The end of the season always comes around faster than you expect it. I was talking about it with Harry the other day, when I come to Europe the first month always flys by. Plentiful races and a crazy travel schedule always seem to pass time at a crazy speed. The second month is a lot slower, the races generally taper off a little bit and because you aren’t so fresh off the boat you feel more used to the European way life.
The third month is always a bit different. By this stage the pie cravings are thermonuclear, you are sick of ham and cheese, you forgot just how hot it was here and that you can still get sunburnt. Your savings are haemorrhaging and you’re not feeling quite as fit as you were when you left New Zealand.
However the third month also means that the racing tends to kick up a notch once more. This year it also meant that last World Cup of the season, Val di Sole, was upon us. Traditionally known as the hardest track on the World Cup circuit, it is a destroyer of bikes and bodies from the highest order. I have to be honest I have struggled at Val di Sole, but if there was ever a race to turn a hard season around why not make it happen on a track you have struggled on and kick that in the teeth aswell.
Complicating matters was the fact that for Val di Sole I was going to be in B group practice as I hadn’t accumulated many World Ranking points this year. This meant early morning practices before the track had really started to ride in and having to relearn the track once the group A riders had their practice and the lines change, the 5 hour wait between practice and racing also isn’t great and it’s hard to stay focused.
Practice started well for me, I focused on picking lines that I thought would hold up the whole weekend and allow me to miss as many holes as possible. I felt strong and having changed a few things in my set-up I was riding confidently and with good speed. I headed up the track after my practice had finished to watch the A group riders and the timed training and felt even better having watched the other riders seemingly struggle in sections I felt like I was riding well. I ended up changing a couple of lines that had blown through but for the vast majority of the track things were looking good!
Qualifying was another hot and dusty affair and after 3 good runs in morning practice, the reality of B practice set in. I had 5+ hours to wait before my qualifying run and there was still nearly 2 hours of A group practice to go with 100 riders on track. When it was eventually time for my run, I knew that the track would have changed but at the same time to just focus on keeping things smooth like I had been doing all weekend and attacking the track with confidence.
The run itself went well, I felt smooth and composed the whole way down the hill, my arms started to fade a little at the bottom but I put in a good effort in the sprint and crossed the line in 38th position. My best ever qualification result and safely through the big show, needless to say I was ecstatic! It had seemed so simple and to have it pay off was such a good feeling! I was excited for race day, not only because I was in the big show, but also because it meant I got to have a sleep in!
Race day was another gorgeous sunny day. I enjoyed the extra sleep and was feeling surprisingly fresh for the 3rd day in a row. Cruising down to the track, I was excited and ready to get up the hill! There was already a big crowd on track during practice making heaps of noise which was wicked and gave a cool atmosphere the whole way down. I hit my lines well and was amped to go and race my bike.
At the top of the hill I was sitting there warming up and I couldn’t wait to get into the run! Sitting in the start hut wasn’t much different and I had to focus on relaxing, not from nerves, but just from wanting to get stuck in. I pedalled out of the start gate into my final racing run of Europe 2017 and felt good straight away, I knew what to do, where to brake and where to let off, which corners to hit hard and which ones to ride smooth. I made sure to keep my arms relaxed and looking as far ahead as I could to give myself plenty of time to adjust. I was hitting my lines well and nice and relaxed, not focusing on going faster, just riding well.
I felt like I was on a good time coming out of the last corner and gave it everything on the last sprint to the line. I crossed the line in 2nd place meaning that the worst result I could have gotten was 39th! My previous best World Cup result was 48th so things were looking good. I took my place on the 2nd step of the hotseat and set about waiting to see where I would end up.
As rider after rider came down and finished behind me, I couldn’t help but get more and more excited…one moment I was guaranteed a top 40 result, then a top 35, then a top 30. Before long there was a break in the racing while we waited for the TV coverage to start and would you know it, I was still sitting there in 2nd place!!! Stoked to be on the TV, I couldn’t quite believe what was happening…
I got bumped off the hot seat about 5 riders into the TV coverage but I was sitting pretty for a top 25 result! Then I slowly started creeping towards top 20 and before I knew it the last rider crossed the line and there I was….sitting in 20th place!
Excited….probably the biggest understatement of the year for me! It entirely hammered home the saying of never give up, just keep going because you never know what might happen next time! It was such an incredible feeling and one that for sure will be repeated next year. A great way to finish the season on a high note and with the knowledge that what I am doing is working! I can’t wait for the 2018 World Cup season!
Now, while this is the last blog of my 2017 European adventures, it does not signal the end of Racingformydinner this year…there are some things in the works, so keep an eye out for those soon and thank you to everybody who has read the blogs this year! You’re all awesome!
If there is one name that is synonymous with downhill racing then Mont Saint Anne in Quebec, Canada would be the one. Having been a part of the World Cup schedule every year since 1991 it is a venue steeped in the history of the sport and with one of the best tracks on the circuit it is a rider favourite.
2017 would be my second year in Quebec, having qualified and raced to 49th in 2016 I was excited to try and break into the top 40 and get things back on track for the end of the season. After picking up our massively oversized truck for the 10 days we were there in Montreal, we set about cruising up to the Mountain to set up nice and early for the event.
After a good few days acclimatising to the time difference and the high temperatures it was time for action. Track-walk greeted us with a long and rough old beast, with the rocks more prominent than ever it was claimed that 2017 was the roughest year yet. Between the rocks and the high speed sections it was going to be a crazy track just to ride, let alone race!
I had a great time during practice; I felt good on the dusty track, finding some good lines and enjoying the jumps. The strengths of the track suited my style and I was beginning to feel like I was riding properly again. This was immensely comforting given how the season had felt so far and I was excited for qualifying.
Qualifying day rolled around with a hiss and a roar, but with thunderstorms in the forecast, everybody’s eyes were trained to the sky. I wasn’t too worried either way, I felt good enough on track that I would be able to deal with a slippery course.
With the rain holding off I rolled out of the start gate and into the run. I felt that on a long course like Mont Saint Anne it was important to get into a rhythm early and focus on holding your speed the whole way down the mountain. I hit the first few corners fast, felt good and smashed on through the first split in 28th position! However after this, just like in Spicak, things went a bit pear shaped. I hit a couple of corners off balance and completely stalled out. From here I tensed up again, feeling the pressure and starting to ride tight. This type of riding is a death sentence at Mont Saint Anne and I knew it but in the heat of the moment I froze up and bumbled my way through the next split. From here down I did manage to relax a little but the damage had been done and I was feeling the effects of riding so cagey. I crossed the line just inside the qualifying time but then got pushed out by the remaining riders to finish in 83rd place. To say I was fuming with myself would be the understatement of the year, what had happened is what I trained for 6 months of the year to avoid. To go from being in a top 30 position to not qualifying in the space of a run hurt bad, real bad.
Watching the race the next day added to the punishment and will simply not be acceptable in Val Di Sole in 3 weeks time, I know the speed to be a top 30 rider is there so watch this space!!!!
I am currently typing this sitting on the plane back to the UK, we have another Street Velodrome race this week in London which will be awesome to attend and then an IXS cup on the weekend in Germany so redemption won’t have to wait too long!
Hello and welcome to Blog number 3 for this year, normal programming has resumed and from now on the blogs will be about one race rather than 4!
After the chaos of the start of the season it was a nice break to spend some time Italy without having to pack and unpack the van every day. While we have the best van ever (Tony the Transit), we also have a LOT of stuff, and so packing things in and out every day is a Tetris players wet dream as well as quite time consuming.
After 10 days of living the Italian lifestyle it was time to put everything back in Tony and get underway to Spicak, Czech Republic for the 4th round of the European cup. A 5 hour drive had us over the border into the Wild West and ready to go! I have always liked Spicak both as a place and a race-track but have struggled with issues with flat tires, concussions and crashes so I was keen to get the monkey off my back.
A course with plenty of changes awaited us and it was nice to see that they were good changes aswell. Many a time organisers have changed race tracks in the hope that change is better only for it to be worse, luckily this was not the case in Spicak and I couldn’t wait to go ride!
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With Friday’s thunderstorms not eventuating, it was an awesome afternoon of riding bikes. I finally felt like I was taking steps in the right direction with my set-up and knew that I was riding well. The track was dusty, rough and running quite fast, Spicak has traditionally been a slow and awkward track and while some of the awkwardness remained, for the most part it flowed well and the new jumps were welcome additions!
Saturday’s practice went really well until I decided to have a bit of a dirt nap in my last practice run and stick my paw into a rock. Bruised up but not broken I went and got some of the miracle spray that soccer players always seem to use (N.B. it does nothing…bloody useless), took a couple of painkillers and headed up for qualifying.
Luckily Saturday’s forecasted thunderstorms also passed over and so qualifying got underway with deep dust and tight times. I wanted to put down a good run but also save a bit for Sunday’s finals, particularly with the aforementioned sore paw. Spicak isn’t a long track but it is quite physical, there is a lot of body language required to generate and maintain speed so not wasting energy is important. With this is mind I took off out of the start gate and got into the run. While it was not the best start I pulled things back in and rode reasonably well in the bottom section to cruise across the line in 9th. I had a few mixed emotions as I wanted to ride a bit cleaner than I had but at the same time my hand didn’t give me much trouble and it was nice to be back in the top 10. All things considered not a bad day out and I was excited to drop that number a few places for race day!
After holding off for 2 days, the rain came in overnight and left a very greasy track come Sunday morning. It didn’t take long for the dirt to get pulled onto the rocks and make things even slipperier, This didn’t bother me too much though, after a brief adjustment period and one face-meets-crash pad incident I got my head around things and was looking forward to the race run! Unfortunately for all the competitors, just as we were about to head up for our finals runs the clouds broke and one of the most intense 10 minute rain showers followed. All the hard work the sun had done in the 4 hours beforehand drying up the course was gone and we were back to a greasy slip-fest. The times instantly got much slower in the preceding classes. One consolation of this though was that at least everyone in the super-final had the same conditions…Game on!
I was really excited for this race, I wanted to put in a really good effort and get myself right up onto the podium. I knew I was riding fast enough and I knew how to ride in these conditions. This time my start was perfect, a really good first 45 seconds or so with strong pedals, good body position and hitting all my lines. I wanted to push on from here and really go hard, a rookie mistake where I should have just keep riding smooth and focused on where I could push rather than just trying to fast everywhere in the slippery conditions. I made one big mistake, and then another before the first split, undoing all the hard work of the start. I got rushed from here and lost my composure, riding tense and missing lines I made a mess of the last 2 corners which are super important for carrying speed onto the long finish straight and while I pedalled with everything I had I know I lost a bunch of time. I made up 6 places from the split time to the finish to cross the line in 15th place. Bitterly disappointed to throw away not only such a positive start to the run but also a fantastic weekend. I had felt in great form from the get-go and really wanted this race to kick start the last half of my season. I guess that can wait to Mt Saint Anne.
As I write this I’m back in England or a few days before we fly out to Canada for the Monte Saint Anne World Cup. I had a great time there last year and can’t wait to go back and get things cranking in the right direction, the foundations are there now and MSA is where they will all come together!
For this racing update, we have traveled over the pond to Quebec in Canada and Mt Sainte Anne for the 6th round of the World Cup series. Having never been to MSA before I was seriously excited, after spending the last 4 years racing I have been to most places multiple times so it is really nice to be able to go somewhere fresh and get excited about new things all over again!
Landing in Quebec, we hit a wee problem with our rental car, some fine-print in the contract that hadn’t been emailed through to us apparently prohibited us from hiring the car we had lined up so after a few phone calls we found ourselves at the helm of “Lil Sammy mover”…a 400 horsepower 6.2 litre V8 ute for 1/5th of the price that we would have paid at the airport….pays to shop around.
We packed Lil Sammy up and headed to the race. I was excited to see the track; I have always loved the look of the course in MSA, long rough and with plenty of options. Track walk revealed a line that lived up to my expectations and then some. Super rough, really long, no dirt and rocks everywhere meant that line choice was going to be key in being able to hold on for the whole track without your arms giving out.
As practice got underway I was taken aback by just how consistently fast this track was….from the minute you left the start till when you crossed the line it was brutal, sections coming at you so fast you have barely recovered from the last battering before being thrust into the next one. After a couple of runs to adjust myself I started to get all my ducks lined up and by end of day was feeling confident for qualifying the following afternoon.
I did 3 runs in the morning of qualifying and was looking forward to getting business done in the afternoon, a change in front tire to a more aggressive tread gave me a bit of extra confidence to push in the dusty turns and hold momentum where I had been cautious before. I had my suspension working spot on and I was excited to go and get the job done! The familiar beeps sent me on my way and into the war-zone I went. I hit the top section really cleanly which was a great way to clam my head and think clearly about my riding. I kept it smooth through the middle woods but as I neared the bottom my arms started to feel the effects of the track, coming through the main rock garden I very nearly threw it away and had to use all my strength to stop myself from going over the bars onto some of Quebec’s finest granite. Regathering and holding strong to the bottom I finished in 51st position and safely through to the main show.
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After the struggles of Lenzerheide it was nice to feel like I was riding well again at World Cup level and was looking forward to pushing hard the next day!
Race morning saw a damp track, some serious thunderstorms overnight had left the ferocious beast a wee bit damp which only added to the danger around every turn. Luckily the skies opened up to a bluebird day and with a rapidly drying track and two good practice runs under my belt I was ready to go!
As I headed up to the top I couldn’t wait to get onto the track, it looked amazing from the gondola and the crowds were making full noise!
Into the start hutt again and before I knew it the beeps were back and I was off and racing. I started a bit more nervous than qualifying and rode a bit cagey at the top but despite missing a couple of lines in the middle woods the adrenaline kicked in and helped keep me upright and on track. I held good pace through the open sections under the gondola before my arms started to feel the burn heading towards the main rock-garden. I backed off a bit through here which I was a bit disappointed about but I wanted to make sure I was in one piece at the bottom. The bottom section was quite clean except for one two wheeled drift down a slick rock face. Clearing the final rock garden I glimpsed the finish, gave it everything and crossed the line in 49th position.
49th place was a bit of a mixed bag for me. On one hand I was a bit disappointed in riding a bit cagey at the start and missing a couple of costly lines which put me on the back side of the 30th-50th place bubble. On the other hand however I know I can find that extra couple of seconds so it’s just a matter of piecing the run together, 49th is another good result, It bumps me up in the World Cup overall, I have qualified at every World Cup I have entered and consistently finished well and to top it all off I am still healthy and in one piece!
From here I’m headed over to Whistler for 3 weeks of riding around the Crankworx festival. I haven’t been to Whistler in 6 years and can’t wait to see how things have changed and get stuck into some jumps!
Rapid fire on the blogs this week! This time I am writing to you from Lenzerheide in Switzerland where we have just finished up round 5 of the World Cup series!
After Spicak last weekend, we spent a few days heading down through Austria to Switzerland via a stop at the KTM factory for a tour of their facilities and to send ourselves off a ski-jump in Leogang! This was an amazing experience and something that definitely needs to be revisited in the future with proper planning!
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Despite the increase in costs, Switzerland is a gorgeous place, stunning mountains and picturesque lakes make for an amazing place to ride your bike. This coupled with a full on race-track meant that it was going to be a good week!
Track walk revealed a line with minimal changes and given that I enjoyed last years track I was stoked on the similarities and was ready to keep my rise up rankings going.
First practice was a shake-up for me. Going into the day with a few pre-conceived ideas based on how last years track rode was a big mistake and despite enjoying the track/conditions I was struggling to really get up to pace. I took a step back to try and re-evaluate why this was but I couldn’t put my finger on it. This said by the end of the day I had a few good lines down and was confident that with a good nights rest I would be able to step things up for qualifying the next day.
Qualifying day brought with it the lifting of the weather curse that seems to be following us around this year. Finally things stayed dry and after some good practice runs in the morning I was confident that I wouldn’t have any troubles making it into the top 80. The run itself started a bit slowly but I built into things as I went down, crossing the 3rd split in 50th position, I was feeling good before things started to unravel a bit. Over braking into corners and a lapse in concentration meant I dropped back 22 places in 1 minute of riding to make it through to the big show in 72nd position. This shook me up a touch however I was determined not to let it get to me and went home to watch some helmet cams and find those lost seconds!
Race day was another sunny day and boy did it feel good to be putting sun-screen on instead of a raincoat!
Through watching my helmet cams the night before I had identified a few sections to have a look at and after stopping on my first run I headed up for my second run ready to put it all together. The 2nd practice run was a struggle, looking back on it now I think I was trying to do too much in one run and this caused my issues but after having a tough weekend I wanted to try and get everything sorted for my race! Despite this I actually felt quite confident before my run, after all, it was just another race run. I knew where I was going to be able to push and where I would do better to focus on riding smooth over maximum pace.
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Into the gate and the familiar beeps sent me on my way. I felt a little tight in the first corners but calmed down and felt like I rode the next section quite cleanly. A big mistake just before split 1 put me back off the pace I struggled to recover, the confidence just wasn’t there and I tightened up. I tried to force myself to loosen off a bit but this was hard to do mid-run and I couldn’t shake it. Crossing the line with a time that is slower than your qualifying time is never a good start and I was bitterly disappointed with the final result of 70th.
With 6 races in 6 weekends I do feel like I have been battling a bit of fatigue both physically and mentally and it will be nice to have the next 10 days to rest up and prepare for the 5th European Cup in Les Deux Alpes, France!
With no rest for the wicked after Les Gets we were straight off to Austria for an IXS Cup in Brandnertal, it’s always nice to go to a brand new track and I couldn’t wait to see what was in store!
After all the rain of the last 3 weeks I was looking forward to finally getting to ride some dry trails and when we arrived into Brandertal on Friday afternoon it looked like we were going to get just that. Beautiful blue skies and high temperatures meant that I finally had to use my sunscreen which was a welcome change however there was rain in the forecast so I made the most of the beautiful weather early on. Walking the course it looked amazing, technical and fast but not super steep; it was all about carrying your speed and hitting your lines precisely. A fast jump section towards the bottom meant fitness was going to come into play here also and I was amped before my tires had even hit the dirt!
Initial practice runs confirmed my thoughts on the track with the ability to hold speed being the number one priority. The roots that littered the track were still slick from the previous weeks’ rain which kept you on your toes the whole way down. I was really enjoying the style of track, with the technical sections being interspersed with a few sizeable jumps it meant you really had to focus on more than just one aspect of riding and make sure you were in the right gear to pedal into the features.
Qualifying day dawned sunny. But with some overnight rain the track was a different beast from practice the day before. The roots were suddenly a minefield and anything that had the slightest semblance of clay in it was icy. Thankfully the sun was intense and it wasn’t long before the track was in perfect condition for Qualifying.
Unfortunately my run was a shambles. I wanted to do well at this race so badly and seeding highly seemed like the best way to go about it. Naturally because of this I got over-aggressive and didn’t ride my usual style crashing 3 times and eventually rolling down the hill just to keep myself in one piece.
I was pretty gutted about this, I knew it was just qualifying but I wanted to set the tone for Sunday’s race. Anyway, I went home and studied my helmet cams of the sections that I was struggling with and made a plan of attack for Sunday.
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I should mention here that it was hammering it down overnight and when we awoke on Sunday things were not showing any sign of improvement…ohwell another wet one then….As I said I had my plan of attack and set about sorting myself out. This went well and by the time practice finished I knew where I was going and was ready to race.
Having seeded 51st due to my crashes, I knew that I was going to have to put down a stormer of a run to get close to my goal of a podium finish!
Starting with strong pedals out of the gate; I knew the first corner was an important one to get through nicely as it would set the tone for the rest of the run. I nailed it and from then on things went smoothly, I caught the rider in front of me in a good location to pass and he was nice enough to let me through. The only issue I had was trying to scrub one of the jumps a bit hard and coming up pretty short on it. Back on the pedals and over the line 11 seconds up on 2nd place, 3.17.8 was my time and I was caught in two minds. On one hand, I was bummed I had cased the jump on the motorway as it was so important to carry speed through the long section. On the other hand the technical sections went really well and I knew that conditions were treacherous given all the rain. I settled in for a nervous wait in the hot-seat.
As rider after rider came down all outside of my time I was edging closer to my goal of a podium finish…and then I was top 3…and then when the last rider crossed the finish line over 5 seconds down I knew I had done it! I had won the race…I was so, so happy. To put in so much work in the off-season, come over to Europe, ride really well and have all the hard work pay off is enormously gratifying and getting to stand on top of the podium is just the best feeling in the world!
From here we are heading east to the Czech Republic for another IXS cup in Spicak before returning to Switzerland for the Lenzerheide World Cup.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!