Despite a number of high-profile races and big results, the season never quite feels like it has begun properly until the first World Cup. With all the riders and staff together for the first time since South Africa, and with the all new arena tents and branding, we were all set.
Here are reports from the back-to-back opening World Cups of 2015 –
Two weekends ago the 2015 UCI World Cup got under way at the ever-popular venue of Nove Mesto na Morave in the Czech Republic. With a varied, technical course of rocks, roots, climbs and shoots – plus an incredible crowd – the team was excited to kick off the campaign.
Check out on-board footage from course practise with the boys – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QHDZmv8Pp0
Unfortunately Isla was too ill to race at Nove Mesto so she spent Saturday resting and recovering, with her focus to be fully fit in time for the following weekend.
And so it was that Sunday marked the beginning of the racing for the team. Mariske and Cherie took to the start line and – after nine months of preparation since the last World Cup – the start gun finally went!
It was a tale of two fortunes. For Cherie the hard work of the winter began to show. Extra technical training meant she rode all the A lines with aplomb, but where she really made an impact on the riders around her was on the climbs. For the first time she could finish the race on the same lap as the leader, and she made the most of it by high-fiving the crowds down the finish line whilst sporting the biggest smile seen all day! Fifty-ninth place was a good step forward, but more than a result, Cherie gained confidence and a whole host of fans.
Unfortunately Mariske was denied a high-fiving finish by an early crash. A slip of the wheel saw her take a very close inspection of the rocks, resulting in a split knee and an unwanted mud mask for the face. Mariske fought on but the battle was really over. It was a big disappointment but we are pleased to say that the injuries – both mental and physical – seem to be well-healed.
You can read about the girls’ races in their own words here >
With the girls’ race finished there was just enough time to head back to base before the call-up for the men’s race began. With the crowd in full roar, and the guys at full tilt, we were racing again. All in, flat out.
After such a strong start to the season it was a disappointing race for Martin Gujan. Sometimes it isn’t possible to pin a reason on a poor result, it is just ‘not your day’. After a good start Guschi made a few small mistakes which, in such a competitive and close field, saw him plummet down the places. Thereafter he never found the rhythm again. Fiftieth was not the result Guschi wanted, and it’s much less than he is capable of. However, experience and a strong mind mean that our team captain was able to push it aside and spring back ready for the next race, next opportunity.
Guschi’s race, in his own words > http://martingujan.ch/index.php?section=news&cmd=details&newsid=303
Shlomi and Martin Gluth both agreed that they gave it everything, but that the top-end power and speed was just not quite there. Positions forty-eight and fifty-two respectively were less than they hoped for, but it is still a solid start.
With the second round of the World Cup the following weekend, a fresh chance awaited for everyone. Despite some disheartened souls and sore bodies, the team bounced right back to optimum optimism!
Marsike said, “Last weekend was my first international race for nearly a year. It was an eye-opener and a wake-up call. It’s actually what I needed; a shake up, in a good way. The mind set is there again and I’m feeling good. The Albstadt track is amazing. I’m ready to bite the bullet and hit it hard…hit the pedals hard, not the floor! I must keep the bike on the ground, not my face!”
For Martin Gluth this weekend is also about another shot at a good result, but it is something extra special, too – “I’m looking forward to my home World Cup here in Germany. I’m hoping for a lot of spectators. They know the German riders and cheer like crazy! I want to try and improve the result from last weekend, and to do that I must get a good start – that’s really important at this course. All in all I feel quite good.”
So, we were #AllSetForAlbstadt…
A long day of driving and few days of training later we were back on the World Cup start line. It is a start line like no other – the level of the riders, the pressure, the crowds, the infamous heart beats that pump out over the PA system with thirty seconds to go. Bm bmm, bm bmm, bm bmm…
Take a look at this great video recording the lead into World Cup #2 –https://www.facebook.com/ORANGEMONKEYMTB/videos/vb.114292848618335/804186626295617/?type=2&theater
For Isla, these were first-time experiences. She had raced the Junior World Series last year but never a World Cup. The pace was furious from the start and left Isla with some chasing to do. She began to pick off the riders ahead of her as she worked her way into the rhythm and into the race. With a few weeks of illness and interrupted training Isla unfortunately couldn’t perform at her best; the race fitness just wasn’t there. That said, a 37th place at her début U23 World Cup is not to be sniffed at, and we – the team and Isla herself – know there is a lot more to come. Watch this space!
Onto Sunday and the Elite races.
Last weekend Mariske and Cherie had mixed fortunes in Nove Mesto, and this weekend was no different except their roles were reversed. Cherie really struggled with nerves and expectation in the lead up to the race and, despite her best efforts and our sincere reassurances, these emotions conquered her in Albstadt. While Mariske got off to a flying start, Cherie explained that her head said go but her body said no. Cherie is a fantastic climber and the course at Albstadt suited her well but unfortunately she just couldn’t tap into her rhythm and reveal her strengths. Overcoming anxiety and channelling nervous energy in a positive way in all part of being an elite athlete and is something we will work on together.
Whilst Cherie struggled to 64th position, Mariske was able to find the composure and power that had deserted her the previous week and record a 57th place. Whilst Mariske is still some way off her best – managing injury and fighting back to full fitness – she was able to move forward in Albstadt and come away with some real positives.
As ever the girls were there for each other, lending words of support and a hand to hold through the journey.
With the girls back it was time for the boys to go. The warm-up, the gridding pens, the call-up, the heart beats, the gun.
Shlomi, Martin Gujan and Martin Gluth all got off to a safe start but the battle for places is never over. This week Guschi found himself in a much better position after the opening lap. From here he pushed forward, moving up through the groups and almost into the top 30. Martin Gluth and Shlomi were not far behind on the opening couple of laps but, as the race progressed and Guschi moved up, they slipped back.
The climbs were brutal and the descents were sketchy and out-of-control in places but the boys made every push on the pedals count. Both the Martins suffered in the final lap and a half and dropped a few places, while Shlomi held strong (although not as strong as he would have liked).
No mechanicals and no major mistakes; solid rides and solid results. Guschi finished in 37th, Martin in 56th and Shlomi in 62nd.
And so the first World Cup trip came to an end. As the tents were deconstructed, thoughts were already turning to how we can build on these races. Hopes and dreams mounted. Where will this journey take us next?