Yesterday I won a World Cup, a freaking World Cup! And it’s still very unbelievable to me.
Ever since I did my first world cup in 2010, winning a world cup has been a thing on my horizon that constantly inspired me as a mountain biker. Many, many times has World Cup racing taught me, that winning a World Cup is quite unique and exceptional and something that only few riders get to experience in their sometimes long careers.
You are probably eager to read my secret recipe on a World Cup victory and in case you expect some copy-ready, fine detailed and complicated story on my build up towards this, you’ll get it. But maybe not being what you assumed.
So, where to start.. Well, first of all my approach to this World Cup was very different to all the previous this year. If you take a look at my race calendar (yes, it has its own index tab above), you’ll see that I raced in Canada / USA three weekends in a row leading up to this World Cup in Val di Sole. Especially the race last weekend (“Leadville 100”; 160km at more than 3000m’s altitude) almost killed me. After Leadville I didn’t go straight to Val di Sole, what in theory would have been ideal, but instead went to Denmark to get some days at home, see my boyfriend and just reload. I didn’t spend much time on my bike, but just enjoyed doing what I wanted including good wine and trying to fight jetlag and exhaustion from the 7 hours of suffering in Leadville.
I arrived in Val di Sole late thursday and went checking out the course friday with Christoph Sauser. The course was in great conditions, and more physically than technically demanding. Once again I opted for my full-suspension bike (S-works Era 29’er), simply just because I love that bike.
Having done very well at the races the previous two weekends, I felt that the pressure was very much off. When we made the plan for my season, doing the extreme race in Leadville the weekend right between three World Cup races was not ideal. The World Cup in Val di Sole would have to be sacrificed a little bit in that regard. Still I wanted to do that last World Cup of the season, at least to gather as many points as possible for the overall women’s team competition.
In the days leading up to the race, I felt that my performance on race day would be like playing the lottery. It could either go very well or very badly. Actually, those were the exact words I used when asked. The day before the race, I rode the first half of the course at race-speed, and it didn’t feel good. I decided to call it a day and go get some rest.
Still very jetlagged and tired I managed to sleep through my alarm clock on race day. I wore earplugs, since my Italian hotel-neighbours were very Italian in their way of communicating, meaning earplugs were necessary for my beauty sleep. Luckily, I didn’t miss the breakfast buffet. But with less time for digesting my beloved morning meal, I though I better aim for the more refined carbs, instead of my usual coarse oats. So white bread and cookies it was.
My warmup I did on the road and when I went to the start boxes, I was confused, that they wouldn’t let me in. Only then I realised, that I despite start number 9 had a front row start (top 8 rider start in the front row, but since the 6th ranked Pauline Ferrand Prevot wasn’t present, I’d moved up one spot). Okay, back to the start line to enter the top 8 start box. Smile and wave to the cameras. Being the now last seeded in the front row also meant, that I would get the least wanted start position: To the very right, where the ground of the start stretch was very bumpy and covered with high grass. Great!… But once again I managed a good start and soon found myself on the wheel of the leading two-three girls. I was surprised by the fact, that it didn’t feel bloody hard and slowly the fact, that the race could go very well sneaked up on me. Still, I rode defensively, just in case my legs all the sudden would change their mind. World Cup Leader Jolanda Neff once again attacked hard from the start and got a gap. Catharine Pendrel would start chasing her down, but since I was in no rush, I stayed on Pendrels wheel. Soon I felt that I had more power than Pendrel and on a climb I went to the front and never saw her again. Not only did I leave Pendrel behind, I was actually closing the gap on Neff too. Slowly, but steady, I would soon be on the wheel of Neff.
With her being stronger in the descents and me being stronger in the climbs we would pull of a very exciting show of a race. I felt good and strong and didn’t let myself get distracted whenever Jolanda would overtake me. In fact, it was awesome racing! I started feeling, that I was wearing Jolanda down. Every time I got a gap on her, she would struggle more and more to catch up with me.
All the sudden I was riding alone .. at the front .. OF A WORLD CUP. I told myself a lot of different things in order to stay calm. I mean, how often do you get to win a (very much wanted) world cup? I got the information that Jolanda had crashed, which made sense, since I within no time had a 20 second gap. I though “this is your chance, do you want this world cup win or not?”.. and YES, I wanted it. I attacked hard with everything I had left and when I looked over my shoulder I had nobody in sight. Oh, how sweet. Going a little too cross eyed into a descent saw me going off my bike at one point, but I had the deciding momentum now. Nobody could take that momentum from me and nothing could stop me from taking that victory. Only after making it down the last downhill to the finish line I let myself flush over with the undeniable fact, that I would win a World Cup. It was no longer a dream or something unreal, it was the actual present moment.
The rest is history, as they say. In all of places, Italy is most likely the best place to win a world cup. Italian people love their cycling heroes and I soaked it all up.
A final note to all of you, who watched the race on Redbull.tv, allow me to extend the over-and-over repeated one or two phrases put on me by the commentators. I’m not a “Marathon specialist.” It’s true, that I’ve done a few Marathon- and stage races and done very well on these occasions. I also did some road racing and Enduro riding and in fact that’s what I love about this sport, the variety and the adventure. I guess, if you have to sum it up, I’m just a biker.