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Final World Cup, Kaprun, Austria

September 14, 2003

The day after the World Champs in Rivera, Switzerland, the kiwi contingent packed up and headed northeast to Kaprun in Austria for the 5th and final round of the World Cup series. “Dot” the camper was packed with a few extra backpacks, tools and tables for the 4 to 6 hour drive. We expected it to take 4 hours for Alden and the team in the brand new Renault and closer to 6 hours for Christian and I in the camper.

On the Sunday night during the team dinner the rain set in…. and it stayed with us throughout the week in Kaprun. Not only did it rain, but also it was bitterly cold. Snow to 1200m. This was to be the end of the European heat wave. And this was the test for the camper. She stood up well to the rain, but I have to admit she didn’t retain her heat when it was cold.

So the entire week build up to the race was a shambles. We were not allowed onto the course until Thursday and even then it was a big call whether one wanted to train on the course as the “lines” would change considerably before Sunday. I rode just one lap on Thursday to familiarize myself with the course, which was almost identical, only slightly shorter, than last year’s World Champs.

My left thumb was no better despite the ice and massage treatments I gave to it during the week, so we taped it as best we could to give it strength to change gears. Luckily on this course there wouldn’t be much big change ring riding.

The few days before the race were spent discussing tyre options. I switched my Hutchinson Pythons, which were ideal for the dry cross country and marathon courses for a Scorpion on the front and a slightly narrower and harder compound Maxxis Hard Drive on the rear (kindly provided by Kashi. Thanks Kashi).

Come race day the rain stopped and the sun shone but the damage was done and the course was still sodden. The juniors were racing before us. It would soon turn into a mud bath. It was going to be a race of attrition. There were bound to be mechanicals and riders fed up with the mud, and the running race. But everyone was there with the same goal, to gain points and help qualify their nation for the Olympics.

The course was around 5.5km long and thankfully we had been shortened to 4 laps. We started on a very short grassy loop around a paddock that no one had been allowed to ride in practice, and then it was up and over a steep wooden bridge (covered with a grippy surface) to cross the road. I thought this would cause chaos with memories of last year when riders slipped and crashed on a similar bridge, and that was at the end of the lap! As a pack we hit the bridge and were forced to take it slow. No one went down though those at the front were benefited by the bottleneck. It was straight up a fairly long steep climb. I climbed well and plucked off a few riders but I was lacking something today. I wasn’t firing. I wasn’t aggressive. I was tentative and nonchalant. I didn’t suffer. I had a very un-enjoyable race. I was even hoping to be lapped out so I didn’t have to ride another lap of this terrible course, but I must have been going ok, because I just missed the cut off and had to complete the 4th and final lap. I finished 49th.

Not the final race I was hoping for - but lots of positives, good results, and good signs from my season. My form seems to be coming along very well, and I’m now looking forward to getting back into the NZ scene again. Roll on summer!!

PS Photo's are from practice day. Christian was too busy in the feed zone to get pics on race day :-)

Velonews Sep 12
Velonews Sep 14