The trip over to Europe this week went smooth as can be. Howie and I had all our flights on time, all our baggage made it and we were even able to locate the random rental car that some guy brought to us at the airport taxi area with out too much trouble, just a few phone calls. I had never rented a car where there was no counter or any other brick and mortar setup but only a telephone number and some guy just meets you curbside, fills out some paper work and off you go with a Eurovan with a table setup inside it. Something new everyday.
But things don’t get that green with out lots of rain and by the end of the week the weather was socked in and the course had went from hard pack blue groove to an ice skating rink. The organizers had put down crushed stone on the single track climbs b/c last year the course was unrideable up and downhill because of all the rain. Needless to say, they knew there is was a very good chance of rain in Albstadt in May.
First of all a HUGE congrats to Dan McConnell for winning the World Cup, that was amazing. His highest place was 20th in the World Cup before this weekend and he said he was only looking for a top 15. I think it gives the US riders a lot of inspiration since he raced the first PROXCT in Texas this year and isn’t some guy they only have seen smashing it at the front of World Cups in Europe.
Jaro fought hard and managed a strong 3rd for the Specialized team. Kohei led the start though the feed zone but had a big kamikaze crash and had to abandon the race. He got checked out by the medical team though and was just bruised not broken. Another good ride was had by Max Plaxton, he finished 7th and with the racing so tight it looked like he might snag a podium spot but he was just a few seconds short. Absalon was absolutely smashing the race, leading by nearly 2 minutes at the halfway point when it looked like his rear wheel seized up. He knew his race was over, ran down the side of the hill and did his best Bradley Wiggins impersonation with his bike. He had to pick it back up and continue down the hill with it though as there was no team car to get it for him.
My race didn’t go as planned, had a mediocre start and then managed to wrap my chain around my crank on the 2nd of 7 laps. It was complete chaos on course with all the mud and the slippery rocks. I have never seen so many people crash on lap one as did yesterday. The course had been dry until about 1 hour before our race when it started pouring. I did a lap of the course before the start and went for the full mud tires since I knew it was so slippy but most people opted to stay warm and dry before the start and there were a lot of limited traction tires on the start grid. They didn’t end up doing me much good in the end but I didn’t have any crashes which is saying something in yesterdays conditions.
I think the World Cup is amazing and it is by far the pinnacle of our sport but there are some things I would like to see change. The race was super exciting yesterday so I doubt anything different will happen but here are some things that I think could be updated.
1. Less then 2 minutes into the flat start we funnel into the steep uphill single track. I went into that single track around 40 which isn’t very good but there were 80 something riders behind me. I had to stand in line for about 30-40 seconds before I could start running, not riding my bike up the hill. 3 minutes later, I had to stand for 20-30 seconds, still around 40th to drop into the downhill. That is over 1 minute down 6 minutes into the race. I think they need to make the starts better at funneling riders in, the 21st rider 2 minutes into the race shouldn’t have to get off their bike and stand to wait to go onto the trail.
Now it might be a lot to ask to design courses that gradually funnel people into a strung out line but I don’t think you should be able to have a World Cup that doesn’t adequately do this. People travel from all over the world to stand in line at bike race. Or, they should only allow 20 people to race so everyone can ride and no one has to run or stand.
2. Features are all the rage in the “new” style of XC mountain bike. I’m all for technical terrain but I prefer the more natural terrain and if there aren’t natural technical features, by all means add some like at the Olympics. Albstadt had plenty of natural features but they still had to put a man made drop in there. I had no problem with the drop and thought is was an easier part of the course compared to the rocks and roots but they decided to close it midway through the men’s race. I’m sure plenty of people got hurt on that drop earlier in the week and or in the race. I don’t think they should have stuff in a course they would consider taking out once the race has started. They saw earlier in the week you couldn’t brake after the drop and could barely make the turn but they left it in there all the way until people started getting hurt really bad. That isn’t what MTB XC is about to me.
Enough about the race, yesterday was Lea’s birthday and Piete organized an amazing German chocolate cake. The cake is much different then the US German cake and I think it’s even better. The Specialized family always does it right and last night was no different, so lucky to be part of such a great team.
Today we are off to Nove Mesto. I had a nice time in Germany other then the race but I’m excited to move on. I have 1 more World Cup and then back home to the US of A. I love hanging out with the team but am excited to see Winston and Meg next week.
I wonder what Winstons’ doing right now….