© Leo Zhukov
World Cup Rnd 4 – Albertville, France
Same old story, I live on a big island located on the other side of the planet so getting to Europe to compete in the world cups and world champs is always a costly venture. Consequently, I couldn’t afford to go over at the start of the year and ride the first 3 world cups.
Instead, my first stop this year was the 4th world cup round in Albertville, France. Yeah…wooo….get excited. Having only ridden 2 competitions in Australia, prior to coming to Europe, I wasn’t feeling terribly competition ready. Despite my amazing comp preparation, I felt really good in semi-finals and qualified 1st. This was my first finals of the year so I was pretty excited to be riding on the Sunday. From the 5 finals sections, my first 3 sections were, to put it nicely, pretty shocking. Nerves and indecision lead to poor technique execution, which resulted in two 5s and a 3. Fortunately, I had my Sherpa Carles pull me aside and knock some sense into me before I rode the last two sections. I managed to regain focus and cleaned the last two sections but it was ‘too little, too late.’ I had to settle for 3rd position, behind Tatiana and Nina.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE ALBERTVILLE VIDEO
We said goodbye to Event Performances’ SpongeBob Square Pants sections and headed to our next stop………………………………………
World Champs Val di Sole, Italy
……..World Champs! I arrived 4 days before my semi-finals to get settled in and walk the sections about 20 times haha. The name, Val di Sole aka valley of suns, was quite deceiving as it rained the first 2 days we were there. Typical world champs weather! Surprisingly though, all our competition days were sunny and dry…hallelujah. The world champs format is my favourite – semi-finals 5 sections x 3 laps, finals 5 sections x 2 laps. I find the world cup finals way too short – 5 sections x 1 lap. It’s over before it’s even started.
In semi-finals, I was struggling from the dreaded forearm pump. I think it was mainly due to nerves, nonetheless, the forearm pump was claiming me at the end of the sections and I was losing brake control. You kind of need brake control in trials so that was a bit of a problem. Apart from that, I had a crazy amount of time penalty points! I qualified 2nd on 21pts, 12 of which were time penalty points with Nina finishing on 9pts. I had problems rushing techniques in Albertville because I wanted to get moving through the section, but that lead to two 5s. I went the complete opposite in Italy and took too long for setup. Having said that, I still qualified for finals (only 1 penalty point) so I was happy. I needed to find my happy medium for finals stat!
I always find it a privilege to ride finals. You spend all year training for this one competition and in the end, only 6 people get to ride. So in my books, if you’re in the select few that make finals, that’s pretty cool. Sorry, should I have spelt that with a ‘k’? That’s pretty kool. Or am I too old to be using such hipster terms?
Anyway, enough digressing, long story short finals didn’t turn out as well as last year. First section was a disaster, which threw me behind the 8 ball. In gate 2 there was a relatively easy half pedal to back wheel. On my first attempt, I went too vertical to rear and had to jump back to the floor behind me to try again. I was thinking to myself, “I can’t hang around here too long because I need to time for the rest of the section.” Sure enough, this was the wrong thing to think, I rushed the technique and ended up somehow getting 5pts there. I was chasing Nina from that point onwards throughout the finals. I was trying to find somewhere to make up the lost points but there weren’t many options in the sections.
Going into the 2nd last section, which everyone was taking a dab on a difficult angled log, Carles told me I had to clean this section if I wanted any chance of keeping the title because we thought Nina made it through the last section with 1pt, when in fact she had 2pts. It was marked down incorrectly, but changed shortly after, whilst I was riding the section. I was forced to take an unnecessary risk which didn’t work. I tried to pedal up the log to back wheel but I hit low and my back slid over the marker – 5pts. She’s all over red rover.
I’ll be honest, it hurt losing the rainbow stripes. That’s what you train so hard for all year.
Nina rode better than me in Italy so hats off to her she earned the title this year.
Watch the 2016 world champs videos here:
Having finished 2nd, it was time to drive 16hrs from Italy to Germany so I could catch my flight back to Oz. I had plenty of time to mull over the competition and the more I thought about the more I wanted to stay and ride the last world cup in Antwerp. Once I arrived in Germany, I sent some emails to work, mountain bike Australia, etc to see if it was possible……..and it was. Boom! I changed my flight. Next stop…………..
World Cup Rnd 5 – Antwerp, Belgium
……. World cup in Antwerp! This is a pretty special place to ride for a couple of reason – some of my relatives live 2hrs from there, it’s always a well organised event with great atmosphere, it’s a culturally rich city and they sell Belgium waffles!
The organisers did a great job again this year, the sections looked good and they were fun to ride. Not only that, but Kenny managed to organise live streaming of the whole finals – women, 20” and 26”! Good job K-dog!! Watch the VIDEO HERE!
My mum, aunty and 86 year old grandpa came and watched which was really kool to have that family support (see what I did there). Semi-finals went really well, I went in with the goal of enjoying myself (and not 5ing….pretty important that one) and to ride freely. I had a few sketchy moments but never let a 5 slip in there, which secured me 1st place in the semi’s. We’re back in finals baby!
Day of the finals was looking good – dry, sunny. Then when I was getting ready for warm up the dark grey clouds came rolling in and it started raining during the end of 26” and for the first group of the women. Luckily it stopped raining just prior to our group’s start, but everything was still wet, especially the logs in section 1. There was chicken wire on most of the logs so there was some grip but I knew if I could just make it through the first section with a 0 or 1 I would be ok. Despite my track record, I pulled off a clean in the first section (high 5s the air). My nerves were settled, I made it through the dreaded ‘’1st section’’. I was feeling really good on the bike and motivated to ride. By the time I was at the start of section 4, I was only on 2pts. I made it through section 4 with only 2pts, Nina was on 9pts so I had won. This was my 3rd consecutive victory in Antwerp. I was so happy! All I had to do was enjoy riding the last rock section, which I did….with a clean. What a perfect way to finish my 2016 Europe trip.
#World Gym Brisbane
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And to all those generous, kind hearted, people who donated to my crowd funding page, you guys rock!
I also can’t forget, a big thanks to ‘The Dude’ for minding me at all the comps. Legend!