The last time I had the fortune to come to the Black forest town of Totdnau in Southern Germany, it was for the final race of my first ever European season in 2012 and it’s fair to say that things didn’t go down overly smoothly, operating out of a 3 door car in the rain with no tent meant for a pretty sodden weekend. This coupled with the fact that my cardboard back protector didn’t really cut the mustard with the officials meant I had a hell of a time even getting to the start line, however the track had been fun and I knew that I could do well there given the chance, so this time around it was time to make business happen!
Course walk took place under the summer sun that I had been both looking forward to and dreading so much. If any of you don’t know, I have the skin tone of a ghost who hasn’t been out of the cupboard for a while, so while I love being in the warm I more often than not end up sunburnt…ah the joys of continuous summer, bring on skin cancer… Anyway, the track, much improved from 2012 I liked it from the outset, fast and rough, some pedalling and a fair few line choices I knew that this would suit my style and couldn’t wait to get my tires in the dirt!
After the flat tire disappointments of Schladming and fort William I was trialling a new system this weekend to keep the air on the inside of my tires, unfortunately due to my inexperience it took a little while to get everything set up which meant that I only managed to get two runs in on the Friday. That being said they were both good runs and the lines I had looked at in track walk were working well which gave me confidence for qualifying the next day.
Qualifying day started out great, I got four runs in during practice and was getting up to speed well, riding confidently, I could feel the off season training paying off and was really excited for qualifying later that day. I should point out here that with this race being the German national champs/IXS Cup there was no top 30 “Super Final” nonsense and everybody who started a seeding run had the chance to race for the same prize come Sunday afternoon. But before that, and more importantly, we were once again going to be at the mercy of the afternoon thunderstorms that were forecast. Watching the clouds roll in, I hoped for the best but when I jumped onto the chairlift in what I thought was a gap in the rain bursts the clouds rolled in and I arrived at top sodden and cold, lovely.
Not letting this get me down and knowing that the forecast for the next day was for hot sun, I was sat in the start gate as the first Elite male down the hill after a race entry mix up. Happily the rain had abated by this point but I knew that the track was going to be ultra slippery. This turned out to be spot on, sliding all over the place; I managed to keep myself on track and came down with a good time of 3.53. After this, the sun popped back out and promptly went about drying out the track but my time held up quite well and I finished in 7th knowing that on the dry track the next day I had plenty of time to gain.
Thankfully the weather forecast held true and the sun greeted me as I turned up to the track, wasting no time in getting up the hill, sneaking in two good runs before just missing out on a third. However I still managed to get up the lift so I took the chance to cruise down beside the track and look at how it was drying out and how hard I could push without sacrificing grip. With everything looking bone dry again it was all systems go and I couldn’t wait to get racing.
Sitting in the start hut I felt really confident, I knew where I was going and how fast I could go. When the beeps started I wasted no time in getting out and off down the hill. The run itself was a bit of a blur, I remember getting super sketchy a couple of times but I was carrying enough speed that my tires found grip and kept me going. One thing that does stick out in my memory from my run was about halfway down when I somehow managed to pop my top brace off my teeth, not quite sure how I managed that but it came as a hell of a surprise mid run! Getting myself back in order, I knew the run was going well and after clearing the final corner I put in a big sprint for the finish line to be rewarded with a time of 3.33.47, 20 seconds up on my qualifying run and putting me into First place by 1.3 seconds. I was pumped, that was a really good run and I felt confident I could jump up into the top 5 on the day.
Watching the other riders come down when you are sitting in the hot seat is such a nerve wracking time and this day was no different, as rider after rider came down and failed to go faster I found myself looking at a top 5 and then a top 3 finish. When the top qualifier Johannes Fischbach came into view it was still a pretty close though by the time he crossed the line he had just edged me into 2nd place by just .6 of a second. Nonetheless I am super happy with the result; to get second place at any National Championships is super hard as everybody goes just that little bit harder. Also the first podium of the season and to be so close to the win is a great feeling; it is so nice to finally get a reward for all the hard work that gets put in during the off season!
Now it’s time to take the confidence from this race and head into the next world cup in Lenzerheide this weekend ready to go and looking to improve on the 60th from Leogang a couple of weeks ago, see you all there!