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.