It’s hard to believe the 2017 World Cup is over. The season has flown by in a flurry of travel, races and results.
The final stop on the circuit was Val di Sole in Italy’s Trentino region.
The Valley of the Sun gave us some hot racing, kick started by an exciting U23 Women’s race. Isla had been happy on course all week, and went into Sunday’s race with a relaxed manner and quiet optimism. With two top tens already under her belt this season, the pressure was off and that – coupled with amazing form and well-deserved confidence – made for her best result yet.
A brilliant start from the second row of the grid saw Isla leading out the race, but lessons learnt from last week in Basel meant she backed off and tucked in as they began to climb. Feeling strong, Isla slotted into 5th place and kept a steady pace as the field strung out. Dropping into the first descent, the top five had already pulled out a gap on the rest of the field. Kate Courtney led into lap one, followed by Sina Frei, Evie Richards, Martina Berta and then Isla. Courtney, Frie and Richards pulled away and Isla’s race developed into a battle for 4th. She was stronger on the climbs but Berta was quicker on the descents. Isla played a tactical game and made gains where she could but without expending too much energy. Eventually she was able to eek out an advantage; firstly just a few seconds, then up to as much as 45 seconds. By the fifth and final lap, Isla was looking very comfortable in 4th. After the race she explained that she had left some energy in the tank in case she would have to fight it out with Berta in the final stages of the race, but it wasn’t needed and Isla could ride a sensible last lap to secure herself an amazing result and a wonderful end to her successful World Cup season. She high fived the crowds as she rode into the finish, and the smile is as broad now as it was then. There is a huge sense of satisfaction in achieving what you know you are capable of, as a result of really hard work. Congratulations Isla!
It was great to have Mariske back racing a World Cup after an unscheduled but much-needed mid-season break. She lined up with Annie in the Elite Women’s race at 1215.
Once again it was Annie who led the race off the line and into the start loop. Unfortunately towards the end of lap one – when riding in third place – she burped her rear tyre and immediately lost time and places on the long climb and through the final switchback descent. Lee did a really quick wheel change in the tech zone and Annie re-joined the race in 21st position. As the race went on Annie began to suffer with stomach problems and this thwarted any attempt to claw back the places she had lost. Twenty-fourth position was not the result she was hoping for, but Annie is certainly carrying some great form.
Mariske had a solid start and a strong race, handling the intensity of World Cup racing well given her time off. She settled into around 50th position, jostling for positions on each climb and descent. Bad luck struck again though, this time not a mechanical but a bee sting! Mariske was able to finish her race (in 50th position) but her allergic reaction was getting serious and we had to get medical attention. Thankfully everything was quickly brought under control and she is fine now.
Both Annie and Mariske now travel to Cairns, Australia, for the World Championships. Good luck ladies!
Suddenly it was the last race of the day, and the last race of the World Cup season.
Martin was content with his race, after some disappointing results in the previous rounds. He was able to put in a strong performance in Val di Sole and fight each lap with consistent times to keep his position in the race. Seven fast and furious laps ended with a solid 53rd place.
There are just a few races left in the season now, and then we can finally begin to unwind and assess what has been a remarkable year. We have had our best ever results in the World Cup, with the highlight of course being Annie’s win in Lenzerheide. But each and every member of the team deserves mention for their incredibly hard work and great team spirit over six tough rounds of racing. Together, #weareOMX.