Round two and I worked more on my set-up. We loaded up the volume spacers this week further in the fork and shock and went down on the air pressure a little. Basically after seeing the stages it was going to be like racing sandy blown out downhill tracks. Some ruts and holes would even end up being up to the cranks. It was going to be important to stay on the bike this weekend as well. I had enough time to walk a few stages and that gave me a good idea on my set-up and what to expect from the racing.
Other changes I made to the bike were a bigger front ring from 34 to 36 and a 5mm higher bar height. Basically because 5 of the 6 stages were steep or had steep sections in them and the holes would be bike eaters, so a bit higher front end would help. Lastly a bigger rotor up front from 180 to 200 would help slow the horse down.
I have to say that for practice day it was hard to get your head around the courses. We were using the lifts to access the stages so it meant unlike last week we could actually get at least 2 runs in on each stage. What I didn't expect however was how much they would change from one run to the next. Any lines you found first run were destroyed on the second run so I actually found that a bit of a struggle to get used to. I tend to like to know my lines on the stages and having to think on the spot and react is something I may need more practice with, especially at race speeds. The other aspect of this weekend was being able to see through the dust. It seemed to linger in the air and following anyone down was a nightmare. Fresh lenses and carrying a goggle bag to clean them after each run was important.
Stage one was a mixture of fast and open and tight scrub which had developed sand berms from all the riders. The plan was to keep it smooth and I was on track with a 12th place stage. Obviously not where I liked to be but a good start to the weekend.
Stage two and this was a small sprint stage. Around 2 minutes long it was all or nothing and I had nothing haha. I just started on edge and couldn't find my flow. One aspect of these deep sandy rutted tracks are that if you ride into anything unclipped it's basically the end of your speed or the end of you on staying on two wheels. Onto the last stage of the day.
Stage 3 would be my favourite of the weekend. It started high up on Luna-like terrain. Small rocks and wide open sections. I really loved this in practice and was looking forward to turning up the speed for this stage. This stage would also have a medium length sharp uphill in the middle of the stage. It would be important to lay down power up that as well as keeping the technical sections under control. I started this stage well, a good feeling in the top turns and this really helps the stages turn out well usually.
Coming into a small bus stop section I noticed at the last moment the marker pegs and tape had been knocked down and were on the main line. Without a chance to avoid this I ran over the bamboo stick and it flicked up and jammed itself between my derailleur and the frame. I couldn't believe my luck! I tried to pedal but it was jammed and as I took the next few corners it was evident I wasn't going to get it out and it would eventually rip my derailleur off and end my weekend if I didn't stop. I pulled over on the next slow right hand corner and pulled it free. Dropping in again I was super pissed with having to stop. I tried to pedal once more and still something was wrong. Gears were skipping and I couldn't pedal. What the!! I approached the uphill and was forced to dismount and run. I was swearing in my helmet and losing my cool big time. At the top of the climb I looked once more at the derailleur and I found the stick had locked the locker on the arm and that was the reason why it wasn't holding the gears. A quick slap and I was able to pedal again. Riding the rest of the run was quite a good feeling. I didn't care to crash and I was actually hitting sections better than ever. What a little bit of anger can do!
Overnight I was sitting in 25th place. Not ideal.
Stage 4 would be DH stage. I stayed on but I had a few times of oh shit here we go! A clean solid start to the day.
Stage 5 would be our physical test. It was about a 7 min effort on a flatter course and had a climb which left you pretty done before the last technical section. I was a bit eager and over cooked a few turns which used a lot more energy but when you’re going full out effort on a physical stage it's always the challenge to ride the corners well while being in oxygen debt. 9th place in the stage so the speed was starting to come back.
Final stage and we finished once more with a DH stage. This one went much better than the first one of the day and I was happy to walk away with a good feeling. I had caught back a little time which I lost yesterday and finished in 16th overall.
Climbing the ladder slowly. It's definitely frustrating at times watching the guys winning stages and knowing that feeling from being there last year and what it's like. It's one of those deals where you need to work your way back. You get injured you need time to get back on speed. You change teams and you need time to adjust to the people and the equipment. I'm leaving South America now with my results, I know where I'm at and where I want to be. Time to get to work.
See you guys in Ireland!