Here we go again…..World Cup time ! Suddenly the winter seems to have been so short as it doesn’t feel very long since I was celebrating winning the World Cup Overall in Schladming last September ! However that is all done and it’s time to try and win it back again in 2007. The track in Vigo was slightly changed this year. They took out the one big rock slab section and opened up the track in a few other places, making it a much faster and flowing track. There was the addition of a couple of wooden road gap jumps and we used the finish straight of the old 4x track at the finish. I always enjoy riding in Vigo and the track with its new sections was working well. The dry dusty conditions made it quite slippery and many holes were appearing over the duration of the weekend. I had my new Shimano XTR brakes and shifter to get used to this weekend, which caused a few problems initially as the shifting is opposite to what we used last year. I had a few moments where I shifted the wrong way and ended up pushing a huge gear out of a corner !! Other than that the bike was working great, thanks to all the time and effort Paul puts into our bikes.
I felt quite nervous going into the qualifying as although I have done a few races this year, this was the first real test as to how I was going. Would I be on the pace or not ?! I think my anxiety made me set off out of the gate far too aggressively and I made quite a few small mistakes in the first 30secs. Once I found my rhythm and calmed down I had an ok run. I ended up in 3rd spot, 4secs back from Sabrina, with Emmeline in 2nd, 2 secs ahead of me. I was pleased to get that run out of the way and now knew I had a bit of work to do in the final.
Once again the weather was not kind to us and it rained all night before the finals. As we arrived at the race site the heavens opened and I got soaked running to the tent ! So it was a quick change to mud tyres and off out for a practice ! Fortunately the rain did stop but it had already rained enough to make the track pretty slippery. Throughout practice it got better and by the time the finals came it was looking unsettled, very windy but remaining dry. However I decided to stay with mud tyres as I knew how they would be on the track and I also have no problems riding them in the dry. I decided to try and have a slightly more controlled start this time and limit the mistakes, however I slid in one of the first berms and lost all my speed right before a jump and ended up landing right on the side of landing in all the soft soil, losing a lot of speed into the next section. I then made another mistake a bit lower down, just coming into a corner with a bit too much speed and ended up sliding and having to make a big dab with my foot, to keep me upright ! From then on I had a pretty good run to the finish. I went into the lead, with the same time as my qualifying, a 2.59. I knew that time was not going to be good enough even though it had rained, Sabrina did a 2.54 in qualifying. Next rider down Emmeline, had a faster split time than mine, but ended up crossing the line in 3.02. Only Sabrina left and she was again quicker than me at the split and went on to go faster than her qualifying run, with a 2.52.
So 2nd place and some good solid points for the start of the season. I was definitely disappointed to lose by such a big time gap, but without my mistakes I think I would have been a lot closer. However I still have some work to do to before the next round in Champery in 4 weeks. I am racing in Scotland for the next 2 weekends so will have some quality time on my downhill bike to get up to speed.
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS