IXS Cup finals, Todtnau – Germany

Todtnau Ixs Cup report.

After the completion of the World cup Finals in Norway myself, Richard and Mike began the long haul back down to continental Europe where we would say our goodbyes after a long 4 months of travelling together.  Mike was headed off to Chile to do some trail building work there, Richard back home to New Zealand to continue his roofing apprentiship and I was headed back to Germany for 3 weeks of hanging out with Lena and to attend the final IXS cup round in the south German town of Todtnau but first there was still the matter of driving the 2000k back to the warmth as we were all totally over the freezing climate in Norway.

Fantastic scenery on the way out of Norway
nice name for a rest stop haha.

We left Hafjell feeling slightly worse for wear and it was a big drive for me at 14 hours straight to get us back to the ferry at Gedser after Richard had fallen ill as an adverse affect of too much alcohol the night before at the world cup after party.  Arriving in Gedser on the brink of falling asleep on my feet I stumbled onto the boat before passing out on the floor somewhere and not awakening until Richard ran back up from the car to get me because I had slept through the arrival call and we were now about 5 minutes away from going back to Denmark.  I don’t know what happened after here because I passed out once back in Gladys but I do know that waking up back at the Herold’s was a pleasant thing to do and once again we overloaded their washing machine and partook in the compulsory Monday night football match.

Richard wasn’t feeling too crash hot come sunday morning.
Monday night football with the boys! good times all round.
No football game in Germany would be complete without beers and sausages.
The best sausage’s in the world period. Thuringer bratwurst = amazing!
Yes that is a cat on a lead….and yes its stoked as. They do weird things here in thuringen.

The following day was a sad one indeed, it meant the departure of Hippy from the travelling circus as we was off to Paris before flying down to South America to begin his trail building job there which is the same one I did in 2010.  We wished him luck and sent him on his train only to find out that he had very nearly missed his plane due to a bomb scare and then his bike didn’t arrive in Santiago, fairly typical Hippy experiences but in true style he managed to sort himself out and I wish him all the best in Chile.

Norway left it’s mark on me, the whole side of my lthigh was eventually black and took about 3 weeks to sort itself out properly.

Richard and I meanwhile spent the next day driving further south to where my final destination lay in Munich, from here I would be hanging out with Lena for the next 3 ½ weeks while Richard continued driving down to Morzine to return Gladys and then on to Geneva to fly back to reality. While this was going on however, I and Lena jumped in the car and headed 430km south to Todtnau for my final race of the 2012 European Season.

The town of todtnau that played host to the last race of the year.

We arrived in Todtnau the day before everything kicked off and the following morning headed over to registration which was all handled in due process and off up the hill we went for track walk. As this was Lena’s first ever Downhill race she had no idea what to expect but I think that what we found was definitely not it.  The track wasn’t overly challenging with a pretty basic top section followed by a long pedal around the side of the hill before you dropped into another small technical section which lead into the guts of the track.  The bottom section was by far the nicer to both look at and ride with the soil being just that perfect type of clay/loose mixture.  Also, while the top section was equivalent to what you would find on most all mountain tracks the bottom section was firmly a downhill track with fast section’s being interspersed with technical bits and even the odd rock garden throw in for good measure. Apart from the big pedal the track looked fun and I was keen to get on my bike again and get some riding in!

Ribbons of tape weaving their way through the forest.

Practice came round the first couple of runs down the track revealed that all was well and so I went about finding places to gain speed. The track however didn’t really have a lot of line choices and so it was more about just hitting the main line as fast as possible and trying to gain speed that way.  By the end of practice I felt fast and confident for the following day’s seeding run.

Beautiful weather for a walk in the woods.

The forecast of rain had been the talk of the first practice day and unfortunately for us it proved to be correct, from about 2 hours after practice had finished the clouds came in and things took a turn for the worse as the rain came bucketing down and the temperature dropped quite dramatically (like we were back in Norway!) and I went to sleep wondering how this was going to change things the following day, and whether the mud tires would come out to play.

View from town looking back towards the track.

After arriving at the track the following day and seeing how muddy all the riders were I was prepared for the worst however after talking to a few of my friends the conclusion seemed to be the same, the track was so wet that is was in fact grippy. This doesn’t often happen but on the odd occasion when there is the amount of rain that we had the mud doesn’t get to the gloopy stage but is rather just a very watery stage that clears well from your tires and means that you don’t have to worry about changing tires or anything. This left me a happy boy and off up the hill I went to see what it was all about.

True to what the other riders had been saying the track had indeed gotten to the “wet and grippy” stage and I was having so much fun riding in it that I probably did a couple too many run’s before my seeding run leaving me a little bit too tired but none the less excited for my run! Because Ixs races in Europe are so popular at some races you have upwards of 350 riders at each one which means that it takes a lot of time to get all the riders down the track. Generally in a seeding run the numbers count down from highest to lowest, based on your ranking before this race, as I was rocking the number 17 plate, as you can imagine this meant that I didn’t ride until late in the piece, this time at 6pm . Now I don’t quite know why we were riding so late in the day but we actually almost needed lights coming down the hill it was that dark!

Practice on qualifying day was a little bit muddy, raincoat and pants all round!

My run was pretty good, having a solid pedalling section at the top followed by a good first half of the technical section before a stupid mistake made my front wheel wash out in one of the corners and down I went. Up quickly I had a decent lower section and but the mistake had cost me 20 places and I finished in 30th position in the seeding run. Now while this was only the seeding run, crashing sucks, it just does,  and so that night I promised myself that no matter what happened the next day I would keep the bike upright!

Race was a sunny affair with the rain from the previous day moving north, or south, I don’t actually know where it went as my body’s compass had absolutely no idea where it was in these big mountains but it didn’t matter because all I cared about was that it was sunny and warm!

Giving it the beans in practice on Friday morning.

At IXS races the top 80 riders get some extra practice from the rest of the field so they don’t have to worry so much about catching up with the slower riders, this normally happens at the end of the practice session and so I arrived at 10.30am with 2 and a half hours of pro practice to go which should have been plenty of time to do 2 runs and then have a relaxing lunch before heading up to do my race run. However unfortunately for myself and a number of other pro riders a big crash just before regular practice finished was going to become a serious factor in our preparations. Normally when there is a crash you have to wait about 30 minutes or so before it all get cleared up and you are underway again, however this crash was particularly bad meaning that a helicopter had to be flown in from Switzerland which meant that things were going to take a bit longer. No worries, we’ll just wait and do a run or two at the end once everything had been sorted out, however as time dragged on we realised that the likelihood of us getting up the mountain was looking slimmer and slimmer. Come 12.30 (practice was due to be finished at 1pm) the organizers made the decision to have a talk to the UCI commissarie about extending practice so we could actually get a run in but as it turned out (after a little bit of information digging, not the “official reason”) he couldn’t extend practice because he wanted to leave early and catch an earlier flight home….

As a foreigner, the commentator was very keen to get an interview at every chance he could, this one was post seeding run. Locking it down for NZ.

So, practice came and went without most of the top 80 riders getting a single run in, this was definitely not ideal and a number of us made our voices heard on the matter but all to no avail meaning that most of the elite field was going to race on a changing track with no prior knowledge of the track conditions, line changes, ruts that had formed, rocks that had come loose, corners that were blown out or anything making it actually quite dangerous for riders as our first run would be completely blind and at 100% effort.

Ohwell not to cry over spilt milk I set about preparing as best I could by going over the course in my head and trying to pick out certain sections that I thought could be more blown out than others or more susceptible to changes and then jumped on the slowest chairlift in the whole of Europe and headed up for my first ever blind race run.

Pic from seeding run, things were still going good at this stage!

Sitting at the top about to drop in to the track completely blind at 100% effort was a weird feeling and one that I wasn’t completely comfortable with, however keen to make the best of things I wandered down the hill just a little to get a gauge to see just how much the track had dried up in the Autumn sun. The answer was an inconclusive one, while some bits looked very dry, others still had a little bit of surface water left on them making for speed judgement quite hard because you don’t know whether the roots will grip your tires or just slide on them. I went into the start gate pretty nervous but also excited as this was a situation I had not yet experienced and was keen to make the best of things.

5 beeps later and I was off! Pedalling out of the start hut and off down the track. For some reason I’m not sure why but I have always struggled in the first 30 seconds of a race track, I don’t know why but it is my nemesis and today was unfortunately no different with two big mistakes coming in the first 250 metres, the first one having both my feet unclipping from the pedals and the second one almost having me off the bike and this put me well down at the first split in 30th position.  As I carried on down I started to get into my rhythm until I was trying to hop over a root and my foot unclipped which resulted in an impromptu 1 footer leaving me all sorts of out of control coming into the next section and having to slow right down to regain composure, between all f these mistakes I would say that I lost about 6 seconds which at this level is just something that you cannot afford to do. The lower section of the course was pretty good but it was all too little too late. That said I still managed to make up 10 places from start to finish leaving me in 20th position on the day. This is a result that I really should have been pleased with but I can’t lie I was just so annoyed with myself at continuously making these stupid little mistakes (Val D’Isere and Norway were two other location that were similar situations)  that I couldn’t help but once again think about what could have been.

Picture from mid-race run. Going hard!

Oh well no time for reminiscing as this was the final race of the year for a lot of the overseas pro’s there were some goodbyes to be said and emails to be exchanged to keep in contact before Lena and I headed back to Munich for 3 ½ weeks of rest and relaxing before I am due to head back to NZ to see the family and friends for a couple weeks before starting work back in Australia leading up to Christmas.  Ciao!


World Cup finals – Hafjell, Norway

Norway….Who would have thought that I would be able to say that I have ridden my bike in the land of the Vikings, yet as I stood at the top of the Rollercoaster trail in the Hafjell bike park it seems as though this was going to be the case and over the following 4 ½ minutes of manicured bliss I couldn’t help but feel incredibly lucky to be in such an amazing place riding my bike…..then I hit a tree.

Perfect trails in Hafjell.
Need I say more?

Taking things back a notch or two, I’ll start with the trip up to the frozen north. After the world champs we went back to Thüringen, Germany for 2 days to recuperate with our friends the Herold’s and to do some much needed washing and fixing of the bikes.  Once goodbyes were said we began the 2000km trip up north.  Normally most people would take the long, overnight ferry from Kiel (Germany) to Oslo (Norway), but because we were on a budget we decided to only take a small ferry and drive the remaining 1800km or so.  This route would take us through Finland, Denmark, Sweden and then into Norway. A big job to say the least!

Stoked to be in my new hoodie! didn’t realize how cold things were going to be up there.

It was only once we arrived in Rostock (Germany) that we realised that the faithful Tomtom GPS unit had taken us on the shortest route, which, while not quite the route we had in mind, turned out perfect as the One hour Forty five minute ferry left us in Gedser (Denmark) with a short and easy drive up and into Sweden where we camped for the night in a McDonalds car park.  The following day was spent covering the remaining 900 or so Kilometres with us arriving in Hafjell at about 7pm or so and setting up camp in the parking lot for the Bike park which was amazingly camper friendly with free Toilets, Showers, Wi-Fi, Camping spots and Electricity. Definitely the best set up resort we have been to so far, good job fellas!

This fella looked after us all weekend. They love their trolls up here.
There’s Interesting looking machinery lying around up there!

Getting to the resort on the Friday week before the race turned out to be a highly awesome idea as it meant we got to sample the other tracks in the bikepark aside from the World Cup track which were all amazingly fun to ride however with the race approaching we did do a few sneaky runs on the world cup track to better our chances.  The track was an interesting one, some big jumps right out of the start gate left you with smiles for miles before dropping into the first tree section and the pinball machine began.  I think when the trail builders were sorting the track out they must have been playing computer games or something because the speed that you carried into the trees was like something out of Need for Speed.  Indeed as the track carried on down the high speed became a recurring feature with big berms and several jumps, all in all it seemed like a nice fun track, and then we hit the “Rock Jungle”. Now I’m not sure who came up with the term, “Rock Jungle” but it was actually quite fitting as at first glance there was seemingly no way through the endless jagged rocks and off camber roots.  It took about 20 minutes of solid looking just to even find a semi-usable line through and even then it wasn’t the easiest line with numerous rocks looking to jump out and grab your front wheel/forks and send you over the bars and onto a nasty mattress. The rest of the track was more of the same, fast and open with technical sections that would prove to be the difference for many riders come race time.

A nice view out of the startgate! booters as far as the eye can see.
More perfect berms.

We rode the park for 2 days and in that time we realised a couple of things, 1 Norwegians build awesomely sick jumps and 2; It is BLOODY cold in Norway. Sleeping across the front seats of the car in -5 degrees is not something that I would recommend!  On our travels around the park we bumped into several  friends of ours and one of them, Sven Martin even took some time to take a couple of pics of us that got featured on mountain bike website www.vitalmtb.com . pretty cool to get some images up in the public eye so thanks to Sven for that!

Getting sideways for Dodzy =), R.I.P my friend. Photo by Sven Martin.
The master at work, Sven is the number one photographer on the world cup circut so to take some photo with him was an awesome experience.

On the last day before the whole event kicked off (Tuesday) we decided to go and check out the nearby town of Lillehammer, as it turns out Lillehammer held the Winter Olympics back in ’94 and one of the coolest things about that is that they held a ski-jumping contest.  On our travel’s we have seen many of these  massive structures but we had never had the opportunity to get a proper look at one up close and as there was no cost to go and have a look at this one that is exactly what we did. 954 steps later and I was standing at the top of the most imposing take off I have ever seen, how these dudes go off it is ridiculous, like honestly, it is crazy. If you were to jump off one, to make any kind of downside (landing) you have to jump at least 70 meters and to make it nicely you would have to jump 90 meters, but the jumpers must go a lot further than that because the markers don’t stop reading until 150 metres, really making you wonder what happened to them to make them want to jump off these things, I was awestruck and it is something that will stay with me for a long time.

Even from the bottom this thing looks crazy!
954 steps to the top…ohwell you gotta start somewhere!
3…2…1 Sending!!!
Found this dude in Lillehammer, he was Hippy’s hero!

Booking into our accommodation a night early, we set about making ourselves at home. I should mention here that everything is Norway is ridiculously expensive. Like 8 Dollars New Zealand for one can of beer from the supermarket, let alone at the pub! So bacon and eggs was the main diet for the following days…It’s got protein right =P.

Getting the technique right for the big ramp!

Registration was handled the following day with ease and it was off to walk a track that we had already ridden. This was a weird feeling but it was good as it gave us another chance to see lines whilst having an idea of the speed that you would have coming into the section. This is actually very helpful because in some sections it can be hard to tell how much speed you will have and therefore what lines you will (or wont) be able to take come race time so to have this prior knowledge was an advantage that we were keen to exploit.

The “Rock Jungle” things got pretty hairy in here despite the photo making it look flat!

Home for dinner and then off to bed ready for practice the next day. We awoke to another cloudy day and staying warm was going to be the key,  with nothing really warm in my possession I put on 4 t-shirts, my race shirt and then off I went.  With the practice from the previous day’s I found it was pretty easy to get up to speed quickly and set about solidifying my lines on the quickening track. I had just stopped to check the entry into one of my lines in the bottom rock garden when I made a complete Joe of myself and am still paying for it now.  After finishing looking at my line I got back on my bike to keep going and clipped back into my pedals before I had enough speed, this proved to be disastrous as 3 metres later my front wheel went out from under me and, unable to unclip I fell over on my hip straight onto one of the millions of sharp rocks on the side of the track. Straight away I knew that it was sore and the next 20 minutes were spent on the side of the track in more pain than I have been in for a while! I got back up and cruised back down to the pits feeling very sorry for myself but as nothing apart from my pride was dented I headed back up the hill and continued my campaign finishing practice day feeling sore but pretty confident in the speed that I had and looking forward to qualifying the next day.

Me and Carl, the all terrain shopping cart.

Overnight rain made the track on qualifying day mighty slippery and on went the intermediate tires. Tire choice is honestly the downhiller’s nightmare with a million different choices being available to riders. Normally with the amount of rain we had had I would put on mud tires but because the tire knobs are so tall on mud tires they tend to roll and fold and so are only good for trails where the dirt is soft and given the hardpack nature of the middle section and the amount of rocks littering the trail I decided to try intermediates because they would still have better grip than dry tires but wouldn’t be susceptible to folding in the faster berms. This was a good choice and these tires would stay on my bike for the rest of the weekend.  Morning practice went well and come qualifying time I was ridiculously amped to get up and do my run.  I went to the top where our travel companion/Mechanic /Player, Mike “The Hippy” Williamson (Sarah’s replacement) had his bike set up on a wind trainer for us to warm up on.  This was incredibly helpful and definitely something that will be repeated in the future leaving me feeling, to be honest, perfect for my run.

This jump wasn’t on the race track but I took it upon myself to do it anyway because it just looked like so much fun! the landing is where Richard is looking rather than on the side that’s facing me.
And my god was it fun! 35 feet or so of pure awesomeness! I want one in NZ!

Into the start hut and read…I was calm, collected and ready to get it done. Beep, Beep, Beep…and off I went. Pedal Pedal Pedal, SCRUB! Pedal Pedal Pedal, SCRUB! This was my mind on repeat for all of the first jumps, I’m not sure why but in timed runs things always seem to be going faster and I was feeling mighty fast coming into the first wood section, through and pedalling off into the second woods I was getting into the run and feeling good when all of a sudden disaster struck.  I still have no idea how this happened but about 40 seconds into my run my chain just decided that it was like two identical magnetic poles and completely split apart….this was not ideal., completely messing with my game plan I was faced with a choice, play it safe and hope that I had the speed to qualify without pedalling or give it death and hope that will be enough to get me in. Based on my previous world cup experience’s and the fact that I had no idea how fast I was going I decided that I should probably give it death to up the chances of getting in. This, may have been a bad choice because unbeknownst to me I had gone through the first split in 50th place despite not having a chain for half of that. Pinning it into the rock jungle however I was feeling good and that qualifying was well within my grasp when a rouge root caught my front wheel and next thing I know I am on the ground thinking “oh dear” . Back up and on the bike I kept going, having a pretty solid lower section despite not being able to pedal to cross the line in 64th position. Now I had a very nervous wait while another 80 riders came down the hill and attempted to push me out of the top 80 and out of the race.  I’m not going to lie I did hope that I would be able to hold on but unfortunately, while it did take a long time to happen,  it was a bit of an eventuality as such and I finished up in 88th position, less than a second off qualifying.

Getting ready for the run, if only I knew!

This was gutting, I am still gutted about it now, and the whole year my goal was to qualify and to have it firmly within my grasp only to slip away once again was incredibly infuriating.  To think that it was only because I had not one but two bits of bad luck is the most annoying aspect. Like if I had crashed but my chain hadn’t broken or if my chain had broken but I hadn’t crashed then I would have qualified, but because they BOTH happened in one run that I didn’t qualify is hard to take but hey that’s the way the cookie crumbles and I will be back next year to finish where I left off!

yes there is grass on the roof’s in Norway. Ye those are people MOWING the roofs….saftey gumboots only of course!

After the race was run and won the following day we set about getting ready for the long drive back down the continent and towards the end of our trip, luckily for me however, after Richard and Mike left I still had one more race left in Todtnau, Germany and was keen to make the most of it before things shut down for the season, look out for that report soon!