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Thursday, May 30, 2013

World Cup #2 Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic.

Our stay in the Czech Republic was pretty good. Was nice to catch up with Milky again at Penzion Bystre and the week went by quite fast. Most days were taken up with training on the course and the odd excursion to look at some of the local sights. The weather was quite average again and very cold but at least it was a bit drier and we didn’t have to spend so much time cleaning our bikes.

Our accom for the week in Czech Republic, Pezion Bystre.
The local church
Our room, pretty cosy.
The Nove Mesto na Morave World Cup course is my favourite by far. The majority is natural with loamy soil and plenty of roots and although quite wide in a lot of places it still retains narrow technical single trail characteristics. There is a lot of climbing but it is broken up well with good descents and as a bonus there are plenty of opportunities for passing as well. It seems to suit my racing style, I’d done well here before and was excited about racing again this year.

On the start line

Like the first round I started from 19th but mindful of blowing up like last week I perhaps sub consciously held back a bit around the start lap and came through in 20th but still well in contact with the front of the race. Unlike last week I was able to immediately move up and I quickly passed a group of riders up the first climb and was feeling really strong. Maybe a little too strong and in my eagerness to get going I made a couple of mistakes. Losing traction on some slippery roots up a climb and having to dismount and run while attempting an unnecessary passing manoeuvre and then crashing on a simple piece of track and twisting my bars. This made the first lap the slowest of my race and I dropped back to 24th. Luckily it didn’t take long to get into a good rhythm and I was soon back riding pretty well and moving up through the field. I felt so much stronger particularly on the climbs compared to Albstadt and made it up inside the top 20 reasonably easily.
Moving up the field
After the slight drama in the beginning, the race seemed to pass super quickly. I lost track of what lap I was on through the middle so was a bit surprised to come through the start finish area to see 1 lap remaining and upped my urgency making sure to leave everything I had left out on the track. The last lap was a good one for me and I had a great battle with a couple of other riders constantly changing position around the course. One of them got the better of me in the end but I was able to hold onto 13th position beating my previous best World Cup finish of 14th last year at the same venue.

Pretty pleased with my ride in the end. Great to improve on my result from the first World Cup in Albstadt and good for the confidence moving on from here. I have one more World Cup remaining on this trip in Val di Sole, Italy with an Italian Cup round as preparation the weekend before.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

World Cup #1 Albstadt, Germany.

After settling into the Euro lifestyle again and getting in some good training the first race for our campaign kicked off over the weekend in Albstadt, Germany. Unfortunately spring has been a little slow arriving here in Europe with winter seemingly pretty keen on sticking around for a bit longer. Was hoping it would be a bit more pleasant with summer not far off but oh well I think It’s been fairly similar to what homes been getting and we’ve done pretty well to dodge the rain even though it’s been wet most days.

Our accommodation for our thirteen day stay in Germany was the ALZ Triathlon Club in Sigmaringen. A unique and slightly strange place located on the second floor in a local high school. Worked out perfect for us though with plenty of room including a large kitchen and spacious lounge and it was only just over 20mins drive to the World Cup course which allowed us to get out on the track before most riders had even arrived.
Sigmaringen Castle

All the Kiwi's outside our accommodation in Sigmaringen

The rumours circulating had been talking up the difficulty of the downhills and there was also reported to be a scary amount of steep climbing. Our first ride was completed in perfect conditions which we would probably have appreciated more if we’d know about the wet stuff to follow. The climbing was as expected. A very steep pinch to get you warmed up at the start of the lap followed by a longer but not quite as steep drag to the top of the course and then finally another slightly longer ascent to finish things off. The down hills we not as testing but enjoyable, highlighted with a couple of rock gardens some slippery roots and a step down drop.

I actually stayed off the course more than I’d expected because of the muddy conditions completing solid training on the roads around our accommodation. Still got plenty of track riding done and was feeling good and amping to race. Was prepared for a muddy day with the mud tyres on the wheels and ready to go, but race day actually dawned fine and we had great conditions so I probably could have done with the dry tires on.

The first World Cup of the season, a super exciting race as everyone starts with a clean slate. Most riders haven’t done a lot of racing in the lead up so it is a bit of an unknown when it comes to predicting how things will go. I’ve never actually managed to make it to the opening round before which makes it harder to get a good result so was eager to make the most of it.
A good start is a pretty crucial part of World Cup racing and so my 19th place start position was good and the plan was to hold around 20th for the first lap and then move up from there.
Fortunately I managed a great start, clipping in perfectly and shooting up from 3rd row up to the front of the race sitting well in the top 10 for the early part of the first lap. Riding up at the front of the race was an awesome feeling although it did back fire slightly as I probably dug a little too deep and struggled to recover losing a lot of positions to be 19th after the first lap. This was about what I had aimed to be, but a tad disappointing considering how far up I had been. Having so many people ride past me wasn’t the best for the moral either and I lost my composure crashing during the 2nd lap which although luckily caused no damage to me or the bike set me back a bit more and I lost another 6 places riding through in 25th.

Still not too bad though and from there the race took a turn for the better, I started to move up and felt back in control of my race. Everyone seemed to be pretty even and I found I would pass riders on parts of the tack only to have them come by a few minutes later. I did make it back to 20th at the end of the penultimate lap only to have a couple of riders come back at me dropping to 22nd despite a pretty decent last lap time. Almost did enough to catch 21st pulling him back on the last downhill but not quite having enough in the tank to get up for the sprint.

I had been aiming for a better finish then 22nd but the race had gone pretty well really and I just hadn’t been fast enough, particularly on the climbs. First race since Oceania’s back in March so probably can expect to improve as the trip progress and perhaps the climbing nature of the track didn’t suit my riding style so much. Anyway I am happy enough and good to get the first World Cup under the belt with a decent finish to build from for the next two rounds.
Making the big drive across to Czech for the next World Cup round now, can’t wait get onto the Nove Mesto track. Definitely my favourite course and with my best World Cup result coming here last year I’m looking forward to getting some practice in on the course for this weekend’s race. Staying with “Milky” the most hospitable accommodation owner I ever come across again this year so should be a good week.
Driving across the border into Czech Republic.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Europe 2013

Just settling into European time again, day two into our 6 week race trip to Germany, Czech Republic and Italy for the first three World Cup rounds of the 2013 series.

Flight went well, good movies and decent food and managed a few hours of solid sleep. Being Silver member with Emirates allowed access to the Business Class lounge in Dubai which was pretty sweet with free food and plenty of space to relax.

Landed in Munich to meet up with the rest of the team who had arrived a few hours earlier and picked up our ride for the trip, a massive Mercedes Sprinter.

We’re spending the first two weeks in Sigmaringen Germany, building up to the first World Cup round of the year 20mins drive down the road in the town of Albstadt. Haven’t got up to a whole lot just yet with the Jetlag still having a pretty strong hold on us all. Just managed a couple of easy spins and a first look at the World Cup track. First impressions were pretty good, it wasn’t as steep as rumours had indicated but there is a lot of tough climbing. Some pretty cool descents, nothing overly technical but good fun and still tricky at times.

And the weather so far has been decent to, always nice when you can extend the NZ summer for a bit longer. Hopefully the rain forecasted for later this week doesn’t turn up.

2013 UCI Mountain Bike Calendar

18 - 19.5
25 - 26.5
Nove Mesto na Morave
8 - 9.6
Fort William
15 - 16.6
Val Di Sole
28 - 29.6
27 - 28.7
10 - 11.8
26.8 - 1.9
14 - 15.9
21 - 22.9