Monday, March 16, 2009

2009 Sunshine Cup Round 4 - UCI C1

It seemed like no time ago that Mel and I arrived in Cyprus for the Sunshine Cup, but Sunday was the final race in the 2009 series. On Thursday Mel and I traveled up to Oroklini to train on the course for the race. A very warm and sunny day greeted us on the course and pretty quickly we noticed the lack of shade – no problem, time to work on the tan :)
The course was probably the best of the series, a 7.5km mixture of fireroad, single track climbing, technical rocky climbing and, as usual for the Sunshine Cup, steep technical descending. This time though, the major descent was around two and a half minutes of white knuckle, stay off the breaks madness. Indeed, the first time around the lap I was wondering how I would ride it! Mostly, the initial apprehension was due to the sheer scale and length of the descents and from the second lap on, once you knew what to expect the descents were a blast.

For both of us, this trip was more about the training than the racing, our competition was a mixture of people peaking for these races and people training straight through them. To that end, last week both of us got a lot of good riding in and were both a little tired going into the race. Race morning arrived and I actually felt reasonably good – as I started my warmup, the rain clouds came in with a cold wind – the course was technical enough without the rain! As the 11am start time approached the 65 or so Elite Men congregated around the start area, the wind eased and the rain left us for the day – yes this IS the Sunshine Cup.

Shortly after 11 the race kicked off, a few missed pedals in front of me almost caused a pile up but the start loop was pretty well designed so we all settled into the race pretty quickly. Although not as bad as my last few races, I still wasn’t happy with my start. The first full lap went by in a blur with lots of jostling for position the whole way around - I mostly battled with guys from the German and Russian national teams. I seemed to be a lot stronger on the technical climbs (the full suspension S-Works Epic surely helped with that), descending roughly equal or better and then losing distance a bit on the flats/fireroads. Due to my lack of offroad riding over the winter, I thought the less technical end of things would be my stronger side, but I guess these guys did even less off road than me!

Halfway through my 3rd lap (Elite Men did 5 laps plus 1.5 start loops) I had the first of my two incidents. I had just passed two riders on a technical climb and was on a transitional fireroad section before the long descent when my front wheel unexpectedly washed out. With all the super technical descending, I fall on the freaking fireroad, it wasn’t even a fast section! Gashes on my elbow and knee pumped with pain and I contemplated calling it a day – I remounted and rode the descent, by the bottom I decided that there was no point calling it a day as the descents were too much fun and the cuts didn’t look too bad.

Climbing some singletrack

My next two laps were going well, I was catching up with the group that was fighting for 27th and felt pretty good. The punchy climbs had sapped a lot of my legs energy but I knew I could put in one more push to the finish. I rounded the top of the course with about 5 km to go, when disaster struck. Pshh, pshh, pshh – the front tire was slashed and Stan wasn’t up to the job. I started into the descent with about 10psi in the front tire but a few yards later it was obvious that things were not so good. I had a CO2 so I waited to a section where the wheel would be spinning well and inflated the tire in the hope that the whole would plug. No luck – damn. I rode/ran what I could on the way back but cursed as rider after rider nipped by. I lost 7 positions as I made my way back to the start/finish, and almost worse, lost out on the chance on riding those descents one last time.

Annoyed, I arrived back at the start finish – had I not had the puncture, I would have finished around 11 minutes down on the winner (about 10% off their speed).

Summing up, the course was great and the racing tough – the cuts meant I had a pretty sleepless night last night (there was one exact position I could lye) and the flat was a bit of a dampener, but I got great training and racing out here and at least I only had one race puncture, and it was on the last lap. I finished up 18th in GC for the Cup (the puncture cost my 3 places) but plan to return next year and make some improvements :)

Results for the race are available here and there is a report available here.

A special thanks to Fredrick from the Kalavasos bike station for helping us in so many ways over the last three weeks. Also, Cycleways, Specialized, KCNC and TorQ – for allowing us to ride on the best equipment available and keep our energy levels topped up. Thanks!

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