It was always the plan to push through the first month of races in Europe with training, however its always disheartening to feel like you’re going backward at each race. So I was looking forward to my second world cup, and a recovery week.
World Cup round four was situated in Les Gets in France, right up in the Rhones Alpes. We planned to head up early in the week, get a feel for the trails and settle in properly, but as always, nothing goes smoothly in Europe. The car we had been promised would be ready by Tuesday, still wasn’t, and the mechanic was uncontactable. So instead of leaving at 10am Tuesday, we got a call at 7pm to say it still wasn’t ready, but would be done tomorrow at 10am, and if it wasn’t we could borrow a car for the trip. 10am came around again, and went, and at 3pm he still hadn’t answered a single of our 30 or so calls.
Of course at this point we were starting to think he had run off with our car, so Piper rode over to find just a closed car yard with no-one in sight. Thankfully Piper has the patience I don’t, and waited instead of just calling the police, and eventually he rocked up. Piper took the keys back, and we drove to Les Gets that night without the roadworthy… (the car was safe, but needed the ticket that this guy was too lazy to get).
Finally, after driving through torrential rain and winding French streets, we arrived in Les Gets around 1am and fell fast asleep.
The following day we had been expecting rain but it was sunny and warm so we headed out, did some shopping in town, registered and got out on course!
The course in Les Gets was really fun, the climbs were straight forward but the descents had lots of man-made rock sections mixed in with natural off camber roots. It began with a long firetrail climb, a few berms and rocky uphill hop-overs. Then straight into the first descent, with some man made log rolls, and rocks, up over a bridge and into a few nice jumps, before the trail dropped into the forrest. The forrest was much more natural, with off camber, rooty corners and finally a big drop into a rooty descent and another off camber corner. We had been hoping to ride it first go, but seeing one of the other riders in a stretcher, with a helicopter incoming to collect him, we decided otherwise…
Through the feedzone, and back up the hill. Another straightforward climb up the grass field, where it ducked into the woods again, making for an interesting rooty climb with some super soft soil. At the top of the climb was a wide rocky section where large boulders had been dropped to create a multitude of lines and choices. Riders were stopped here, picking lines, riding and re-riding, and so after watching other riders we committed to a line, and dropped down the hill again.
Into a nice little jump line, a muddy chute, and out onto the flowing jumps and burms. In no time at all you were in sight of the finish line, with only a few grassy switch backs, and some more boulders scattered at the last corne
With both of us feeling comfortable on the course, we headed home to prepare for the race. Over the next few days we visited the course inbetween showers, and were suprised to find it holding up well, with only a few sections succumbing to the mud. However race day was forecast for rain, and so I found myself tossing up between the Forekaster tyres, and sticking with Aspens for better climbing. In the end, despite a decent thunderstorm the night before, I chose the Aspens.
At least it started dry and sunny, so after the first coffee for a fortnight I was feeling hyped, and ready to dig myself into a hole! The KMC-Orbea team were kind enough to offer feedzone support, and let me warmup out of the weather in their tent, so I headed down there and got warmed up.
Finally it was race start, I was back in 58th position for this race. Despite having accrued enough UCI points to put me towards the front, world cup rankings are currently decided by points from 2020 (before covid), so I had plenty of work to do.
A fist bump with the riders around me, and we were off. I had an average start, with so much traffic I had the legs to move up, but not enough room. So I came out of the first half lap around 60th position, where I made some places up on the second climb and descent. I found my rhythm quickly, and after a couple of laps had moved into 30th position, but my gamble with the Aspens had come to an end as the rain started to come down…
With 120+ riders on course, it quickly turned to slop, while the forested sections stayed relatively dry, the grass sections were taking a beating. I started losing traction as I dropped out of the forrest and before I knew it I was off line through a rock garden and came unstuck. Somehow I managed to find the only part of the course with gravel to crash on, tearing my poor skinsuit to shreds. Thankfully I was fine, as was my bike and so despite losing a few spots I was in contact and still pushing hard. As a rider prone to the occasional cramp at the back end of a race, I use pickle juice to stop those cramps and keep pushing. But pickle juice is meant to be drunk, not inhaled, and unfortunately I tried the latter… Snorting pickle juice up my nose and inhaling some too, is remarkably as bad as it sounds, so I crossed the line for my final lap with tears streaming out of my eyes, and coughing up a lung. While I recovered from this ordeal, I lost another few places, and despite chasing hard for the final lap I couldn’t bring them back, and so finished in 36th. A much better world cup result, and it was great to feel like I was pushing forward again instead of just fading backwards.