Friday, 24 May 2013

Weltcup-Rennen in Deutschland

UCI World cup round 1 - Albstadt, Germany

So after the first few national races I was selected to race the first round of the 2013 UCI world cup in Albstadt, Germany. I was really excited to be racing as it is the highest level competition for mountain biking outwith the Olympics. Having raced a couple of these last year though I knew how unpredictable and manic they could be, mainly due to there being such a large field of riders and the sheer speed at which the race goes at! There isn't really anything that can prepare you for them - it's completely different to anything in Britain.

One problem I also had in Germany was that a knee injury that had stopped me from training and racing the last fortnight was still not 100%, but some special tape from the physio was hopefully going to get me through the race.

Arriving on the Thursday and not racing until early Sunday morning meant that we had a couple of days practice. The course was mega steep on the way up, proper little chainring stuff, with 3 big climbs. The downhill was surprisingly slippy due to the thin layer of mud on top of the rock underneath making it like an ice rink at times. The course wasn't overly technical but when tired it was going to be tricky to control the bike, especially if it rained.

photo: Alfons Benz

The start of our race was pretty hectic, and being gridded 66th meant I was right in the thick of it. You don't see it on the replay of races, but behind the front row riders everyone is squeezed up together with lots of pushing and elbows out to try and get as far up as possible. And inevitably with over 100 juniors sprinting in close proximity there was a crash just of the start, and I was in just the wrong place. I didn't get held up for too long but instead of moving up the field in the start straight as hoped, I had lost ground and was back in around 100th - lots of work to do! 
I hit the first hill pretty hard and tried to gain as many places as possible before the singletrack. The huge number of riders funneling into a narrow singletrack also meant lots of running/walking with the bike if you were not in the top 20. So lots of waiting about then just having to descend in that position before the next opportunity to overtake. Meanwhile the leaders are able to ride at their own pace! 
After the first lap I was roughly 80th but at least now there was more room to attack and move round people. The really tough course meant that you were on the limit at the top of the climbs, a short tricky descent and then attacking again up the next climb. I rode a pretty consistent race, no crashes (apart from the start) or problems, and I kept moving up the field, eventually finishing in 52nd place. My knee held up well until the final lap where it was starting to hurt but I was able to hold on to the finish.

photo: Alfons Benz

The result was lower than I was hoping for but I was pleased to have ridden a controlled race. It was a good result  considering the problems with my knee the last couple of weeks and getting caught up in the start line crash. The next race that GB are taking juniors to is round 3 in Italy followed by European Champs in Switzerland, so I will be hoping to get selected for these and have my knee all fixed up to give it another shot.

Also there is a video on youtube from the Junior race which gives you an idea of what it is like:  Here

Friday, 17 May 2013

Catch Up Time

So as usual I've managed to completely forget about updating the blog with some race reports. So here is a quick and clear round up of the races so far;

British National Series round 1 - Sherwood Pines

I did not expect to racing through deep slushy snow in the middle of March! But the show must go on and so I got the spiky tyres out in the hope of finding some grip out on the course.

The course at Sherwood Pines is well known for being flat and not very technical, but due to the conditions it was all about controlling the bike as it tried to slip about, even on the fireroads. This also meant that overtaking was going very very difficult so a good start would be key - and that is not my strong point!

Anyway race day came about and I was keen to get going. As usual I didn't have a great start, going into the first sort of singletrack just outside the top 10. Not ideal for this sort of course but my legs were feeling quite good and I was determined to move up as far as possible.


After some dodgy overtaking moves I had moved up to around 5th at the end of the first lap, but the effort of moving up the field and having to ride through the deeper snow in order to do so had taken its toll and I was starting to suffer. I briefly moved up to 4th place and was in touching distance of 3rd but I started to slip back as my gears clogged up, leaving me in a very small gear, and getting stuck behind some of the Elite riders that had set off in front of us. I came into the finish in 5th place, which was further down the field than I would have liked, but it was a solid start to the season and something to work on!

Scottish Series round 2 - Abriachan

 A race in the Highlands of Scotland! So for once a local-ish race, only an hour or so drive from home. I was coming into this race just of the back of a week long training camp in the Peak District with the Olympic Development Programme, so it was safe to say I was feeling pretty tired. So much so that I decided not to practice on the Saturday but instead stay at home and rest as much as possible.

Sunday morning was therfore a bit more hectic than usual as I had to fit in a couple of practice laps  in before the race. It also didn't help that the commissaire wouldn't let me out on the course without a number, but I was also not allowed to pick up my number until just before the race.. Anway I had got one lap done and it all seemed pretty straightforward. A really good challenging course, lots of natural technical sections just like the SXC courses when I first started racing! Some rain overnight had made the course really soft and slippy so it would be an interesting race.

With quite a small field my bad start wasn't too much of a problem and I headed up the first climb in 2nd spot. I felt quite good though and wanted to get in front before the technical singletrack. So I put in a big effort and moved into 1st but soon got stuck behind the back of the elite field meaning we were back together. At the end of the first lap I managed to move clear and got a small 10 second gap on 2nd place. My legs were really not feeling too good though -  really heavy and fatigued from the tough training camp.


On the 2nd lap I was suffering quite a lot and in the singletrack the lack of practice meant I wasn't riding very well and kept making lots of mistake, meaning I was losing time. This meant I had to attack the open sections as much as possible to keep my lead, which wasn't too easy with such tired legs. The final lap I was still hanging on and I finally rode the singletrack section pretty well, coming in to take the win with a slim 20 second lead! I was happy to take the win after such a tough week, but was now very keen for a few more rest days!

British National Series round 2 - Cornwall

At roughly 750 miles from home, it made sense for us to fly to this race! So it was packing up the bike bag, wheeling it around airports then hiring a car and driving to the hotel. Still a lot more enjoyable than driving from one end of Britain to the other.

After 5th place at the last round I was keen for a better result here, and having had a few weeks at home away from uni I was feeling a lot stronger. The course here was a big change to Sherwood Pines with some good climbs and fast tricky descents. A short narrow start straight before a long singletrack descent  meant my bad start could once again be a problem...

And that was indeed the case. Going into the descent just out of the top 10 meant that by the time I attacked and made my way up the field the leaders were already away. I felt a lot better here though than at Sherwood, and after the first lap I was already into the top 5. I pushed on a lot on this lap and moved clear into 2nd place, but Mike Thompson (Nutcrucker Racing) who was leading was already a good bit in front.

I rode strong for the rest of the race with not really too much to report on. It was just a case of riding my own pace and seeing how close it would be at the finish. 2mins 36second was the gap at the end, a good bit more than I would have liked but it showed how strong Mike was going.

I  was really happy to be back on the podium, and could feel that my form was coming along well after some time at home with no uni work to worry about! I'm now really excited for the next few races to hopefully keep getting faster.