It’s now almost eight months since my first race this year. The location was Cyprus and already I’ve been kickstarting my season here three times before. Every time it’s been great, and I think it’s much owed to the fact, that at this time of year the winter training has build up my shape, combined with the sun and the thrill of being back into racing. This year I wanted the racing on Cyprus to be a part of my training towards the Cape Epic. Even though the race on Cyprus only was a 4 day stage race (max 2,5 hours a day) and the Cape Epic is a grueling 8 days (4-5 hours every day) you still have to get into a rhythm of racing/recovering and being ready to repeat it the following day. I felt strong on Cyprus, even though I didn’t feel like I dug deep. For sure I rode fast, but I didn’t ride myself over the limit. I wanted to safe those extra percentages for later in the season. I’ve always been racing strongly this time of year on Cyprus, and then faded later in the season (before the season had come to an end). This year I wanted a different approach and it seemed to work. After Cyprus we made a little danish talkie-cam. If you’re not danish you won’t understand, but enjoy the pictures from Michal Cerveny
A month later a bigger goal of mine awaited: The Cape Epic. A tough 8 day South African stage race, where you race in teams of two. I paired up with Ariane Kleinhans, with whom I already had raced one stage race. Our team work is excellent. At least when the race is going according to plan. Only under very stressed situations this race challenged us for real. Sure we knew how to fix the most common mechanical issues, but one thing is doing it when not in a race, another thing is doing it under pressure. Already on day 2 of the race we lost nearly 40 minutes caused by an endless number of flat tires on a day with lots of rain and thorny terrain. It was a nightmare and I was thankful, that we made it to the finish line on that day! The next day my stomach started causing me problems. I had caught a stomach bug. To spare you the details, let just say, that Imodium got to be my new best friend and my beauty sleep at night got replaced by many consultations with the toilet.
Having to race the Cape Epic had been a huge motivation factor for both of us throughout the winter, so we showed up in great shape, dominated the race and stepped up the level of the women’s category. Doing a stage race like this is a fascinating and very weird thing at the same time. We worked super hard every day and when we were not actually on the bikes, we were like zombies trying to recover for next day.
The video is from the last day of the Cape Epic. Looking at the film now I recollect the feeling when we crossed the finish line. An absolute stunning feeling.
After the Cape Epic I was tired in every way. Not only did I have to recover from the physical effort. Leaving the race was a shock to the mind too. And finally I also had to get my stomach back on track. I zombied around for a week in Stellenbosch (South Africa) not doing much. The following weekend, I did a local xc race. Not that I felt recovered, but looking back it was maybe just what I needed to not go too much on stand-by. As it turned out, a week later I was in perfect shape for the first world cup, where I ended up on the podium.
After a month spend in South Africa it was much needed to catch my breath at home before heading into the next round of racing on European soil. The main races would be the world cups in Nove Mesto and Albstadt and leading up to those races I did different other races in Austria, Germany and Denmark. Thanks to a great shape I did great results in all races, winning the Bundesliga race in Heubach and just missing out on the World Cup podium in Nove Mesto. This round of racing left me confident on having stepped up my game from the previous season and hungry for more. Upon arriving in Nove Mesto, I remember people congratulating me with my result in Heubach and slowly I began to realize, that I was consolidating myself as a rider, who rides at the front of the races. That was also the case at the world cup race in Nove Mesto, where I rode in 2-5 position most of the race until a crash on the second last lap put me back to cross the finish line in 6th position. Last year my best world cup result was 9th, so this just showed me, that I was on the right track. A week later the worldcup in Albstadt kicked off. In 2009 this venue hosted a Bundesliga race, my 2nd Bundesliga race ever. I had a stellar race and therefore this place always brings out some familiar feelings in me. The course is extremely physically demanding and this year I just was not 100%. I didn’t have contact with the front of the race and found it challenging to wrap my head around that. Still I gave it all I had and crossed the finish line in 8th position.
Check out this video from Albstadt:
After these races, my eyes were set on Marathon World Championships in Pietermaritzburg at the end of june. The following time I would put in just as many training hours like in february, meaning I would build to peak my shape again. In that way I would not only prepare well for Marathon World Champs, but just as important I would build up a base for the second half of the season
I saw myself as a favorite for taking the title. I could feel the certainty of making it, so actually doing it was an amazing feeling. I was quite nervous before the race, but luckily I had great people around me – my Team and my boyfriend. When the start gun went off, the nerves turned into calmness and focus. Being in great shape, always gives confidence and already on the first climb I made the racing hard. I was able to pull away, and knew I would be able to pace myself out there in no mans land. Mentally I took myself back to the exhausting stages of Cape Epic and focussed very much on bringing back the same feeling. Giving everything on the last climb to look back and seeing none behind me, is a feeling hard to describe. It’s amazing and quite addictive.
At this point already my season had been amazing, but there was more to come. After grabbing the Danish National title, I went overseas to the world cups in Mt. Sainte Anne (CAN) and Windham (USA). The world cup in Mt. Sainte Anne was tough. I remember feeling dead already on the second lap, but still managed an 8th spot. I felt frustrated, since this was the worst result of the year so far. I had put the success criterias way too high and didn’t really allow myself any buffer. My boyfriend (once again) helped me seeing this in a more clear light and helped putting me in the right mindset for the world cup a week later in Windham. This race I rode cleverly, riding the first part of the race within my limits, not overdoing it. Slowly but surely I went to the front of the race and only marginals hindered me from taking second place. I crossed the finish line in third, thrilled!
From USA it was back to Europe. Only two weeks later the next world cup was taking place in Méribel. I soon felt, that I was not riding with full power. Looking back I should have prepared myself better for racing at that altitude, but at least I’m a lesson wiser.
I ended up in 11th spot and closed down the World Cup season with a great overall 8th position.
Two weeks later, XCO World Championships took place in Norway. Leading up to the race, I didn’t feel I was where I wanted to be – physically or mentally. I did my best and hold it together through the race. As soon as I crossed the line, I was overwhelmed with relief and sadness and actually just wanted to disappear as quickly as possible. A lot of questions and doubt turned up: Did I not rest enough after Méribel? Should I have trained differently? Is this in fact just my level? To be honest, I was just worn out. Simply as that. For a short moment I forgot my fantastic season and just felt awful. Well, well, of course what I needed was just a break and some space to breathe.
The last race of my season would be the Swiss Epic, a newly formed stage race in the beautiful Swiss mountains. Ariane and I would partner up and once again we managed to be very much on the same page. Ariane also felt the engines running on low at this time, so we had a somewhat more relaxed approach to this race, than the Cape Epic earlier this year. Still we decided to give all we had, knowing that off-season would await us, as soon as we crossed the finish line. It was a great experience to do the race. It challenged us with the steepest climbs, but only to treat us with the sweetest descending trails. The Swiss Epic was a really nice way to end the season. This race treats you with the most stunning scenery. We were literally accommodated right next to every start/finish line and got to experience the local culture and cuisine in every host town. And the after party…. let’s just say that we finished the season in style!
So this was my version of the season. Not only was it a successful year, but also a year to learn a great lessons from. Most importantly I’ve learned how to build and prepare for the season, but also that even though I’m strong my power is not endless. I also wan’t to thank my team and everybody else who helped me for the fantastic support. Mountain biking may be considered an individual discipline but racing at this level certainly takes a team effort.