The days leading up to our departure to begin the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup season seemed as turbulent as the volcanic eruptions in Iceland. For three nights in a row, we were packed and ready to go as the customer service team of Emirates Airlines continually tried to re-schedule our flights to various European destinations that would still allow us to make the trip to Dalby Forest. Yet we were continually thwarted at Melbourne airport as they could not guarantee passage beyond Dubai into Europe.
So when we were finally picked up at midnight Thursday and driven to the airport it was still hard to believe we were going to make the first World Cup of the season at Dalby Forest, Yorkshire in the United Kingdom to take place that weekend. I had all but given up hope. Ray, on the other hand, had not. With his temporary upgrade to Tier 5 within the team, plus being nominated as the team manager for this leg, he had spent countless hours on the phone and internet determined to get the team to the UK anyway possible.
With our original destination now changed, the team had been temporarily split. Normally this would be a major inconvenience but under the circumstances, we were all just relieved to be landing on the same island. The Torq Nutrition World Cup team this year consists of Jo, Dan and me with Ray acting as team manager and the Australian Under 23 champ Bec Henderson joining our travelling party, too.
We are missing Luke Fetch, who had broken his wrist at the famed Hammerhead descent on the Stromlo course just one week after booking his flights and making arrangements for his first season of Under 23 World Cup racing. Luke is likely to read this while recovering on his stationary trainer back home. Jenny King was set to join us, too, but succumbed to injury after making her arrangements also.
Ray and I were lucky to fly into Manchester where it worked out that Matt Hart, (Torq Nutrition founder and the James Bond of British mountain biking) was able to collect us and take us towards Pickering in the Torq Nutrition camper which would also be our on-course base for the weekend. We arrived at our accommodation 36 hours after departing Melbourne. Jo left Melbourne a little earlier than us and arrived into Gatwick then caught a bus from London to York and then transferred to our accommodations late in the evening, while Dan and Bec arrived into Heathrow and used a hire car to make their way to Pickering and arrived at 5:30 am, some 38 hours after leaving Melbourne!
So it wasn't until Friday morning as I was pulling on my knicks that I was finally sure that I indeed would be lining up for the race after all.
The race village was full of athletes and teams sharing their own experiences of what it had taken to get to the race and some were still to arrive. It was great to ride through the village and reacquaint ourselves with familiar faces that we had not seen since the conclusion of the season last September in Schladming.
My good feelings towards the course and the area continued to provide me with a special buzz as I had won the test event here last year and was somewhat comfortable with the layout of the course. On top of all this, we were debuting our stunning new Cube SCR elite hardtails that we were presented with just prior to leaving Melbourne.
The race organisers held a sprint challenge through the streets of the host town Pickering on the Friday evening which proved very popular with the locals and sponsors alike. It would have been great to be a part of it, but I was just too tired with the late arrival and trying to get organised with food and bike requirements beforehand. Hopefully Martin Salt and his event organisers will be rewarded with another event next year and we can get involved a lot more, too.
So it was with great anticipation on Sunday that we were finally gridded up on the start line to begin the new season. I was not the only one feeling jittery as there was a crash within the first 100m meters of the start forcing me to unclip and negotiate around the mess on foot, immediately losing valuable places.
So the race was a reminder at the intensity of World Cup racing and how any mistake is costly. My body and mind were responding surprisingly well, and I was maintaining strong feelings throughout the race, but then a couple of random mechanical mishaps on the final two laps left me feeling deflated as it took away from my overall good sensations about the race.
So with little time to think about what just happened, we had to get ready to repack again and depart early Monday to make our way to race number two at the famed Houffalize course the next week.
Thanks for reading,