This past weekend I headed abroad once more on the quest my those oh so valuable UCI points.. So here’s what happened..
The plan was crack out a top ten at the Norges Cup in Drammen, Norway. A quick Bank holiday weekend trip with a happy ending.. Well, it nearly wasn’t..
I had planned everything to run quick & smooth without taking any more time off work, who have so supportive of me these past two seasons, so I could save that valuable holiday allowance to book time off for the World Cup rounds I was hoping to head off to..
Friday night ship out, me & Mari (PA/wag) were on the road to the airport for 17:30, loads of time to get stuck in traffic in Glossop & still make our 20:45 flight. Easy done as it turned out Glossop was not even that bad! (For a first) Everything was going according to plan, on time, organized, right up until check in. Lost wallet. Uh oh. Hadn’t a clue where it could be. Last I remember I had it at the bus stop, damn. A quick call to the bus company but no sign of it. A 45 minute round trip with only 45 minutes to our flight time.. even bigger uh oh.. Jet Parks plus were awesome, they sent me a personal pick up from an Irish fella named Willy, top guy, cant thank him enough for ragging that bus around getting me back to the car park to search foe the wallet. But no joy. It must be either checked in with my bag.. or someone has it. Hoping for the former i was rushed back to the airport, bouncing over kerbs & worrying other drivers as we sped back to the terminal. Dropped as close as possible i ran to meet Mari, picked up both hand luggage bags & sprinted to the gate, girlfriend in tow. Just in time we made it to are gate, only to find the flight itself had been delayed slightly, which was nice. A bit more time to add that bit of worry as to where the wallet actually was..
A few anxious hours later & the time had come to collect baggage & see what situation we were in… was good news? At first no, no signs of the little fella. oh bugger, my heart sank a little, then success! Nestled away in between my shoes, there he was, sneaky thing! relief..
So, on we pressed. Rent-a-car, then hotel for a sound nights sleep.
Again all was running smooth but time was really getting on. Gone 01:00 in the morning & still traveling, I had been up since 04:30 am the day before! Starting to feel tired & really want sleep we pulled up at the hotel, Which turns out they mixed up our booking with another hotel some 15 minutes back up the road. So off we went again. 03:30 am we eventually got our heads down. 23 hours awake in total, great.
Up at 07:45 am for breakfast. An all you can eat mix of hot & cold buffet style delights & those that know me when it comes to food know this is never a ‘quick feed’. A little insight into how I ate..
It started with a large warm plate, A large helping (and large means what you would imagine as large, plus more) of eggs, beans, meatballs, little sausages, some onion omelet things & potato chunks, with a side helping of a couple of sizeable hand cut slices of seeded bread & coffee. The size of meal you’d normally look & think, ‘Wow, I’m gonna feel full after this!’
But that’s not all.. Onto a helping of porridge & more coffee, before helping myself to the cold buffet, a couple of bread cob sandwiches stacked with hams, cheeses & salads before heading back for another plate of warm. Not as much as first time around admittedly but considering the size of round one, even half that portion size was still pretty sizable.
Not done yet, a bowl of cereal & yoghurt, more coffee before another sandwich & a take away coffee.. That just about covered it I reckon.
Enough about food, Time to ride!
30 minutes down the road we arrived at Drammen Skisenter. Pulling into the car park a noticeable in feel between British rounds & this one. So much more relaxed, no one rushing about, no struggling to squeeze runs in, just calm & welcoming. The chairlift probably helped a lot, set just off the road, such easy access.
We set up our pits for the day, built the bike up & headed to the lift, around 11:00 for first runs.
The track was cool, a huge rock slab to build speed before dropping into a very loamy section. Due to pretty severe weather in the build up to the race, this section as littered with thick deep mud bogs that killed your flow, but as more riders descended, soon dispersed the most & dug down to the bare rock.
A tricky switchback before a large rock roller to build speed! A couple switchbacks later before opening up a bit. Building speed was fun on this track! Smashing through 2 very soft turns, easy to bury the front end & get pitched forward before opening up over large rolly rocks again. 1 more tricky wooded section before exiting onto the ski slope to the finish line turns & jump.
A rad track. so enjoyable it didn’t feel anywhere near as long as the race times suggest.
I headed straight back up.. no queue, at most it was 3 people deep, just pleasant.
Unfortunately this time around I clipped a rock in the high speed rock roll section, got bucked pretty bad but held her down! Determined not to crash! (it pays off being strong!!) damn rock though bent my pedal pretty bad, too bad to be able to ride it.
A quick call at the Norwegian Santa Cruz & one of their riders sorted me out with a fresh set of pedals, cheers guys! would have been really stuck without you!
New pedals fitted & back up the hill. 2 more runs but was starting to struggle with fatigue & tiredness. So headed back to pits for a lie down.
So, 4 runs, a lengthy pit stop & it was still barely 14:00!
A lie down turned into a nap.. nap turned into a sleep.. so I called it a day & went for a track walk. 17:45 & still riders on track, Norwegians have riding priorities dialed!
A couple of fresh lines had appeared in the tech sections, something I was keen to try out in Sunday mornings practice.
We headed back to our hotel, passed out pretty early on after scouring what delights Norway had to offer on telly. Why oh why do you guys seem to have a channel dedicated to breast feeding?! Its just creepy!
Back up for more breakfast (see above for portions) Before arriving for 09:00.
To the the lift for 9:30, practice closed.. oops.
So, First run Sunday with trying new lines would be seeding run, not the best prep but that’s the position I got myself in!
A gentle run scoping things out. Over the line & in 10th place. Pretty positive.
Top ten was the goal for the weekend, this would give me the points needed to compete at World Cups this year.
Off for race runs.
A bit different to what I’m used to this year, no trainer, no music, just myself & my thoughts.
Its easy to over think things & get wound up before a race run, something I have struggled with greatly in the past. So for now its off for a walk, a bit off warming up whilst picturing back to back clean runs of the track.
Into the start gate & a sudden flutter of nerves, before being able to shut them out with some clean thinking.
Onto the pedals & away! cranking hard I could feel I was under power from fatigue but no excuses, time to race.
A small error into the first woods dropped me off line slightly, not loosing too much time though as moment was kept.
Onto the open section & time to open up, some stiff pedal strokes before nearly ditching it in the soft switchbacks. Thrown over the front wheel as it dug in, foot dab to hold upright, before getting back on with it.
The final wood section was clean & smooth before smoothing out the final turns, squashing the last jump before crossing the line.
Slightly nervous as id crossed the line in 2nd & waited for the next man down to see where id end up.. A chance of missing out on that top ten was a possibility.
Fortunately for me that didn’t happen! 7th the end result, a little further back than id have liked but still, job done! Happy with the result & 100Euros better off! Cheers Norway!
So, back off to pack up with smiles on our faces. A good weekend of sun & bikes with a result that would give a life long ambition of competing in World Cups a reality.
Thanks Norway for having me! You were all so awesome! See you later in the year for Hafjel!!