World Cup #3 – Fight at Height

Round three of the UCI World Cup took us to the high Andorran mountains and the stunning venue of Vallnord Bike Park.

Unfortunately Mariske didn’t make the trip and instead stayed at home in South Africa to rest and reset after a hectic start to her year. Meanwhile, Annie, Isla and Martin all prepared for the race on altitude training camps with their national federations. By Thursday last week riders and staff were all together and ready to make the final preparations for the race.

The weather was a constant source of wonderment; how quickly it changed and what it would do next. Thankfully the sun shone on us for race day, although the day started early and cold.

Isla got the racing underway for us at 0830; there was no time for bleary eyes, foggy brains or sleepy legs! Thankfully Isla suffered none of these and went about riding herself into her first-ever top ten U23 result. Plans made, lessons learnt and demons slain; Isla was in control of this race from the start and it showed. As the riders around her came and went, she rode a steady, calculated race with an all-out final lap to secure an amazing eighth place. More than the result, it was the beaming smile that Isla wore as she crossed the line that made us all so happy and proud. As she lay down recovering her breath, Isla explained:

“That was the smartest I’ve ever raced, and racing smart pays off. I’m so happy.”

With big, congratulatory hugs from her team mates, it was exit stage left for Isla and enter centre stage for Annie. The all-too familiar whir of the rollers wound up as focus turned to the Elite Women. Annie was gridded on the second row after her brilliant start to the World Cup season and she was once again in the mix in Vallnord. The strength in depth of the Women’s field is impressive at the moment, and it is great to see Annie up there duking it out with some of the biggest names in the sport. Indeed, battling to be in the front groups of such a big bike race is where Annie belongs. In Andorra the top ten just slipped away on the final lap and Annie finished in 17th spot. She was evidently disappointed after the race, and later explained:

“I felt really strong, but I just couldn’t hit the high revs. I was ready to make moves and close gaps but I was flat; I couldn’t get to the strength I knew I had. My heart rate wasn’t as high as it should be, especially at altitude. It was frustrating. Now I am having an easy week to freshen up and energise for Lenzerheide. You can’t make training gains in one week, so I am just focussed on being fresh. I’m really looking forward to racing in Lenzerheide again and in front of the Swiss crowds, they just love it!”

Onto the final race of the day and the highs of Isla’s race made the lows of Martin’s all the more salient. Martin could not hide his disappointment following his withdrawal from the race:

“Sh!t start, no power and suffering from the first minute! What an off-day for me. I tried really hard to turn things around but it wasn’t getting any better so I had to pull out in lap 4. Need to tick that race off ASAP and get the focus back for next week.”

Some days it just doesn’t go your way. It’s extremely hard when, as an athlete, you don’t have any answers to why things didn’t go to plan. However, Martin is already looking forward to a new race this weekend in Lenzerheide and we are confident he can turn things around.

With the next World Cup just around the corner we are already set up here in Switzerland. Official training begins today and before we know it we will be on the start line again! Stay tuned with updates across our social media channels, and don’t forget you can watch the Elite races live on Red Bull TV on Sunday.

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