Mountain Biking: Amber first in family of flyers

By Greg Taipari

Rotorua youngster Amber Johnston knows when you come from a family of mountain bikers it can be an advantage being the eldest - you don't get too many hand-me-downs.

The Rotorua Girls' High School, Year 13 student, appreciates mountain biking is an expensive sport and when you have three younger brothers, all competing in the sport, it can be a matter of sharing equipment.

"I've just got a new bike from my new team. So my youngest brother gets my old bike. But he's pretty happy about that because it's a pretty good bike."

The 17-year-old is part of the NZXC Racing team, an international cross country mountain biking team of New Zealand based riders. Amber's teammates include Carl Jones, Dirk Peters, Nigel McDowell and Katie O'Neill.

A new team has meant some good results for the youngster, including her first national title.

Amber won the women's under-19 cross country title in Rotorua at the weekend, ahead of Auckland riders Harriet Beaven and Charlotte Rayner.

Winning the title had been a mixture of nerves and excitment.

"It was so cool [to win] because I'd been so nervous all week because I've just wanted it for so long. All my friends and family were out there cheering for me so it was real cool [to win at home]."

Amber realised she was in with a chance of winning on lap two of four, of the 5.5km track.

"I knew I had a pretty good gap because dad was telling me my time splits. I was just so nervous the whole way around because you never know what could happen, like mechanical [issues] and stuff."

Although Amber maybe the eldest and get first dibs on new equipment, winning a national title hasn't given her any extra privileges.

Possibly because she is not the only national title holder in her home. Her younger brother Nathan, also managed to pick up the men's under-17 title at the same event.

"We still have to do the dishes and things like that. But mum and dad have been pretty great. They usually do a lot of stuff for us anyway," Amber said.

Nathan joked it was the brothers who did most of the chores around the house.

"Us boys seem to do more of the work. Nah, we share it around."

The 15-year-old said their success could be put down to the support from their parents.

"They are pretty cool. They take us to every event and if we need gear they make sure we have it."

The Western Heights High School, Year 11 student said he was rapt to win his first title and thought it would be a good idea to have a rule at home - anyone with a national title didn't have to do the chores.

Although he didn't think his younger brothers Taylor 13, and Connor 11, would go for it.

In her last year at high school, Amber said being a member of the NZXC Racing had given her the hunger to strive to go pro one day. But she was keen to go to university first.

"It's been pretty hard this year because I'm sports captain [at school]. So I've just got a lot going on at the moment. But I'm getting there."

Amber is now in training for the Oceania champs in Tasmania next month.

Competing overseas doesn't daunt the rider, she has already competed at two world cups placing third in both events.

The youngster said being successful at mountain biking comes down to commitment.

"It's pretty hard, you've got to put a lot of work into it but it's definitely worth it and there's like heaps of people around [Rotorua] to help you out."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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