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.