Three-time Olympic cross country mountain bike racer Kashi Leuchs has announced his departure from the international racing circuit. He is returning home to New Zealand to take up new challenges.
"I'm leaving France and my career as a pro mountain biker to return home to Dunedin to follow a new passion," 31-year-old Leuchs said.
Leuchs's new passion is a blend of environmental stewardship as an ambassador for the 350.org.nz movement. Also, his newly formed company, Adventure Media Group Ltd, will focus on marketing within the adventure sports industry.
"The aim of Adventure Media Group is to raise the global profile of some of the amazing mountain biking and adventure destinations and events we have in New Zealand," Leuchs said.
Leuchs has also re-enrolled for further study through University of Otago.
"My interest in the environment and concern over the changes taking place led me to a course in Environmental Studies. I have been involved with www.350.org.nz already for quite a while and now with Adventure Media Group, we have a platform to make a really big difference. Adventure Media Group has volunteered its services to run a cycling-based climate-change action to raise awareness on issues of climate change, and hopefully influence our political leaders to be bold and brave when they travel to Copenhagen later this year for the super important UN meeting on climate change," he said.
In association with 350 NZ, Leuchs' company is organising the "350 Riders" climate-change movement.
"We want to encourage all New Zealand cyclists to get involved by joining us and placing a green number plate with the number 350 on their bikes, then riding them anywhere and everywhere. The idea is that people throughout the country will start noticing them and asking what they are about, inspiring conversation and education," Leuchs said.
The 350 Riders movement hopes to gather as many 350 riders as possible, initially in Rotorua in collaboration with the UCI Trials World Cup there on September 13, and then in Dunedin at the 350 Spring Food Festival on October 24.
"October 24 is also the international 350 day of action, when thousands of events will take place around the globe, so we really hope riders join in and make it huge," Leuchs said.
Despite all these new projects, Leuchs refuses to accept that he has "retired".
"I am still as passionate about my sport as ever. I have not ruled out the possibility of returning to the Olympic discipline one day in the future either," he said.
Leuchs has been racing professionally for 12 years including representing New Zealand in three Olympics, 14 World Championships and countless World Cups.
His decision to return home was aided by the dissolution of the Felt International mountain bike team, with which he'd signed for four years starting in 2009.
"One week before the international season was to begin, I proved to myself that I was still capable of racing fast by winning New Zealand's biggest race, the Motatapu Icebreaker," Leuchs said.
But as soon as Leuchs arrived in South Africa for the first event for the Felt team he realised that the team was in a terrible state.
"We had no support people, the organisation was a mess, and we were missing all sorts of equipment. One month later the team company collapsed and had to let go of its riders."
When Leuchs looks back at his international career he says he "is proud of his results", but that this was not the most important part of the adventure.
"I was able to share it with many wonderful people, in particular, Benoit Nave, my coach for 10 years. For me the best thing was probably learning to live in a new culture and just being passionate about something and giving my absolute best."
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