Val Di Sole World Cup 2015

 

For the final World Cup race of the season we headed back to Val Di Sole, Italy to take on the roughest and toughest track we will ride this year. Having raced on the new track here last year for the IXS cup, I had a fair idea where the track was going  was hoping that this previous experience would help me get up to World Cup pace easier.

Fortunately track walk showed a pretty similar line to what I was expecting with fast and rough being the main characteristics.  Val Di Sole is well-known for having copious amounts of line choice which can mess with your focus and makes it all the more important to keep your head together and not get too distracted by what other people are doing and concentrate on your own riding. Unfortunately the Valley of the sun didn’t really live up to its nickname and just as we finished track walk the heavens opened and a good drenching of rain followed. After this the mood in the pits was a lot more apprehensive as this track is difficult enough to ride in the dry let alone after a mountain downpour.

Fortunately after this initial soaking the weather forecast was wrong and we woke to blue skies and calm weather for practice day, this left a lot of relieved faces around the pits, mine included.  first impressions during practice were that the track was even rougher and faster than I expected and between this and the rain we had had added that little bit extra to keep you on your toes , all in all it was great fun and I couldn’t get enough! However just as I started getting into the swing of things I had a serious setback when I had a big crash in which I landed straight on my hip that I had hurt the weekend before in Spicak. This was a major blow both physically and mentally, having nursed my hip all week it was just starting to feel normal again and then to land on it once more and be left feeling crippled was just so frustrating. That crash was the only one of the day and to land straight onto my hip was not even a surprise. I really felt like this moment summed my season up perfectly, so close yet so far and with nothing I could do about it except keep trying.

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Dropping into the gnar. Pic thanks to Patrick Sanow

After this I kept riding but I could instantly tell l that I was riding really stiff and all the flow I had found on the first couple of runs was long gone. That said I tried to make the best of things and by the end of practice I felt like I still had enough pace to sneak into  the top 80 the next day and so headed home to get a good night’s rest and have a good go at it the next day.

Waking up on qualifying morning was a sore affair however popping some strong painkillers made a world of difference and I headed up the track to check out the situation. Things weren’t much different from the day before; the track builders had done a good job of moving some of the more dangerous rocks and tree stumps and the lines were more established after the group B riders had gone down again.  I did 3 runs and with the painkillers onboard I felt reasonable but still very stiff and knew that it was going to be tough to make it into the finals.  I did 3 runs and then headed down to get some lunch before things kicked off at 2.48pm.

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Pic thanks to Patrick Sanow

Val Di Sole is such a rough track that holding on for an entire run is an effort in itself, let alone trying to do it at race pace. I pedaled out of the gate determined to do my best to make it to finals the next day.  However it was not to be as unbelievably, a minute or so into my run, my kneepad decided that it didn’t want to be attached to my knee anymore and slipped down and ended up by my shoe. Now this normally wouldn’t too bad, except that it was my rear foot and so it was right by my rear wheel, this meant that as I was riding down I could hear it bouncing in and out of my wheel.  Not really wanting to have my wheel jam up because of this I rode a bit more cautiously and between this and my hip still giving me grief I ended up riding way off the pace I should have been going.

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Pic thanks to Raffi DieWaldfee

Unfortunately this meant that I missed qualifying by some margin which is so ridiculously frustrating given how my season has panned out so far. For yet another thing to happen that was outside my control (these pads are awesome and they have NEVER fallen down before) it was a serious kick in the teeth.  From here I am just looking forward to having two fun/clean races in Germany and Austria before I head home for a much-needed rest.

 

So stick with me to see what other adventures I can get up to in two weeks at Illmenau,  Germany for the final round of the German cup.

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Spicak IXS Cup 2015

Hi again!

So after a mid season intermission the second half of the season kicked off last weekend in Spicak, Czech Republic for the 4th round of the IXS European Cup.  As with previous years, the Czech Republic is a rider favourite, with cheap food and accommodation as well as the ability to buy interesting things such as Tasers, fireworks and BB guns from the local flea market stores keeping the pit area an entertaining and dangerous place to be.  After the disappointments of Lenzerheide and Les Deux Alpes I was keen for the second half of the season to start off in the right direction and finish 2015 strongly.

Having spent a day riding and filming the bike park on the Monday before the race, I knew the conditions and had some practice on the downhill track before the course markers closed the track off for race preparations. Track walk showed that not much had changed from the fast, rough and dusty track that we had ridden and I was looking forward to getting up and into it during practice.  The runs we had done on Monday proved their worth and I found it easy to pick up the pace and was feeling really good by the end of practice not trying to override the track and focusing on riding smooth.

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Practice runs in the sun on the Monday before the race. Thanks to Patrick Sanow for the pic

Spicak has proved a tough track for me in the past with flat tires in both my qualifying and race runs last year I was keen to keep the air in my tires this time which, given my track record this year, was anyone’s guess but since the last race I had found a good set up which I was confident would mean that I would be able to at least finish a run this year! I had three solid runs in the morning of qualifying and was feeling confident to be able to put down a top 10 time in the afternoon. Despite my bad luck in the past, Spicak is a track that I enjoy riding, the technical and physical aspects of the track suit my riding style and I couldn’t wait to get up the hill for my run.

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Things sure are rough in Spicak! photo from IXS

At the “nearly dinner time” start of 5.15pm I left the start gate ready to rip into the track… at first I didn’t even realise the big cracking noise that came from my bike until I hit the first jump when all of a sudden my left foot was off on its own little adventure a long way away from the rest of myself and my bike. Thinking my cleat was loose in my shoe I tried to clip back into my pedals but promptly kicked the ground and realised that my pedal had come off its axle and was now attached to the bottom of my shoe.  At this point I had 3 options, Option one, pin it anyway to try and make the super final, risk crashing and putting the rather sharp pedal axle into the side of my calf muscle.  Option two, take it easy to not risk the aforementioned impalement or Option three, a mixture of both. I ended up going for 80% of option 3 with a little bit of extra Option 1 thrown in for good measure. This resulted in a terrifying ride with my foot sitting waaay forward on the pedal as I had to have the pedal which was attached to my shoe in front of the pedal axle.

Scarcely believing this was happening to me I pushed on and finished in 41st place.   I was gutted, I had checked my bike over before I went up the hill and on further inspection, everything in the pedal was still intact, even the nut that holds the pedal body onto the axle is still attached to the axle so who knows what happened there….

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The offending pedal
Once again finding myself out of Sunday’s Super Final. I was determined to have a good run to prove what a stupid system this Super Final business is and at least compare my time to the other guys. This was all going to plan till 30 meters into my first practice run of the day. I still don’t know what happened but I remember being on the ground in all kinds of pain with Patrick, our filmer, running over to me asking if I was ok. I took 10 minutes to gather myself but my head was just a blur of static.  I rode down very slowly but even then I couldn’t concentrate and went back to the pits to chill out for a bit.

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Rocks, rocks and more rocks! Picture thanks to Raffi DieWaldfee

After an hour or so I figured I was good enough to go up and see if I could ride and the resulting run was ok, not great, I wasn’t concentrating very well but I managed to get down the hill, wash my bike and cruise back to the tent…. and then to top everything off it started raining. By this point I was severely over the weekend. My right side was killing me and I had to go and check my start time 8 times before I could actually remember when it was. I decided that if it stopped raining in time for my run I would race but if I had to sit on the slow chairlift for 20 minutes in the rain I would give it a miss.

Luckily the rain cleared up by the time I was due on the chairlift so I headed up to the top to see if I could put a run together… unfortunately this turned out to be a no as I was seriously struggling with my concentration and my right side was in serious pain resulting in an off-track excursion halfway down the hill…from here I knew it was game over so just made sure that I didn’t do any more damage to myself on the way down and cruised home to 9th in the small final.

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Luckily the rain didn’t get to the gnarliest rock garden, it was rough enough as it was. Thanks to Raffi DieWaldfee for the picture.

At this stage in the season with the incredible amount of bad luck I seem to have had there is nothing I can do but laugh and move onto the next one….I mean hey at least my tires stayed up this time.

See you all in Val Di Sole, Italy next weekend for the World Cup Finals!