A Word from a Champion – Paul Cordes (IMC Reaction Racing Team)
SA XC Champion 2008 (Sub Vets)
South African Mountain biking has put in a bid to host a UCI World Cup event in 2009.
With this in mind the course designer (Kim Phillips) pulled out all the stops and put together a course worthy of World Cup status that showed no mercy.
The course consisted of a 950m start loop, then shot the riders up an opening climb of about 150m which had a gradient of close to 30%, hello lungs!
Riders then encountered a short downhill and then through the ever spectator friendly “rock garden”.
Then the world tilted up to the heavens with a good mix of single, jeep track and gravel road climbs for the next couple kilometers, after which riders headed into the trees for a series of undulating single track switchbacks and an occasional root garden (like a rock garden but slipperier and with less spectators).
The course then swept back out into the open and headed along the old Downhill Race Track. A couple small undulations and a wooden bridge later, riders returned to the start arena and feed zone.
The Women and Master racers had an earlier start time than I did, and with a healthy downpour of special KZN rain to see them off, I was a little worried about traction. After seeing a couple of the Women and Masters dragging their bikes through the feed zone caked with mud I knew a tire change was in order. The rain from earlier had subdued but I was sure that the course would remain sticky for some time.
I opted for a “Black Mud Shark” from Schwalbe on the rear, which is an energy sapping 1.5 inch tire on hard pack but I was willing to take the gamble to help give me traction on the steep climbs.
The turn out for the event was full-house with all the usual suspects. I was hoping for a good start and hopefully get myself into the top five going into the opening climb.
It was working out well until we all had to dismount up the first climb because the muddy conditions made it impossible to stay on the bike.
My now aging Specialized S-Works shoes (which are unable to take running studs) played an unfortunate role for me in the opening lap. As the masses ran past me, skating up the climb made me contemplate how much being a cheap-skate is worth it in the long run (no pun intended).
I was soon back into the group even though it felt as though my calves had rolled up behind my kneecaps from all the running and completed the first lap climb in approximately my pre-race planned fifth place (but with fully grown cows instead of calves).
We headed into the single track and my Gary Fisher and Schwalbe combination started coming into its own.
I slowly started picking off riders and I worked my way into second place after the downhill but first placed Sub Vet was already out of sight.
Heading into the second lap Gerome was already cresting the top of the first climb and I got in granny gear, moved to the front of my Fizik Aliante saddle and tried to pedal as far up the climb as possible because I knew if this was going to be a running race I was in for a long morning.
I made it up half way on the second lap and three quarters on the third before having to clip out but I was able to cancel out his advantage to only around five seconds.
Just before the entrance to the single track at the top of the climb, I surged to pass Gerome and duck into the trees in front. I knew this could work both ways but I needed to make a move– he could put huge pressure on me because of his good technical skills but at least I knew he would not make a gap easily because of the tight conditions. I kept my head down, tried to minimize mistakes. I took some calculated risks and let the HiFi do what it is good at – fly on single track.
I started the forth lap with about a forty second advantage and hit the first climb determined to ride it out. I finally got it right! The rest of the lap was spent staying focused and not making any errors.
I came into this race with a lot of hope (and very little expectation) of retaining my SA title, wanting to be competitive after the early set backs this year.
With some luck it turned out to be a very rewarding weekend for me and the IMC Reaction Racing Team.
Thanks to all my support, family and sponsors – my year is hopefully back on track!
CLC General Manager
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