Just back from a weekend trip to Houffalize, Belgium, about four hours from Kirchzarten. On our way to the XCO World Cup #3, we drove through four countries – Germany, France, Luxembourg, and Belgium – in only as much time as it takes to cross the state of Colorado. Wow, Europe is small… the funny thing is, it doesn’t seem like it, because you leave one place with a very definite culture, language, food, and four hours later you’re somewhere with a completely different culture, language, food, etc. In the States we obviously have accents, dialects, social norms, and cusines that differ from place to place. But nowhere in the States – not even from Florida to Alaska – is the difference so extreme as between Germany and France, or any other two places in Europe in my experience. Anyway. On to the races!
In the women’s race, Margarita Fullana took the win, with Catherine Pendrel and Chengyuan Ren filing in behind. American Lea Davidson, just over a bad cold at Offenburg last week, pulled off a good race, finishing 21st, beating all Americans except for Georgia Gould, who took 11th. What I found most impressive, though was the continuing stellar performance of Canada’s Emily Batty, who after last week’s excellent finish pulled off another in Houffalize, coming in 13th. For such a young and new-to-World Cups rider, Batty is doing an excellent job. Don’t know what the Canadians feed their kids – or how they produce such fast cyclists in a cold and snowy country – but whatever they’re doing, it’s working.
It was not a good day for the Americans in the men’s race. Todd Wells didn’t start due to sickness. JHK crashed super hard and limped into my tech zone, where he dropped out. I talked to him and he said he had just tried to make a sketchy pass and packed it into a barrier, lacerating his knee and beating his left side. Sam Schultz, one of the most consistent racers out there, had a rare off day (in his words, a “bio-mechanical”) and struggled to finish down in 127th. (Personally, I think everyone deserves an off day occasionally, and I know Sam will come back strong soon!) Adam Craig put in the best American performance to finish 29th. Frenchman Julien Absalon won (again, surprise!), and a bunch of fast Euros filled in the top 28, excepting Burry Stander, a South African U23 racer, who finished fourth. Tad and Ethan had solid races with no problems. Rob was riding strong but sliced his sidewall somewhere on course, needing a wheel change during the race. He then proceded to blow up his second rear shock of the season. Kevin Kane, an American lad that we’re semi-supporting for a few races, had an inexplicable drivetrain implosion on the first descent – no pedaling involved – and ran into my pit looking for a fix. I did what I could and sent him back out, but the bike was pretty toasted and he had to pull out after one lap. He was super-disappointed. Ah well, next week in Solothurn, Kevin!
That’s it for now. Catch you next week!
Joey Ernst is USA Cycling’s U23 National MTB Team mechanic. He’s been working on the international mountain bike circuit since 2006, has worked with America’s top riders at World Championships, and is a founding team member of AlisonDunlapCoaching.com.