The third round of the UCI World Cup in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, delivered a stunning venue, great racing and season’s best results for the team.
However, the trip didn’t get off to the greatest of starts. Firstly, Mariske crashed and sustained an ankle injury during training for the South Africa Cup the previous week and therefore did not make the trip to Switzerland. With Shlomi not scheduled to race in Lenzerheide we were down to four riders. Four then became three when Isla took a dramatic fall during practice on Saturday which resulted in a broken collarbone and a compression fracture in her vertebrae. Thankfully despite being fairly serious injuries, there doesn’t appear to be any complications at this stage for either of the girls. Mariske is looking to be back on the bike in a month, whereas for Isla it will be near to three months before she is back riding anything more than a turbo trainer. Thank you to everyone who has helped and supported Mariske and Isla and kept their spirits as high as can be expected. They are fighters and they will be back! Best wishes girls.
Now, back to the racing. For Cherie, Martin and Martin, the show had to go on.
The course in Lenzerheide was a hit with all the riders. Twisting, climbing, jumping and descending its way around the lower slopes of the big mountains, the track required a mixture of technical prowess, explosive strength and strong climbing. Roots, dust and three drop offs were the big players on this largely natural course.
Sunday was very hot and dry, just as it had been all week. The call-up boxes were awash with iced water and umbrellas as everyone did their best to keep cool. Cool and calm. The Elite Women’s start time was approaching fast.
Cherie rolled out onto the grid and at 1115 the starter’s gun fired, signalling the flat-out sprint into the first sections of singletrack. Unfortunately Cherie got caught behind a crash at the first technical section and lost a lot of time. With some skilful scooting and scuffling along she managed to get going again. There were places to made up. The battle was on.
Still a relative newbie to the sport, and especially to World Cup racing, Cherie knew she had yet to find the aggression and determination to fight for her position and for the best possible results. In Lenzerheide that push to the limits and drive for the finish began to really show. Accelerating out of every corner; attacking to catch the riders ahead; holding the line. It all paid off handsomely as Cherie picked her way past rider after rider, digging deep and finding the belief. The reward was huge boost in confidence and a fine 36th position.
Cherie always talks about progressing step-by-step. This was a big step!
With just enough time to grab an ice-cream, it was onto the men’s race. The scorching sun was high, and so were expectations for a thrilling race.
Martin Gujan made a great start, sprinting up towards the top 20, but a crash in front of him held him up. With time lost and his rhythm disrupted, Guschi dropped back to around 70th position and with that he had a hell of a mission to get back towards the front of the race. Over the opening couple of laps both Martins were riding in a similar position, not where they wanted to be but both moving up through the field. It was too hot to panic so they played it cool.
Whilst others punctured, made mistakes and suffered from the high pace and heat, Guschi and Martin were looking well in control. Taking on plenty of fluids, plus taking cooled water from the team staff in the pits to throw over themselves, the boys were able to keep the heat from breaking them.
With a home crowd behind him, Guschi really started to find his legs and work his way up through the field. Living only half an hour away, he knew the terrain and was well-adapted to the altitude and conditions. Riding the Silverback SBC 1.0 full-suspension helped him float over the roots and keep the power on. With the hammer down he was on the up, charging through the field in the final two laps to claim a superb 28th position by the finish.
Martin Gluth was also riding fantastically well. A technically gifted rider, he was smooth and strong where it mattered. Never one to finish a race with anything left in the tank, Martin was giving it absolutely everything to post his best possible result. From a start number of 63, he moved up to 46th – his best ever Elite World Cup XCO result and a very impressive ride from the young gun.
We celebrated with a small drinks reception at the team tent with fans and friends of Guschi. After a cold beer it was time to pack away and begin our respective journeys home. Until next time…