Stuart Marais lets us in on his experience at the recent UCI MTB World Cup event in Pietermaritzburg.
Pietermaritzburg would be the venue for the first round of the World Cup series that would be held around the world and with almost every international professional rider, including World Champ Nino Schurter and the infamous Julien Absalon, being present racing was going to be fast and tough.
I arrived on Tuesday evening and headed down to the course on Wednesday to inspect all the new changes that had been made since the last national, and boy had there been some changes, nearly everything had been changed.
Rapid rocks had been changed to include a small rock drop half way through the rock garden, buck jump alley had doubled in size, tree house had some additional rocks added and a new section, red lipped herald, had been added which included a double, straight into a series of berms and rocks which made it really tricky.
I fortunately managed to make it through the whole week with only having one small off in the tree house whilst trying to figure out the new lines which was a huge confidence builder going into the race.
Sunday dawned and I had a long wait before our race would kick off at 3.30pm. I was lying 117th in the world rankings and this allowed me to start 56th on the line and be the fourth South African. Not the best starting position in the world but better than my stone last ranking of three years ago.
The gun went off at 3.30pm sharp and we were off sprinting down the start straight in a cloud of dust, I had an all but average start getting caught up behind people and by the time we got to the first climb the infamous bottle neck had started to begin.
To put it into perspective of how bad the bottle necks get in a world cup. By the time I had managed to start moving in the bottle neck and jostle my way forward at the start of the climb the lead guys had already made their way to the top of cabbage tree climb.
I could fortunately see most of the top South Africans around 10-20 positions ahead of me so I was confident that I could still play catch up and set about setting a steady pace.
It was up the climb just after the first tech zone that I had a bit of a stupid crash, I rode over a small rock that threw me off line and I had a small get off that wasted a few seconds. I carried on and tried not to let too many people pass me.
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