I think this race report is my first in over 12 months. Not that I haven’t raced or had good, bad or ‘interesting’ racing experiences in that time. I just haven’t found the time to put all these adventures into my typewriter so thanks to flight delays and my Uni notes being at home, here we are!
The last twelve months have in large part been built around selection for the Commonwealth Games to be held this April. Given my position in Australian mountain biking towards the end of 2016 and early 2017, I knew I would have to lift my game if I was to be in with a chance, not as if improving isn’t always the goal anyway.
Leading into 2017, I decided to forego focus on the Australian National season to maximise performance and consistency in Europe through April to August with an eye on peaking for the home World Championship in Cairns. Essentially putting my eggs in one basket for the Comm Games, but also I wanted to smash the home World Champs.
Racing the national series underdone was less than enjoyable and more akin to paying someone to hit you in the face with a hammer repeatedly, than bike racing. But it served its purpose and my performance in Europe through 2017 was the best it has been and a lot more consistent. I was also a lot fresher, mentally, towards the end of the trip which set me up well when I returned home for the final build into World Champs.
I have been tweaking my training and testing different session designs and session timings over the past few years and the build into World Champs was the accumulation of that. I was already confident in my ability to peak on a given day but needed to clean up some superfluous sessions and save energy for more important days as well as some tweaks to the planning patterns to better maximise performance.
Signs all indicated I had done this during the lead up to the World Championships and I was confident. Unfortunately, there is only so much you can plan for. My start at World Champs went well, moving up from 68th at the start to 51st by the top of the main climb on the first lap. But that was when the good news cycle ended and I was met with a rather deflating experience down the first rock section …
My only flat tyre of the year, training included, down the same line I had done all week in practice. Good times. Some disappointing messiness in the pits left me out of the race and that was 2017 done. One of those ‘what could have been’ moments that mountain biking throws at its riders constantly. After that it was time to rest and re-evaluate.
At this stage, I wasn’t sure what the final selection race or races would be so I guessed it might be the Oceania Champs or National Champs in February. When it came out that round three of national series at the venue for the Commonwealth Games would be the final selection race, it was straight into training to get ready for January.
And here we are. The build-up to Nerang went really well with the goal of consolidating 2017’s fitness, while setting myself up for a long 2018 and maximising performance on the day, but not to the detriment of the season ahead. The Commonwealth Games course around Nerang is one of my favourites with technical climbs and fast flowy descents. The race went better than I hoped and I was finally riding how I’ve always wanted. Attacking sections for the full 1:30hrs and actually racing, not just riding. The end of the race did get a little worrisome though when the final lap bell rang on my second last lap!
It was being rung for a junior behind me that I’d just passed, and I can’t count at the best of times let alone in 37-degree heat so I went all in only to get the bell again on the next lap! I was sitting 5th behind two Aussie riders and two Kiwis, and after everything I wasn’t about to throw it away because I was a little tired! Thankfully, I had enough in the tank to get me around one final time to land on the podium.
Reaching the finish also ended my part of the selection process for the Commonwealth Games. I’m not sure where everything stands and I won’t guess at how everything will turn out but I am happy to have given it my best shot. Hopefully the whole process will set me up well for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which I’m sure will be a hard fight!