Last year, I really enjoyed the track at Pila so I was looking forward to the IXS European Cup race. I felt I could do very well there and I was happy to be back in Europe racing.
On Tuesday, we headed out for some runs on the tracks in Pila. It is an amazing place to ride; there are so many different tracks and one is about 15 minutes of full on DH, super fast and loose. It was awesome but I found it really tough to hang on. We also did a few runs on the race track and I started feeling better and better. On my third run, though, I entered the steepest section of the track, took a tricky high line and over-weighted slightly to the left. I went hard over the bars, landing on my injured wrist in the process. It was extremely painful and my wrist felt really weak afterwards.
I was pretty sure it was just a hard knock and not serious but I was still bummed about it. I tried to ride on the Wednesday, but could barely get down the mountain without crashing – my confidence was shattered. I rested on Thursday and just hoped that it would be better on Friday for the start of official practice.
Thankfully, Friday did feel better. It wasn’t perfect but good enough to ride. The track was dry and rough but lots of fun. I got in five runs on Friday and three on Saturday morning before my seeding run.
As I went up for my run, it started pouring with rain – typical Europe. It was too late to change set-up and tyres (or anything else for that matter) so I just set off and hoped for the best. I had a pretty solid run without pushing too hard but as I entered the last few hard-pack berms, I felt the front wheel let go and down I went … again.
I got up and cruised to the finish, not too bothered as it was just seeding. I had a time of 4:32; the leader was a 4:03 but he went in the dry and didn’t crash so I wasn’t too worried about that.
The track was very wet on race-day Sunday after loads of rain the previous night. I did one run and the track was a bit slick but not bad at all. Then the European heavens opened again, turning it into a slippery slosh fest. I did two practice runs with spikes and it was fine.
About 10 minutes before my run, it was really started coming down. I knew it was going to be slippery and, while I’m not the best in mud, I had to give it my best. I set off and it was like ice skating. I made a few big mistakes which cost me some time but I was just happy to get down without crashing and to get a European race run on the books after being off the bike for so long. I ended 55th and had a time of 4:50. The winner was rode 4:17, but in almost dry conditions, so while I was far from happy, I was pretty satisfied with the way things went.
I reckon that’s my quota of crashes and rain for the year, so things can surely only get better from here.