Straight from the World Cup opener in South Africa, the entire team traveled to Cairns, Australia, for round two of the cross-country series rather than flying home and losing another handful of days due to travel. We had quite the twist to start the trip, with luggage fees totalling over six thousand dollars due to all of us - two riders and three mechanics - not being Star Alliance members. Insane! We had a weekend free from racing between the two events, though, which had everyone super keen on spending that time at the new location - the rain forest. We found ourselves going for a lot of walks to try and spot the crocodiles, snakes, lizards etc. that the signs posted everywhere warmed us to be aware of.
There's all sorts of dangerous things in the Australian bush.
Early in the week a big group of us athletes and staff went to check out the Great Barrier Reef to do some snorkeling.
Dan McConnell and I even saw a massive sea turtle, which we were pretty happy about!
The slightly more relaxed week flew by and it wasn't long before we were right back into the swing of things by pre-riding the new cross-country race course. As any competitor knows, no race is ever going to be perfect - there are going to be bumps and hiccups along the way, and I think we were all in the same boat (literally
) for the week leading into round two. Relentless monsoon rains had pretty much everyone second guessing what was to be of the course, and although the athletes and staff were trying to stay positive, I'm pretty sure that we all got a little tired of training in the crazy mud. Not only that, I'm also sure that the mechanics got a tired of changing bottom brackets and headset bearings nearly every day.
Making friends with the young fans in Australia.
Mother Nature didn't disappoint by the time Saturday rolled around, though, with the clouds breaking and the exposed sun obliterating the deep red mud. We ended up having perfect conditions for Sunday's race, and it must have been over 40 degrees with the humidity and not a single cloud in the sky. I felt like I was on a bit of a mission, and the constant talking to my coach back home saw me fine tune my training throughout the week in an effort to get my legs back under me by Friday. The goal was to build on the result that I had in South Africa, and I quickly found myself making a great start to find my way into the top five. The course in Australia really was a game changer, allowing top riders to quickly separate themselves from their competitors with multiple A and B line technical options, not to mention 180+ meters of technical climbing per lap.
Aside from a front wheel change mid-race, I had a really clean performance and as good of a race as I could have asked for. I finished 2nd and feel really happy with how everything went - I'm now ranked 3rd overall. Fast forward through 48+ hours of exhausting travel and I'm all settled back home. I'm taking a few days to come down from the travel-high before getting back into a good training routine and prepping for the European World Cup rounds. I'm going to try and take a page from the Supercross boys this year by seeking consistency at each event rather being exceptional at only one or two, so let's hope that the European campaign offers another podium.
Action shots by Matt Delorme