Rob is TORQ's Performance Mountain Bike team's manager and chief. He's the brains and passion behind the team, organising their competition schedules and escorting them around Europe to race World Cup's.
World Cup Dalby...
After the dust had settled from Friday nights Pro Sprint Eliminator, Saturday saw the team doing their final practise lap on the World Cup course. Dalby's XC course is demanding, both physically and mentally, even by World Cup standards, so our rider's attention to detail during 'rehearsal' was of paramlount importance. You could feel the tension rising in the TORQ camp as the realisation bagan to sink in that the following day they would be racing at the highest level in the world. Yes, the highest level in the world, yet with the support of a home crowd...
Anthony O'Boyle at Medusa's Drop
Sunday was an early start for me as I set about making sure that the riders and bikes were ready to go. Lee Craigie was competing in the female race alongside Aussie TORQ team mates Catherine O'Shea and Jo Wall. The pre-race rituals started about an hour and half before the 10.45 kick off and all that could be heard around the TORQ RV was the whirring hum of turbo trainers and the hissing from Ipods as the riders selected their favourite inspirational tunes. I think Lee Craigie listens to 'Runrig'. The riders were called up 20 minutes before the race and then held in holding pens before being put on the grid. It seemed an eternity before the gun went off.
Lee Craigie coming into the main arena
The first lap took in a start loop enabling a natural selection of places. The course then dropped into 'Dixons Hollow', a manmade mountain bike playground consisting of burms, bumps and turns. One of the spectator hotspots was 'Worry Gill', attracting hundreds of onlookers pearing through cameras, hoping to get a shot of some unlucky rider coming a cropper as they descend an almost vertical drop. Another focal point 5-minutes further up the course was Medusa's Drop, a super technical selection of treacherous drops.
Andy Blair, churning up the climb
The pointy end of the race completed the first lap in around the 20 minutes. Not long after that, Lee arrived in the feed zone to grab her first bottle of TORQ energy and gel. It was one of those surreal moments when, just after Lee, came Gunn Rita Dahle, multi World and Olympic champ. Lee stayed in front for the following two laps and then pulled into the technical zone with a front mech problem. We got her going again, but sadly it cost her about 8 places. She still managed to beat the 80% rule and completed all laps, beating Australian team mates Katherine and Jo. This was a massive achievement for her first world cup. The 80% rule by the way means that when the race leader's time becomes 80% of yours, they pull you out of the race. How quickly this happens can depend on how technical the course is and how many bottlenecks there are. At Houfilaize, Belgium the following week, the TORQ riders were to discover how important being gridded near the front as a World Cup rider actually is. Caught up in bottlenecks at walking pace on the first lap, our riders lost so much time that they were pulled out after just 3 laps. World Cup racing is all about getting a 'good gridding' and this takes years to achieve. It doesn't matter how good you are, if you start in 200th place, you're going to be lucky to get into the top 100, let alone win the race!
Tim Dunford and Ben Thomas warming up
Then the build up started all over again. We had four riders in the male race; Andy Blair, Tim Dunford, Anthony O'Boyle and Ben Thomas. The crowds around the TORQ RV had started to swell as onlookers watched the riders buzzing on their turbo trainers. It was only when the riders were called to the start line and you see the worlds best riders, such as Julien Absalon, Nino Shurter, and Ralph Naff that it hit me that our little ole' team were on the biggest stage in World Mountain Biking!
Ben with a camera man on his back
Realistically the guys main goal was to stay in the race as long as possible and not to fall foul to the 80% rule. All four riders were pretty evenly matched and all had a turn at the front of their 'race within a race'. That was until on lap 3, the commentators turned their attention to Medusa's Drop with the shout that the 'Welsh Wizzard was down', followed by "Its OK, he's up." They were of course referring to TORQ's Anthony O'Boyle who appeared quite winded on the big screen (and it did hamper his campaign). Ant did make it onto Eurosport though, so he 'took one for the team' so to speak.
Ben enjoying the sweet singletrack
All of our riders fell fould of the 80% rule on this occasion and were pulled after 5 laps with just one lap left to complete, but it was mightly close and they beat a large number of riders that were pulled out considerably earlier. There was a huge amount of support out on the course for TORQ and it was a privilage for these guys to race at such a level. They are all committed to taking this experience with them and using this as a bar-raiser for future races. We did manage to make the UCI podium in the under 15's race. Ciaran Barker got 2nd riding for 'Small TORQ'.
Not so 'Small TORQ' - Ciaran Barker
Once again, a huge thank you to our sponsors. Without them, we wouldn't be racing at this level:
www.konaworld.com - Frames
www.sram.com - Groupsets, Suspension Forks and Brakes
www.met-helmets.com - Helmets
www.ritcheylogic.com - Handlebars, Stems and Seatposts
www.schwalbe.com - Tyres
www.exposurelights.com - Advanced Lighting
www.juicelubes.co.uk - Lubrication
www.lakecycling.com - Shoes
www.jagwireusa.com - Cables and Housing
www.crankbrothers.com - Pedals
www.bikeboxalan.co.uk - Bike Boxes
www.fizik.com - Saddles
www.superstarcomponents.com - Hubs and Headsets
www.alexrims.com - Rims
www.sapim.be - Spokes
www.maxgear.co.uk - Glasses, Compression, Tools
www.champ-sys.co.uk - Performance Cycle Clothing
www.joolzedymond.com - Photography
www.fibrax.com - Brake Hardware
www.sport-torque.com - Torque Wrenches
www.cycleops.com – Power Measurement, Turbo Training and Bike Racks
www.notubes.com - Tyre Sealant
www.portablepressurewashers.co.uk - Cordless Pressure Washing
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