It was an unusual feeling going on my first trip to Europe and not having my parents at the airport to send me off or wish me luck but it was nice having our good neighbour Dean drop me off and say goodbye. My parents were in fact both down in Dwellingup getting ready for the Trek D50 Duo which was run as a fundraiser to send me to Europe and by all accounts it was a great event that I wish I could have been a part of!
After a full two days of travel we arrived at our accommodation in the Czech Republic, well 7 of us did with Jayden meeting us at a later date. We were greeted by enough food to be dinner and the next morning’s breakfast along with the two lovely house owners who made us feel very welcome. It was hard going to a country that has a very limited English speaking population but this was all part of the experience, especially trying to food shop and pay in a currency where coins range from 1 – 70 Czech Koruna, let alone their notes system.
We spent a lot of time riding around the local towns but also a few days practicing the course at Nove Mesto Na Morave. It was a big eye opener driving through all the towns and amazing scenery on the way to the course, but once we arrived at the course our jaws dropped. The set up of a World Cup is so much bigger and more spectacular than it ever looks on RedBull.tv or even in photos and the atmosphere was growing in size every day. The course was very technical and demanding with lots of pedaling and not a lot of rest, which led to a very tough race both physically and tactically with so many riders fronting up to the start line.
The start of the race was the craziest thing that I have ever experienced, with a full grandstand, 118 riders and start line music that increased your heart rate to no less than 200BPM it was hard to actually concentrate on the gun. With lots of pushing and shoving I managed to hold Top 20 for the start and through the start loop where I then tried settling into my rhythm. The damp roots from the previous night’s rain offered a surface like ice that brought a lot of riders unstuck but made for a very challenging and rewarding race. I battled with a lot of riders on the day and came home strong finishing up in 13th place which I was very happy with considering this was my first World Cup race. I think the biggest thing to come out of this race was how insane the spectators were! Cheering methods ranged from screaming and yelling through to old Air Raid Horns from the war; it was such a G up and really got you going, along with the support of the fellow Aussie competitors and staff.
After soaking up the atmosphere and battling 30,000 strong crowds on the Sunday during the Elite race it was time for us to leave the Czech Republic and drive to our accommodation in Germany. The 700km journey took up the majority of our Monday but our saving grace was JZ’s beat box, which was cranking all the bangers and inspiring some interesting dance moves. We drove through the heaviest rainstorm I have experienced only to pop out into blue skies and stunning scenery, but this scenery is standard issue for all of Europe!
A course walk was in order for the course in Albstadt and we quickly figured out that RedBull.tv, once again, doesn’t do justice for how steep this course really is. The climbing was super steep, with lots of it and the descending was steep, super slippery and short lived. We knew that this was going to be a much harder race than Czech and oh boy did it prove to be. A half decent start put me into 13th going into the climb after hitting a max speed of 49km/h in the start straight and smashing through the dual feed zone situated on the grass oval above the start/finish. I started to move up a position or two with a few laps to go with my pace building, my climbing legs going well and I was descending strong while being in some serious oxygen debt.
I had a Top 10 finish in my sights but unfortunately my legs just didn’t have it in them for the final lap of the race with 9th, 10th and 11th riding away from me on the final two climbs. I was able to hold my position and finish 12th out of 125 starters, not the result I was hoping for but still a strong result in such a quality field.
I spent the Sunday watching the Elite’s race from the top of the Downhill course while doing DH runs with Felix and JZ. The Bike Park Albstadt have a rad set up going with a T bar lift and 3 downhill runs situated almost right in the middle of town. It was disappointing knowing this was our last day riding in Europe for this trip but at the same time we were having so much fun the thought didn’t cross our minds twice.
Throughout the trip I had the awesome support of legendary bottle feeder Peter Dowse, who also doesn’t take a bad photo or two. The team also had the support of mechanic and top bloke Jarrod Zdralka, Assistant coach Greg Meyland and no one will forget our German Chef Ullrich who cooked the most amazing meals every night. I would also like to thank Adam Morka and Richard Peil for their constant guidance and support, it is greatly appreciated!
I would go back to Europe any day to not only race but to also enjoy the scenery. I am now keener than ever for World Champs later in the year and I hope to return to Europe in years to come.
Thank you to everyone for your help and support not only for this trip but for everything else you have done, it is greatly appreciated. I am off to Canberra in two weeks for Road Nationals and then up to Cairns for a team camp with the lads so watch this space for some updates about my whereabouts and results!
Oh and by the way, check out where we day tripped to in Zurich before catching our flight home. The place was insanely rad and a guy was nice enough to let us borrow his bike to have a dig, put it on your bucket list along with the skate park next door!