Another airport, another wait – good time to write my report. I’m a little early at Karlsruhe-Baden airport, which is only about 40min from Offenburg, where the second mountain biking World Cup this year took place on Sunday. This time round I was by myself, which means that I also need to think of everything myself. My race start was at 10:45am, so I got up really early to make sure I’ll be there on time (see previous post about my rant of having booked myself into a hotel so far away). I was able to contain my nerves for breakfast – this is important, because if I’m too nervous before breakfast, I can’t eat, and it’s really important to get a good breakfast in before the race. Then I drove the hour and 10min to the race place.
The weather was beautiful: blue skies with the warm sun beaming down, it couldn’t have been better. And the course was bone dry. I deposed of my bottles at Ian Potter, who kindly agreed to do my feed and went to warm up. I was getting really nervous now and almost forgot my timing chip. This was going to be the biggest, highest caliber field that I will ever have raced against: 105 Elite/U23 ladies from all over the world were signed up to start. Of course all the big names where there. Offenburg has been awarded the “Best Worldcup 2009”, so it’s a favourite among many racers. The men’s field was even crazier, with about 240 Elite/U23 men signed up.
At the start line my heart rate was 105 – it usually is in the low 60s when I stand around…. Amazing how your mind can influence your body. I was gridded in 4th row, due to my placing 35th in the previous world cup in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Finally we went off for our start loop + 6 laps affair and as seems usual in world cups, the pace was crazy from the start. I was like going into a sprint with a pack in a road race! And there were so many girls! I don’t feel very comfortable with so many frantic riders around me and lost a few places in the heat of it.
Luckily the start loop and the start of the lap proper were quite wide, so the group had time to spread out a bit before hitting the single track. I tried to stay with the speed of the people around me, and was riding high in the red zone. I got through all the technical sections fine – there was no time to be scared now and went on to lap two in 47th position. I was still riding really hard in the 2nd lap, but knew I wouldn’t be able to hold this high pace for much longer. A few little mistakes meant that I lost another few places and riding in the red zone for so long was starting to take its toll.
At the end of lap two I had been pushed back into 57th position. Going into lap three I was spent. Dead. Bonking. I had gone so hard, I now felt like giving up. My legs were turning into dead weight, and I was suffering badly. At that moment I hated racing. Why was I doing this to myself? Why race? Why not go on a leisurely ride along a river, stopping by a café, have some ice cream… I had to reduce my pace totally to recover from my red zone effort from the first two laps. Another mishap along the way meant I lost a few more places (a girl stopped on an uphill, held up the group, I tried to ride slowly, hoping she would get going again, but then I went into a sand hill, the girls behind me obviously used the opportunity to get by quickly). But anyway, at that stage I was going backwards. I was really getting frustrated. One by one the girls started overtaking me. I didn’t even have the power to fight with the girls for the single track or to overtake them again later. I could only let them flow by.
After lap 3 I had gone down into 67th position. I was feeling so crap, all I could do was to decide to ride the race at my pace. So I rode on into my 4th and 5th lap. I still could see people ahead of me, and I was able to overtake another 2 girls who were suffering worse than I, but I did not have the power to catch up to the group of about 5 closely spaced riders just ahead of me. In my 5th lap the commentators were predicting that it would be the last time they would see me coming by, since the race leaders were closing in. Towards the end of the 5th lap I saw the 80% signs and was prepared to be pulled. I went around the start area, but nobody stopped me. I looked around, but no, seems like I wasn’t going to be stopped. I looked ahead, and there were a few girls still going, so I guessed I had to do another lap. I kinda had hoped that I would be pulled, but then again, this gave me another opportunity to enjoy another lap of this amazing course. I didn’t have very much power left, but decided to just hold my position and enjoy the last lap. I finally finished the race after 2hours 8min 33secs, in 65th position.
At first I was a little disappointed with my result. It’s kinda hard to be happy with 65th position, since my legs felt good in the morning. On the other hand, maybe my expectations were a little too high. I had hoped for a top 60, so I was 5 places off that. I had went out too hard in the beginning and had to pay for it later. I felt I had never bonked so badly in a race before. Looking at my lap times it’s easy to see how they deteriorated. I just can’t get used to the speed that these girls go at from the start – AND keep it up. I can keep up for a lap, maybe two, but then I’m spent, whereas those girls just keep up that high speed until the finish.
I’m happier now with the result. This was only my 2nd world cup after all, and one with the biggest and best field I’ve ever raced against. The next World Cup is next weekend in Houffalize, Belgium. I would love to take part, but I have to slow down a little with racing now if I want to last the whole season. I am gutted, since Houffalize is another “Classic”, but I know backing off now will help me in the long run. Also, it’s nice to spend a weekend at home for once ☺.
So the next race will be Round 2 of the UK NPS in Dalby in two weeks time, a nice short weekend affair. There is a Bundesliga on that weekend as well, but since Dalby is going to be a test event for a World Cup, I thought it would be a good idea to go there. Also, with the addition of world class rider Rosara Joseph doing the UK series, fellow world cup racer Kate Potter and Katherine O’Shea from Australian national team doing the event too, the competition has just become even more exciting. And I’ve got the chance to pick up a few points there too ☺.
All in all, my second world cup has been a very good experience. I feel I’ve reached another step on my technical riding ability by overcoming my fear of steep, rooty descents. I’ve learned that I have to pace myself better when I race against such good people, to avoid bonking. And the support from the 15000 or so spectators was amazing. Cow bells, whistles and even alpine horns! And shouts of encouragement lasting the whole race and for every rider. It’s such a different kind of atmosphere, it’s worth riding the race just for that.
At the end I would just like to say thanks to Cycleways, KCNC, TorQ and Trinity for their ongoing support and a special thanks to Ian Potter for helping out at the feedzone, for Specialized fixing a creak and for SRAM to fix my squeaking breaks.
Results, pictures and report can be found on Cyclingnews.com.