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Saturday, May 3, 2014

Cairns World Cup

The Cairns World Cup had been a big target of mine for some time, it’s not often we get the chance to race the World’s best so close to home. I was hoping to make the most of the opportunity and take advantage of the race being in the Southern hemisphere with similar time zone to New Zealand and not having to travel most of the way across the world to get there!

Cairns provided a unique setting for the race, held in the tropical rainforest. Living up to its name we were treated with huge amounts of rain over the week turning the main event Village into a muddy sloppy mess. Thankfully the Cross Country course held up amazingly well considering and with the sun making an appearance in time for the racing over the weekend things dried out nicely over the majority of the track with just a few boggy areas remaining. However the humidity and heat remained and definitely added an extra element to the race. It was hard to do anything without sweating and we were cranking the air conditioning almost constantly at our accommodation in an attempt to keep cool.
Midweek mud fest.
The track was pretty intense with a very long main climb featuring numerous switchbacks and punctuated with technical rocks and log obstacles. Although there were quite a few multiple lines it was quite hard to pass and this was probably the main downside. The majority of the course was technical single track with some pretty full on rock garden sections which got the better of a lot of riders and caused a large amount of flat tyres.
I enjoyed the track but would have to admit I wasn’t quite as comfortable on it as I would have liked after a couple of crashes during the week. Still I was feeling nice and strong in training and couldn’t wait to get stuck into the race.

With the race being off the usual beaten track and away from the European stronghold the size of the field was smaller than usual and I had a decent enough start position of 36th. A pretty solid beginning to the race saw me sitting well positioned in 25th after the opening loop and I held around this position through most of the first lap.
However with not much left of the lap it all went wrong with a big over the bars crash in a boggy hole that the organisers had filled with gravel. It had turned into a rut fest looking a bit like a motocross track and it got the better of me. Hitting one of the ruts a bit wrong I was on the ground before I knew it with a couple of the following riders crashing over the top of me. I got going again but had damaged my bike which started playing up as the 2nd lap wore on with the chain jumping around all over the place. Frustratingly I couldn’t put any power down without the chain trying to derail itself so I had to limp my way through to the tech zone at the end of the lap and attempt to get it sorted. Turned out one of the teeth on the front chain ring had been badly bent so thankfully it wasn’t hard to fix with some pliers and I was on my way. A fair bit of time had ticked by and I was now almost at the back of the race with a lot of work to do to salvage a decent result.

Pretty fired up I attacked the remaining laps and picked my way back up passing quite a few riders. But although I pushed hard and was riding reasonably well the damage had been done and I wasn’t really able to make up the deficit to the top 30 which was where I wanted to be. I lot a bit of spark and focus near the end putting in a disappointing final lap with another crash and dropping two places to finish in 39th.
Not a happy chappie.
There was quite a bit riding on this race particularly with it being my last chance to impress the Commonwealth Games selectors and it was a frustrating to turn out such a poor performance.     39th in a European World Cup would be a decent result but down in Cairns with a much smaller field missing some of the big names it was far from what I was aiming for. Still I have learnt a few lessons from this one and am very motivated to redeem myself next time! Currently I am back home in Rotorua having a bit of a break from training after a long summer season of racing. I have my eye on the World Championships in Norway in September with a build up including the final World Cup round and a Swiss Cup and will confirm plans over the next few weeks.

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