PIETERMARITZBURG, SOUTH AFRICA Just finished up racing the first round of the 2014 World Cup in South Africa. It was at the same venue as World Champs in 2013, but they made quite a few changes to prevent people from running anything less than a downhill bike. Lots of people still had modified downhill bikes, and trail tires for the rolling speed, but the course had some really technical features, lots of pedalling, huge jumps, and loose blown out dirt. Not an easy race course that's for sure. Really happy to step one spot higher against the best in the World for 3rd and my best Downhill World Cup result!!! (1st. Manon Carpenter UK 2. Rachel Atherton UK 3. Jill Kintner USA 4. Myriam Nicols FRA 5. Emmoline Ragot FRA.
The boys of our Team Norco Intl. did pretty good as well, with Bryn pulling out a 23rd after a nasty crash earlier in the week, Lorenzo 26th, and Isak 31st. Good start with room to improve.
American Downhill also needs a mention with Aaron Gwin returning to form to take a win, and our Junior- Luca Shaw winning the Junior class, my podium in Elite Women, Neko Mulally 7th. Mitchypoo would have been on point as well but he had a flat tire on his trail bike 29er. Eliot Jackson is back as well, which is fun. There are not too many of us on tour 6 or 7 Americans total in attendance, but we made it count! Eric Carter is the Specialized team manager now too , which is amazing. He is one of my favorites, and so clever.
Anyway, The heat was damn hot to go from Seattle winter straight into 82+ degree sunny dusty conditions. My face was bright red all day. Luckily or unluckily I am in the early practice, which means waking up a 6:30am to be on the course at 8:30 am which is a mellow temperature, but pretty early to go that fast. In the speed trap, which is maxed out down this gully, I hit 61 Kph, which gets you ready.
The rock gardens were quite tricky. Man made stuff never really flows like natural terrain. In all the good lines, they would put an awkward rock right where you wanted to be, but the same for everyone. It was tricky to get anything consistent out of that new middle cloud nine section. I didn't really blitz it in my final run, but knew I could make it up in the pedal a bit.
I felt pretty calm for this event really. We had a scare with Bryn on the first day after he got a concussion and hit the deck hard. spent 5 hrs with him in the hospital that night and got home late . Life happens. He is way more important than a race, so I was happy to see he was ok. Better to know these things than drag out the speculation.
Anyway, this was our first race as a full team. We brought in a local mechanic from Cape town - JP Jacobs to help with Lorenzo and Isak's bikes, and Reg the Wrench was there directing things and sweating his ass off in the tent. We were in a good spot with shade, which made a difference.
New bikes were good too. We are developing a bike with Norco that may or may not ever be made, but so far so good. It's not really a public thing to talk about, as it's a work in progress.
We had a few weeks to get used to em and then race, which is tough. Bikes take time to fine tune. We rode the shittiest hard packed trails trying to get ready for this race on Grand Ridge, and duthie on our dh bikes with droppers:) Not your normal world cup testing. There isn't really anywhere close that matches speeds and technicality, but we were spot on. I didn't really change anything other than a couple clicks of compression. Tires were the main thing, and I just rode a High Roller 2 up front for the added traction for the loose stuff on top, and a DHr2 on the rear for rolling speed - Maxxis TR 3C Trail tires.
Just flew to Australia. We have a mega layover, so I'm sitting here with heavy eyelids waiting to go to our second home and see the fam. :) Can't wait. Couple weeks till the next one.