Following my first two races, I was keen to put a proper week of training in again and hopefully find some legs before the next race in Switzerland. The first order of business was buying a fan (the mechanical kind, not the people), to get a good night’s sleep in the heat, and a pillow to match. It was the first night I actually used the doona (Duvet to those uncivilised folk outside of Australia). Unfortunately pillows in Europe appear to come in two options, soft, or softer… So much so that I can’t quite see the purpose of them. After some in depth searching I purchased an ornamental couch pillow with “love” written in cursive, and got the best night’s sleep of the trip!

On the subject of training in Europe, for those interested, I’ve been doing a double session on most days. Waking up in the morning and heading for a ride in the hills around St Gallen in Switzerland, then returning home and going for a swim and stretch, relaxing, before heading out for either another ride or a gym session on the steps at the back door. I’ve set my MTB up with Maxxis Re-Fuse 32c tyres, and an XTR 36T (the biggest that will fit on my bike), which with the 10T on the cassette has been enough for a few flat intervals up and down the valley. It’s been a great way of getting some solid volume in, and loading up the legs while still not being too mentally taxing spending the whole day on the bike.

Afternoon Exploration.
Photo: Piper Albrecht

I’ve been lucky enough to be staying with Piper, who has bought a car over here, which makes transport to races infinitely easier. However last week the car needed to get the roadworthy renewed, he had a deal with the salesman that he would get the roadworthy after the sale. So we left it with him from Monday, but by Friday it still wasn’t done, so we took it to go to Savognin for the Swiss Cup. We had both decided to treat the race as a training race, so we travelled there on the day, as it was only an hour and a half away!

Arriving we set up our bikes, got out our bottles, only to remember we didn’t have anybody to hand out drinks… We started by wandering around the start/finish to see if we knew anyone, and seeing Kate Courtney I thought of the man, the myth, the legend, Brad Copeland. I dashed up to the feedzone, and sure enough he was there doing his thing. Anyone who has met Brad knows how approachable he is, and it’s a true testament to his character that he remembered me from some 3 years ago in America as a junior. Being the good human he is, he agreed to feed Piper and I, inbetween his commitments to the team, in the heat this was hugely appreciated!

Brad Copeland on bottle duty. Champion.
Photo: Ego Promotions

Having sorted the main problem of a privateer at a race, we switched our focus to warming up and getting race ready. It was a good quality field, and with points from some Aussie races I was called up 16th, and Piper last. It was a relatively controlled start, but not knowing how long the initial climb was, or how my legs would feel, I tempered the pace and came through the first descent somewhere in the top 30. The course then turned steeply uphill out of the feedzone, towards the top of the hill, after some more grass climbing it dropped steeply into a technical forrested descent. Having not ridden the course yet I followed wheels and was surprised to pop out at the bottom without any mistakes, through the feedzone again and a short uphill pinch, before back down to the start/finish and out again.

Startline nerves.
Photo: Ego Promotions

Now that I had a feel for the course, I was feeling ambitious and tried moving up, making it into the top 20 briefly, before a mistake trying to pass on an uphill section left me running. I was back on my bike quickly enough, but the break in rhythm is always challenging, and at altitude I found myself cross-eyed for the rest of the lap. I settled into a pace with a group of riders while I recovered, around lap 4 (of 9) I was feeling good and put the pressure on up the climb, pulling away from the group I was in before the technical descent. Now a good lesson for the kids, don’t change your line midway through a race, especially if you haven’t ridden the course before the race. I tried to take an inside line through a rooty corner and hit a sniper root, careening off the side of the hill. I scrambled up again and jumped back on, but one of the riders had crossed the gap by now and was eager to return the favour and put me in the hurt locker. We had a brief chat through the start finish about “how bloody hot is it”, apparently Australians aren’t supposed to feel the heat… I certainly was.

Dropping into the descent.
Photo: Ego Promotions

By now my legs had shut off, and he put a little gap into me which he held until the fast guys at the front decided to finish our race early and lap us out after 8 laps. I finished in 23rd, which is nothing special, but the power was there for at least a few laps, and I finally felt like I could push a little deeper than tempo. These are all good signs ahead of the Les Gets World Cup this coming weekend, and better signs, given the plan is for my form to really build for the final World Cup in September.

Following the race we both hopped back in the car, and within 2 hours of finishing we were home in Austria again! In Australia that’s basically your back yard!

For now that’s all to report from here in Europe, I’m sure there will be plenty to talk about following the Les Gets World Cup

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