I was quite nervous about this trip to Japan, mainly because it was my first time at any length in Asia so I wasn’t familiar with anything, added to the fact that this was going to be a very important week of data gathering on the Olympic track and reconnaissance on some training areas for next year. My flights went smoothly and so too the drive from the airport to accommodation about 3hrs away.
I arrived a week out from the race and spent the early part of the week checking out the local sights and exploring some beautiful mountain roads. MTB trails proved harder to find however and it was noticeable how little people ride bikes for recreation in Japan versus New Zealand. Nonetheless the area around the Izu peninsula where the 2020 Olympic race will be held was beautiful and I was shown a couple of trails by some local guides. It was a pleasant surprise to be in an area with so many large hills, along with plenty of coastline and nature.
We had the opportunity to walk the course earlier in the week prior to practice and it looked absolutely savage. Lots of very steep climbs, off camber sections and some beefy rock gardens to really keep you on your toes. I hadn’t been so excited to get out for course practice in a long time!
We didn’t have too much time allowed for course practice with just 1.5hrs available of Friday so it was important to get up to speed quick. Luckily the course rode a lot better than it walked and the transitions between descending and climbing flowed well. After some rain the night prior the course was slick but I was feeling comfortable and got the bike dialed in quickly, allowing me to do a hot lap to gain some valuable data acquisition On Saturday it had dried out some more and I cruised a couple of easy laps to finish dialing in the lines some more experimenting with tyres and pressures.
I started off the on 3rd row in the race and got caught up in a bit of chaos over the opening start loop and first lap which left me a couple of groups back from the front. I didn’t push too hard over the first half of the race and this allowed me to ride a consistent pace for the whole race. In the end finishing 9th and just 50secs back from the winner.
It was great to feel good in a race again which such little training and I left Japan with a lot of confidence heading into Olympics in July 2020. I felt really well suited to the track and got everything out of the week and the race that I needed to. All in all, a big thumbs up and I’m excited for the big show next year!