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Sam Blenkinsop – Schladming Master

When “Blinky” crossed the finish line in Schladming last year, the win had not only been a long time coming for him, but also for New Zealand, never had one of his countrymen win at the highest level. Somehow I don’t think we will have to wait so long again!

DW: Who is Sam Blenkinsop?
Sam Blenkinsop: A fast Kiwi that likes to let it hang out!

DW: We will start quickfire to warm up, what is your favourite….
Beer: Tui, it’s made in New Zealand
Takeaway Dish: Sushi
Film: Borat
Trail: I don’t have a favorite
Event: Schladming World Cup
Kiwi Musician: Katchafire

In the pits (Photo- Craig Grant)

In the pits (Photo- Craig Grant)

DW: Your 2008 season seemed pretty awesome from where we were standing, how was it for you? What were the highpoints (an obvious question?!) and the low ones?
SB: Yeah, obviously I was pretty stoked to win in Schladming. It’s a legendary track that everyone wants to win on. To be up there with Sam Hill and Gee, as a race winner there, it’s pretty cool. I guess a low point for me was the Worlds. It was a track I really liked and it suited me, but I came 17th. I think I just got too loose and lost time with some dumb mistakes. I pretty much hated my final after qualifying pretty well.

DW: And looking forward……what’s on your schedule for 2009, have you got any particular goals or areas of focus?
SB: Still finalizing all the races but for sure a full World Cup season. I wanna be on the podium a lot more in 2009. I’m working really hard now in the offseason and I’m planning to mix it up with the big boys at each race.

Blinky shows he doesn't mind the odd skinsuit- Fort Bill Worlds [Photo - Jon Beckett]

Blinky shows he doesn't mind the odd skinsuit- Fort Bill Worlds (Photo- Jon Beckett)



DW: You are back on Yeti for 2009, it seems like a great setup and so much heritage, how does it feel being on one of the turquoise dream machines where so many legends of the sport have been before?

SB: I couldn’t imagine a better team or set up for me. It’s laid back, but at the same time, everything I need is there. The bike suits my style, and yep, I’m pretty honored to be winning races for such a legendary company that really cares about racing.

DW: Next year on Yeti you have lost your countryman Leov but Aaron Gwinn looks to be a force to be reckoned with in coming years, how has it been seeing Aaron come through the ranks this year and how have you helped him in acclimatising to the World of World Cup DH racing? He must have learnt a thing or two from you but is there anything you have learnt from him as a team mate?
SB: Well he didn’t need to learn too much. He’s just an animal. I think I learnt things off him!

Sam get the low down from Leov

Sam get the low down from Leov


DW: When we asked our readers for questions to put to you there was lots of comments about the lack of gloves when you ride! Is this just a comfort thing or is there some superstition behind it? Are the palms of your hands like leather?

SB: Nah, there’s no superstition or anything like that. It’s just a personal comfort thing. I’ve tried running gloves, but I‘m just more comfortable this way. I know it’s not the normal thing, and I don’t recommend people do it….it just works for me that’s all I know. My hands don’t feel too leathery I don’t reckon…had no complaints anyway!!

DW: I hear you took in some of our local Scottish trails at Dunkeld on your last visit to Fort Bill, how did you find it?

SB: The tracks were as sick as. All the tracks we rode were sick. We had a lot of time off and we went riding on them as much as we could. Apart from the rain it was pretty cool.

World Cup 2008 [Photo Jon Beckett]

World Cup 2008

DW: When you are on your travels do you often get a chance to try out the local trails like this or do you tend to only see what is in between the tapes of the racetrack?
SB: Sometimes, it just depends on how soon we have to get out of a place for the next race. I do like to explore trails. Because I come from NZ, I sometimes have quite a few weeks of no racing in the middle of the season, overseas somewhere, and I check out more trails then when I can.

Craig Grant Photo

Craig Grant Photo

DW: How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
SB: Are these things edible? Chuck one on the BBQ.

DW: The Kiwis have always had a good presence on the WC circuit over the years but obviously it took until this year for the big breakthrough to come through for a win. Which of your fellow countrymen do you tip to be top of a WC podium next? Away from the current crop of Kiwis on the circuit which up and coming youngsters should we be keeping an eye on in coming years?

SB: We’ve gotta couple of fast juniors that came 4th and 5th at the Worlds in Italy. You need to watch out for them. Aari Barrett and Brook MacDonald…they’ve got mad skill.

Craig Grant Photo

Craig Grant Photo

DW: NZ seems to be a bit of a home from home for many racers outside of race season, choosing to race a summer in the South than stick with a Northern Hemisphere winter, has the competition from elsewhere been of benefit to the scene down there?
SB: I reckon it has. It’s cool. The more we get top level international riders visiting here, the more it pushes guys like me, Justin, Nathan, and Cameron…..and it helps the local guys know where they stand before they decide to go racing overseas. We have a lot of great mountains down here so the racing is pretty good.

DW: Finally, it’s got to be asked given recent rule changes……..the skinsuit ban, good or not?
SB: Well yes and no. I don’t mind them.

DW: Many thanks for your time Sam, is there anyone you would like to thank?
SB: A big thanks to Chris Conroy and Damion at Yeti for all their support, to Jeremiah at Nema, and all my personal sponsors, especially adidas eyewear, OGK Helmets, Five Ten shoes, Impact Designs, my family, Wide Open in NZ for helping me out at the beginning, Clay Porter for his rad movies, my management company, and all the fans that have been writing to me at my web site. It means a lot. Later!

Photos- Craig Grant & Jon Beckett

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