2013 was a big year for me so I thought I’d share my experiences……
My main focus this year was the UCI World Championships in South Africa. All of the top level riders and the majority of the competitions are in Europe which makes living in Australia a disadvantage (except the weather!) in terms of gaining competition experience. One of the best ways to get competition experience is to ride competitions. It’s pretty simple. The 2013 UCI World Cup series consisted of 5 rounds from April until late September, which were all based in Europe. 90% of my travel is self-funded, which meant I couldn’t afford to ride all 5 world cups this year due to the fairly long spacing between the dates. I could only afford to ride 2 out of the 5 so I used the two world cups in July and August as competition preparation for the World Championships in September.
My first world cup of the year was in Pra Loup, France. This is a beautiful venue situated in the French Alps and the organisers, Event Performance, always host an awesome competition. After not having ridden a world cup for 10 months and missing the first 2 world cups, I was both nervous and excited to ride. I rode a very strong competition and it looked like 1st place was in reach. However, in the 2nd lap, I made a stupid, costly mistake by knocking off a different categories gate which resulted in 5pts on a section I cleaned (0pts) both in the 1st and the 3rd lap. This relegated me to 2nd place on 15pts with Tatiana taking the win on 12pts. Obviously I wanted the win, but Tatiana rode very well and I was pretty happy with 2nd place considering it was my first world cup since 2012.
The world cup in Meribel, France was my last competition be fore the World Championships in South Africa. Coming off a good result in Pra Loup, I was extremely motivated for the win this time. It was possible to clean every section (which I did at le
ast once during the competition) but at the same time they were risky (if that makes any sense!?). The points between most of the competitors would be very close so one mistake would be costly. There were 2 sections in particular, a rock and a wooden beam section, that had one difficult obstacle in it. I rode a solid competition, but in the rock section I chose to ride the difficult obstacle instead of taking a strategic (strat) dab like the other competitors. I cleaned the section once but was unsuccessful the other 2 laps and I ended up with 10pts. I had a similar problem in the beam section where I made 2 x 5pts which meant I was in 4th place on the 3rd lap.
Going into my last section, the beam section, I was on 20pts and Krystina, who was in 3rd place, was on 19pts. There was a difficult side hop onto a beam that no other girl had done which I was planning on strat dabbing to make sure I got out of the section on 1pt. My plan didn’t go to plan. Before I rode the section I asked my minder, Andrei Burton, whether I should dab the side hop but he just told it to me straight. He said I had to clean the section to have any chance at the podium. The pressure was on! I rode through all of the obstacles very calculated and on a clean….. then I landed the side hop. The whole crowd was silent as I lined up on the back wheel. I had to make this jump clean, I didn’t have any other choice. I jumped and made it clean……it was an awesome feeling! I made it through the rest of the obstacles and cleaned the section. Krystina still had 2 more sections to ride, so there was still a window of hope for me to make podium, but to be honest I thought I had lost the podium position. Fortunately for me, Krystina made 1pt on a section which tied her and me on 20pts and gave me 3rd position on a count back on cleans (0pts). I was stoked to be on the podium after that competition!
It was really exciting to finally get to South Africa for the World Championships but at the same time it was pretty nerve racking. I spent the whole year training for this big event. The sections were different to the world cups I rode in Europe, mainly because they were painted in safari theme but also because they were rocks and logs in amongst a creek. Virtually all of the logs were painted making them incredibly slippery and nearly impossible to ride in the wet. Sure they look cool for spectators but as a rider you just cringe at the sight of a painted log! Apart from that, the sections didn’t have any big moves, except for one very risky and awkward rock line at the end of one of the sections.
The sections were very technical so it meant all of the competitors were going to be pretty close in scores. One mistake could mean you’re off the podium. I don’t enjoy competitions like that because there’s no variety. I’d much rather ride a good mixture of both big moves and technical because it show cases all aspects of Trials and makes women’s Trials much more exciting for spectators and for the riders.
Friday morning was race day. I’m not a morning person so that didn’t exactly help me! There was morning dew on all of the obstacles making everything (especially the painted logs!) slippery. To win, I had to make sure I rode a tight race and not make any 5’s. I decided to ride the rhinoceros section first because it was quite straight forward and was a good section to get those ‘first section race jitters’ out of the way. I rode over the first obstacle no problem but ended up making a mistake on the second obstacle which was a balance line along a reasonably long log. I rode in on the slightest angle and my front wheel slipped off the log, crossing the tape which is 5pts. This was not the ideal start I had planned for this competition! I still had 17 sections left to ride so I had 2 options – ride thinking the competition was over because I made a 5 or ride thinking I’ve spent the last year training really hard for this one event, the competitions not over yet, keep it tight! Thankfully I went for the second option.
I kept it tight and rode the 1st lap for 7pts. Gemma was on 3pts and Tatiana was on 5pts (I told you it was a close race!). The pressure was seriously on not to drop any points if I wanted any chance at staying in the race. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty nervous lining up for the log line (not as nervous as my minder and support crew though!) in the rhinoceros section on the 2nd lap. I made it clean and both Tatiana and I rode the 2nd lap for a total of 2pts with Gemma only making 3pts. With 2 sections remaining, I was on a total of 12pts so I needed to clean this section to keep the window of opportunity open. If either women made a 5 it would have put Tatiana on tied points with me and Gemma on 11pts. I rode so calculated and made it through everything clean. I only had one awkward rock to get over before the exit but my back wheel slipped and broke the tape which was 5pts. I was devastated……I knew then and there that my chances for the World title were over. I still had one more section to ride and I managed to compose myself, stayed incredibly focused and rode through the last section on 1pt. What a mental battle! Missing out on the world title this year was incredibly difficult after all of the time, money and effort I had invested in it. My riding level was the best it’s ever been so it was pretty disappointing but at the same time both Gemma and Tatiana are very talented riders who rode a great competition that day. I’m still really happy to finish on the podium. It’s actually the first time any Australian Trials rider, male or female, has finished on the podium at the World Champs. Even though I didn’t end up on the exact result I was after, I have learnt so much this year which I will be able to use for future competitions. What a year!
The support I received this year was phenomenal. I want to thank my major sponsors ExpressiveBikes, Trialtech, Ride Mechanic, Cleaning Equipment Consulting, Rosche Paper and Andrei Burton events. Thank you Mountain Bike Australia for the funding grant I received this year, not to mention everyone who donated to my fundraiser page! Also a big thanks to the support from my family, boyfriend and friends. Particularly all the people in Europe who let me stay at their house and travel with them (there’s too many people to mention, you all know who you are). Without all of this support it would not have been possible for me to go over and compete in Europe and South Africa so thank you!!