeding a lot of good riders. The technical skill level of the riders coming out of Vermont is phenomenal (on an international level) as it is tight, rocky, rooty, rides. Not super fast, open riding, but very technical riding that takes a lot of skill.
Favourite place to ride in NZ? On a trail bike it would Transformers (mix of Peroxide, GB8, and Dizzy Turns in Sticky Forest in Wanaka)...Hobbit I like the most but you only ride when you are feeling good because its...there is little margin for error.
How is your daily commute? Breathtaking. Singletrack, Clutha river, and Dean’s Bank... Blue sky, blue water, big mountains.
Top 5 artists on your iPod? Trample by Turtles, Ironhorse, Pretty Lights, Rise Against, Ransburg, Old Crow Medicine Show (yes that’s 6 but all worthy!)
All-time fave MTB’r? Steve Peat.
What’s wrong with mountain biking? The elitist mentality, when it does exist.
What’s right with mountain biking? Everything else.
Current fave piece of mtb kit? Troy Lee D3 helmet cause that means you are going to get rad.
What are your vices? Tim Tams and when I doubt my own abilities.
What’s your fave chocolate here? Whittakers - Milk chocolate hazelnut bar (I’m taking it all home with me).
Who do you look up to? Hank of Chuck’s Bikes in Morrisville, Vermont and mom and dad.
How would you describe your riding style? Smooth and (try to be) powerful with it. I try to keep my body as quiet as possible and let the bike do the work.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the past 10 years? To be true to yourself. Hands down.
Tell us about the video projects you’ve a part of... It’s been a lot of fun this past year working with some real talent... Check out Alex McAndrew ‘Through the Fall’ (Skyline Media) and the other one is ‘Top to Bottom’ with Alex McAndrew (Madkats Productions). Then most recently, while I was here I shot a Kore components ad with Ross Mackay .
Transition bikes (Bellingham, WA), Kore components, MRP Chainguides, Clarkson University, Madkats Productions, Troy Lee Designs...
Goal for 2013:
Give 100% in every race run that I do. To qualify and race at a World Cup (I’ll be petitioning for 2 World Cups- Leogang and Hafjell, Norway)..
Finish this sentence: On a Saturday I like to...
(Outside of race season)- Enjoy an epic coffee, bike ride, cliff jumping, searching out hidden swimming holes (backwoods), beers, and live music.
(Inside of race season)- Epic coffee, morning walk, prep bike, practice, try to win.