The final round of the World Cup series took us to the well known ski resort of Val d’Isere in south east France. I was rather excited at the prospect of racing here I was imagining a course a little like La Bresse with mind boggling technical sections and huge climbs. We flew out a little earlier than usual as Val d’Isere is situated at 1850m above sea level this is where altitude comes into play. I wanted to get myself acclimatised as well as possible in the time we had available. I had the company of my sister Lucy for this trip, having competed in elite sport herself she knows how to look after me and keep me calm come race day. It’s lovely to have someone to distract me from the pressures of racing and have some fun.

The first day of our stay was really hot so we decided I should leave a lap of the course until later in the day when it was a little cooler. We had the great idea of going up in a ski lift to look at the course from above to suss out where it went. I’ve never been on a ski lift before but as I’m reasonably good with heights I thought it was a pretty smart idea. I was terrified, I can’t believe there is only one little bar holding you in. Lucy found it hilarious that I can throw myself down hills on a bike, jump massive fences at speed on a horse but put me in a ski lift and I’m literally frozen with fear. I survived the experience and the view at the top was definitely worth it, coming down wasn’t quite as bad but I can’t say I’m that keen to try it again!

I managed a quick look around the course that evening; I was surprised as it wasn’t what I was expecting at all. The climbs were far shorter than I’d imagined and the descents not half as scary instead it was short killer climbs and the descents being technical but fun. There was even a section that went down into the town with a rock garden some drops and a wall of death! It was great and I was more than a little excited at the prospect of racing it. Over the next few days I had to make sure I didn’t do too much as the course was such fun it was so tempting to keep riding round. I have to admit a few wobbles at the wall of death; a call to Ian at Firecrest MTB and being shown the way by Tom Parkin of RWD Brakes team meant I got round it after a couple of times of wussing out and began to build my speed over it. I could have spent all day getting lines correct and practicing carrying speed into sections but race day was looming so I took time out to relax and watch the downhill and hang out with the RWD team and Lucy.

Race day dawned with the patter of rain on the window. I was quite pleased to see it; some of the descents had been getting pretty loose so with a little rain it might help with the grip. I had quite a good gridding so for a change I wasn’t right at the back for the start. I got a reasonable start and picked a wheel to sit on; I felt comfortable and tried to settle into a rhythm. The first climb came quickly and began to feel the horrible tightness in my chest of not being able to catch my breath. I tried not to panic and concentrated on keeping relaxed. I knew if I made it up the first climb I had a good time to recover down a nice descent all the way back to the arena.

I managed to hang on in and was in a group of about four of us. Coming to the most technical section of the course the riders in front of me jumped off, I rode it cleanly and managed to gain a couple of places. Each time I came to a technical section I’d pass people only to be caught on the climbs while I was focusing on keeping my breathing under control. A massive thank you to Lucy, James from RWD and Ian from WXC Racing for doing a fantastic job in keeping me calm and informed through the feed zone. I managed to gap the girls I was battling with on my final lap and I felt I was getting stronger with each lap so it was a disappointment to be pulled. I finished 47th which means I’ve gained more valuable points so hopefully I will get a better gridding in the races next year.

Fri 3rd Aug, 2012 @ 9:12 am

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