Monday, April 7, 2008

Race Report K Capital Cup 3: Djouce

The race weekend started as usual with a pre-ride of the course on Saturday. While the week had been beautiful and warm, it had cooled down again dramatically to wintery temperatures. The course was amazing, one of the most technically demanding courses that I have ever ridden: you either found yourself descending some loose off camber or twisty and turny super technical single track or you climbed up some tricky single track - they even made you climb a super steep downhill track in the uphill direction. The single track sections were linked by some fast fire road climbs on which you could hammer at max speed. The two most interesting sections for me were a narrow undulating single track rocky path along a small cliff by a river ("Gran Canaria") and a steep drop into a mushy section followed by another river crossing. A funny bit was the very technical swervy and off camber descent at the Earl's Drive - the squeaking of numerous disk brakes wet from crossing a huge puddle beforehand filled the air - a hilarious sound!

When I arrived at aforementioned steep drop I asked if there was a chicken run - just to be told that I was standing AT the chicken run and that the proper drop was a little further up and even more tricky. I waited for a bit to see others trying to go down it and across the river and only saw one pro rider making it across without crashing. Hmmm..... I think I walk this one... And so I did. Just got back onto the bike before the river to avoid wet feet.

Jaisus, what a technical course!! After one practice lap I was feeling a little intimidated by it - secretly wishing I could drop back into the sports category.....

Anyway, race day arrived and it was freezing cold outside and hail was hitting us on the drive to Djouce. The weather forecast had given something along the lines of "Bitterly cold with strong northerly winds. Showers of hail and sleet becoming widespread in the afternoon. Temperatures between 3 and 7 degree Celsi
us...." eerrgh....

Racing in a hail shower...

I was nervous - the trail was super technical and there was a lot of off camber track - something I'm not very good at. My apprehension was made even worse when during my warm up I crashed on a bit of single track, hurting my knee and my already bruised left hip. I actually almost dreaded the race.

At the start line it turned out that one of my main competitors, Beth, unfortunately couldn't start, so my main target for this race was Tarja. We 5 girls shared the start with the Juniors and off we went on the sound of the whistle uphill over the grassy start area.

As in the last race, all of my racing battles happened early in the race: From the start on I tried to chase Tarja and did my best to hang on to her wheel - all my winter training was being tested there! She entered the first single track section ahead of me in first position, but I was able to hang on and caught her on the climb up to Exstacy (oh I love having done those soul destroying hill reps now!!). Going down Exstacy I got a big twig stuck in my wheel that stopped it from turning and I had to stop to pull it out - loosing valuable time. When I went back on my bike again I noticed my chain had gone down too, so had to fix that as well - by this stage Tarja had caught up to me again and overtook me. Hitting a flat fireroadie section I put my head down and hammered up the trail overtaking Tarja again to get into the next singletrack section ahead of her, a long off camber descent. I made a few mistakes on the descent and had to dab a few times, getting stuck at trees etc, so that when I came out of that section Tarja had caught up to my wheel again and managed to head into the next single track bit before me. At that point I was telling myself to stay at her wheel as best as I could and to concentrate on not making any more mistakes. At the next long fireroad I pushed hard and did my best to overtake Tarja as fast as I could to disappear into the next singletrack section (GC) aiming to get out of her sight as fast as possible. I rode GC well without problems and headed up the long singletrack climb after the river crossing. This climb afforded a great view upon the riders behind you and I saw Tarja's coming up that climb about fifty meters behind me. At that point I told myself to concentrate, to ride smoothly, to not make any mistakes and to try and increase the gap. Down the squeaky Earl's Drive descent and down to the drop - looking back and no Tarja in sight I walked the big drop and ran through the icy cold river water - what a mistake! I should have gotten onto the bike before the river and kept my feet dry. The shock of cold water and wet feet made it so much harder to control my feet and to clip into the pedals again, so I had to run a lot of the next uphill section.

I made it round the first lap without being caught again by any of the girls although I think I might have seen Tarja closing in at me at some sections where I had a view back. However, when I left the open finish area to start my second lap I could not see her, and neither during my second and third (last) lap. The only problem I had was that my legs started almost cramping during my last lap and I focussed most of my concentration on riding smoothly so that I didn't have to put my feet down which might have led to my calves cramping up. Because that would have been annoying - loosing my leading position because of a cramp. The rest of the race was pretty uneventful apart from being overtaken one by one by the experts who had started behind us and being lapped by a handful of Elites - even saw Robin chasing Ian Bibby up the hill as if his life depended on it - a great sight!

So I made it over the finish line ahead of all the girls with a comfortable gap. My second win in this series! I was pretty happy with how I rode and how the race had turned out. Thank god I had let out some of the air of my rear tire just before the race to get more grip. Click here for full results and here for Andy Pott's race report on Cycling News. And some pictures can be found here, where I found the picture shown above. My flat mate Alan also took lots of photos from the race which can be found here.

Thanks again to Sean for doing my bottles and generally helping out. Soon you'll be asking for money! And thanks to all the encouragement shouted on the trails, it is such great motivation to see people's enthusiasm and hear people shouting your name! Makes you put out that extra bit of power you thought you didn't have.

So, I'm looking forward to my next two races which will take place in Thetford, England next weekend - they'll keep me from becoming all big-headed after my two wins ;)!

1 comment :

trio said...

Sounds like hard work, but you did really well. Riding in conditions like that are what builds character! Good luck over at Thetford.