On Thursday evening I arrived at Zurich airport and was greeted by my team mate Mathias Fluekiger who then drove me to his older brother Lukas house where I am staying with him and his wife Fabi for the week. They live in a beautiful area out in the Swiss countryside, everything is green and lush and the temperature is perfect for training, mid twenties and sun which is really nice. It will definitely be tough for me to leave the European summer behind and head back to New Zealand and school in two weeks time, I’m really enjoying myself over here! Luk and Fabi are great hosts and staying with them is really easy and stress free. On Saturday I woke bright and early to head to the final Swiss Cup race (Now known as the BMC racing cup) 45mins away in Basel. I am envious of just how close all the big races are here to where Luk is. He can just stay in his own house the night before, wake up in the morning and head to the race, I suppose that is one of the advantages of living in Europe!
I was driven to the event by Oli Kaderli, who is the Fluekigers personal mechanic on the Trek World Racing team and who would also be working for me at the Swiss Cup. I was excited about the prospect of racing again as it had been such a long time since my last MTB race which was the Windham world cup back at the end of June. The course was very flat with the exception of one small steep climb with a flowy, bermed singletrack descent. Even though the course was flat it was still super fun with a fast singletrack back alongside a river and a small obstactle loop in the centre of the horse racing circuit which was where the start/finish was based. I rode two practice laps as a warm up and just to get an idea of the course before the 10am start and then we were off racing!
The start loop consisted of 2 laps around the horse racing circuit before heading out onto the main lap. All the top Swiss guys were there plus a few other internationals so the start was super fast, just like a world cup round and I was strong enough to stay at the head of the pack and cover any initial attacks and breaks riders tried to make. I decided to sit in for the first lap of the race in second wheel behind the Swiss champion Andri Frischknecht to get a good gauge of my competition and to get to know the course at race speed. Halfway through the second lap I took the lead at the top of the climb into the singletrack descent, opened up a small gap and decided I would try and ride solo to the finish. This plan worked out well and other than one small lapse of concentration towards the end of the 3rd lap resulting in a small crash I was able to put out good consistant lap times to win by over 2mins.
Overall I was really pleased with my performance, my legs felt great and I know I am in a good space physically and mentally heading into World Champs. To top the day off, Lukas took a close second place in a sprint finish with Olympic silver medalist Nino Schurter in the afternoons Elite men’s race. Luk had to beat out the Olympic bronze medalist Marco Fontana, Julien Absalon, Florian Vogel and a huge list of other great riders to get the silver which made his ride all the more impressive! At the final World Cup round he took a close second place to Nino Schurter as well so it seems almost unbelievable that a rider of this talent didn’t make the Swiss Olympic mountain bike team. It just goes to show how strong a nation Switzerland is when it comes to Mountain bike racing and the depth and talent they have. Genuine medal contendors are unable to qualify a spot to race at the Olympics which seems a bit unfair at times when these guys invest all their time, money and energy into the sport. Hopefully we can develop a strong pool of talent in New Zealand Mountain Biking too in the years to come, and the Olympic qualification rules see some change. Mathias also had a strong race coming back from a crash that put him well down the field to bring himself up into 13th position by the end of the race. That’s it for now, I’m looking forward to the week ahead and arriving in Austria next weekend to finalise my World Champs build up!