I've been back home for one week since the muddy racing in Canada.
The marathon and cross country World Championships are knocking on our end of racing season door. Luckily they are still to come and I can save my, thus far, poor racing season. Since starting to compete in the full World Cup calender in 1998, I have never found myself out of top ten overall.
Normally the Canadian World Cups in the middle of the season suit me very well. They are technical courses, it is summer time and I am in great spirits.
All of us from Specialized Factory Racing arrived on a Tuesday from many parts of the world to Montreal (before the Mont Sainte Anne World Cup - Ed.). Burry Stander, our South African "kid", definitely had the longest and most hectic travel. He found out at the Johannesburg airport that he could not fly via Atlanta since he had no transit visa for the US. After checking several different options, he finally found a flight via Paris to Montreal. All this running around and negotiating was a 45-minute process and his Specialized team credit card was 1,200 euro lighter at the finale. But it shows that the 21-year-old youngster can not only ride a bike fast, but also use his big-looking head (which makes any bike helmet look small!) to make good plans. :-)
On the other hand, I had an awesome flight to Montreal. Swiss Airlines upgraded me from business into first class, and I almost felt lost in the very front of the plane, like in a big hall. But the reality hit me soon again for the four-hour drive to Mont St. Anne. No more unlimited seat adjusting, and I was soon eating a soft sandwich at a crazy-cold, air conditioned Subway.
This year has been about having a good time going out riding. It was raining on and off the whole time in Montreal. On race day, the temperature dropped, too, and before our race, we watched the final stage of the Tour de France, while outside it was pouring rain... not good for my motivation!
Luckily the rain stopped before our race, but the damage was done. Running through the technical parts of the course was almost as fast as riding. I had a very poor start and double flatted as well. My 23rd place was definitely not what I was looking for.
Sun and heat welcomed us in Bromont, just a four-hour drive south within Quebec, for the next round of the World Cup a week later. That was good for our hearts, and after the first laps on the course, Todd (Wells), Burry and I jumped straight into a river. It was so humid, that it did not really make a difference to be wet.
The wet from the rain made a big difference to the terrain on our race day though. With perfect timing, the rain started pouring down two hours before our start, and we got another mud bath. At least it was warm, and the rain did not stop until after the race. In these conditions, the mud stayed more or less fluid and did not turn into sticky muck.
For the whole race, I was in about 10th place, but lost a few positions near the end. I also lost my rear brake for the last two laps due the pads wearing out, but I was not alone with that problem. The course definitely required some courage, and I used some of the mudholes as braking holes, plus my shoes as a foot brake. The only souvenirs I brought home were dirty clothes and a infected right eye from all the mud. I am so ready for dust and podium souvenirs.
On the flight back, Swiss airlines upgraded me again. I must be such a good customer, or they felt sorry seeing my "crying" red eye. Anyway I had a good sleeping tablet, sleep and I was home at 10:00 am. I unpacked everything, worked on my bikes, cleaned my apartment and cut the lawn. At the end of the day, I ended up at the lake having a great swim.
I did feel very good and confident before the Canadian World Cups, but somehow I can not get my head together for muddy races. I am not nervous before those starts, and I feel like I will have more of a fight against the conditions than my competitors.
Luckily this turned around last weekend in Bern. I felt my own pressure, since another bad race would just be not good for my head. Even my preparation was not the very best with all the traveling and some two days of filming beforehand, but I managed to finish third in a world-class field that was led by Julien Absalon.
It's been a little while ago, but one of my season's highlights was a trip with the new Specialized Stumpjumper home from a race in Italy. It was a monster of a riding day, but I didn't care since the trails, views, bike and weather were awesome. The Stumpjumper is the ultimate free feeling - just riding the bike with backpack wherever you like to go.
My new 2010 Stumpjumper gave me such a big kick. It is forgiving in the descents and climbs almost like a cross country bike. I was particularly impressed with the suspension that was maintenance-free and stayed smooth throughout the days. Cleaning and oiling my chain was the only maintainance that made my hands dirty, and I am very fussy when it comes to a clean drivetrain!