Standing atop the podium at the Lenzerheide World Cup 2023 opener, I wonder if Erice looks out over the crowd and thinks to herself: “This is just the beginning”. Is she viewing the win as just a stepping stone towards the future, or maybe wondering; “What the heck just happened, and how did I get here?”

What began as a simple obsession on a balance bike, following her brothers around, grew into a viral video of 10-year-old Erice proving the best mountain bike is whatever bike is beneath you. She tore up Rotorua’s trails aboard her coaster-brake-equipped 16-inch wheeled kids’ bike. The video spread like wildfire, reaching such lofty heights as being included in the now defunct Dirt Magazine’s 2017 Advent Calendar. Day 14 features Erice and the caption: “this could be the raddest video we’ve seen all year.” Other notable outlets picked up the video and, overnight, Erice was on the radar of every talent scout in the industry, promptly receiving several sponsorship requests.

Commencal was early to the party and ended up being the lucky suitor. Welcoming her to their global roster, their new 20” bike suited her perfectly. A few more years of growth; roll on the launch of their 24” MTB and Erice played the lead role in their launch campaign video, again tearing up the trails to international acclaim.

Fast forward through a couple of pandem- ic-tainted years and Erice is finally old enough to race Junior UCI World Cups, and ready to step onto the bottom rung of the Junior category. In early 2023, she was announced as joining the COMMENCAL LES ORRES Team and it was game on for the season.

Under the wing of Cécile Ravanel, no one doubted Erice would soon grace a world-level podium, but it was a surprise for it to come so soon. Erice’s 2023 season kicked off with a pair of EDR (Enduro) World Series rounds in Tasmania. First up was Maydena, where perfect conditions and varied terrain greeted riders. A tight battle ensued between Erice and Canada’s Emmy Lan. After Erice led through race day, Emmy stamped her authority on the last stage, bumping Erice into second place. Both riders were well over a minute ahead of Elly Hoskin, who rounded out the podium in third. Erice left Maydena surprised and stoked; she was at the EDR rounds as a test to gauge where she was at and was using the race as some training for the upcoming DH season.

“Erice’s bike skills, and her ability to just ride fast, are pretty impressive. The tracks don’t scare or worry her, and she just gets on with it. She’s not intimidated by much, it seems. So maybe with age that will change, but right now she’s just super impressive on gnarly tracks with gnarly features and just super confident on the jumps and everything.



I guess it’s a bike skills thing, but maybe she’s also just riding the bike to get the best out of it. I think bikes have changed quite a lot and you can trust them so much more nowadays. So maybe there’s something in that as well.” – Cameron Cole, Former World Junior DH Champ and GT Factory Racing team manager.

Round 2 of the EDR took in the now-famous Derby trails, some old, some new. Practice day was wet, and by all accounts just getting through the course that day was a task in itself. Race day was hot and humid, and the trails were still wet from the previous day’s rain.

“On race day I was thinking, I’m actually kinda up there so why not go for it!” explains Erice. After putting in a huge effort across the first five stages, she experienced painful leg cramps on the liaison to stage 6, which saw her stop multiple times to stretch out.

“I was a bit scared then that I wouldn’t be able to finish the race, because of the pain.” Fortunately, Erice pushed on, continuing her domination, topping every stage and obliterating her U21 competition. Her overall time would have placed her 16th in the Pro Women’s class!

Finishing her Tassie time on a high, she set her sights on the main goal of her season: the World Cup Downhill series. Six weeks after her win in Derby, she lined up at the opening round of the French DH Series; another race, another win! With momentum building over the last few races, she was back in action a month later – this time at the World Cup season opener in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.

“The track in Lenzerheide was so sick, the sections just linked up real good,” says Erice. “It’s obviously a difficult track but it allows you to push quite hard for speed, which is cool. The top section on the off-camber grass and then onto the famous off-camber corner were the most difficult for me, it was still fun though. I just enjoyed the track heaps and that’s when you ride your best.”

For the first time in history, the Junior races were broadcast live and free on YouTube, allowing friends, family and fans from across the world to see the future stars of the sport laying the foundations for their careers. Watching the action unfold over the week, clips of Erice practising surfaced. What we saw was a confident, solid riding style which piqued onlookers’ interest and had com- mentators picking her as one to watch.

A crash in qualifying put her in second place. But, harnessing her nerves, she headed for the start hut to take on her final run, confident her pace was there. Minimising outside distractions, she visualised the track, focussed on the present and task at hand, rolled forward and broke the timing beam.

“As I was injured at Lenzerheide, I spent a fair chunk of time trackside and that included watching the always entertaining junior practice. I’d followed Erice online but hadn’t really seen or met her in real life, and from run one in Lenzerheide it was fairly obvious that she had something special going on.

NZ DH with Erice at the helm is in safe hands both on and off the track. Her skills are something else, but so is her infectious stoke for both the riding and the other girls she was racing against. Big grins and big wins seem to be the ticket here.” – Eddie Masters, Pivot Factory Racing pro.

Five sectors made up the track. Erice started slow, building across the first three splits, then demolished the final two to put her just over four seconds in the green. She’d just secured her first junior World Cup win!

“When I won my first World Cup, the feeling was insane!” explains Erice. “I was totally over the moon. Having my dad and one of my brothers there, and some family friends, made it extra special! Another highlight was getting to see family after two and a half months. It’s so, so cool being over in Europe racing, but it is hard not seeing the fam for a while.”

Riding the high of her win, everything was looking positive as the World Cup circus headed to Leogang, Austria. A win in the qualifier put her as the fastest seed coming into the finals.

“In Leogang, I was feeling really mentally strong in my warmup at the top and on the rollers, but once I got into the start gate, the nerves hit me and I lost that composure, and that obviously didn’t work out great for me.”

Only a couple of corners into the track, Erice took a huge crash – over the bars, down a bank and onto a gravel road. A dead-stop hit that even the hardiest of rugby players wouldn’t have bounced up from.

“It was the scariest crash I’ve ever had,” recalls Erice. “I just fully body-slammed the ground and didn’t roll or anything to break my fall. Just hit it and stopped. I winded the crap out of myself so that was pretty scary because I couldn’t breathe for a bit. I can’t believe that I got away with two sore wrists and a sore torso! Nothing was broken, but I couldn’t finish the race. Looking on the positive side though, I’ve learned a lot of lessons. So, I’ll take that.”

A short two-week break between Leogang and the following round in Val Di Sole left minimal time to get her body back in shape after her crash; no downhill riding and just light road riding and gym work saw Erice nervous coming into round three. Getting back on the bike and straight into one of the most challenging tracks on the cir- cuit took all the resilience and determination she could muster.

Fellow Kiwi, Sacha Earnest, was also returning from injury at Val Di Sole, ready to take on the Junior Women’s field. Qualifying saw tight time splits between Erice and Sacha, the latter taking the number one points on the day. In finals, the cards stacked the same way, Sacha taking her first World Cup win, and Erice in second. Erice left the venue happy with her performance, and proud of how she’d bounced back after the crash in Leogang. Second was almost as good as a win!

Next up for the young star is the Downhill World Championships in Fort William, Scotland. But first, some training at team sponsor Les Orres’ bike park and a test event in Loudenvielle in the lead-up to the World Cup event there at the start of September. Erice’s calendar is chocka!

The World Cup continues throughout the year, culminating with the final round in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada, in early October. We’ll be watching Erice and compatriot Sacha closely as the rounds tick off. Fingers crossed we’ll have two Kiwis atop the overall World Cup podium come the end of the season – which order they’ll be in is anyone’s guess.

This article is taken from:NZ Mountain Biker, Issue #111

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