Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dalby & Offenburg World Cups

The Dalby and Offenburg World Cups were on consecutive weekends and I had planned to be well prepared for them. I love both the course in Dalby and in Offenburg - I had raced 3 races on the Dalby course so far and Offenburg is my favourite World Cup course! While Dalby is flowy singletrack interspersed with technical sections, Offenburg is challenging almost all of the way and contains some scary drops and descents.

Anyhow, unfortunately it doesn't always go to plan. After I had done the Ras Mumhan in April, I had a recovery week, but I never really felt I was recovering properly, I didn't seem to get my strength back.

After that recovery week I did an Irish NPS in Davagh Forest, which turned out to be a fantastic event: lovely venue (although as remote as it gets - how did they even find this place???), fantastic course - just the right mix of single-track and fireroad, great weather and all the works to make it a great event overall (bouncy castle for the kids, a great layout of post-race food and tea etc.). The only thing that was missing was my competition. Cait was out of the country and Ciara was commissairing. Non-the-less I had a good race: I set off with the Senior 1 men and had a good battle with one of them for a few laps until I steered into the only boggy hole of the otherwise bone-dry course and muddied up my bike so much that my chain got stuck and I had to stop to clean some of the mud away, leaving me to chase, but by then he was gone out of my view and I rode a more steady last lap.

The week after the NPS I still wasn't feeling great and power just wasn't there. Then I started getting a bad throat ache and cough. I didn't take it too serious (sure it's just a bit of a sore throat, right?), but it was getting worse with a painful chesty cough that seemed to worsen as the days went on. I should have taken more care of myself then, but only went to the doctor when it was a full-blown serious chest infection. In the end I was off the bike for 9 days, with 2 days trying to turn my legs on the turbo, but anything over low endurance was too painful for breathing. Not great preparation for two of the most important races of the year. I started back into training on the Monday before the World Cups, with the lungs still not at full capacity. Only on Thursday, in the Epic club race my legs seemed to come round somewhat, which moved the decision dial towards going to Dalby.

Riding some of the raised trails in Dalby (photo by Mr.&Mrs. Elliott)

I had a bad start in Dalby, being slowed down by a crash in the frantic pace just after the start and so had a bad position at the queue that formed into the single track. The pace was slow for the first lap until the racers started to separate out towards the end of the first lap. My aim was just to ride the course well and finish unlapped and I kept my pace steady. I was a bit too timid on the descents and lost a bit of time, but I felt I lost most time on the long steep climb, just not feeling able to dig deep. In the end I finished 57th on the same lap as the winner, just inside the points, and a place down from last year. Staying in the same hotel as world cup winner Julie Bresset didn't make me go any faster.

Results and report are up on cyclingnews here.

Hotly pursuited by US racer Krista Park (Photo by Mr.&Mrs. Elliott)

I was hoping that my form was picking up again after Dalby, with my lungs improving by the day and looked forward to the Offenburg World Cup. I met up with Cait and Carla from WXC racing for a training ride on the course on Saturday morning. I was feeling fairly good and enjoyed the buzz of trying to follow the world champs training on the course. While the course rode very well, some of the roots were still slightly slippery from the rain in the night and I had a bad run into the famous Wolfsdrop descent, missing the only safe line down and crashed. I was able to roll off (years of martial arts experience paying off eventually!) and didn't get hurt, but I was a bit more nervous when we came to the same descent the 2nd time round. Trying to avoid the root I hit the first time round I cycled again straight into it and crashed again. Unfortunately my martial arts skills didn't help this time to take the impact and I got some nice cuts and bruises on my knee and elbow and hurt my shoulder. As the cuts were quite deep I got medical attention, but fortunately didn't need any stitches. But a while later my shoulder really started to hurt and I had to abandon any thought of more training. I was hoping a bit of rest and Arnica cream would do the trick, but I could barely lift my arm in the evening, making taking clothes on and off a real challenge.

Cait recorded me crashing the first time round - this one was not the one that did the damage....

The next morning I took some pain killers, hoping that would help, but they only made me feel whoozy and didn't do anything against the pain. I still picked up my timing chip and tried to do a warm-up, but when I realized how bad I was I couldn't kid myself longer and reluctantly turned back the timing chip before the start. There was no way I could have raced in that state. And so I had to be happy to be a bystander for once in a world cup.

I'm just hoping that that'll be the end of the string of bad luck and that I can get in some consistent training again.