World Cup XC Debut

Racing the World Cup in Australia this past weekend was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done on a bike.  Thousands of cheering fans, a challenging course, helicopters, media everywhere and the fastest guys on this planet lined up together to smash each other around for 1.5hrs. Racing a Marathon up in Atherton on Friday as part of the National series was the main focus of the weekend though as it is what I came to Australia to do.

This was a great time, heading up there with Jason English, camping on race site and catching up with the 24hr racing champ.  We have smashed each other up at 24 hr races for a couple years now so it was a nice contrast to spend some time chillin together.  The race itself went back to Jason and I smashing each other around for the first 3 hours before he pulled away on the typical flowing style ozzie singletrack.  I could catch him on the one climb everylap but came up short in the end to roll in 2nd.  The first lap of the course was wet but still very rideable, but then it started to rain and turned the course into a muddy, slippery bike eating mess for the next couple times around.    Jason hadn’t had a big win this year so he was pretty fired up and rode well to pull this one off.  I was content with rolling in 2nd as it would put me narrowly into the lead of the Marathon series with the finals taking place down at the Convict 100 next saturday    After the race the real work began as we started the long process of washing and fixing our bikes and riding gear.  Jason took it easy as he was going to spend the weekend out on the Great Barrier Reef while I opted to start the World Cup down in Cairns on Sunday.  

Waking up Saturday morning I was shaking my head wondering just what I had go myself into.  Feeling shattered from the wet and muddy Marathon race it was a challenge to get out of bed and feed myself properly, let alone try to get the rig back up to race ready form, and the legs back online.  Going down to registration I almost pulled the pin when it was time to pay the $100 registration as I really didn’t know if I could get my sh*t together in time before the race.    Things got done one by one on the bike, I ate and slept and rode around a little to try and figure out some lines on the challenging course and then settled in for a big sleep at the Kona DH team headquarters on Trinity Beach.  Team manager Mathieu Dupelle was kind enough to invite me in for the weekend which made life pretty cushy. Sunday I woke up after a long 9 hr sleep, felt surprisingly alright and started to prime the body to get smashed down again.  Warming up before the race was unreal riding around with Julian Absalon, Kulhavy, Hermida and all the other big XC guns I’ve only ever seen before on TV taking home Olympic gold medals.

 

At race start my heart rate was nearly at max as I was called up 2nd to last in 57th position.  BANG! the start gun went off, a big crash happened, I got spat out the back as the legs weren’t very fresh and were begging for a rest let alone a full tilt xc race.  I tried to push them out of there Marathon settings but was soon enough stopped as another crash happened in the first bit of singletrack causing us to stand around for 30 seconds to catch our breath.  This was a nice downtime before we started hammering straight up a 1.5 km climb.  I climbed from the back into around 38th at one point then came unglued for a lap dropping back into the 40’s.  It was mayhem as it felt like I was going really fast but the fact is that everyone in a World Cup is going really fast and you need to be an alien to excel at this level.  The course was challenging for a Marathon style guy as well as there were 4 distinct techy sections which required a lot of skill to get around without ending up in a sling. In marathon racing there is nothing like this so it’s definatly an area I will need to improve if I am to compete with the top end at this level.  The climbs were alright, very punchy with hard 2-3 minute efforts, rest, and repeat.  Different from the 20-60 minute climbs in marathon racing.  The race of 6 laps thus consisted of 4×6=24 technical bits, 6×1.5km climb and 6 x .5 km climb.  Pretty much it was either an anerobiac effort uphill or leaning back behind your seat holding on for a wild downhill.

What made the race unreal was the atmosphere created by the thousands of yelling ozzies, helicopters above and the speed which we were ripping around the winding trails.  In the end I would pull up 43rd, not spectacular but an accomplishment in my mind considering how I had felt the day before.  I know there is a lot of room for improvement and the experience gained from getting smashed in this race will go a long ways if I return to another World Cup.  This I’m 99% sure I will do as it was a huge adrenaline rush and big challenge to focus on  . For now its a couple days in Cairns, chillin down at the lagoon and getting ready to fire the legs up one last time for the Marathon finals this Saturday down near Sydney.  With the lead going in I will need to play it smart and finish this trip off in style.  After that it’ll be time to head back to Canadian soil to conclude the fist part of the race year and re-energize the batteries.

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