World Cup #6, Val di Sole

As quickly as the first World Cup came around, the last was upon us. Returning to Europe from North America, the series was set for a thrilling finale: on-the-day-honours, the overall standings and a last test before the World Championships.

Friday - dinner time chat

Riders for Val di Sole – Cherie, Martin Gluth, Shlomi and Martin Gujan – with manager Paul.

 

With Isla only just back on her road bike after a fractured vertebrae, and Mariske choosing to sit out this race in favour of preparation for being fully recovered from ankle injury for Worlds, we had four rider in Val di Sole: Shlomi, Martin Gujan, Cherie and Martin Gluth.

The atmosphere within the team was great, as ever. The bikes were prepped to perfection, training went really well, and we even had plenty of pizza!

The week rushed by and suddenly it was Sunday. Race day.

In her new South African Champion’s kit, Cherie Vale took to the start line with a well-judged balance of natural nerves and controlled clarity. Over the season  – her first World Cup season – Cherie has learned the hard way how too much energy spent thinking can suck the strength from your legs. She had a great start, holding her own on the aggressive start loop, but thereafter her muscles started to tighten and she couldn’t extract the strength she knew should be there. This time it was no fault of the mind, just a body which wouldn’t co-operate. That said, a 51st place finish tells us that those legs are still pretty good, and that the potential is even better. Cherie has a philosophical approach to life and racing, she knows that this is the beginning of her journey and each stage, even if it is a disappointment or a set-back, is a step forward in the bigger picture. This has been a roller coaster first year – ups and downs; many moments of thrill and some of terror!; times questioning why on earth you got on the damn thing, but overall a big cheesy grin and the desire to do it all over again.

Cherie - warm up

No wonder Cherie couldn’t find her power, she had no legs and no cranks!

Without any time for a fortifying slice of pizza (much to Lee’s dismay!), it was time for the boys to do battle.

Shlomi, Martin Gujan and Martin Gluth all got away from the start line safely, sprinting like their lives depended on it amongst a furious throng of 112 others doing exactly the same. Guschi managed to move up into 24th position by the end of the start loop, with Shlomi not far behind. Gluth had a disappointing start by his standards but was still moving up the field.

For Guschi the race was a tale of three parts. After an excellent start he began to fade quickly, dropping back through the riders that he had stormed past in the opening lap. Not all the pistons were firing properly during that second phase of his race, but in the final three laps it was all change and, as if the finish was a magnet, he moved back up through the field, faster and faster the closer the end came. A tactical move and early sprint for the line saw his final overtaking manoeuvre to claim 39th place.

Experience playing its part, as well as good legs, in the final lap.

Experience playing its part, as well as good legs, in the final lap.

Shlomi rode a consistent and controlled race, managing his power, tactics and skill to maximum advantage. After a strong start he held his position in the opening half of the race, riding in and between groups of significant riders. The final laps saw him drop back a few places as the lack of race condition (due to illness) began to show a little. However, it was a really positive race for our Israeli Champ…

“Still need to do some final tuning, but feeling in good performance with only two weeks to the world championship.”

A cool guy off the bike, and cool headed on the bike.

Cool, calm and collected, on and off the bike.

For Gluth the final round of the World Cup was unfortunately a disappointing race. Like Cherie, Gluth said that the power was just not there for him. Still, he battled all the way to the end and took 65th place. Although the position was not what he wanted, or indeed is capable of, he always does us proud with the heart he gives everything.

Unusually for Martin the power was gone. However, as usual, the passion was still there.

Unusually for Martin the power was gone. However, as usual, the passion was still there.

For Gluth, Shlomi, Cherie and Mariske, the focus is now 100% on the World Championships in Andorra on 6th September. We are incredibly proud to have the team so heavily represented at the biggest race of the year.

Good luck, and perhaps more appropriately for 2000m above sea level, good lungs!

#weareOMX

 

 

World Cup #5, Windham

From Mont Sainte Anne in Cananda, Martin Gujan and Martin Gluth travelled south into the USA and onto round five of the UCI World Cup at Windham Mountain, New York.

After a hard race and then a long day of travel the boys had a fairly restful first few days in Windham with only light training. However, come Thursday it was time to test the course and the legs and once again think about giving it full-throttle in preparation for a fast and furious race.

Gujan

The course was, as ever, a tale of two halves; a long uphill of wide track, singletrack and a couple of techy sections, and then a long downhill including a multi-line rock garden, roots, drops and fast off-camber gravel. Of all the World Cup courses raced this year, it is the most ‘old school’.

Unfortunately that is not a style that particularly suits the Martins. They are more punchy and technical riders, rather than excelling on the long climbs. However, professional as ever, both boys pushed aside any self-doubt or dislikes and took to the start determined to give it their best.

As the starter’s pistol fired, the race roared off the line and spread to fill the wide track. Guschi could be seen charging up the left of the field, cutting tight into the corner and accelerating hard out of it to make up places. Gluth, meanwhile, was swallowed somewhere in the middle of the pack by a cloud of dust so thick that two thirds of the field completely disappeared from sight!

“It was really difficult to get in front at the start loop because you could hardly see anything with all the dust! I was too far back and too slow in the first lap but get could into my rhythm in the following laps.”

Gluth

The pace was crazy quick! Guschi had moved up from a start place of 45 into the top 25 and looked really strong; furiously fast but in control. From here he found himself among a bunch of strong riders, racing wheel to wheel and trying to claw their way up to the group ahead. Whilst some riders faded and others found their legs and lungs, Guschi sat steady in 29th position until the finish straight where he managed to win the sprint and claim another 28th place.

“After a good start I had a steady race with no ups and downs. It was an ‘OK’ race, but I gave it my all and couldn’t have gone any faster”.

Whilst Guschi was maintaining his high place, Gluth was fighting forward to try and establish his. After starting in around 60th position, he gradually worked his was up, really making inroads in the final two laps to eventually finish in 48th place. Although not happy with that result, he is rightly satisfied with his race having given it everything.

With the boys now back at home in Europe, and the dust finally washed out of every last bit of bicycle and body, it it time to recover and get ready for the final World Cup stop of the season: Val di Sole. Italy awaits!

Gujan

World Cup #4, Mont Sainte Anne

Thanks to a combination of injuries, illness and a need for less travel and more training, it was only the two Martins who flew out to Canada for the fourth round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup.

The Mecca of MTB, Mont Saint Anne, was celebrating 25 years of World Cup racing. Both favoured and feared among the riders, the track’s iconic features – like ‘Beatrice’, a sharp chute of randomly angled rocks, and the classic French Quebec climbs of ‘Alp d’Huez’ and ‘La Marmotte’ – keep coming at the riders without respite.

Gluth

For Martin Gujan and Martin Gluth the course offered a lot to like, and of course some sections to test the motor and the mind. For the most part the jet lag had subsided and the long journey was out of the legs come race day.

The start of the race couldn’t have gone much better!

“It’s a fair start loop and if you are a fast starter you can get to the front”, said Gluth, whose impressive XC Eliminator credentials really showed. “I was in 11th position at the highest point of the first lap!”

Gluth

Gujan was also able to make a great start, moving up to 15th position at the first lap split. The boys were mixing it up with the very best, getting lots of TV time and getting us all very excited. After a season of difficult starts and getting held up with crashes, it was great to see the boys up fighting in the top 20.

Unfortunately the subsequent laps didn’t go so well. For Gluth, two big over-the-bars crashes meant that he lost places and his good race rhythm. He decided the pace was just too fast and that in order to avoid more big mistakes he must back off the power and recover his composure…

“From lap 4 onwards it went better again and I could finish in a solid 40th place and with a good feeling.”

Gujan

For Guschi, a finishing position of 28 did not bring a good feeling. Having found some fine form in his last races, he was hoping for something more in Mont Sainte Anne.

“There was nothing exactly wrong, but I just didn’t have that good feeling. I could set a good speed, but then nothing more. It’s hard to explain.”

It seems that Guschi was running on diesel, chugging along quite well but without that zippy top-end speed of a petrol motor!  Rather remarkably, Guschi’s less than best still resulted in a top 30 finish.

Gujan

So, despite some disappointments and few bumps and bruises, there are many positives to take onto round five in Windham, USA, next week.

We are ready to fight again, #weareOMX!