The fourth round of the World Cup circuit was contested this past weekend in Champéry, Switzerland, in the Alps near the Swiss, Italian and French borders. The race also served as a precursor to the world championship event that will be held there in September 2011.
The course in Champéry is already one of the most technical on the circuit. A true mountain biker’s course complete with rocks, roots, drops, and steep descents; all of which present a challenge even in the most perfect conditions. That was before the previous days rain turned the course into a peanut butter mess, which had the riders now even more worried about keeping themselves from crashing.
For Willow, it reminded her of her trails back in Asheville, so she felt confident about her fitness and bike handling. And it showed early on, as she was part of the early break-away group on the first lap. She and two other riders opened up a gap on the rest of the field, and continued to do so for the next five laps. Headed into the final two laps where the three riders separated, with Willow trailing in third. She chased hard to try and catch second who was her biggest threat for the leader’s jersey. She managed to close the gap, but could only halve the distance before the finish. She still remains in second overall in World Cup standings, now just trailing by 15 points.
Unfortunately for Heather, her race did not go as envisioned. She was involved in a opening lap tangle with another rider, that saw her get spun completely around into oncoming racers. They bumped her around like a pinball. Once the chaos cleared she found herself almost dead last in the field of over 100 starters. Furiously, she chased to try and get back towards the front of field. At the end of the first lap she was eighty-eight. Her push caused her to fade a bit on the finals laps as her energy levels from the accelerated efforts. She managed to claw her way back up to forty-third by the end of the race. A salvageable result, she now stands seventeenth overall.
The course did manage to dry out a bit more for the men’s event that followed, which made Jeremy, Sam and Russell a bit happier. Granted both Sam and Jeremy, respectively felt that “our bikes were perfect on the course; with full mud tires mounted on our big wheels it was like riding around on a tank (in a good way).” “The bike floated through deep mud very well, and was also a very confidence inspiring setup, which made a big difference on such a technical course.” Both riders managed to move up into the top-30 on the initial lap which buoyed well for them. JHK just could not bridge up to the top-20 group that was just ahead of him. However, he was pleased with his 22nd place finish, having gain more than 31 spots from the start. This was best world cup result of the season, which helped to boost his morale and confidence for late season racing form.
Unlike his teammate who managed to advance throughout the race, Sam started to fade mid-race and had to try and fight tooth-and-nail to keep from getting passed by other racers, itching to get by. He managed to hold off most challengers and only loose five spots from his initial 43rd start. He’s looking forward to a re-do opportunity this coming world cup race weekend.
Handicapped with a high start number of 145th out of 175 entries, Russell made strong headway in the field and moved up to 109th before being pulled with two laps remaining in the race. For only his first season of racing elite category, his development is proceeding nicely.
The team’s world cup schedule now has them travelling across the border to Italy and the ski region of Val di Sole, site of the 2008 MTB World Championships. Stay tuned for more news as the 2010 Subaru-Trek team races around the globe.