The biggest race of the year – a huge focus for many riders – is done. The World Championships are a year’s worth of nerves, expectation, excitement and adrenaline compressed and condensed into one day. One chance.
The team had four riders selected by their national governing bodies to represent their country at the Worlds. Shlomi for Israel, Martin Gluth for Germany and Cherie and Mariske for South Africa.
Andorra’s inclement weather was a surprise but not a problem for our riders, and the course, despite its 2000m altitude, was to everyone’s liking. Although race day was sunny, the rain and thick fog of the previous week left the corners to become carnage and the rocks and roots almost not ridable in places. It was going to be a tough day in the office!
For Cherie it was her first (but definitely not last) World Championships. After just one year racing a full international season, she has proven herself as one of South Africa’s best and worthy of a chance to mix it up with the World’s finest athletes. It was a lesson in self-belief, and self-control which she managed admirably. Reflecting on her 50th position, she said…
“A fun XCO season has come to an end…Although my seatpost came off during one of my plunges into the dirt and the altitude made my lungs burn, it was a memorable experience. Well done to my fellow Saffas on a great performance and thanks to everyone who supported! With all the valuable experience I have received this year I can’t wait for next year’s season. I’m coming back wiser and stronger!”
For Mariske the Worlds were also a first – not her first Champs, but her first time racing again since a nasty ankle injury back in July. It was a big ask, but Mariske stepped up to the challenge with her usual bountiful bounce!
“It was a rough race. I felt super the first two laps but then my back started acting up again…think from running [the slippery mud had everyone off and pushing the bike at points]. But it is my first race back and can only get better… Beyond this I’m not sure there is much to say. My knee and ankle are a bit banged up. But very fortunate to have had the opportunity to race and thankful for all the support. Now just got to lick my wounds and move on to the next one.”
It’s understandable that the girls sound a little deflated, but rest assured that they will already be lifting their chins and broadening their smiles, because that is what they do! Not only onwards, but upwards. Well done ladies, you did us all proud.
Onto the men’s race. Martin and Shlomi had both had fantastic preparations and were feeling good to go, ready to rock!
Martin came away from the race with less than he hoped for in terms of the result, but really positive about the race:
“I finished 54th at the World Champs, with a number plate of 68 and from 107 starters. Sure I aimed for more but despite a chain drop close to the finish and some little crashes I had a good race! It was a really hard battle and I left definitely everything out there.”
Unfortunately for Shlomi the race was a big disappointment. The weeks leading up to the race had gone well and he was all set for a strong performance, but on the day it just did’t happen –
“After few weeks of training in Livigno [high altitude in Italy] I arrived to the Worlds with good form and high motivation. I don’t know exactly what went wrong, but I had really bad day during the race. I pushed as hard as I could, unfortunately body & legs were empty and I couldn’t go the speed I wanted to. I still have other important races and I always keeping mind forward.”
It was a great shame for Shlomi, but he will be back next year to have his day, and he is already looking forward to the next races and ending his season on a high.
Team Manager, Paul, sums it up,
“Its always a special time of year when the World Championships come around and this year we had 4 riders selected, the most ever for us. Although the results weren’t quite what we were hoping for we can rest easy that Cherie, Mariske, Shlomi and Martin left everything on the race track on Saturday and that’s all we ever ask.”
The season’s biggest race is over but there are still more races to come, some particularly important for chasing Olympic points qualification. It’s not quite time to wind down yet! We will fight all the way, #weareOMX.