Last race report I spoke of the romance and history of some big road races and how I wished mountain bike racing could be similar. This was of course, silly. Road racing might have hundreds of years of history, but what it does not have is over 20,000 crazy spectators crammed around a 4.5km course. At round 3 of the World Cup in Nove Mesto, in the Czech Republic, these crazy fans were screaming for all 150+ riders, no matter how slow or fast they were going. Neither does road racing have a Redbull stunt plane flying over the forest and reminding me of wanting to be a fighter pilot when I was a kid. And I won’t get started on the pretzels and beer! Ok, the Tour De France might have the number of spectators covered and probably the stunt plane and pretzels. But it doesn’t have 4.5km of flat out smile/pain inducing single track that even if you have lived a sheltered life of lawn bowls and country clubs, it makes you want to get out and ride your bike! Our accommodation was far from liveable, but it did have the internet, which meant Friday night was eliminator night! I love XCE racing but when there are Aussies smashing it at the front of the field it makes it extra special. I would have loved to be trackside to cheer on Paul Van Der Ploeg and Peta Mullens as they progressed through the heats. Those feelings of course dissipated in the men’s finals when the skies opened and a torrential downpour smashed into the race venue. I was thinking of Paul and his race, but at the same time I was also thinking of the millions of roots that once wet, formed a wreath of displeasure across that lovely single track. In 2012 when I did this race last, my main weakness was handling the slick roots. I have worked hard to build my skills and confidence on the roots, which coincidently go hand in hand. Time would tell if my training on Australian “roots” had prepared me for European “roots”. At least if my skills let me down my Fox forks and Bianchi Methanol wouldn’t! Sunday’s race started at 9am, which was a bit of a shock after start times of upwards from 11am being the norm. My warm up went well and I was called up around 66th but thanks to some aggressive manoeuvring and helpful gaps forming I moved up to the same line as fellow Aussies Kyle Ward and Scott Bowden. As we reached top speed along the bitumen just after the start, a poor chap took a dive like the Redbull stunt plane and went sliding along the ground. I feel for him after my crash in Cairns but it opened a gap in the bunch for me to move up. I was on the wheel of Howard Grotts from Specialized Racing so I liked my chances of moving to a good position. He hit the gas as we neared the first climb and I held position and going up I was on the wheel of Scott Bowden. I held the position till the next climb and then started moving backwards. Moving backwards turned to getting swamped and leading into the first single track I had lost a fair few positions. I ran most of the start loop that remained along with everybody else around me. A rider got a bit impatient as we came up on a bridge and tried pushing me out of the way! I gave him a good shove back and again he tried to push me with his spare hand and nearly sent me off the bridge and into a ditch! With a few more shenanigans we were onto the road and start/finish. The course had dried out from the rain but a few roots were still slick and Expert Climb 1 was very slick. I only managed to get up twice. Over the next couple of laps I continued to lose places and suffered on the longer climbs. The crowd definitely helped me get around. Even though I was out of the top 100 they were still cheering like I was leading. I’m sure it was like that for everyone else in the race but what I’m not sure about is how the crowd had the energy to cheer like that all day long! I did start to make some places up but I was pulled a lap later I didn’t come into the race with high ambitions. I just wanted to go as hard as I could and see where my body was after my forced rest. The result was terrible but I did go as hard as I could. Hopefully this weekend in Albstadt, I can go harder and have a race closer to where I should be. Before Sunday’s XCO though I will be trying the Eliminator on the Friday night. In 2012 I tried them and didn’t qualify so hopefully I can put down a good time and get into some racing! I’ll endeavour to put up a race preview with links to everything you need for a weekend of XC action later in the week.
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