Racing Down Under

After spending some time in Colorado Springs, post Sea Otter, a group of three of us made the epic journey down to Cairns, Australia for the second round of world cup racing with USA Cycling.

Obviously I was excited. I had never been to Australia before, the weather was suppose to be warm and sunny, and our estate was located just off the beach I was confident that it was going to be a good trip regardless of racing. 

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Our group was Russell, Marc, Kate Courtney, Felize was our soungier, and Rob Cunnington was our mechanic. It was a relatively small group compared to some other world cup trips I had been on but I liked it. The small group size meant less tension/stress leading up to race day. We were able to enjoy our surroundings and also prepare for the race.

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We arrived at 1pm on Tuesday and quickly got set up in our house for the week. I struggled extremely hard with the time change the first 3 days or so but especially that first day and also the second. I was hitting the coffee hard at 4pm only to find it wearing off by 8pm and I was ready to conk out!

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We checked out the course for the first time on Wednesday. It proved to live up to the hype that we had all heard about. Keegan had already been over there since after South Africa and he was sending us the important details. For instance, bring a dually and some tough tires. 

We all complied to Keegan’s advice and on first ride the course was almost scary. There was a big 3 foot drop right off the bat, which wasn’t bad. The course then climbed up almost 7min to the top and had three more techy features right in a row. Luckily, our first ride was with Keegan and I followed him down the technical stuff without looking at it and giving myself the chance to over analyze. After the main descent it was back into the venue area then headed out south for a smaller loop with another 2-3min climb followed by another tricky, slow speed, rooty rocky, technical descent that was always wet because of the tree cover and tropical climate. Rain all week was actually improving the course and I was praying for showers on race day. 

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Thursday through saturday we were in preparation mode. I was doing my best to get the time change down. One morning I woke up at 5am and couldn’t go back to sleep so I made the best of that situation by heading down to the beach to watch the sunrise. That in itself was worth it. 

That brings us to race day… Kate raced at 9am and killed it. Ended up 4th in the u23 women. She also killed it in the Eliminator race on Friday, finishing 6th. Just one spot off the podium in both races stings but it was a good start to her world cup campaign.

Russell and I fought off boredom all morning by frequenting the mall near by to grab wifi and watching numerous episodes of “How I Met Your Mother.”

Our race time was 3:30pm so we got ready around 2 and headed to the venue. Felize brought an extra ice vest along and I was extremely happy to try it out. It was close to 90ºF on race day with a high percentage of humidity so I was in need of all the help I could get to stay warm. 

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We lined up in a field of 50 racers, probably the smallest world cup I have ever done, or seen for that matter.

The gun went off and there was a crash on the start straight. Unfortunately, Stephen Eittinger was caught up in it and relegated to last place after the incident. 

I did my best to move up on the start loop until dropping my front wheel in a hole on an inside corner that was disguised by a deep pool of mud. Georgia Gould even warned us about the hole, learning from experience in her race. However, Russell and I both seemed to find it and get ejected at one point during the race and I know we weren’t the only ones. 

The small field size was nice because there was a lot less bottle necking going on. However, the first climb and descent were pretty tight single track, which resulted in pulsating field movement. 

After the first lap I found myself in 38this and I moved up some from there. I managed to work my way up to 32nd and I knew  Russell was a few spots ahead of me. I was halfway through two laps to go when I hit a rough section a little off line and hard causing a front flat. Fortunately, the dh down to the pit was pretty mellow after that and I only lost three spots. Rob was quick with the wheel change and I managed to finish the race in 35th. I was pretty disappointed about losing those spots and subsequently the UCI points that go with  a higher place but I got 38 points and I was happy with that. 

Russell finished up 27th and Stephen managed to claw his way up to 12th after his crash, which was more than impressive. 

All in all the race was ok. I wasn’t extremely happy with my result because I knew I lacked the fitness to do well on that course. However, I did the best I could and got what I came for, UCI points. 

The USAC staff was flawless all weekend and therefore, made the whole week leading up to the race extremely easy. From Felize’s massages to Rob’s bike work I barely had to lift a finger aside from pedaling around a couple hours here and there. 

After the race it was back to the house to clean up and pack. We were heading back to the states on a 12:30am flight out of Cairns, which no one was looking forward too. Traveling west is always harder to cope with than going east. Especially when you had the element of humming bird heart rate from racing just a few hours ago. 

We did enjoy a nice team dinner prior to saying out good byes. 

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I was really happy to visit Australia. It isn’t too different than the states and the fact that everyone spoke english was a good change of pace from other world cup trips.

I am excited to get back to home base and train for two weeks before heading to Europe for a Bundesliga (German National Series race) and the next two world cups, Nove Mesto, Czech and Albstadt, Germany. 

Thanks again to USAC for the great opportunity. As always it was a great trip and I think the group as a whole got what they came for, UCI points. So mission accomplished! 

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