After their troubles in England last weekend, Martin Gujan and Martin Gluth managed to transfer great form into great results this weekend in Haiming, Austria.
This Hors Categorie race in Haiming, Austria, always draws an impressive elite field and this weekend was no exception. The course was almost all singletrack which twisted, traversed and steeply sloped up, down and around the pine-forested hillside. The soil was dry and loose, adding another technical element for the riders to tackle. With a few laps completed on Saturday afternoon, Guschi and Martin were happy with the track, despite knowing it would offer absolutely no respite once the gun went on Sunday.
With a belly full of Kaiserschmarrn it was off to bed!
The morning brought sunshine to the stunning Otztal region and the boys were in an equally bright mood as they headed out for a leg-loosening spin. With a second breakfast-come-lunch complete and the bikes fully prepared, it was time to head down to the venue and get the warm-up under-way.
Although still relaxed and joking, the tension was rising and the race faces were on. With gridding complete and the crowds in place, the countdown began. The staff scattered to the two technical/feed zones and the gun went.
From row three Guschi sprinted into the top ten by the end of the start loop. Meanwhile Martin had more traffic to contend with but still managed to hold his own as the race funnelled into the singletrack.
Jockeying for position and jostling with roots and traffic jamming made it hard to find a rhythm in the opening lap. After that the race began to settle as riders found their place in the pack. That said, the pace was relentlessly fast and the fight for position was never-ending.
Guschi soon found himself in the fight for the top positions, and Martin was working his way through the field into the top twenty. It was clear that a podium was a possibility for Guschi who, during the middle sector of the race, caught up to Rudi van Houts who was riding in fifth position. The battle was on!
Assessing van Houts’ strengths and weaknesses, Guschi was able to calculate how hard to push and when to make his competitor suffer. With a time gap of 6 seconds growing to 9 seconds on the final lap, Guschi gave it everything to make it stick until the end. It paid off splendidly and he crossed the line in fifth to take the final podium spot and some very well-deserved UCI points.
Martin fought hard to stay inside the top twenty and was looking comfortable in 19th position until a twig flicked up and got caught in his rear mech. Sensibly he stopped and removed it rather than risk snapping the chain or breaking the mech hanger but this lost him four places. Martin finished in 23rd position, a result that he was initially a little disappointed in but ultimately shows that the young rider has good form and great potential.
It was a successful weekend full of fun and which leaves the riders with confidence as we lead into the first World Cups of the season.
There was also racing for Mariske Strauss and Cherie Vale this weekend as they took to the start line for the third round of the South Africa Cup.
After a hectic month of racing which saw them complete the Cape Epic and then two XCO races, the girls took some rest and came into this race with fresh legs.
Mariske did her National Champion’s stripes justice with another win in the series, whilst Cherie raced to third place. Another strong performance from the girls on home soil and more points in the bag as they too now look forward to the opening World Cups of the season which they will fly out to Europe for.
Before that, however, are the African Continental Championships where our riders will look to dominate.