It took me a while to think what to write about for this blog. The World Cup was a major objective on my calendar for the racing season and something I looked forward to for a long time. It did however look like I wouldn’t be able to ride it at one stage due to a misunderstanding of how the UCI points system worked and thus not having enough points to qualify. I and some of the other athletes in a similar predicament were thrown a lifeline by Cycling South Africa in riding for the National Federation Team for the World Cup. So it was game on.
In the weeks leading up to the big day I had some good and some not so good races. I was getting out some good numbers on the power tap. I had spent some time on the World Cup Course, in hindsight not enough. I had two particularly heavy crashes on the drop and the log chute. I didn’t give myself enough time to build my confidence again and get them dialled, a term a lot of mountain biker’s use when referring to riding a particularly technical piece of a track well. I was however good on the rock gardens and being on the Cube AMS fully again helped a bit here. I was staying with my parents in Hilton so I was at the correct altitude and not coming up from sea level to race. All in all more pro’s than con’s.
When approaching a world cup particularly at the level I am riding at and most of the other South Africans too one needs to change their racing strategy. Starting at the back means it will be a fight from the beginning. The race becomes a somewhat less tactical one and rather one in which you push yourself physically and mentally for as hard and long as possible to avoid being pulled with the dreaded 80% rule. My goal for the race was to be able to do a minimum of 4 of the 6 laps before being pulled. Some may say this is a negative mind set but you also need to be somewhat realistic of yourself and the given conditions. At a minimum that result would give me a platform to work off, to work towards achieving better things in the future and moving to be able to finishing a world cup at elite level in the not too distant future.
All this said my race was effectively over a lot quicker than I anticipated it to be. In the congestion which formed as we hit the first single track someone bumped my derailuer resulting in the hanger bending and my gears slipping in most gear selections with any form of pressure being applied to the pedals. I tried to push through the first lap trying to find some gears which would work but often the gear was either way too hard or too easy. This resulted in me having to run quite a few climbs and I knew I would not last long with the 80% rule in the back of my mind.
The Chaos at the start, I’m on the far left.
Image Credit: C-Sharp Photography
I’d rather not go into the details but a bumped handle bar later in the first lap and stopping more than once to straighten it also loosened my headset to an extent which required me to run the last part of the course to the tech zone to tighten it.
I was now so far off the pace with riders whom I usually convincingly beat way ahead of me. My day came to an end at the end of the second lap. I was bitterly disappointed. At this level everything needs to go right on race day. Sometimes certain things are beyond your own control and I’ve learnt than you shouldn’t get too worked up or worried about these things because as I said they’re simply beyond your control.
Negotiating a rock garden
Image Credit: Quick Pix – Gavin Ryan
Image Credit: Mike Smith
Besides this there are some positives to draw from the day. It was awesome to be able to ride in the national team kit at an event of this stature and I felt proud to be able to represent my country, albeit for the federation team. I think my Mom was possibly prouder though 😉 The support around the track was phenomenal, to have so many family and friends supporting was great and even people just shouting “Go South Africa!”
It’s onwards and upwards now though. The start of the Cape Epic is mere days away. Watching the 360 Life documentary, An Epic Tale, the other evening has inspired me even more for the Epic. I’ll try my best to blog daily next week with blow by blow accounts of the action.