Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cyprus Sunshine Cup #4 (UCI C1)

I’m just sitting on the plane back from Cyprus and since the choice of movies isn’t that great, I thought it is a great opportunity to write my last Cyprus Sunshine Cup blog post.

Riding along a singletrack traverse (photo taken by Marco)

When I pre-rode the course a few days before the race I thought I would not be able to ride it. The course for Cyprus Sunshine Cup # 4 started of quite innocently at the edge of the village Oroklini, just outside a nice Cafe. A lap was 6.9km long with 240m climb. It consisted of some nice fireroad and technical singletrack and doubletrack climbs and traverses, a few fun oop-dee-doop sections, a few really steep hills, some really fast fireroad descents, and then of course, the highlight of the course, a long steep and technical descent over rock slabs criss crossing down an empty riverbed followed by a super steep loose ground switchback descent section. I was able to ride the riverbed alright, but when we hit the steep loose switchbacks, I mentally blocked. I just could not ride them down! So I walked them down, had a coffee to contemplate and tried again. The second time I made it down all of them, apart from a particular steep 6 foot drop. I really really tried, but I could got not get myself to ride it down. I rode the lap another time with Swedish national champ and Sunshine cup leader of the series Alexandra Engen and her up and coming team mate Kajsa Snihs, hoping when I see them riding it that I would be able to ride it too. They tried their best to coax me down, but again I just stopped. So I decided to call it a day and try again on the Saturday pre-ride when we had to drive up to register. Sometimes it’s just not to be.

Just coming out of a nice and steep descent (photo taken by Marco)

I was all psyched up on Saturday to ride the steep drop and guess what – they had rerouted the course around the steep drop and put a big rock in front of it. I wasn’t sure if I should be happy or disappointed, as I was looking forward to facing my fear and try and go down it, but at the same time this meant that I would be able to ride all of the course without being to scared. I mean, there is a difference going down in a slow and careful manner during the training run when you are fresh and a race lap when your legs are filled with lactic acid and your brain is fogged due to exertion. So it probably was for the better. I’ll have plenty of opportunity to ride technical descents later in the year.

Just before the finish line (photo taken by Marco)

Race day arrived and again a selection of the creme de la creme of female mountain bike racing lined up. Lene Byberg, Sabine Spitz, Elisabeth Osl, Petra Henzi, all top 12 in the world and Alexandra Engen, who had shown great early season form by having won two out of the three Sunshine cup races so far. We went off and the pace was fast from the start, but I was able to hang on, staying with the lead group of about 8 people for the start loop and the first half of the first out of the four proper laps. Then already the group started to spread out. I was happy to get through the first lap ahead of Adelheid Morath, but was overtaken soon after by her. And from then on I felt like I was going backwards. Another two girls overtook me and I tried to hang on, but couldn’t keep up. I carefully rode all of the technical descents and only crashed once on one of them. Finally, without having had any major battles with anybody I came into the finish in 12th position, 11 minutes down on the winner Alexandra Engen, 2min behind the 11th and 2min ahead of 13th position. Second was Lene Byberg, coming in closely behind Engen, then after a gap of about 2 min, Sabine Spitz came in to take third place, only 20 seconds ahead of team mate Elisabeth Osl. 5th place was taken by Petra Henzi.

The women's podium

I didn’t feel I had very good legs in this race, just no power in them. Maybe my training this week was a little too hard, maybe my 2.5 hour ‘recovery’ ride on Friday to the next good coffee shop was a little too long. But all is not so bad, because percentage wise I was closer to the winner’s time than in the race the weekend before. I also know that I can gain a lot of time by getting faster on the technical descents, which I rode fairly carefully and slowly.

I finished 4th in the general classification, mainly because of my result in the first round and because not everybody attended every round, so that was a nice bonus. Thanks as usual to my sponsors Cycleways/Specialized, KCNC and Torq, Frederick for doing feed zone support and Marco for taking pictures during the race.

In anyway, these races set me up really well for the coming season and I feel I have made leaps in my technical riding confidence and race fitness already.

Full results can be found here and a report is up on cyclingnews.com too.

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