The Albstadt course was pretty different compared to the course in Nove Mesto the weekend prior. While Nove Mesto was entirely in a wooded area with lots of roots and wide-open, tricky-steep climbs broken up by technical rock gardens; Albstadt was either crushed gravel paths or slick, muddy sections with a fair amount of rocks stuck into the mud (like chocolate chips in ice cream, or chunky peanut butter)and nothing overly scary-technical. Both courses featured a fair amount of steep climbing…which is generally good for me. I decided mid-week that my goal for this race was to not crash. That’s pretty much it. After Nove Mesto, I felt like if I could maintain focus and keep my shit together, I could put together a good race. Turns out, crashing is slow.
The Albstadt course was really short-featuring two main climbs and two descents. We would be doing 7 laps. I knew the steep climbs would take their toll-14 climbing intervals! My strategy was this: start-1st lap be calm and calculating, 2-4 laps hammer the climbs and be loose on the descents, laps 5+ be steady, calm, and focused…it’s the last laps where crashes happen and I wanted to make sure I had my wits about me! It wasn’t the most aggressive plan, but I think this strategy worked well for me.
I was pretty assertive at the start and definitely used my elbows to secure my position in the starting grid. I focused on being calm and keeping my head up, looking for openings. There was no start lap this race and I knew from the earlier races of the weekend that it would get bungled up pretty quickly and probably stay bungled up for the full first half. I was right; it did. It was sort of depressing to be running your bike up a perfectly rideable hill watching the race leaders come down the first descent, already a minute + ahead of the trailing pack. On the first downhill I took the conservative b-line, betting that the A-line would be a kluster. I was right and my line choice earned me ~5 spots as I rode past girls run/falling down the A-line. Score a point for me. The second half of the first lap was un-eventful and I was still focused on being calm and calculated. I came through the start/finish in ~35th. There was still a fair amount of traffic on the second lap so I decided to try my b-line strategy again. And it worked again. I passed another 3-4girls. The 2nd and 3rd laps I focused on pushing the climbs-I caught and passed every girl in front of me each time up the climbs…unfortunately some of them caught and passed me back on the descents, but you gotta play to your strengths! By the end of the 4th lap, I was feeling pretty gassed. I opted again to take the b-line, not wanting to risk a bobble on the a-line and that decision cost me a spot…but, I earned it back on the climb. That’s pretty much how the remaining laps went. I knew I was in the top 30 and I wanted to make sure I stayed there. At the end of the 6th lap, I was seeing red and secretly hoping I would get pulled. When I saw that I actually WAS getting pulled I was immediately disappointed. That’ll teach me! I was the last person to not go through for the last lap. I’m still bummed about that, but geeze-pulling over 2/3rds of the field is a real bummer and pretty rare in any race. Just evidence that the laps were a bit too short. I finished 26th. My best World Cup finish to date is 23rd in a field half as competitive…So I’m pretty pleased with that. Way better than 40th the weekend before.
Anyway, my takeaways from this race: be calm at the start but use your elbows; sometimes a conservative strategy is ok-even at a World Cup; and, I need to practice descending when fully gassed and not seeing straight. Oh, and the brief relief of getting pulled doesn’t make-up for the lingering sting of disappointment you will feel later-always end on full-gas!
So now I’m on my way home for a few days before heading up to the Vail Mountain Games. It will be interesting to see how this race goes-last year, this was perhaps a ‘break-out’ race for me…this year I will be coming back from being at sea level for 2 weeks and I’ll likely still be jet lagged. But, it will be fun either way. I’m looking forward to racing in my home state after a fair amount of traveling over the last several weeks.