Saturday, March 07, 2009

2009 Sunshine Cup Round 2 - UCI S1

Well, it's almost time for me to take part in the third round of the Sunshine Cup so I had better write about last weekends adventure - round two of the Sunshine Cup which just so happened to be a UCI S1 Mountain Bike Stage Race!

The format was a time trial on a 7.8km off road course on the Friday, a 42km point to point race on the Saturday and then a lapped cross country race on the Sunday on the course used for the time trial. Two main things built up the time trial loop – fireroad climbing and steep technical singletrack descending. To finish it all off though, there was a beast of a climb right at the very end – very steep and loose so you had to be really careful with how you pedalled – the hardest part of the lap.

On the preride the course was tough but enjoyable. The descents were a challenge and there was not much letup – you were either on the edge climbing or holding on for dear life descending.

In the starting hut for the time trial

The morning of the time trial arrived with a LOT of rain – the course was now completely saturated and what was steep technical descending was now steep treacherous descending. I started my time trial after a reasonable warmup (it was cold and wet and it was hard to get motivated!). My legs felt bad and I felt like I was simply rolling around the course – worse still, at the start of the lap I crashed badly hurting my knee and getting my bike stuck in a tree – it took me a while to get free and my motivation was now even lower. I finished up the lap 25 minutes after I started (the day before in the dry I did a practice lap in about 22 minutes) well down in 44th position (84 starters). Off to the ambulance to sort out my knee and after a brief scare (they thought I needed stitches), I got bandaged up, cleaned up and went home.

I think I cut my knee :(

This weekend was the Carnival weekend in Cyprus which due to a double booking meant that Mel and I had to pack up our apartment and move to another place an additional 30 minutes from the race venue (now a 1.5 hour drive each way). With this and my knee which was getting very stiff, it was less than perfect recovery.

Bikes ready before the point to point

Saturday started to brighter skies – my leg was sore but I knew it would be okay when I started riding. With only one incident (a flat tire on the car), we arrived at the venue and warmed up. The Point to Point course was about 40-50 minutes riding up and down fireroads (boring – it is sad – but I need to practice my fireroad descending skills) followed by the best bit, a 50 minute climb, almost all on amazing singletrack followed by a roller coaster of a singletrack descent back to the start. The climb gained us 900 meters of altitude and 600 of those were used up on single track descending. My race started like the course – for the first 50 minutes I was riding backwards – I wanted to quit. I felt terrible and had no power – however, once the long climb started my legs turned on and I started to feel great. Over the climb, I zipped (and I actually do mean zipped, I was that bad at the start and that good at the end) past 20-30 riders and transitioned into the long descent nipping in front of another 3. After a slight mishap at the start, I rode pretty well back to the start making up another few positions finishing up 28th. More bandaging on my leg and waiting for Mel for HOURS in doping control didn't help recovery and we only got home around 8pm (my race started shortly after 1pm and lasted 2 hours!)

By Sunday, Mel and I had gotten into a good racing rhythm. The race course had finally dried out and was riding really well. The course was so much more enjoyable than the one we met in the time trial – even my slowest lap from the race was 2 minutes faster than my time trial. Again, the race started at a frantic pace and it really was a sprint for every piece of singletrack. One of the sucky things about riding with 80 in your race is sometimes you get held up, but the great thing is that you are always fighting tooth and nail throughout the race for every position. You have a tussle for a lap with someone and finally drop them, and there is another person, 3-4 seconds ahead to go for – great fun. But, you take it easy for a few pedal strokes, and some guy just buzzes past you. My legs never felt good in the race but I was enjoying myself so I finished up with a smile on my face getting an overall GC position of 28th. It really is great to be riding against so many great riders – it feels like a similar step to when I went to the UK for my first 'big' race in 2007, A UCI C1 in Sherwood Pines (we are going there in a few weeks).

Anyway, with all that I think I should end the post, put my legs up and relax before tomorrows race.

Results for the race are available here. Mel beat me to it and has her report up here.

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