After a strong team showing at the British XCO National Championships at the 2012 Olympic venue of Hadleigh Farm, it was Denmark and the SRAMliga series in Næstved that team members Seb and Tom headed to next to continue their seasons. Denmark is a country that the team always enjoy coming to for several reasons, with the friendly nature of the Danes, their efficient organisational skills and the country’s plentiful supply of scenic (if a little flat) countryside being the main ones.
As the UCI Mountain Bike XCO World Cup in Mont Sainte Anne, Canada was being held over the same weekend, it was initially unclear whether the top Scandinavian riders would be staying at home for the C1 SRAMliga race or heading abroad to Canada. By the time the closing date for entires passed by though, it was obvious that most had decided on the former, leaving the team in no doubt that the race was likely to be full on.
With Tom having raced at the Næstved venue in 2014 and largely praising the course, both riders found it a bit of a disappointment to discover a new course that offered less elevation than in previous years due to the largest climb of the previous year’s lap being removed. The technical features that had been left in however were still pleasantly challenging and a lot of fun to ride.
Seb: “The course in Næstved was more or less as I expected. I’ve been to a number of different Danish venues now and they are nearly all flat out. I was really impressed with the first half of the lap with a few punchy steep climbs and a couple of technical features. The second half seemed like a bit of an add on to make up the distance!”
Tom: “It was good to return to a venue I enjoyed the previous year and re-familiarise myself with some fun technical features. The omission of a large climb, which was a section of the track I made up lots of time on last year was a bit of a shame though, and played a big part in changing the dynamic of the race and who the course did or didn’t suit”
Gridded 9th and 34th respectively, Seb and Tom both got off the line satisfactorily, despite having to deal with traffic and other riders having problems:
Seb: “Despite two of the riders in front of me on the grid getting off the line poorly I was able to move up around the outside on the small start loop. A course with so much singletrack requires good positioning from the off.”
Tom: “Being gridded right in the middle of the field, there was inevitably a lot of traffic to deal with and I ended up losing a lot of time on the first lap since the course funnelled straight into singletrack. I don’t think I ever really got into the kind of race rhythm I wanted from the get go, which was a little frustrating.”
After settling into the race in the early stages, things didn’t quite pan out for either Seb or Tom, who both suffered issues with body and bike.
Seb: “I made the junction to the group for third place and things were looking good. However the rider in front of me clipped his pedal on a tree stump and catapulted himself off with me following suit. It was an awkward crash and we both got tangled up in the bikes which cost lots of time and positions.”
“I was pushing really hard to try and get myself back to the group and found myself bearing down a little too fast on a rider in the rock garden. I tired to slow down too quickly, hooked up and took a pretty big slam. I was a bit dazed and totally lost my rhythm for a lap until I started to move back through again.”
Tom had similar bad luck: “I felt like I was making inroads on the riders ahead of me after the initial few laps, but a mishap around the third lap meant that I lost contact with the group I was riding in and with the course being so fast, it was difficult to pull them back. It’s always tough getting your mind back in the game, even after a small crash, but I did manage to set about hunting those riders down again”
“Around the fourth lap though I started noticing gear problems, which just got worse and worse as the race went on. This really sapped a lot of time and energy from me and it wasn’t until the final lap that I realised the rear wheel had worked itself loose and was the cause of my problems. By that stage, it was too late to make any kind of difference to my race.”
Although neither rider’s race went according to plan, there are always things to learn and take away, as both riders attest to:
Seb: “It wasn’t a good result in the end from a promising start. I completely bonked which has never happened to me before in an XCO race. I think it was a combination of two quick succession crashes and poor fueling in the build up. The latter I will obviously go away and analyse to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Tom: “Even though the result was a big disappointment, the race ended up being a good training session and a fun course to ride. After missing some big events mid-season, it was good to get another high level race in the books and it’ll no doubt be a good stepping stone for my goals later in the season”
Photography by Sonnmedia.