This past weekend team TORQ Performance made the journey in the fun bus to Belgium for the second round of the World Cup series. On Thursday after a long journey we rolled off the motorway and into the town of Houffalize were preparation for the weekends festivities were in there final stages. Travelling out of town we soon reached our beautiful gite positioned in a small farming community of around 10 to 15 houses.
Friday and Saturday we practised the course which included several very steep climbs, a rock slap drop, some flowing singletrack, and a leg bursting start loop. All week the weather conditions were amazing with sunshine and temperature up to 27 degrees centigrade. This left the course loose with dust covering the bikes after each days riding. On Saturday evening it began to rain lightly, we hoped that the drizzle would purely dampen down the dusty conditions that had developed. However some harder rain during the morning and the thunder storm that moved over the venue 40 minutes before the start of our race meant conditions changed to slippery unpredictable mud.
A chaotic start with blockages on the singletrack meant the start loop took double the time that it had taken in practise. The leaders by the end of the start loop already had a 6 minute advantage over us riders further back in the field. After the first 2 laps where I rode a steady tempo I then began to push up the pace on lap 3. At this point I was catching riders and was racing with a couple of familiar faces from back home; teammate Andy Blair and friend Chris Minter. The mud by now had begun to dry and become sticky, this was causing all sorts of bike problems for the riders. I began to get issues with my bike causing the chain to fall off the chainset, unfortunately this meant I had to run the last climb on the 3rd lap loosing me 5 positions, I knew this may be the last lap I got to ride so was chasing hard on the descent but couldn’t find room to overtake. With the 80% rule always threatening and short lap times being produced by the top riders we could fall just 14 minutes behind before being pulled out of the race. On the 3rd lap of the race course I was pulled from the race finishing a disappointing 172nd, what was worse was that I still had fresh legs and felt I could have pushed on much harder, lessons learnt for World Cup round 3 in Offenburg, Germany. These World Cups though are all about the experience, racing at Houffalize was so special, especially with the thousands of fans lining the entire course. It was great having a large number of Brits travel over to watch the race, thanks for the support.
The main section of the course
One of the descents
Our amazing accommodation
One of the calves that entertained us for hours
Me during the race