It all sounds so simple from the race reports, but here’s what really happened to Caroline Alexander and her victorious team mates in Sarrentino. And if you thought foot and mouth was hacking you off, imagine what the lack of off road practice does to a pro level athlete.
After a five week hiatus the 2001 World Cup resumed in Sarrentino in the Italian Tyrol . Huge snowcaped peaks provided a stunningly beautiful backdrop and after feeling below par for several weeks my surroundings and the pristine , mountain air combined to lift my spirits enormously .
Slight changes to the circiut were not in my favour – the opening kilometre now traversed the meadow and was punctuated by a short descent , whereas last year we were forced to engage our granny ring for a near vertical ascent , but I was still confident that I could finish on the podium .
My sixth place in Saturday’s time trial reinforced my belief that my climbing legs had returned and I slept peacefully that night .
A good start was essential , as after the opening climb , the course consisted of very technical singletrack . I found myself lying in third place as we approached the first steep downhill which was perfect ! Marga was out front , but unfortunately she crashed on a super steep drop off , forcing first Barbara and then myself to slam on the brakes . Suddenly it was chaos . Bikes and bodies everywhere and somehow in the melee I was left behind . I chased like crazy and on the courses flat section I could see the five or so riders less than 50m infront , but alone I made no impression . Instead I merely towed Laurence Leboucher to the bottom of the climb , where revitalised , she promptly rode off .
I gave it my all on the pedaling sections of the course , but everything I gained would be canceled out on the singletrack where I was loosing a lot of time . Only Alison Sydor came back from the front group and I eventually finished in 8th place which was disappointing .
However from the point of view of the team it was a very successful weekend . Specialized placed five riders in the top eight and undoubtably strengthed their lead in the team competiton .
I know that not being able to ride off road due to the ongoing foot and mouth crisis has left me severely lacking on the bike handling front , but I am in very good shape . Next week in Houffalize I hope to be able to use my power and join my team mates on the podium !