After five weeks, Chapter 1 of my European racing trip has come to an end. And just like a good book it went exceedingly fast. From Germany to Austria to the Czech Republic and back to Germany, each country and race has thrown up its fair share of challenges. Four back-to-back top level XC races have taken it out of me. Not so much physically but more mentally. Racing is probably the easiest part, sitting and waiting in hotels rooms is the tough part!
Last week’s race at Nove Mesto in the Czech Republic didn’t go quite as well as I had planned. The week preceding was a bit stressful with a number of things going on and a final uni essay due on the day of the World Cup. With the usual stress of a World Cup compounded with uni and everything else, I ended up a bit fried. I hadn’t dedicated enough time to getting my head straight and as soon as I went to bed on Saturday night my mind was already buzzing. I still had an alright race in the slippery conditions, but not quite as good as the Czech Cup in Prague the week before.
The week preceding Albstadt I really focused on the race and getting myself 100% on Sunday. I knew after last year that the first climb would involve a lot of walking, such is the nature of the narrow track. So I tried not to dwell on that and focused on getting through the first lap and then getting into my rhythm on the steep course.
As predicted, the start involved a lot of walking and standing still. The track eventually opened up but I was struggling to get into a rhythm. I was having fast sections but not fast laps, which is not the ideal combination. On the 4th lap, I was sitting in a rather large group, and due to the snaking nature of the course we all new this last climb would probably be our last for the race before getting pulled under the 80% ruling as we could see the leaders getting closer.
All of us tried to get to the top of the last climb in first and I tried to move up but had nothing and crested the top just off the back. Finishing the last descent, I was just off the back of another rider and sprinted him to get pulled first. It may sound weird but if I hadn’t sprinted I would have ended 100th instead of 99th. Would have rather been sprinting for the win but I’m not there yet. Clearly!
Now it’s off to Lermoos to do some much needed training before the next racing block starts and hopefully I can keep improving. I hate admitting it and using it as an excuse but I do have to remind myself when I have a bad result or race that I haven’t had the best lead up to this year due to the problems with my knee. A big jump in performance is unlikely but small steady improvements is what I’ve been having and hope to continue throughout the year. Which I’m sure will fly by!