Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Slovenia World Cup Final

Slovenia. I have to admit that I needed a map to find out where the country was located (maybe I should have asked Miss South Carolina?). I had to make sure it wasn’t too close to Slovakia, as I had recently seen “Hostel” with my horror movie buddy, Alison Keple. The movie was about these backpackers traveling through Europe that got lured to a hostel in Slovakia, only to be tortured by people that pay to “hunt” humans. Not exactly a PG movie. It OBVIOUSLY wasn’t based on a true story but if Slovakia suddenly saw a dip in their tourist industry I might have a hint for them. Good thing I am safe here in Slovenia, although I haven’t seen “Hostel 2” yet…...

The course
The XC course in Slovenia was probably one of the best I have ridden this year, and we have lucked out with some great world cup courses in 2007. It was held at the base of Pohorje mountain near Maribor, a major recreational site for the area. The course had everything – twisty, rocky, rooty, dipsy, doodle trails, a long fire road climb at the start to spread things out, an out and back so you could get a look at the competition, short steep climbs and even a bit of the 4X.

The race
I had a decent start up the opening climb and went into the first descent mid to high 30s. I got to catch my breath, as it was a big line up of girls in the singletrack – the leaders long gone. I could make up a few spots here and there when someone screwed up a section, so I moved up slowly every lap. But gone are the days when you passed someone and never saw them again. At this level they rarely fade, but keep coming back for more. I was battling it out with Heather Irmiger and Nathalie Schneitter somewhere in the 20s on lap 3 when I blew out my stans’ed tire on a fast swoopy corner (bad). I pulled over and used my sealant to refill and it stuck (good!) but it seemed too low to ride for long (bad) so I pulled into the tech zone to get my spare air and top it up. It WOULD have been fast, but the adapter had fallen off and the spare adapter was stripped so the air wasn’t going into the tire. No pump and no spare wheel and a few people yelling “just ride it” and I took off (stupid) because by then I had watched a lot of girls pass me. I should have just waited for Shimano neutral support to give me a wheel because 1km later my tire blew again so I had to run the last uphill, the 4X and the big downhill (bad). Shimano was waiting with a wheel by the time I got back to the tech zone and did a speedy change (thanks) but by then the damage was done. 15-20 girls had passed me and I only had one+ lap to gain back time. I picked off 4-5 girls but they were so spread out I couldn’t do much better than that. 41st in the end. Not the big bang end of season finish I was looking for but at least I felt strong….and I got in some cyclocross training running to the tech zone.

Bizarro world
The Kona Les Gets gravity team was racing in Slovenia that weekend too, so Kris and I got to hang out with Tracey, her squeeze James, Fabien (sigh*), Kamil and Paul the Master DH Mechanic. It was like the parallel euro Bizarro world of the Kona Team. The same comfortable, fun vibe as our North American XC team, but with a little euro twist. With the downhill race on Sunday, we got to hike the DH course and watch how insanely fast the pro DH racers can go. It made us XC racers feel pretty pathetic…Unfortunately Fabien (sigh*) had a major crash in the seeding run and was taken to the hospital but he was released later that day, in a lot of pain but walking.

*my keen skills of observation have noted that everytime I say Fabien’s name there always seem to be some girl in the crowd that just makes a dreamy sigh!

So that is the end of my MTB season for 2007. The highlight was definitely racing the Trans Rockies with Norm and dominating the Open Mixed Category every day – pretty hard to top that! Thanks to Kona Les Gets and all of the team sponsors for a great season, Mark Matson for being such a solid mechanic, Mark Peterson for believing in me enough to get me on the team, the rest of the Kona team for making the season super fun, Shimano Europe and Shimano Canada for mechanical support at the World Cups, Norm for being my ultimate support, my brother Kevin for coaching me, the Malaspina crew for being my super fans, Helly Hansen for the great gear, Pacific Sport Nanaimo for all of the local support, Frontrunners for being my long time sponsor, Maxxis for the great tread, my family for understanding why my visits are always on the way to or from a race and the Kona gravity team for hanging out with us weeny XC racers in Europe.