TUESDAY (I think??)
Twenty-four hours of travelling later I landed in PMB. Normally I quite like plane travel but with a fever, cough and sinus it was not so great. And now, jet lag – laying awake from 2am with no wireless connection is torture. It’s hard to complain when I wake up to a perfect South African morning at Arlington guesthouse. What a stunning and enormous house. With six massive rooms, it sleeps 9 including 2 staff and is two doors down from the main house where the Felt Otzal Bionic team are staying. It has sixteen-foot ceilings and parquetry floors – just amazing. The to-do list: power adapter, WIFI, food and of course putting the bike together.
There is always so much day left over when all you have to do is course reconnaissance. Being a morning rider I’d prefer to get it done first thing but official practice isn’t until 12pm as they are still doing work on the course – nothing like a last minute job hey? I managed a lap yesterday and it goes something like this: Steep, flat and boring, twisty downhill, really steep uphill, twisty single track, crazy rock garden, steep uphill, tame single track, ridiculous drop off, gap jump, crazy log arrangement, steep, boring bit, rock garden into another rock garden, some steep downhill and start again. I’m praying it doesn’t rain as it would make most of the techy downhill sections unrideable.
I managed to get 7 hours sleep last night with the aid of some anti-histamines. I also went sans sunglasses yesterday to get as much UV light onto the retina as possible to tell my brain that despite what it thinks it is time for my eyes to be open. Lack of TV is doing my head in but at least I’ve solved the coffee situation with the purchase of some filter papers today. I’m solving all the big issues.
My fourth day in the ‘burg’ and I’m starting to get comfortable. I’m riding some unbelievable shit on the course – all the A lines. Yes, I almost broke my ribs today, but that’s not important. I’m just very excited to be mastering my fear of these things. Personal growth – it’s what this sport is all about. A big thanks to Aus coach Chris Clarke for showing me the lines and implying I was a wuss if I didn’t ride them.
Recovery days are incredibly boring without TV or Facebook. As usual we have make grocery shopping into a hobby. They don’t have gluten free bread but I’m gonna get me some ostrich meat before I leave.
Well the race has been done and dusted. I didn’t go as well as I’d hoped but I rode a smart race, pacing to give myself the best chance to make the final lap without getting pulled out at the 80% mark. It was the race-within-a-race story where I settled in with a few riders, each of us attacking and coming back, swapping positions. Knowing that I come strong in the second half of the race I held a bit in reserve on the steep climbs and passed on the flats when the others were sitting up trying to recover.
Realising that my ribs are actually broken (I had 7 broken ribs in 12 months, so trust me, I know when they’re broken) I rode 2 of the chicken lines costing me about 12 seconds per lap – 1 minute for the race. My favourite part of the course was the big jump into the double, which others were having a bit of trouble with – go figure. My form was not enough for a top 40 finish to get a good start for Houffalize so I decided the play was to ride safe, chalk up a result and live to fight another day.
I now have 4 weeks of training ahead of me instead of physio and rehab. Yes, mountain biking is about fitness and skill, but it’s also about judgement.
The Pietermaritzburg course is the site of the World Champs for 2013 and has all the hallmarks of a course worthy of the title. However the start may need to be revised as we were walking up a climb after the first ten seconds and then walking the second switchback climb a few minutes later as 75 girls funneled into a 3 foot wide track. The rain the previous night had dried out and the conditions were hot and very Australian-like. We were much luckier than the under 23 women who copped a torrential downpour in the afternoon forcing organizers to close the A-lines for
safety and shorten the race to 3 laps.
At the behest of the Aussie coach I went for a roll for another hour and a half post race to flush the legs out and get some k’s in before being restricted to the confines of a 747. Flying out on Monday afternoon for Geneva it gives me some time to actually SEE a bit of World cup action instead of being part of it. We are off to the downhill finals tomorrow to cheer on the Aussies and some of the guys we have sharing the B&B with.
Thanks to my sponsors as always: For The Riders, Sram, Shotz, Schwalbe, Adidas Eyewear, Jet Black, PCS Coaching.