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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Are you ready....

Val di Sole World Cup tomorrow, can't wait.

The weapon, ready for action.
We have been back at the Sport Hotel Rosatti in Dimaro this week and have had another enjoyable stay.
Plenty of time has been spent up on the Val di Sole track getting some good training in.
The course is very different from 08 World Championships, with very little flat and a lot of very steep climbing followed by fast but not very technical descents.
Brilliant weather all week had the track in a very dry and dusty state but a bit of rain yesterday has hardened things and the track is in perfect condition.
Starting in 102nd position tomorrow, a big improvement from last week. 6 laps so it will be a very fast race.

Should be good.

Monday, July 26, 2010

World Cup #4 Champery, Switzerland.

My first World Cup in the Elite men turned out to be a race of mixed emotions. In the lead up to the race I was very excited. World Cup races are the pinnacle of Mountain Bike racing and finally getting the chance to have a crack at one had been a goal of mine for some time.
The weather in the days before had been wet and the track had become very muddy making several sections unrideable. Practice was good I enjoyed the technical nature of the track and felt at home in the greasy conditions. The mud only increased its difficulty as it already had plenty of slippery roots and rocks but it was good because it required good all round bike skills to do well. Race day dawned clear and fine and a 2:30pm start time gave things a chance to dry out a bit. Starting in 129th position, I had plenty of work to do to get up towards the pointy end of the field but I was very determined to have a good race.
But ..... I hadn’t been aware that I had entered a running event as that’s how things panned out for the first few laps at least. A field of 175 riders all fighting to get to the front made for a large amount of congestion and a lot of time was spent off the bike. It was very frustrating, the only real chance to get on and ride each lap was up the main climb and it was taken at a furious pace as riders sought to gain positions. Most of the moisture had dried up turning the mud into a thick sticky mess and it was very slow going. Many places were quicker just to jump off and run remounting Cyclocross style in the rideable sections. Racing against such a large amount of riders made for some very chaotic moments. Riders crashed and bikes became tangled up all over the place. A lot of very expensive equipment was destroyed very quickly and swear words in different languages filled the air. In order to make head way risks had to be taken and every little gap no matter how small was an opportunity to move up. As a result of the all or nothing attitude that had to be adopted I had several crashes but somehow my trusty Santa Cruz Blur XC Carbon made it through unscathed, thanks Bike Culture and Hyperformance Hardwear.
Although I gave it everything I was unable to finish getting lapped after four laps finishing in 102nd place. I was left feeling a bit disappointed getting lapped is never a good thing but this is the top level of the sport and due to the extremely fast pace and high attrition rate only 58 riders completed the race. You can only give your best and at the end of the day I couldn’t really complain. It had been an awesome day and it was great to finally get an Elite World Cup under the belt. I will be after a better result next week at Round #5 of the World Cup series in Val di Sole Italy, Bring it on.

Friday, July 16, 2010

France and le Tour

A break from racing over the last week gave us the opportunity to head to France and see a bit of the Tour. We also caught up with good mate Keiran Hambrook who is over road racing in Morteau.

We left our base at Schaffhausen on the Thursday and spent the next couple of days in Morteau at Keirans flat. It was good to catch up with Keiran and meet Sam and Matt his team mates and we arrived at a perfect time with a carnival starting up next door to their flat. We even got the chance to see them race at a Friday night Crit race.

The Boys Before there Crit race.
The Carnival.

On the Saturday we made the drive down to Morzine to catch the Tour de France mountain top finish at Morzine Avoraiz on the Sunday, as well as the rest day and then stage start in the following days.
We decided that we would try a bit of camping to mix things up a bit. Luckily we managed to borrow a tent as it would have been a bit tight with two of us sleeping in the back of the VW. Our first campsite was on the other side of the Mountain from Morzine.

Campsite #1

Dinner, Check out the instant BBQ.

Sunday dawned and it was Tour time. First up we went for a spin up the mountain to suss out a good posse to view the race from. The atmosphere was building, the spectators were out painting riders names on the road and things were starting to get exciting. We rode the last 4km of the tour climb then ducked home to have a feed. From where we were camped we could take a gondola up to the finish line and we made sure we got there nice and early to get a good spot. We managed to squeeze in right against the barriers just before the 100m to go mark. It was perfect we could see all of the finish as well as the big screen so we saw all the attacks getting laid down before the summit.We took advantage off all the handouts from the race sponsors in the Tour caravan and settled in for the finish. It was a super exciting race with Andy Schleck attacking near the top and dropping every one bar Samuel Sanchez, but he was to strong at the finish starting his sprint right in front of where we were watching to claim the stage win.

Freebies at the Tour.

Andy Schleck about to out sprint Samuel Sanchez to take the stage win at Morzine Avoriaz.
The next day was the Tour rest day, a great chance to get up close to the riders as they went out training. I snapped a few photos of Cadel Evans as he posed for the press in his yellow jersey and I even saw TV commentators Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen stuck in traffic in the middle of town.

Cadel Evans in Yellow on the Tour rest day.

Legends, Phill Ligget and Paul Sherwin.

We moved down from our mountain campsite on Monday night to a spot between Morzine and Les Gets so that we could be in a better position to view the start of stage 9 the following day.
I attempted to get back into town to see the riders warming up before the stage start but there were to many people and I couldn't get near the center of town. Instead I settled for the beginning of the stage proper at the end of the neutralised start section. Again the size of the event blew us away. The race caravan leaves several hours before the race start and right up until the riders come past the roads are packed with sponsors, media and team cars. Once the riders have gone by the team buses come along followed by any stragglers from the media. It takes several hours for the tour to pass by a point on the road. It really is an amazing event and it was great to get the chance to experience it first hand.

Campsite #2

The start of stage 9.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Racer Bikes Cup Flims

We made it to Flims on the Friday before the event to check out the course. It was very good, short but with a little bit of everything. The main feature was a very steep climb but the down hills were really good and nothing like the carefully groomed single track we get back home. It was full on roots and rocks and lower down a few wooden features including a big wall ride and a couple of drops. I decided after one lap that it was my favourite race track of the trip so far. It really was a good track with a perfect mix of climbing and technical as well as good passing and feeding sections.

Flims is World Champion Nino Schurters training ground and he was the local hero. A massive crowd came out in support of the World Champ. A very strong line up of riders turned up on the day and although this was my fifth race over here in Europe the excitement of racing against the big stars of World Mountain Biking hasn’t diminished.
For this race I was aiming to really push myself early on rather than pacing myself and perhaps having a bit more left for the last couple of laps. I really wanted to be mixing it up near the front of the field and I was after a strong result in my last race before the World Cups.
Right from the gun I went well, I really pushed the pace and kept attacking whenever I had the chance and had my best start of the trip so far coming through in 13th position. It was pleasing to be so far up the field as traditionally I have been very poor in the first lap. I was hurting but I just put the hammer down and kept driving the pace. I was determined to leave everything out on the race track today. The technical nature of the course favoured the full suspension and the Santa Cruz was in its element. I was able to charge on the downhill sections and gain time on my rivals.
I rode in 12th position for the majority of the race but 8 laps turned out to be a bit too much and coming into the last couple of laps I began to run out of steam. Grovelling through the 7th and 8th laps I unfortunately dropped several positions and ended up in 16th place. Still it was my best placing of the trip and a solid result to finish off the first block of racing.

Five races in consecutive weekends has been very full on but also an amazing experience. Racing such high quality events can only be a good thing and I have learnt so much. It will be good to have a bit of a break. We plan to head to France to see a couple of Tour de France stages and then build up to the World Cup races in Champery and Val di Sole at the end of July.