So after the first few national races I was selected to race the first round of the 2013 UCI world cup in Albstadt, Germany. I was really excited to be racing as it is the highest level competition for mountain biking outwith the Olympics. Having raced a couple of these last year though I knew how unpredictable and manic they could be, mainly due to there being such a large field of riders and the sheer speed at which the race goes at! There isn't really anything that can prepare you for them - it's completely different to anything in Britain.
One problem I also had in Germany was that a knee injury that had stopped me from training and racing the last fortnight was still not 100%, but some special tape from the physio was hopefully going to get me through the race.
Arriving on the Thursday and not racing until early Sunday morning meant that we had a couple of days practice. The course was mega steep on the way up, proper little chainring stuff, with 3 big climbs. The downhill was surprisingly slippy due to the thin layer of mud on top of the rock underneath making it like an ice rink at times. The course wasn't overly technical but when tired it was going to be tricky to control the bike, especially if it rained.
photo: Alfons Benz
The start of our race was pretty hectic, and being gridded 66th meant I was right in the thick of it. You don't see it on the replay of races, but behind the front row riders everyone is squeezed up together with lots of pushing and elbows out to try and get as far up as possible. And inevitably with over 100 juniors sprinting in close proximity there was a crash just of the start, and I was in just the wrong place. I didn't get held up for too long but instead of moving up the field in the start straight as hoped, I had lost ground and was back in around 100th - lots of work to do!
I hit the first hill pretty hard and tried to gain as many places as possible before the singletrack. The huge number of riders funneling into a narrow singletrack also meant lots of running/walking with the bike if you were not in the top 20. So lots of waiting about then just having to descend in that position before the next opportunity to overtake. Meanwhile the leaders are able to ride at their own pace!
After the first lap I was roughly 80th but at least now there was more room to attack and move round people. The really tough course meant that you were on the limit at the top of the climbs, a short tricky descent and then attacking again up the next climb. I rode a pretty consistent race, no crashes (apart from the start) or problems, and I kept moving up the field, eventually finishing in 52nd place. My knee held up well until the final lap where it was starting to hurt but I was able to hold on to the finish.
photo: Alfons Benz
The result was lower than I was hoping for but I was pleased to have ridden a controlled race. It was a good result considering the problems with my knee the last couple of weeks and getting caught up in the start line crash. The next race that GB are taking juniors to is round 3 in Italy followed by European Champs in Switzerland, so I will be hoping to get selected for these and have my knee all fixed up to give it another shot.
Also there is a video on youtube from the Junior race which gives you an idea of what it is like: Here