The first World Cup of the season is always a special one. For the first time in the year, the whole team is together and the close bonds of athletes and staff who live miles apart are instantly rekindled. The familiar habits and routines click into place but there is also an air of uncertainty as months of preparation are finally put to the test against the very best in the World.
Nove Mesto na Morave in the Czech Republic has become a classic of the UCI World Cup, and with no significant course changes it was a fairly straight forward couple of days of training. Lines were dialled and alternative options checked, climbs were attacked, lungs were opened and legs were tested. It was time.
With a change to the usual schedule, the Elite Women raced on Saturday. With their warm up complete, Annie and Mariske made their way to the call up boxes and then onto the grid. The routine is the same but the nerves, the anticipation, and the rush never go away! “The race will start in the next fifteen seconds”…
The start straight at Nove Mesto has seen some big crashes in the past, but thankfully everyone got away safely and Annie immediately made an impact on the race, moving up from 29th on the grid to the very front of the race. Team Manager, Paul, tried to sound calm on the radio but there was no hiding the nervous excitement in his voice, “Annie leads the start loop, Annie leads on the start loop.”
Mariske also made a good start, coming through to finish the start loop in 23rd position. From here she settled into the race, with composed, consistent lap times but a positive and really competitive drive to hold position amongst a strong group of women. After a tough few weeks of racing and long travel, Mariske was satisfied to finish in 29th position. It’s a great start to the World Cup and we look forward to see what she can do with a little more rest and recovery.
At the front of the race, fast starters had faded, chasers had punctured, a leader was established and a big group had formed in pursuit. Annie was in that chasing group, riding inside the top ten. She lost time held up behind a slower descender, and cost herself a few seconds with minor mistakes as she gunned to close down the top five, but despite this Annie was able to race to a brilliant tenth place finish. This is our highest ever Elite World Cup position and something that we are incredibly proud of. Moreover, we are so happy to see Annie back at the front of World Cup racing, smiling at the finish and confident and excited to race. What’s more, Annie feels there is still more to come!
Onto Sunday and it was Isla and Martin’s time to step onto the World stage and put themselves and their winter of hard training to the test.
Unfortunately, Isla didn’t feel that this race and the result were a reflection of how hard she had worked and what she is capable of. From the start gun she felt let down by her legs and never really got going. That said, Isla was riding the entire race in the top fifteen, which is not only amazing in itself, but shows just how much Isla feels she is capable of on a good day. It is really hard to ignore the frustrations and take the positives when you are disappointed, but Isla’s 14th place finish is something we think is a very positive place to start the World Cup season, and after a few tears, Isla is now ready to brush off round one and bring on round two this weekend!
For Martin there were also frustrations in Nove Mesto. He was extremely lucky to miss going down in a huge crash on the start straight, but he was held up and had to start his race already chasing. With a big effort to get back onto the tail of the bunch, Martin did an amazing job of picking off a couple of riders each lap to make his way up through the field. He finished in 47th position, not what he had hoped for but a tenacious and gutsy ride that we are proud of.
And so, following our traditional ‘Sausage Sunday’ post-race BBQ, World Cup number one was over.
We are already in Albstadt for round two, and after a day of rest, it will be time to do it all again. We can’t wait!