There’s always that brief thought that flashes across your mind when you’re in over your head.
It goes something like this, “This is really stupid. This is going to hurt really badly. It’s too late to do anything about it.”
While that thought has been a great learning tool for every teenage boy ever, preventing them doing stupid things twice, I seem to have made it to the start line of a world cup again. Despite getting my head kicked in last year. Actually, that’s pretty much the reason I’m back again this year. To line up against the best and give myself an actual measurable comparison to the best in the world. Why would I want something like that? Personal validation mainly, with a bit of masochism thrown in for good measure.
Racing around at the back of the Andorra World Cup was for the most part a complete blur, but there were a some flashes of clarity during the race, and here they are:
- There was a minute long climb after about 2 minutes of racing. As I sat at the top of the descent waiting to funnel into the trail, I watched as the leaders punched it up that climb. That means that after 2 minutes of racing, I was about 90 seconds behind the leaders already.
- As I jogged down the descent in a pile of traffic on lap 1, I looked up to see Howard Grotts (US National Champ, 60th on the grid… think about that for a second…) only a couple of places ahead of me. He’d had an atrocious start, but finished 13th. That absolutely blows my mind. Good riding, Howard.
- I seemed to be incapable of dropping my dropper post until the end of the descent, or locking out my suspension until the top of the climb. Descending with your dropper post up and climbing with your suspension open is not the way to race a world cup. There’s no excuse for losing concentration like that. Nothing but a waste of energy.
- Getting passed by a guy on a steel hardtail with a lauf fork and 1.8 inch mud tires absolutely hammering up the climb. I did justify my existence by beating him in the end though!
- The Spanish didn’t need vuvuzelas or chainsaws to cheer you on. They have their voices. They’re loud.
- As I was riding around, I took note of the multicultural cheering happening, and interpreted them as follows:
- VENGA (Spanish) – “You’re riding fast and looking good”
- Vamos (Spanish) – “I feel sorry for you, you look like you’re in a lot of pain”
- FORZA (Italian) – “I am one of the few Italians here, and I will let you know it”
- AUF GEHTS (German) – “World Cup qualification should be based on thigh circumference alone. I do not think you qualify”
- MES RAPID (Catalan) – “I came here to watch Nino. You seem to be in the way”
- C’MON LAD (British/Ant White limited edition) – “Woah there’s a brit on the course that’s not Grant Ferguson”
- On the first lap, the pit zone is chaos, with all the mechanics leaning out onto the course to look for their riders. There’s a point towards the middle where the trade team mechanics end up facing the other way from you, because their riders are half a lap ahead. Then there’s the ominous point when you realise they’re looking the same way as you’re riding again. That’s when you know it’s nearly over, and you need to start sprinting like hell to avoid getting passed by the lead moto.
- I lost 3 minutes on the opening lap. 90 seconds of that was standing still or barely moving. The rest is because Nino Schurter is really fast. He put 25 seconds into EVERYONE on the first lap. That means I only lost a minute to the rest of the leaders.
- I lost roughly 90 seconds per lap to Nino for every lap thereafter. Not much of that is to do with traffic or conditions. It’s because he’s really fast. The question is: how to find the balance between all out sprinting to avoid traffic on the first lap, and not completely cooking yourself for when the trail does finally open up? Not sure I have the answer to that yet. Suggestions welcome…
I didn’t go into the race with a particular goal, so it’s hard to say whether I’m objectively happy with the result. Either way, when you come out of something with definite improvements that you can make, it’s easy to focus the mind on what has to happen going forward. So for me, Lenzerheide will be about putting in an all-out effort off the start line, and then about concentrating really hard on racing smoothly afterwards. Looking forward to it.