Bigger, Faster, Stronger: Keegan Wright Interview

Two years ago, Keegan Wright burst onto the international stage, with his hometown behind him, in the Crankworx Rotorua Pump Track presented by RockShox. Snagging the silver, he set off a wave of momentum, which hasn't let up. An aggressive schedule, fuelled by passion and dedication, will see him chasing some big goals this year. We caught up with Keegan to chat about riding bikes, landing solid results and reaching for the stars.

You’ve had a pretty explosive start to your season, beating Wyn Masters and Justin Leov in the Giant 2W Gravity Enduro in Rotorua, and taking the elite men’s downhill title at the New Zealand Mountain Bike National Championships in front of Brook Macdonald and Sam Blenkinsop. Those are some powerful enduro and downhill heavy hitters. How does it feel? 
It’s been really good ay, like, I’ve just sort of eased my way into the season, didn’t want to just peak too soon... Everything has seemed to just slide into place. I’m feeling really comfortable on the bike and the results show that I’ve been doing the right things, but I've also just been having fun riding my bike. It’s awesome coming into the overseas season having had some solid results to kind of help you out and know that you can do it. 

You mentioned you’ve been training really hard this season. Is there anything that you’ve done differently that you think has got you to this point?
Not really. Just getting out and riding my bike as much as I can and trying to stick to my training program ─ that’s going to the gym a couple more times this year than I was previous years, so just going an extra couple of days a week and stuff like that. And I get out a do a little bit of running to work my lungs, and just get out and have lots of fun riding my bike, really. 

Building on the momentum you’ve picked up recently, do you have some goals heading into Crankworx Rotorua?
Ummm, well it being in my hometown and on my home tracks and stuff, obviously I know the tracks a lot better than everyone else, so I think kind of just go out there and make it a really fun week out riding and racing. But I want to give the King of Crankworx a good effort this year since I’m doing all four Crankworx stops. It’d be really cool to get a podium in the Enduro World Series in Rotorua. Same with the downhill and the pump track and the Dual Speed and Style. But overall, just go out there and have fun, and the results should come. Hopefully, if not a podium, at least a to- ten in the enduro would be awesome. As long as I stay on my bike and have some fun, the good results will come.

Tell us about the bike you’ll be riding in the Giant Toa Enduro.
Bike: S-Works Stumpjumper
Frame Size: Large
Bar width: 760
Grips: ODI
Stem: Full Speed Ahead
Bars: Full Speed Ahead
Cranks: Full Speed Ahead
Bike Weight: Around 13kg
Suspension setup: Fox 36 Front
Pedals: Shimano DX
Wheels: Stans NoTubes
Wheel size: 27.5
Carbon vs. aluminium wheels: Aluminum for sure
Brakes: Hope Tech E4S
Air vs. coil suspension: Air
Number of tokens in air springs: 4
Gearing: SRAM X0
Tyres: Butcher Grid 2.3 front and rear
Tyre pressures: 20ish front, 23ish rear, hand feel haha
Seat Dropper: Marzocchi

From what we’ve seen, it looks like you’re registered for seven rounds of the EWS, plus UCI Downhill World Cups and Crankworx. How do you manage such an ambitious schedule? What do you do to stay balanced?
Yeah, I’m doing seven Enduro World Series rounds, and I’ll do the eighth one, if the results are going where I want to be. I’m doing six downhill mountain bike world cups, as well, and the four Crankworx stops. It’s a really big season. Not many people really go into a season doing that much. I don’t know anyone that’s done almost a full enduro season and a full downhill world cup season. I’m training for enduro mostly, so when I go out and ride, I’m training for a full day of racing, instead of just one downhill run. I think if I train for endure, I’ll be able to get through the downhill race pretty easy and just use the downhill races as a bit of fun ─ but also get some solid results in there, as well, and always just use it as a bit of skills training for the enduro rounds.

Is there anything that you do in between events to give your body some rest? Or are you go-go-go all the time?
It’s sort of the way I’ve always been. I’ve always enjoyed riding my bike. Of course, it’s going to be hard this season. I think it might get to a point where I might be a bit blown out, but I think I’ll just stick to my normal recovery ─ take one day off a week, or one day off leading up to a race, check out the place where I’m at and have a bit of fun. And take each race as it comes. Think about that one race, recover, and get all healthy for the next one.

We talked a bit about your goals for Crankworx Rotorua, and you mentioned podiums or top tens, and making a run at the King of Crankworx title. Do you have any other goals for the rest of 2017, with all these different disciplines you’re taking on?
The reason I’m doing so much this year is because I got a good scholarship at the beginning of the year, so I’m putting this money toward the season. Because I’m still a privateer, I’m still paying for everything, so the goal is to hopefully make a pro team by the end of this year. I’m doing so many disciplines because I know the more I do, the more it shows I’m more of a multi-talented rider, as opposed to a one-discipline rider. The main goal this year is to try to find a team, whether it’s enduro, downhill, or whatever it might be.

It certainly sounds like you’re doing your best to find your place in this competitive industry. How do you stay motivated to keep pushing?
For me, I’ve ridden all my life. All I really know is riding. I think it would be awesome to know, whenever you’ve finished riding or retired, that what you’ve put in, you’ve got back. I think if you did all the training and hard hours, hopefully, someone sees that and they realize you have what it takes to be one of the best ─ so I think just knowing you’ve had heaps of fun doing what you do and just getting back what you put in. Just give it all you’ve got, while you can. It goes pretty quick, if you know what I mean. I remember when I was just 15 or 16, and now it feels like a bloody year and I’m already 20, so it goes pretty quick.

Lots of Crankworx fans really got to know you a couple years ago when we came to Rotorua for the first time. You took home a silver medal on the pump track that year, with the home crowd behind you 100%, and the rest of the world totally blown away by your performance. What has that moment meant for you?
It was absolutely crazy that night, having the whole home crowd behind me and cheering me on. I think that’s what gave me that motivation and adrenaline to get the result that I got. It’s absolutely awesome for Crankworx to come to Rotorua for another 10 years. It’s so good just knowing that each year, you get to race in front of your home crowd and in front of your friends and family. That was the main result that I got on the international stage, on the pump track, so that was kind of when it all started. It’s been awesome. All the results have just started from there. 

Being from Rotorua, and growing up and riding bikes around there, what’s it been like having Crankworx come to your doorstep?
It’s so good. The whole city pretty much gets behind it and the atmosphere is just awesome, even in the weeks leading up to it. Everyone’s just keen to get out there and watch or compete at the races. For me, and for a few people that I’ve talked to, it’s the highlight of the year, being at home and being able to go to an awesome event.

Interview and Text - Crankworx Official