The Val di Sole World Cup was the 4th and final event of my six week racing trip to Europe and the 3rd round of this years World Cup series. The Italian course has a reputation for being tough. With a large amount of climbing, the majority of which is very steep. It is quite relentless with brutal climbs followed by short fast descents that don’t give you a lot of time to recover. It is generally very hot as well with the temperature taking its toll on many riders. I have always tended to ride well in hot conditions and was excited to race after what had been a great couple of weeks training in the Valley of the Sun. I could tell I was in good form and felt confident about the prospect of a good result.
I was fortunate enough to be starting from the 2nd row this time in 16th position. I have been having good starts lately anyway but the further up you are the easier it is to get away cleanly without running into trouble. Although as it turned out I was actually a little sluggish off the line from the gun and got a bit swamped by other riders coming from behind. This meant I was a bit boxed in around the start loop and couldn’t really open up and get going. Once onto the first climb though I immediately began to move up making it into the top 10 halfway through the first lap. Having never been in this position before I was pretty excited. My climbing in particular was really strong and I felt good.
After the first lap I was more or less with the same riders the whole race hovering between 6th and 9th swapping around a lot as we fought to get ahead and put time into each other. Generally I found it better to set my own pace as much as possible and felt much better doing this rather than having my speed dictated to me by others. It was super hot. Easily over 35 degrees and I was mindful of the fact that it was going to be easy to blow up in these conditions especially on such a hard course. So I tried to be smart about when I really put in the effort focusing on staying calm and smooth. I was up as high as 6th several times during the race and at one stage was close to catching 4th and 5th who were dangling tantalisingly close in front. On the second to last lap I put in a big effort to break away and make my bid to finish as high as I could. It was a really good lap putting a good 15sec or so advantage into the riders I had been with and making up a lot of time on 5th place. However my efforts caught up with me and I crumbled over the last lap. Starting to really suffer up the first climb having to dig really deep to hold off the chasing riders. Fell to pieces a bit from there making several mistakes and crashing in an awkward off camber dip dropping from 6th back to 9th in a short space of time which was pretty gutting. I chased hard but the damage had been done and I wasn’t really in very good shape by then anyway with the fast pace taking its toll and in the end it was a relief to make it to the finish. Ending up in 9th position which I was pretty satisfied with.
It’s a really good feeling to finally make it up into the Top 10 at a European World Cup. I’ve been racing overseas for a few seasons now and have always fallen slightly short of getting the sort of results I desire. So I feel like I have broken through a bit with this race. My motivation and confidence have certainly had a massive boost and I have a lot more belief in my ability to step up and get the results I am after now. Currently I’m back home in NZ having a short break and planning my build up to the World Championships. Not 100% sure on the details just yet but at this stage it is looking like a short trip to North America to get in the World Cup at Mount Saint Anne, Canada and flying from there to South Africa for Worlds after that.