Here’s another (damp) diary update from Britain’s most sucessful XC racer, Caroline Alexander of Team Specialized;
“I was eager to check out the race circiut in Kaprun , as it is the venue for the 2002 World Championships . Despite playing host to the downhill World Cup since it’s inception , this would be the first time a cross country round of the series would visit the town . The word on the street was that the course was super steep and my recconaissance lap proved that the rumours were well founded . As far as I’m concerned the steeper a climb is the better , but even I doubted whether I could make it every lap , so severe was the gradient. As for the descents , they were predomonately on grass , but not particularly technical – the point and shoot variety !
Having watched Eurosport’s coverage of the downhill over the past 7 or 8 years, I know that the weather is just as likely to be bad as it is to be good and everybody , well apart from the guy who designed the course , knows that steep grass rapidly metamorphasises into thick mud once it rains and a few hundred sets of wheels slide their way up and down it !
On Thursday afternoon the cloud came down , shrouding the mountains that a few hours earlier had been basking in warm sunshine. And then the rain came . It was still lashing on Friday morning when the juniors took their bikes for a walk around the course . The time trial was rapidly approaching , but the rain showed no sign of easing and nervous racers , who’s fragile immune systems are by this stage in proceedings on the brink of collapse , shivered under their bedclothes , hoping that they would be given the afternoon off !
Our prayers were answered and the time trial was cancelled . However having acquiesed on one point , the U.C.I were not in a hurry to issue any more favours and they steadfastly refused to change the circuit . Although by Saturday clear skies once more prevailed , the course was a quagmire and unlikely to improve much by 9am on Sunday morning for the womens race .
Sunday’s early start did nothing to dampen Marga’s enthusasim and after a rare defeat the previous week , she was back on fire opening up a small gap by the end of the first portage section , but Annabella Stropparo , a young Russian and myself were in hot pursuit . On the main downhill I made the mistake of trying to ride some parts , when I should have followed the example of my competitors who elected to run the entire section . My ineptness allowed first Sabine Spitz to overhaul me and a lap later my team mate Barbara . Their superior power very much inevidence on the kilometre long flat section of the course . I was not having a good day at the office and a heavy crash on a concrete section mid way through the race almost KO’ed me . Instead I struggled on , but was caught by a Polish girl , albeit a former junior World Champion . The gaps were now huge and as I seemed powerless to make inrodes on the leaders I concentrated on maintaining my 7th position .
Although we had expected a marathon , the race was actually only a little over two hours . This I was thankful for as I was heading to St. Moritz for a training camp and did not wish to spend 4 or 5 days recovering from an epic.
There I will remain for 10 days preparing for the World Championships , before flying out to Canada for the World Cup final . As a consequence of this , I will be missing the European Championships in St.Wendel . Not only do I have a medal of every colour from the Europeans , but I won a World Cup round at this venue too , so I have nothing to prove . What my palmares are lacking though , is any silverware from the World Championships which is why I am doing everything in my power to rectify this !”