Monday, November 03, 2008

2008 UCI Marathon World Cup Round 2 - Ornans, France

For Mel and I, this year was about getting some International race experience – with this in mind, earlier in the season I decided that the final round of the Marathon World Cup series held in Ornans, France was going to be my last race. Flight options didn't look great, so Alan (who kindly put himself forward to help me for the weekend) and I flew to Basel in Switzerland VERY early (getting up at 4am does not agree with me!) on Saturday morning, i.e. the day before. Not really a good way to do things considering an early Sunday start for the long race but with work, what could I do?

When I originally planned to race here I expected it to be a nice warm, dry race for me at the end of the season – boy was I mistaken. The weather was much colder and wetter than Ireland – Dooh!

Ornans was a beautiful town nestled in a valley surrounded with wooded mountains – real postcard stuff with an atmosphere in the town to match.

Unfortunately (and this was mega frustrating) an administrive error in Ireland meant that my UCI points from the National Championships were not added to my UCI profile which effectively placed me in 185th position on the grid to start instead of somewhere in the 30s. I was very annoyed about it all but at the end of a long season, I just had to calm down and get back to business.

Race morning arrived with the car beeping at us telling us to be careful – it was -1 Celsius outside! There was basically a freezing fog in the air! I had not really considered such cold conditions and barely had enough cloths with me to warm up in – I was contemplating wearing a 'going-out' shirt under my jacket. The warm up itself was tough, I didn't have a turbo trainer with me and had to ride out of the town to find an area where I could ride without having to slow down every 10 seconds. I found a hill and started riding, about a minute later my fingers were frozen – I could barely shift gears or use my brakes but I was somehow able to get my heart rate up to the 170s (just) within the warmup. 15 minutes of that and I had enough and went back to the start line...

Alan grabbed my 'extra' clothing (I would wear a Gilet and arm warmers over my kit for the first 1.5 hours) and was called up to my start in 185th position – this sucked. Knowing that I had done everything correctly to be gridded somewhere in the Top 30 but yet have to start all the way back – not nice.

With the countdown reaching zero the gun went off... and nothing happened... damn this gridding. A few seconds later there was movement and my long race had started.

The first few kilometres were a bit of a blur – basically, I was doing everything possible to pass as many people as I could as quickly as I could yet remain safe. I only had one dodgy moment when a rider leaned a little too much into me but in general it was okay. With about 20 minutes of riding done, I started to approach the lead group which was about 30 strong. I had been killing myself as these guys cruised and as I caught on, the fireroad climb we were on deterioted into a wet and slippy double track and everyone sped up.

I did my best to stay with the lead group but I had already been working hard for a while fighting through the traffic and although my heart rate was still low, I felt a bit 'cooked'. The TV quads zoomed in and out between myself and the other riders and that helped pull me along – trying not to look too bad on the bike. Eventually, we made it to the top of the first major climb where Alan fed me at the first feed station (he had a busy day too driving from feed to feed). I grabbed a fresh bottle a headed onto the first big descent.

The race basically went on like that for the first half – I rode in groups of various sizes and mostly made up positions as I went along. At about the half way point, Roland Golderer and I started to ride together. I was on the front a lot of the time in the technical terrain but Roland put in a very strong push over a 6km flat section (about the only fast flat part of the course) towards the end of the course. When it came to the final 8 km hilly loop around the town both of us attacked and kept attacking. The last section of the race was the most enjoyable (and my HR the highest). There was a half dual-track, half single track long climb followed by a technical and fast singletrack descent back to the middle of the town. Fortunately, I was a little stronger than Roland and won the sprint. I covered the 82km, 3200m climb course in 4 hours 52 minutes placing 25th. That, and my other results means I'm currently ranked 42nd in the UCI World Marathon standins :)

Roland Golderer

One of the main things that stood out, was that throughout the race the descents were amazing – most descents were on singletrack and all descents were technical. The climbing was very tough but the descents made up for it – in fact, some of them were so long and tricky that you were hoping for it to end so that you can 'relax' a little and get the feelings back in your arms!

The weekend not only held the final round of the World Cup but also many other Marathon races suitable for everyone from purely recreational riders all the way up to the Pros. 1,000s took part and I highly recommend the trip to any rider.

After all this, I switched my brain into 'off-season' mode and enjoyed the next two days in Switzerland and France with Alan, drinking beer and eating fine food. Many thanks to Alan for coming along – I hope you enjoyed it all as much as I did.

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