Monday, February 22, 2010

2010 Cyprus Sunshine Cup Round 1

Wow, that was hard. A winter of training and the odd cyclocross race really made me forget just how hard XC racing is and yesterday was a real 'tough cookie' as a first race.

It has been almost 5 months since my last race and like last year, Round 1 of the Cyprus Sunshine Cup was my introduction. Round 1 this year was being held on a course that was very similar to the course that the final round last year was held in Voroklini. This year, they took away a rocky technical climb and descent (about 1.5 minutes) and added an extra 2 laps! This was going to be a long hard race. 240 meters of climb on the 6.7km lap – I would have 7 laps and an additionally hilly start loop totaling almost 2,000 of climb.

Nerves were the order of the day for the morning – “why am I doing this?”, knowing how hard the 2.5 hour race was going to be. After a navigational error on the way to the race course we arrived with just enough time for a good warmup – at that point, the nerves subsided as my race head went on.

The start was going to be manic – due to my placing in last year's series I had a good grid position (3rd row) but having almost 100 international riders on the start line (almost everyone flew in for this, only a few Cypriots on the line) meant that the race start would be manic for all involved. The race whistle blew and the frantic pace began. I slipped down a bit on the climbs but I wasn't too worried – it would be a long race, the first of the season and the temperature was soaring. The first lap went by in a blur, it was feeling tough but not too bad. Second lap was okay as I eased off a little to catch my breath putting in a reasonable lap time but by the start of the third, it felt like I had blown my lights. From that point on I suffered around the course – the power was drained from my legs but the close racing helped pull me along. It really was a shock to the system.

Coming through for my final lap, I seen a few riders that were ahead of me at the side of the trail, oh no... I was pulled! I wasn't close to being lapped and I was about 14% (there is a 20% rule) off the pace of the winner – I was a bit annoyed to say the least! My legs were cramping but I still wanted that final lap.

I had no major incidents in the race, no crashes (almost everyone you met after the race had some cuts and bruises), I burped my tire on a descent midway through the race losing a little air which meant nursing the tire a little, but nothing major. All this and a huge amount of suffering meant I finished in 41st - better than half way in the huge field.

A clip of one of the descents. The guy who messes up on it wins the next day! It is much steeper than it looks.

The first race of the season was one of my toughest – I seemed to blow up and had to endure the severe course. As ever though, the racing was close, and the organization ran a top quality event with a World Class field in 30 Celsius heat – what more can you ask for in February. I'm really looking forward to this weekends stage race!

Results are available here.

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