Traveling all the way to Australia is just too far, when it comes to losing my World Championship title! However, this was in September and is already awhile ago, and I am not sure if I should still write about it. My 10th place at worlds was just a reflection of my inconsistent season, when I was not much faster than top ten.
My legs hurt the same or even more when riding off the podium, and missing out on all of the exciting action at the front was frustrating. At least I get the stories from (my teammate) Burry (Stander) who won his first World Cup in Champéry, Switzerland. His was an amazing performance considering he is still Under 23 and did not grow up in a traditional cycling country! (Stander is from South Africa - ed.)
Champéry was the second last World Cup, and I live about 150km and a few valleys away. Since Burry and I had the road bikes with us, we had the great idea of riding our bikes to my home on Monday and then driving to Schladming the next day.
At breakfast, I only wanted to ride two passes and then jump into my car, which was driven by our soigneur Claire, but Burry, who obviously thought Switzerland is very small, was not thinking about the extra distance made by the vertical terrain of the mountains. He wanted to go all the way!!
At lunch in Gstaad, when we had just finished up our soup, pizza and hot chocolate, he was not so sure about riding the entire way anymore. I did my "You pussy" thing, and off we were pedaling again. Getting close to 5:00 pm, my home climb up from the lake was still ahead. For me, that is just my daily bread, and it's definitely an advantage to know every meter after such a long ride. We were running on empty and a stop for Coke and a chocolate drink saved us for the last kilometers from the village to my house.
This ride was definitely not good preparation for Saturday's World Cup. We were dead for the next three days, and only on the day before the race did my legs came back again.
Then came a day for training on the course. We did nothing smarter than chase each other full gas for one lap around the course. Todd Wells set the pace with us two hanging on. I could feel the sparks down my arms like I only get in a real race. That lap was faster than my start lap in the actual race.
During the big day, I dropped back and out of the top 30, but toward the end, I had a mini comeback and finally finished 12th. The final party afterwards was classic. Man, that place was packed, the air steaming hot and the music loud. Todd, Burry and I definitely were not overdressed in just our hotel bathrobes!
I didn't win the crystal World Cup trophy this year. However, I've gotten a different sort of trophy. Benno, with the help of the SRAM boys, built me my new Specialized Enduro. Many thanks to SRAM who had some XX components left for it and to Jan who sent me the very best Enduro bike I have ever had.
I never thought I was ever going to ride a seatpost with a saddle height that is adjustable by a remote lever on my handlebar. I quickly learned that the cornering is so much faster with a lower saddle. The low center of gravity is the key, especially for a long -legged guy like me!
The XX brakes with 180mm front rotor and 160mm rear roter were enough for braking power, and I experienced no problems with overheating, even after super steep, long downhills. With this bike, I can ride sections safe and fast that I could not even dream of before, and it is a real mountain goat weighing in at only 11.9kg. This is amazing for a bike with 16cm of front and rear travel!
I've definitely broken in the bike by now. I've been in the Italian part of Switzerland for camping and riding and watching the Under 23 and elite World Championships road races. Our daily schedule was busy with fun on the trails, coffee breaks, hanging around the lake and not missing out on any of the road racing action.
This week, I left for Southern France and Roc d'Azur for the last two races of the season. Every year, 15,000 riders line up during the course of four days of events. I will race the marathon on Friday and the cross country on Sunday. I really like to race there, as long as I do not get a single, double or even a triple flat tire. I don't like walking the race course and begging for tubes and pumps!
If I do listen to (my team manager) Bobby this year at Roc d'Azur - unlike ever other f*&!*#* year - I might ride the right tires and not puncture. I hope I don't have to listen to the words, "I told you so!" Bobby will most certainly hurt my legs enough with his crushing riding style in The Cape Pioneer, so helpfully I won't have to listen to painful post-race talk of Roc d'Azur punctures. I have promised myself and my team that I will ride the right tires. There'll be no looking around the truck or annoying Benno, Dylan, Claire or Sandy in search of the superlight SLK and Renegade tires.