Interview: Joe Nation

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Joe Nation’s name has graced the pages of many a Spoke magazine in recent years. Joe’s a heck of a rider, and one of those all-round good guys you want to see succeed, so we were all stoked to hear Joe’s big announcement: a factory ride for the 2019 Enduro World Series. This is a big deal for Joe, and positive news for the New Zealand bike community; it’s always great to see our top riders getting opportunities like this. I sat down with Joe for a quick chat.

What happened at the end of 2017?

After the 2017 season, Bergamont made the call to discontinue all their international race teams. I enjoyed the three years I was able to work with them.

How did you deal with that, and what was your plan for 2018?

I’d had a solid 2017 season with a top 10 and several top 20 placings, so I was quite confident I’d be able to find some international support for the season. However, I was late to the party and struggled to find a place on a team. Specialized New Zealand then helped me out, and the Enduro proved a fast and reliable bike to lock in some top 20 placings racing as a privateer in 2018.

How did the Pole cycles deal come about?

I rode Leigh Johnson’s Pole Machine in a Slovenian car park and was intrigued straight away. From there I got in touch with Leo Kokkonen [the man behind Pole bikes] and organised to meet him and ride the Machine in Whistler. From the first lap on the Pole I was excited about the potential of riding for the company. Leo was stoked with the consistency I was able to show racing as a privateer, with minimal budget, and I was lucky enough to be offered a spot on the new Pole EWS race team.

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What does this mean for 2019?

It means for the first time I’ll be able to fully concentrate on races with the support of my manager Matti Lehikoinen and a team mechanic. A full off-season of training and stress-free travel will certainly be a welcome change too. Not to take anything away from the privateer van life—I’ve certainly accumulated my fair share of pikey stories over the years—but I’ve done my time.

What’s the bike like for racing?

I’ve only raced a couple of DH races on my Stamina, so I’m yet to get it on the enduro clock. Things are looking promising on Strava and the Freelap timing I use, but I’ll have to wait for the fitness to ramp up in time for the international season to know for sure. The stability and grip on the bike is really impressive. It’s definitely a fine piece of engineering.

What can we expect to see in the next few seasons?

Looking forward, the aim is to continue to build and strengthen both my relationship with Pole and my global influence. I’m a racer first and foremost, so I’m keen to keep up the consistency I’ve shown over the years, and with Pole’s bikes and support I’m sure this will translate into improved results in the World Series.

The new bike looks dialled, and Joe looks comfortable riding it. It’s super exciting for us to see what Joe can do with the support of a factory team. He’s a racer through and through, and not scared of putting in the effort when it comes to training and prep. It’s clichéd to say ‘he’s one to watch’ but I genuinely feel he is. If Joe gels with both bike and team, the potential to start pushing through to

the sharp end of the field is very real. The EWS season starts in Rotorua in March, where there’ll be serious competition from local and international riders alike. With all the recent controversy, this season is shaping up to be an interesting one.