Here we are, the season is launched! And what an opening. For the first World Series round of the year, New Zealand didn’t make it easy. But let’s start from the beginning. I arrived in Rotorua on the 12th of March. I had chosen not to travel and to spend my three weeks in Kiwiland at the race location. Don’t be mistaken: the temptation to ride in Nelson or Christchurch was huge. But I knew I couldn’t help riding too much and would be dead for the race. I therefore stayed 10 days with my friends Wendy and Alden in Rotorua. Thank you so much you two, it was perfect! I had nothing to worry about but riding my bike, recovering and getting used to the local accent ;) Rotorua is a surprising place. The town is only one floor high and is built on a volcanic ground that gives it geysers, hot pools and a continuous farting smell. The forest around look like a prehistoric jungle and the elevation is quite limited. However the trail centre is incredible!! Tons of singletracks all around. And everyone can find what he wants: families, beginners, grand’mas (do you believe that?) or expert riders. Moreover, thanks to simple signs, pedestrians, bikes and horses share the region without problems. I think that many European regions could learn from that.. It’s thus with pleasure that I discovered the region. And when the pressure of the incoming race was too high, I could escape at the pumptrack and dirt jumps, on a bike that Alden built for me. So much fun!!
The week before the race, I met my teammate François and my mech Adrien in our hotel. After two days of recovery, serious stuff started. Three days of practice (Wednesday to Friday) for seven stages and a one-day Enduro race on Saturday. In addition I wanted to race the pumptrack challenge on Thurday. Effectively, this first round was also part of the Crankworx, which bring together Enduro, DH, Slopestyle and Pumptrack. From my side, things were going good. I was a bit nervous and didn’t feel prepared enough, compared to girls who rode all winter in the south hemisphere. But my bike was working perfect and I enjoyed riding the tracks that mixed rooty slopes and downhill tracks. A good point before a tough race day :D
On Thursday afternoon I thus took part in the pumptrack challenge. Unfortunately, the event was shaken by the rain and finally postpone to Friday evening, so a few hours before the Enduro race. I decided to race anyway. And even if my riding wasn’t great, as I struggled to find some flow on my bike, I had so much fun!! The crowd, the noise, the webcast.. I still can’t believe how cool it was :) I was out in 1/8th of final, but can’t wait to improve and to live more events like this. And I didn’t stress about the incoming Enduro race, can’t ask for more :D
After a short but good night, D day was there. The start line was in the middle of hot pools, in an extra-terrestrial atmosphere. After a few minutes on the bike, we realized that the transition times to go up the first stages are very (too?) short. All the girls have to pedal hard to make it on time and the day will be some kind of survival race. But even if it wasn’t easy and that I had to pass some girls in each stage , I had quite a good day. I struggled a bit to find my rythm in stage on, after so many months with no races. But I ride in the top 5 during stages 2 and 3 and feel that I am finding some good speed. Stage 4, more pedalling, is a bit harder for me and I lose a bit of time. However I was looking forward to racing stage 5 and its tricky off camber roots. But things didn’t go as planned as I multiply the mistakes and loose some precious seconds on a track that suites me well. I am a bit disappointed, but all me reminding energy must be used for the two last downhills. No time for complaining! It was the right think to do as I ended up racing three more stages! Effectively, due to a crash in front of me I had to re-run stage 6. That extra downhill wasn’t so welcome in such a hard and long day.. But I did my best to deal with it and I was very happy to end up with an 8th place at the end :)
For sure I would prefer to be riding more consistently in top 5, but a top 10 is a good way to start my season. With almost two months before round 2, I am ready and motivated for more work in the next weeks. Let’s go riding :D