The time between the national championships and now has seemed to fly by. As soon as I crossed the finish line in Bright it was time to get the maps out and finish planning my European season. For this year I wanted to switch things up and focus on doing well at races as opposed to jam packing every weekend with a race to gain ‘experience’.
For this year I’ve planned out two main 4-week racing blocks built around the World Cup XCO season with big blocks of training at various places in between. Then a final stay at altitude in August should bring the whole year together into a nice peak for the final few races, which will hopefully include the World Championships in Andorra. As far as performance goes I’m planning for a nice, predictable, upward trajectory, and so far I’m right on track. When you are racing in Europe it can be hard to gauge how you compare to earlier in the year at the Australian National rounds. But my stages power meter has been a massive help in determining how I’ve been progressing.
My first race in Graz, Austria was a bit of an unknown, having not raced it before. The course had two main climbs with some nice flowing descents linking them together. The first climb was the toughest I’ve had to race on with an average gradient of 16% with long sections over 20% on rocks and roots. As is typical at races, no one I asked knew how many laps I was doing but I was assured the commissaire would notify me at the rider briefing. I’m sure he did notify me but as the race briefing was in German, I can’t be sure!
Race plan, go hard until they tell me I’m finished. For one poor guy his race was finished within the first 100m after coming down in a big crash of the start. Downhill starts into a tight corner are always fun. My race went a bit too consistently with a slow start, slow mid section and slow end. On the steep course though, my consistent approach meant I could claw my way up through the people who had gone out too hard. But at the end of the day the race starts when the gun goes not when you work your way into it. The end result was 22nd U23 and on later analysis I found I had matched my previous best average power output from earlier in the year!
Next up was the Czech cup in Prague. As opposed to Graz, I would feel a little more at home this time with a few Aussies also taking to the start line. The course was a bit like the national champs course in Bright, with a lot of variation packed into the short circuit from short grassy climbs to steep loose downhills. It was awesome to see Bec Henderson and Peta Mullens go 1st and 3rd respectively before the elite men’s race, and before I knew it, it was time to get on the start line myself.
For Australia we had Dan McConnell in the Elites and Jack Lavis and myself in U23. With both classes starting in the same race it meant close to 70 riders would need to fit themselves into a largely singletrack course. The first lap was frenetic and I expended a lot of energy trying to firstly move up the field and then just hold position. The end of my second lap was a bit of a disaster with a crash before the main technical section of the course. I learnt after the race that the section took out a few riders, most notably Olympic champion Jaroslav Kulhavy! It took my almost a lap to start going fast again after the fast start and crash knocking me around a bit. The rest of the race went by quickly, with the course and competition continuing to hold the adrenaline high. At the end I learned I had raced to 12th in U23 and 38th overall. Better yet I had bettered my previous best average power!
Tough race in Prague today. Big improvement from last week with 12th in U23 and 38th overall. From what I can tell I was one place from UCI points! 😱 Raced for pop today, who sadly passed away earlier in the week 😇 🙏 🚒 📷: @bikejarrod (thanks!) @marathonmtb #gopro #bianchi #celeste #maxxis #maxxistires A photo posted by Sebastian Jayne (@seb_jayne) on
So that is two races out of four down, with the next two the world cups in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic this weekend and then the world cup in Albstadt, Germany next weekend. Watch out for a preview of Nove Mesto in the coming days!