This year has flown by and I now find myself preparing for my final race of the year. I have been quite busy the past few months between working at a small law firm, training, travelling and racing. It has been great to not have the stress of university hanging over me and I think this has definitely had a positive impact for me.
I have recently returned from a bit of a ‘tour’ to Europe. I went over to gain some racing experience at a few Xterra World Tour races. I raced 3 races in 4 weeks and I was able to spend time with family and friends in-between.
My first races was Xterra Italy, which took place in the mountain village of Scanno in the Abruzzo region. This is known as the one of, if not the toughest Xterra race on the World Tour. With around 1600m of climbing on the 30km bike course and another 500m or so on the run; it was a day for the mountain goats.
I had a great swim, exiting at the front of the chase group. From there my race didn’t go to plan at all. I rode pretty comfortably on the first lap of the bike but in hindsight it was too hard and I ended paying for it later on the bike, on the main climb of the day. I don’t seem to handle long steep climbs too well and this was what was on offer in Italy, so I had grit my teeth and ride as hard as I could. Going onto the run I was already in survival mode and with plenty more climbing on the run the result on the day didn’t reflect the fitness and form I was carrying. I ended 16th, which is not the result I was wanting. All I can ask for is to cross the finish line knowing that I went as fast as I could on the day and that’s what I achieved in Italy. My best on the day just wasn’t good enough. This gave me some good motivation to keeping working hard to get ready for my next race the next weekend.
The weekend after Italy I drove from Vienna to Krakow in Poland with fellow Saffa, Theo Blignaut. It was my first time going to Poland and it ended up being a really cool experience. The race took place at an old quarry, where all the locals gravitate to, to get their daily sun during the summer afternoons. This course was completely different to Italy. It was a lot more technical with short, sharp climbs thrown into winding and flowing singletrack.
Again, I had good swim and exited the water in around 4th but I was soon overtaken by a group that eventually charged to the front of the race before the end of the bike. I kept my effort high and even though I had pretty big crash on the 2nd lap, I went onto the run quite confident I would end with a top 10. My run wasn’t great at all due to my quad taking strain after the crash on the bike. I managed to keep pushing and crossed the line in 8th.
After Poland I headed across to the UK for week where I spent some time with my father and caught-up on some sleep and recovery. I then headed back to my Austrian family in Vienna for a few days. Soon I was off to my final race of my trip, Xterra European Champs in Germany.
Going back to the small town of Zittau on the German/Czech Republic border brought back some good memories of Cross Triathlon World Champs that were held there in 2014. I had a good race that year and I was keen to get out and race on one of my favourite courses again. This being European Champs, the Pro field was stacked and the local crowds were out in force and it was guaranteed to be fast and furious racing.
I had a bad swim and exited the water behind some guys that I should have been ahead of or at least with when getting out the water but I was at least still up near the front. This however didn’t deter me much because I knew that it was still a long race and I would need to keep pushing if I had any chance of getting a good result. I paced my effort on the bike well and I closed down on a few guys that had left me behind at the start on the bike. Going onto the run I felt good but I knew that I would still need to run hard to hold onto my top 20 position. In the end I crossed the line in 17th, only a handful of seconds off a top 15 finish. I was really happy with the result, knowing that I made a few errors in the race and that I still have a lot of room for improvement.
I am now back home in South Africa and moving into a big training block in preparation for ITU Cross Triathlon World Champs in Australia, in November. With a few things to work on and plenty of motivation, I have no doubt the last part of this year is going to go really well and hopefully ends with a good result in Australia.
A big thank you to my family for making my trip to Europe possible and to my sponsors, Time Freight, Saucony and Powertap for their continued support.
Images – Martin Wychera