When it comes to Xterra racing the only thing matching Lewis Ryan's potential is his enthusiasm.

The Rotorua 20-year-old burst on to the off road triathlon scene in September when he finished first at Xterra Taiwan, his first overseas Xterra event.

At the beginning of this month he returned to Taiwan for the Xterra Asia-Pacific Championship and finished sixth in a highly competitive field. Then at the weekend he finished fourth at Xterra Rotorua and now has his sights set further afield.

"Through June, July and August I'm heading to Europe for the first time which is an awesome opportunity," Ryan says.

Advertisement

"I'm racing Xterra France, Switzerland and Czech Republic. I can't wait to put what I've learned from these other races into practice and keep testing myself against the best guys in the sport.

"To a certain degree I'm pretty cooked from these last couple of races, but I really just want to get back into training already. I'm super motivated for it, my excitement levels are through the roof.

"I tried to choose some of the more prestigious events in places I've always wanted to go and race. I'm still pretty young, I have plenty of time to experience the whole circuit, so I'm just picking and choosing a couple while I can."

While Xterra Taiwan being moved to earlier in the year this year meant he only had six months to enjoy the crown, Ryan says going back as defending champion was "one of the coolest experiences" of his life.

"I absolutely loved it. Taiwan for me is the coolest place I've ever been and has the most incredible people, it's so beautiful.

"I feel super fortunate [to be able to use sport as a way to see the world]. I guess most people my age work to save money and travel, so it's cool to be able to do what I love and get to travel. For me it's the ideal situation."

Rotorua's Lewis Ryan will head to Europe in June to race in three Xterra events. Photo / Stephen Parker
Rotorua's Lewis Ryan will head to Europe in June to race in three Xterra events. Photo / Stephen Parker

He says it was a tough race in Taiwan earlier this month.

"It was by the toughest field we've assembled on the south side of the equator and probably one of the most competitive fields we'll have outside of world champs this year.

Advertisement

"All of my idols, the big names in the sport, were there so it was a great experience.

"You definitely want to back yourself and try to keep up with them. There's a lot more to it than meets the eye - you'd probably have a different result if it was a time trial and everyone went at different times. Those guys like Sam [Osborne] and Brad Weiss and Ben Allen, what really sets them apart is not only their physical strength but they're incredible at racing.

"They don't make mistakes and they're so composed under pressure. I need to get stronger first but I need to learn a lot of that as well."

The biggest learning curve for Ryan this year has been how important it is to stay composed and confident throughout the entire race.

"In Taiwan, Brad and I came out of the water together but he got back up to the guys who had beaten us out of the water whereas I panicked and made mistakes, I was going about it all the wrong way then got frustrated and lost time. I watched Brad just compose himself and then get after it.

"That really motivated me, particularly for the rest of the season. I got a pretty clear picture of the gaps I need to close up strength-wise and I know what I need to work on in terms of learning to race better."