Thursday, 29 August 2013

Silver in WOC middle

My new bike! Diamant Apex T29.1
This is actually my 5th silver of my career (3 at junior level and 2 at elite) which are framed on either side by a lonely gold and a lonely bronze! But I just won my 2nd WOC medal after an almost flawless race so I can't be disappointed to be beaten by the faster woman on race day.

After yesterday I felt I had to have a good race. All the signs were there that I had potential to take a medal in the sprint, and given that the middle was the focus of my race prep (due to the unpredictable nature of sprints), I was feeling confident that things could go my way.

Map of WE course with route
My start was 20 mins later, so I had extra quarantine time, which isn't an issue, I just had to make sure all my bike stuff and tools came with me. I sat, I wandered, I tried to stay warm in the sun. Eventually after 2 hours I could start warming up. I had the 'feelings' of a good race again, as per yesterday, only my thoughts were a little more scatty due to being able to hear the fast times being posted from the commentary. The 'feelings' always seem to become more diluted the further along the WOC week we go, but already I'm feeling ready for the long in 3 days time.

The warm up area was the downhill slope, so not the easy warm up for the first 10 mins I like to have. But as with everything in sport, these routines can be adapted regardless of the situation. So I pedalled around, did a few uphill sprints, before realised I'd left my chain lube in my bag which I'd just handed in so had a 5 min panic to get it back!

As I started the 3 min countdown procedure I heard my wonderful boyfriend being announced as leading and only having a few minutes until the finish. It's nearly impossible to ignore the commentary at this point, and HJ crossed the line just as I started, so it was mildly distracting!
Riding to the first control Photo: Donatas Lazauskas

First control: right where I expected and so the decision on route was easy.
Two and three: again, in the area I expected, ticking off controls nicely.
Four: spectator control. Just ride fast.
Five: the long leg had already been planned on the way to control 1, so the execution was all that mattered. First road crossing as I knew where it was, then under the powerlines before taking the ATV tracks to the control.
Six and seven: no problem, just take the shortest route and start planning ahead again.
Eight and nine: no major route choices. Riding straight up to the railway seemed fastest and easiest so that was a no brainer. Nine had a small route choice where I lost 10 secs by not going under the powerline. Difficult to see the difference on the map, and everyone in the top 3 took my route anyway.

Close up of technical section with route
Then came the technical controls. Sizeable hills compared to the flat north, with a multitude of ski tracks and MTB trails. The controls in here were well planned to balance the great trails and fast riding. To ten I wasn't sure if the difficult path was faster than the ski track. I don't think it mattered a great deal, but from what I heard later it was actually a fast path due to having 100 men ride it. We dropped out the field on a fun trail, before heading back up to the second highest hill on the area (the highest one we climbed). I was pleased here to ride the trail at the top, after the fatiguing effort to get up there, there was a whopping tree root on the final climb to the control. I rode it, wheels didn't slip, so a small celebration after. As I turned I saw a couple of men and a woman walking up which made me even happier! We then had a technical downhill section where I lost 23 secs to the fastest time, despite taking a lovely shortcut to the control. I also lost 20 secs on the following leg which had a technical section in it, so looks like we've found something to work on next season.

WOC medal number 2
Then it was just the final loop. All I could do was to keep riding and keep pedalling. My legs were screaming to stop or slow down, but after a near perfect race there was no chance of my brain letting that happen. The hills by this point were unrelenting, and I rode up the final steep climb with soft dust making the trail harder. But from there it was downhill. The final control couldn't come soon enough, and then HJ was yelling I was in the fight for medals, so I sprinted harder to get the fastest finish time.

As it turned out, it wasn't a fight for medals. I was safely in silver with none of the 5 starters behind me close at the radio controls, so I could instantly celebrate silver. It was short lived when I was told I had to pee in front of someone, and 2 hours later I finally managed to be hydrated enough to manage my first doping control. Unfortunately, I then didn't stop running to the toilet for the next 3 hours ... !

I'm pleased with the result and the time. In quarantine I knew the fastest time was 8 minutes under the planners estimate so I knew the course was fast. I then went another 2 mins quicker, with first place being 33 seconds ahead of me still. It's a shame the courses couldn't have been longer, but it was a mentally and physically challenging course which more than made up for the fast times.

Event website

Emily Benham, Marika Hara FIN, Susanna Laurila FIN
Photo: Donatas Lazauskas