Wednesday, 29 June 2016

World Marathon Championships, Laissac, France

Last week I wrote about how in 2013 I raced and won Sellaronda Hero and one week later I won my first World Championship medal - Silver in Kirchberg, Austria. This year I decided to try to replicate this, well actually the goal was a medal of any colour with Gold being the obvious preference! Coincidentally, I matched 2013: winning Sellaronda Hero and a Silver Medal in Laissac, France last weekend. I'll take that as 'mission accomplished'!

The course in France comprised of technically challenging descents and climbs - a real MTB course in the Midi-Pyrenees - not too dissimilar to the riding in the UK. The course was pretty much 70km of slippery, muddy trails littered with rocks, roots, drops, jumps, log piles and river crossings. I liked it! The most difficult part was the first half but the latter half had a sting in the tail so it was pretty important to make sure there was something left in the tank.

The rainbow stripes of the World Champion are hotly contested so it's not unusual to see top XCO riders lining up to fight for the prestigious title. Preparation went really well and the week leading up to the race was pretty chilled. We have such a great team of staff and riders and it's so cool that as well as being focused and professional we also spend time relaxing and having fun together. This I believe is part of our success. Taking 3 World Champs medals (Alban: Silver, Kristian: Bronze, and me: Silver) is testimony to that! Jeremiah Bishop and Erik Kleinhans performed a great feat when they came from the back of the field to finished 23rd and 29th!  Here's a nice link to our team story.

Chilling with rum and coke in the days before the race

The race went smoothly for me with no mechanicals or crashes. Luck obviously plays a role but excellent preparation in terms of course reconnaissance (thanks to Ben Thomas for his company) and equipment plays a huge part too! I don't underestimate or take for granted the importance of our staff in our success. We have the best mechanic (Peter Felber), the best physiotherapist and massage therapist (Torsten Walter and Craig Gerber), a meticulous team manager (David Padfield) and soigneur extraordinaire (Robert Novotny, aka Gio).

Starting with race plate number two perhaps was a sign of what was to come! Finishing second to multiple XCO World Cup winner Jolanda Neff is a result that I can live with - after 4 hours I crossed the line 2 minutes back. However, as a marathon rider the World Championships is the most important race - marathon is not an Olympic discipline - and it is this rainbow jersey that I'd dearly like to pull over my head.

Thanks for following!

Friday, 24 June 2016

Last weekend was one of my favourite races: Sellaronda Hero. It's a special race not least because of the dramatic location - possibly the most spectacular mountains I've ever seen - but also because the organisation and media coverage is exceptionally good (2 hours of live coverage on Eurosport!). 

Set in the Italian dolomites the race circumnavigates the infamous Sellagroup sending riders up and down four unbelievably steep mountain passes that require the smallest of front chainrings! The altitude - between 1600m and 2300m - also adds to the challenge of the race as does the weather! Heavy rain and thunder storms in in the days and night before softened the ground and made the climbs even harder -soft ground sucking the power from the wheels - and the descents more slippery and tricky.  Starting at 7.10 am is another challenge; its not so easy to eat breakfast at 4.45am! However this only makes the race even more appealing to the thousands of riders who love to tackle and conquer it. 

Here's a link to the Eurosport TV coverage.

In 2013 I raced and won Sellaronda Hero for the first time. One week later I won a Silver medal at the World Championships in Kirchberg, Austria. This year the timing is exactly the same with the World Championships this coming Sunday in Laissac, France. I'm hoping that my second win in the Italian Dolomites will set me up for similar success this weekend in France! 

Keep your fingers crossed for me this weekend!


Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Silver Spell is broken!

After 4 Silver European Championship medals (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014) and one Silver World Championship medal (2013) there really was only one goal in Sigulda, Latvia last weekend: I wanted GOLD. Badly!

After training on the course - 80km with just 1300metres of climbing - it was clear that it'd be a high speed race with riders staying together in groups to avoid wasting energy riding alone in the wind on the long open sections. Staying together in the peloton and sprinting for the finish wasn't really how I wanted the race to pan out but I knew it would be risky to ride alone in front while the chasing group worked together behind me. But not being one to turn an opportunity down I made a break from the group after about 25km leaving only 55km to go alone! When I knew that my lead was gradually increasing my attention started to turn to not making any mistakes and avoiding punctures! Riding up the final climb, hearing the incredible support from the crowds and knowing that I'd finally broken the Silver Spell was awesome. European Champion. Finally! 

© LenaXol 2016
Congratulations to Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden) and Katarina Sosna (Lithuania) for their Silver and Bronze medals both well deserved! 

Here's a link to a nice video:

Now I'm back in Austria for some quality time sleeping in the same bed and eating great food before the next big goal: World Championships in France on Sunday 26th June.