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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

World Cup Nove Mesto Na Morave, Czech Republic

I didn’t make it here last year so I was excited about heading to the Czech Republic to get back into World Cup action and experience the track that I had heard was probably the best on the Circuit. A big days drive took us through Switzerland, Austria, and Germany before finally arriving in Czech after 9 hours. The track didn’t disappoint and I found it hard to keep off it as it was so nice to ride. It was almost perfect for me with the 4.5km lap broken up into four climbs and descents. The organisers had kept it mostly natural utilising the terrain with plenty of bumps and dips and although technical it was still quite wide with plenty of alternate passing lines.

The race town of Nove Mesto Na Morave is in a pretty nice area with small rolling hills and a very green landscape. We stayed about 20mins away from the course in a town called Bystre and enjoyed the hospitality of Milky who would have to be the friendliest and most helpful accommodation owner I have ever stayed with anywhere. The weather was great all week and it finally started to feel like Europe could be heading into summer. Unfortunately it didn’t stay that way with the cold returning in time for the weekend and we woke up to rain and chilly temperatures on race day yet again. This time the rain didn’t hang around for too long and if anything the moisture made the track better with the roots becoming slick and causing  problems for a lot of riders but the dirt was still fairly dry.

The start is an area I have struggled with at World Cup or World Championship races so I was a bit nervous coming into this one. It was a good start loop however with two climbs to help spread everyone out a bit before the first single track section and because it was quite wide starting back in 34th position wasn’t too much of a disadvantage with plenty of passing room available.

I’m not sure what happened. I think one of the riders in front had a bit off trouble clipping in or something but I came to stop before I had even really started. It didn’t take long to get going again but at this level you lose positions so fast and having riders flying past doesn’t do much for your self confidence. I lost my composure for a little bit making some dumb passing decisions scrambling to save the situation. I tried shooting up the left on the first climb but ended up getting boxed in with slower riders in front and on the right. After taking a moment to regain a bit of breath on the short downhill I hit the next climb hard and realised I had pretty good legs finding it fairly easy to weave through the pack and doing enough to make it into the single track ahead of the worst of the traffic jam as 104 riders tried to get down a narrow trail at the same time.

I made an overly aggressive passing manoeuvre which backfired and lost me a few places round a tight corner near the end of the start loop but coming across the line and heading out onto the first proper lap I was relieved to see that I had wasn’t too far back sitting in 40th place. I relaxed and settled into my work after that. I was riding strong and seemed to have a bit of an edge over most riders on the descents so I was able to really attack the climbs passing several riders at once before recovering a bit on the downhill sections and repeating the effort on the next climb.

It’s always a bit of a shock to the system racing at World Cup level with the whole race being a constant battle with other riders to either gain or consolidate you position and any sign of weakness or loss of concentration can lose a couple of place before you even know it’s happened. I was right on my limit but as the race progressed seemed to ride even faster moving up into the thirties and then into the top twenty. I was really keen for a top 15 finish though and kept on the gas finally breaking into 14th place with two laps two go. I couldn’t afford to relax with a big group of us all very close and I knew I would have to put down a really quick final lap to ensure my place.

The last lap was hard. The first climb wasn’t too good for me and my legs were starting to tire up. A couple of people came round but I could hold their wheels. The next climb was better. I found my speed again and attacked back opening up a small gap. I had one guy nipping at my heels the whole way and we flew around the lap producing my fastest lap time of the race and almost catching another group who had previously been out of sight. Coming out of the forest to the finish area they were almost within reach and I pushed right to the line but couldn’t quite catch them finishing in 14th place.

It was a pretty good feeling to finally get a solid result in a European World Cup after several years of disappointment where I felt like I wasn’t making any progress. After this breakthrough in Czech I have a lot of confidence and will be out to back it up this weekend at the next round of the World Cup in France.

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