Lars (Team Mechanic) taking care of the bikes while I take care of my legs :-)
We packed up the van and drove to Frejus in the South of France where we met up with the rest of the guys from the team. This year we all stayed in an amazing apartment complete with swimming pool. Late at night and after a long drive from Austria, Alban was the first to test it out. He'd clearly been eating too many pies in anticipation of the off-season because he managed to break the driving board! No diving action for the rest of the team. Uhmm.
Breakfast time at the Team apartment
There are many events to choose from, including the 83km marathon on the Friday and a women's elite XC race the following day. I decided to race the marathon and skip the XC in favour of sun bathing and ice cream. Whoops ;-)
Typically, marathons often start early and the Roc is no exception. At 5am I tucked into my (uncooked) oats while Alban informed me that oats are not the best pre-race meal. Now under normal circumstances this would make me nervous, but today I was as cool as ice. I had no expectations for the race and my only agenda was to have lots of fun. The riding in the area is awesome and the marathon course is filled with technical climbs and thrilling descents.
Early warm up with the mosquitoes before the marathon
Not long into the start I found myself riding with Gunn Rita up the first climb. Not too far ahead was Yvonne Kraft who had a great start and was off like a rocket. After the first feed zone I was in 2nd place and already 1 minute 20 behind Yvonne. I decided to chase her down and see if I could close the gap. This worked and as I past through the second feedzone Dirk (Team Manager) told me that I was 15 seconds behind Yvonne. This is pretty much how it stayed for the next few hours. Yvonne would pull out a small lead on the descents and I would close it on the climbs. I knew that if I could reach the final feedzone at 79km not too far behind Yvonne then I would have a good chance of pulling out a small lead on the flat bike path to the finish area.
The last 4 km of the course is always a challenge. It takes the riders across the beach, up steps, around a narrow coastal path, across a floating bridge, and then along a flat cycle path to the finish area, which includes some woodland trails and a bumpy field to the finish line.
As I grabbed my coke with 4km to go, Dirk told me that I had 15 seconds to Yvonnne. I recalled a conversation with Alban the day before when he told me that coke at the last feedzone in this race can give you a real boost, particularly if you are chasing or sprinting to the finish. Hmmmm, what a coincidence, just the position I had found myself in! With Dirk and Bjorn (AKA 'Twitty') yelling "FULL GAS!!!!!" and “GO SURFA!!!!!” I gulped my coke and the chase commenced!
The wind was blowing at least a force 5 and I could see Yvonne tuck in behind a guy in front. I found myself in a chasing group but only one of the guys would work at the front. As he tired I went to the front to try to close the gap to Yvonne. It worked and we were soon one group. I now had to keep close to Yvonne through the twisty woodland trails. I exited the trails and entered the field to the finish line just behind her. Now was my chance. I sprinted past her and didn't look back. Race won. Job done :-) Party time!!!!!!
Alban finished 6th, but he well and truly cleaned up in the men's elite XC on the Sunday when he out sprinted Burry Stander and Florian Vogel to take the victory. Wahoooo :-)
With the last race of the season successfully completed it was time for Topeak Ergon Racing Team to celebrate. Foods normally excluded from elite athletes diets were consumed plentifully :))))
Full results can be found here