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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Swiss Bike Trophy

The Swiss Bike Trophy is one of the biggest races on the international calendar and always attracts the top riders in the world. The race is high on a hill overlooking the city of Bern and is a magnificent setting for an event. The public come out in huge numbers to support the race and the atmosphere is amazing. The main access to the race venue is via a cable car and every spectator that entered the car received a rattle, the combined noise of several thousand rattles and the usual Swiss bells certainly created a lot of hype. Commentators report back to the start finish are from several positions on the race track and organised bell ringers drum up support every time a rider comes past. It would have to be one of the most exciting races I have competed in. Even though I was racing flat out I really soaked up the support and enjoyed the experience, it was great being a part of such a high quality event.

Summer has really kicked in over here and the temperature on race day was very hot. The heat and a very hilly course made the racing conditions very tough. Despite some steep climbing it was a very fast race track and there wasn’t really anything too technical. But it was great for the spectators with the track looping around the hill with the start finish area on top. It meant they could easily get around to several vantage points without travelling to far. Race start was 1:45 right at the hottest part of the day and I certainly felt it. But this didn’t slow anyone down, the race was super fast for the first few laps. At one stage on the 3rd lap I ended up getting tangled with several riders after someone crashed on a tight switch back corner and blocked the track. With nowhere to go I piled straight into him and then got jammed up as several more riders came crashing in from behind. Luckily the bike and I escaped relatively unscathed. The feed zone was a highlight of each lap but the fresh bottle I received each time didn’t last very long and unfortunately didn’t do much to quench my thirst. I rode well through the 2nd half of the race and gained a lot of positions. I have learnt now that the racing over here is all about those first few laps only the really top riders appear to hold the same pace throughout, everyone else goes nuts at the start and then fades away by the end. I really have to work on my speed through the first half of the race if I can gain a few positions higher after each of the first few laps I would really start to get some very good results. At the finish I was 29th which I am reasonably happy with.

Next weekend I race another Racer bikes cup in Flims and then it’s a good couple of weeks off until the World Cup races at the end of July.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Racer Bikes Cup Engelberg.
Two wet muddy races in a row, anyone would think we were still back in the New Zealand winter and not summer here in Switzerland. Today’s race was one of the muddiest I have been in. Rain all week and freezing cold temperatures (it was snowing not far above the track) made for some extreme conditions on race day.

Engelberg is another very unique course, mainly because of its length. It’s only a bit over 3km and lap times were between 10 and 15 minutes and that was with plenty of mud to slow things down. The track is basically one big climb and then a descent back down to the bottom of the hill with a small section of flat before and after the start finish area. Because of the conditions we ended up racing 8 laps but we were scheduled to do 10.

I had a much better start position for this race lining up on the third row. I had my lucky number 13 on the bike so I was feeling pretty good and was keen to have a stronger result. Right away I felt a lot more comfortable. I lost places at the start of the climb but got most of them back by the top. The single track had been gravelled before the race so although it was wet it wasn’t too slippery, but the fun really started when we entered the grass section of the track below the famous Titlis Ski Jump. The thick mud made it pretty much a hold on and hope for the best situation. 3 chutes and if you made it to the bottom safely you were doing pretty well. It was absolute chaos the first lap with riders crashing all over the place. I got down alright breathed a sigh of relief and attempted to slog my way through the mud along the flat to the safety of the tarmac start finish area. After the first lap I decided it was faster just to get off and run along the flat. I flew up the climb on the second lap and by the end I was up into 16th position. The bike was starting to suffer by now. The thick casing of mud was clogging the drive train and chain suck was becoming a problem. The climb was fine, I dropped it into the small ring and spun my way up but I had a lot of trouble riding everywhere else after a fresh coating of mud and grass each lap. The only thing to do was man up and slog on for the rest of the race. The attrition rate was very high with a number riders pulling out after they or their bikes couldn’t hack it. Disappointingly I lost places through the middle of the race and got lapped by the race winner with meters left off my 7th lap. But 19th place wasn’t too bad and a big improvement from the previous Racer Bikes Cup result. I was very pleased with how strong I felt and perhaps if I had done a better job of clearing some of the muck from my drive train each lap I would have been able to spend more time going forwards and finished a little higher but I can’t really complain.

Looking forward to a bit of sunshine and a dry track next week at the Swiss Bike Trophy in Bern.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tour of Switzerland

We made it back to Switzerland after our short Italian trip just in time to see a few stages of the last week of the Tour of Switzerland. Heres a few photos from the roadside.

Stage 5 Photos.

Showing our true colours.


The break away, eventual stage winner in red Marcus Burghardt.

Stage 6

Into the real mountains today.

The break.

The peleton.

It was really good getting the chance to see a race like this up close. Most of the big names were here, Lance Armstrong, the Schleck brothers and even New Zealand rider Hayden Roulston. We got a good look at Hayden as he set the pace at the front of the main peleton for his team leader Tony Martin on stage 6.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Internazionali D'Italia Adamello Bike XC Vermiglio

Race two of our internationl campaign. I had actually ridden this race before back in 2008 when I raced it as a junior in the lead up to the World Champs that year so it was pretty cool to be returning two years later. Single track is scarce but the unique part of this track is the section through the streets of Vermiglio, a few stairs, cobbles, alley ways and the vocal support form spectators cheering from there balconies and windows definitely makes Vermiglio different from the usual race track.

The main descent is so steep that you really have to control your speed, there is a big gully off to the side near the top that you don’t want to go riding into and rocks and stairs lower down make it quite tricky. The other down hills twist through paddocks and were good fun with a few natural jumps and nice slalom corners. Climbing wise the track was tough, the longest climb started out extremely steep and it was a struggle to even ride it especially in the latter part of the race. The grade did ease near the summit before a hike a bike section took you right to the top below a water fall. The other main climb is rough and rocky and came after a tight corner which hooked straight back up the hill from a descent.

The race was another character building session, for the first part of the race I found the pace really tough. The hardest part was the flat sections, the speed would really get cranked up and I lost a lot of time to the stronger riders. A lap into the race and it suddenly started pouring with rain. The track got greasy really quickly and it got very cold. We even got pelted with hail at one stage. I had a couple of loose moments in the slippery conditions but managed to stay upright and finished relatively strongly passing several riders in the last couple of laps to finish in 29th position.

I am reasonably happy with my result. The step up in performance that comes with racing in the Elite level in Europe is really tough but thats why I am here, to race and learn from the best. I will look to improve next week back in Switzerland at the next round of the Swiss Racer Bikes Cup in Engelberg.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


We've made the trip across the border from Switzerland to Italy this week to race the final round of the Italian International MTB race series the Internazionali d'Italia Adamello XC Bike Vermiglio.

We have been staying in the Trentino region of Italy in an area called Val di Sole (valley of the sun), calling the Sport Hotel Rossati in Dimaro home for the past few days. Its a bit of an upgrade from our last accommodation and we are having a lot of fun here. The swimming pool has been getting plenty of use and the buffet dinner and breakfast are just the thing to keep us going with all the calories we have been burning while training in the mountains around the valley.

Home for the past few days, note the weather.

The Swimming Pool.


The weathers been really good since we got here although the afternoons are almost to hot and it feels like you are going to get fried by the sun every time you step outside. So the pool has come in very handy and offers welcome relief from the intense heat. I guess they don't call it Valley of the Sun for nothing.

Shuttle runs.

We have been doing a lot of riding this week and its perfect training if you want to improve your climbing, it's very hard to get a flat ride in around here. We have even been doing some downhill shuttle runs in the afternoons as skill training making use of some of the great single track descents in the area.

We are all still suffering the effects of the flu which is a bit annoying. But I think I have solved part of the problem. Today I decided to try using some nose strips to improve my breathing while riding and I was surprised to find that they actually worked pretty well. Should be just the thing for the race tomorrow.

New secret weapon.

We have checked out the course a couple of times this week and it will be a good one. Its almost the same as when I rode this same race back in 2008 as a junior before World champs that year.
Its got a couple of short but very steep climbs and the main single track descent is quite tricky, steep rocky and some steps chucked in for good measure.
I will let you know how we get on in the race. Look out for another update soon.



Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Racer Bikes Cup - Champery, Switzerland

After a enjoyable 3 days stay in Schaffhausen we started our race campaign properly, kicking off in Champery with a round of the Swiss Racer Bikes Cup International Mountainbike Series.

Our accommodation for the race was a Swiss Youth Hostel in the beautiful town of Montreux on the shores of Lake Geneva. The Youth Hostel was right down by the lake which was good but unfortunately two railway tracks passed right by and at night it sounded like the trains were going to come crashing through the wall.

The weather which up until Friday had been very average decided it was time for summer and the temperature rocked up to 27 degrees with bright sunshine till 10 at night. It felt good to be riding with out jackets and thermals on. We had plenty of time to get a few laps in of the Champery track that afternoon and we were very impressed. Its only short at 4.5km but it is very technical and has a couple of nasty climbs that really test the legs especially later on in the race. Heaps of exposed roots and rocks litter the course and in particular the flatter parts where there are a couple of tricky sections that are very hard to ride with out losing traction. Not to be out done the descents are steep, literately chutes straight down the hill side with their share of treacherous roots and rocks and tight off chamber corners. Its a true test, you've got to have the skills as well as the legs to do well at Champery.

The build up for the race wasn't the best. We had all been sick, probably caught a bug on the plane and jet lag had made it hard to get a decent nights sleep. But come Sunday we were into it. 6 full laps plus a start lap was the order of the day.

It was very exciting to be lining up in the same race as riders like double Olympic and multi World Champion Julian Absalon and I was more nervous than I have been before a race in a long time as I warmed up. Call up to the start line was a bit tricky, my german isn't very flash so I had to suss out rider number 45 (I was number 46 ) and follow him up to the line. The gun went off and I suddenly found out whats its like racing against the best riders in the World in the Elite Men. It was easily the most intense race I have ever done. I moved up through the field into the top 30 after the first 3 laps but didn't advance much further from there finishing in 28th place. I found the pace very tough and dropped off losing a lot of time on the last couple of laps. At the finish I was absolutely shattered but pleased to have got the first race under my belt.
A weeks rest and I'll be ready to go for the next one.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

First Days in Switzerland

After our super long trip from NZ it was good to finally arrive here in Switzerland. For the first few days we are staying right at the top of Switzerland in Schaffhausen with the Homberger family who have kindly given us a place to stay and have been a great help.

Day one was pretty tough with the Jet lag taking its toll but we got a nice easy ride in and today I felt a lot better. We've spent a bit of time having a look a round Schaffhausen and had a good ride in the forests behind town which are full of small forest roads and trails, great places to ride bikes.

Being in Switzerland we have had to try the Swiss Chocolate and its fair to say it more than lives up to its reputation, I will definitely be bringing some home at the end of the trip.
More soon,
Catch you later.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Honk Kong In Transit

Heres a few photos from our trip to Switzerland. 12 hours from Auckland to Hong kong, 16 hours waiting for our next flight and then 13 hours to Switzerland. One of the longest days in my life, good times. Yeah right. With 16 hours in Hong Kong we had plenty of time to kill. So we took a train from the airport into Hong Kong City and had a bit of a look at the sights and sounds.


Down Town Hong,
Mixing with the locals in the streets.
Down at the water front we watched some of the local fishermen doing there best to diminish the local fish population. They were getting plenty and it was action packed stuff.
It was good to see a really big City in action, some of the high rise buildings were impressive, they were so tall that you couldn't see there tops because of the smoggy cloud and although we were there early in the morning the number of people around the place gave an idea of how small New Zealand really is.
There was litter every where especially in the sea, we watched boats drive round so that people with long nets could scoop up the rubbish floating in the water. It wasn't a good look and didn't give us a good impression of the place. Then high humidity levels and the air pollution were also pretty unpleasant and after half a day walking around we go a bit sick of the concrete jungle and were glad to escape back to the air conditioned airport to wait out our next flight.