After getting a taste of world-class racing at the World Championships in PMB last year I was eager for more experience. With this goal in mind Heiko and I started planning our trip to Europe to participate at 2 World Cups and 1 Swiss Cup.
You will never know how far you can go unless you try.
I had a really good start to the year and was excited for the journey of racing overseas. After my discouraging start to the first World Cup in PMB I felt I had made the wrong decision and should have given it another year. There was no turning back though as the trip was already booked. So I just made the best of what I had and got some skills lessons with Swen Lauer to get my head into the right space.
We decided to travel by train as this would be cheaper and less tiring than traveling by car. Furthermore the public transport system in Europe is very well established and gives you almost as much freedom as you would have by car. The biggest challenge though was travelling with bicycles. For the long trips you had to reserve a spot for the bicycle on the train a few days in advance. Since we already booked Eurail passes we had to go to the train station to reserve our seats and bicycles. The regional trains, S Bahn and bus helped us get to our accommodation. We were also lucky that Tim & Deon Wilkins were traveling by car so the times we couldn’t get a connecting bus/train to our accommodation they picked us up. I recommend that when traveling by train with a bike you avoid rush hour.
In Czech we had a lovely self-catering apartment, which we shared with the Orange Monkey Pro Team, The Wilkins and Dylan Rebello. The atmosphere in the apartment was great and made the lead up to the race less stressful. Preparing for meals was a challenge trying to cook for so many people but everyone contributed and it all worked out in the end.
In Albstadt it was just Heiko and I staying at Hotel Post. There were other teams staying in the hotel but everyone had their own agenda. Not having to cook was nice but at the same time it got costly having to eat at the Hotel. We were lucky Mannie Heymans organised us access to the VIP area where we could eat during lunch.
We didn’t have our own mechanical support and only had the minimum of tools needed. Luckily with the help from Sram, Specialized and Orange Monkey Pro team we were able to make repairs and do maintenance on our bikes. With their support I was able to focus on my racing.
Neither of the courses was as technically difficult as PMB but they each had their own challenges.
Nove Mesto had a few challenging obstacles with lots of roots scattered on the course. I was feeling calm before the race and happy with my seeding until I got onto the start line. Unless you are a good starter it feels like your start position has no value. The girls who were seeded behind me were pushing forward making it hard to move and disrupting my focus. As soon as the gun went it was shambles with 90 women pushing to get a good position. After the field spread out I tried to get into a rhythm. I had the legs but the lungs weren’t there after contracting a cold the day before the race. I was in a war with myself, on the one hand wanting to push harder so I wouldn’t get lapped and on the other hand wanting to be pulled off cause I felt my head was going to explode. The support from the crowds was unbelievable. They aren’t only on the technical sections of the course but also lined up along the climbs making you feel like their cheers are lifting you.
Albstadt course was easier technically but the climbing, steep descents and short lap distance presented a new type of challenge. I felt more prepared and attacked from the start. With the track going into single track shortly after the start there was a lot of congestion and everyone was fighting for a better spot. On the first steep descent I had a girl ride into me setting me back. I managed to get into a rhythm and started passing some ladies. The pace from the front ladies was super fast with only 25 out of 80 ladies finished all the laps.
Even though I feel I have jumped into the deep end by racing the World Cups overseas it’s been a fantastic learning experience. There is always disappointment when not being placed high or being pulled off at the 80% mark but we only get stronger/better by going through the low parts. I put too much pressure on myself to perform which got me stressed. Meanwhile I just needed to relax and have fun (A lot easier said than done).
The most challenging thing I find is not to worry about what other people say. If they haven’t experienced a World Cup themselves or don’t know your journey then their view points don’t matter. You can use it to help in the future but don’t let it get you down. Great things take time.
Special thanks to:
My Family, Heiko Redecker and Friends for your encouragement.
Paarl Media for your continual support in helping me reach my dreams.
Michael Meyer from Stillwater Sport & Entertainment for giving me the time off work to race overseas.
Orange Monkey Pro team, Mariske, Paul and Danny for all your encouragements
Swen Lauer my coach
Specialized and Sram for helping me keep my bike in racing condition.
Jacky McClean for helping me get my story out.
Congratulations to all South Africans and Namibian who took part in the World Cups!