Wow, what an experience this past weekend was. That’s what it was really, an experience. At these first few world cups I’m not really chasing a result, finishing the race or being in the top 100 would be nice but essentially it’s all about learning the way.
My first taste of the talent these international stars have was in the Dalby Pro Sprint Eliminator. This race was a new concept designed to bring the racing to the audience. It certainly succeeded with about 100 of the world best mountain bikers taking to the start line of an urban circuit around Pickering town centre. Taking place on Friday night crowds lined the course whilst sampling the array of restaurants, bars and pubs that were open. The circuit itself started at the top of the climb on the high street, it then descended into a tight left hand corner before climbing up to another left hand corner. The loop then lead the riders through a cobbled grave yard, down a set of stairs, and over a small ramp. It then once again climbed before turning through someone’s garden, down a gravel road and back out onto tarmac before reaching the high street climb for the final sprint.
Each rider had to qualify for the finals by time trialing around the course and setting the best time they possibly could. Qualifying for the finals to represent team TORQ was Lee, Ant, and myself. In the finals 4 riders raced against each other with the top 2 finishers progressing to the next round. Unfortunately after hanging around in the holding area with no rollers or turbo trainer to keep warm my legs weren’t very well prepared to race against riders from the Cannondale Factory team and Merida Multivan team. Also in this round was British rider Steve James who went on to collect 3rd place on the junior world cup podium the next day. The 2 international riders quickly jumped away from us Brits, their acceleration left us stunned and we were unable to pull back the gap. Ant also suffered against the amazing power these riders hold. Lee Cragie on the other hand progressed all the way to the women’s final beating many world class riders along the way, she would eventually finish 4th just off the podium.
After a few days practising the world cup course in Dalby Forest it was time to finally line up for my first world cup. I was gridded 164th, however the grid position didn’t mean much when over half the field jumped forward from their grid with a minute to go. Once the gun went the carnage began, unfortunately the singletrack came just too soon and the field hadn’t spread out leading to massive bottlenecks. These delays in the singletrack continued for the first couple of laps, eventually however the riders spaced out and the lap times improved. I suffered mid race after crashing and twisting my saddle, this meant I couldn’t sit down for a couple of laps therefore loosing time and using up energy that I should have been saving for the end of the race. The race was 6 laps but unfortunately I was pulled out of the race after 5 laps because of the 80% rule, I was disappointed I wasn’t allowed to finish the race but my body was pretty knackered by that point anyway. My finishing position was 138th, certainly not very impressive but I had an amazing time, and now cant wait till next weekend where I’ll be racing round 2 in Houffalize, Belgium. Thanks for all the support from those of you who travelled up to watch and those of you who sent kind messages.