In the lull between Crankworx and the next round of the World Cup in Andorra, I had 2 weeks or so during which there wasn’t a lot going on though I had heard of an invitational race in Innsbruck, Austria that was to be held the weekend before Andorra. Called the Nordkette Pro, this particular race was more of an enduro downhill with times being around 10 minutes, I thought it sounded like a bit of fun and so after a few emails back and forth between myself and the race organizers I found myself on a 10 hour train trip from Geneva to Innsbruck for the race.
Arriving to cold temperatures and heavy rain wasn’t exactly what I had signed up for but after talking to Kiwi’s George Brannigan and Wyn Masters who said that the more it rained the better it would make the track I wasn’t so worried. Off to bed early and I woke up to sunshine and a bus ride to the track, getting on the bus was actually a pretty cool way to see just a small part of a really cool city but before too long I was at the bottom of a fairly imposing mountain with a big ol’ trip up a cable car to the top.
With practice running form 9am-5pm we had a lot of time to get runs in, but when the track is 10 minutes long you need a few run to at least try and remember the most difficult parts of the track. Unfortunately though this turned out to be quite a lot of the track, with the incredibly loose gravel and awkward tight corners making for a interesting challenge, I can’t really describe the entire track in any other way than awkward and loose. A challenge it certainly was but I’m not sure it was a race track and I focused on riding smooth and relaxed so as to not take a closer look at any of the rocks/tree stumps that were just all over the place.
6 runs, a couple of crashes and a set of brake pads later, I felt like I had some sort of Idea where I was going and felt as comfortable as I could have done on the surface of the track. It had dried out a lot during the heat of the day and was even more slippery than at the start of practice leaving me feeling that to do well the next day was going to require just a little bit of luck and a smooth and composed run, something that isn’t all that easy to achieve when you are under the pressure of the clock.
Waking up nice and early to get on the bus we cruised up for one practice run in our allotted 1 1/2 hours which was ample given that not much had changed from the day before and conserving energy was going to be the main aim of the day. I had an average practice run but knew that I would be alright for the race and it was just a case of familiarizing myself with the sketchiness of the track.
At 1.10 pm I got in the gondola for my final run, and at 1.59 pm I left the start hut for my longest ever downhill race. Attacking the course at the start, I found this to be a terrible idea and blew out several corners. Relaxing a bit, I started riding smoother and more in control and while I still felt like I was going snail’s pace, at least it was a consistent and relatively smooth speed. This worked well for about 5 1/2 minuted before things went off the rails, coming into one of the right handers where there was too many bushes to see around it properly, I felt the front end start to wash out on the gravel and tried to correct for this but I had no luck and before I knew it I was on the ground and scrabbling for my bike, up and on again I forced myself not too rush to make up the time I had just lost because I knew that would only end in more crashes.
The lower half of the course was certainly more rider friendly than the top half, and as I progressed down the mountain I found myself picking up speed again and was feeling confident coming into the last woods. However it was not over as I soon found out, turning just a fraction too late, hitting a tree stump and then off the bike and on the ground again. Up and going once more and from here on it was just pin it to the bottom. No more mishaps and I crossed the line in a time of 10.18.69. Not too bad for my first time out with two crashes but given the two crashes were such silly little mistakes, I was a little bit annoyed to have not put in a clean run. Once it was all run and done though, I finished 6th, 14.5 seconds off the win with two crashes. But such is racing and congratulations to the local racer who managed to keep it upright to take the win. I am just happy that I made it through the race with both my bike and body intact and ready for the next round of the World Cup starting on Wednesday in Andorra, see you then!