Friday, 14 September 2012

World Championships, Saalfelden Austria

As we moved into the team accommodation this year, none of us could quite believe the flashness of the Hotel Ritzinhof. With only 8 of us staying at the accommodation, 2 managers and a mechanic it was a great environment and the week leading up went extremely smoothly as we got to know the track and the area better.



I spent a lot of time in bed at the beginning of the week trying to get rid of the cough and spent a few nights up until 1or 2 am not being able to sleep due to the coughing. As race day got closer I started feeling better and was pretty well symptom free by friday, race day. 

A thunderstorm had come through on Thursday and made the track slick but not completely wet, I was doing my rain dances hoping it would keep raining as I loved the slippery days practice we had the week before. By race day it was pretty well dry again and the Under 23 chicks got rid of any moisture that was hanging round. 

The course itself came out of a stadium climbing for a few minutes on open paddock with a few stream crossings before going into the singletrack for a bit before a fast mainly open farmland descent back down to the feedzone. This was followed by a medium grade sealed climb before going into about 30 seconds of singletrack before another open grassy descent back to the finish. In amongst this were one or two fun obstacles but nothing too major. On first impression it was a pretty disappointing track but by the time hundreds of riders had been over it, it had roughed up a lot and was going to be a tough track to race. 

I managed to head down a bit early and catch the end of Jolanda taking the World Champs jersey which was awesome and Samara coming through. The heat was just peaking for our 2pm race and I was called up 41st out of the 102 riders in our field. It was a crazy fast start up the sealed climb of the start loop and was running alright holding inside the top 50. As we started the first lap and the first major climb I could tell something wasn't going quite right as the power I can happily put down wasn't coming at all. I battled through to the feedzone and asked for my inhaler as I could feel my breath getting more and constricted. Usually the inhaler fixes it immediately, so I put a big effort up the next hill to get back to where I should be. I didn't get far before I was swaying all over the place and had to really struggle to get any oxygen in me. By the time I battled through another lap and came through the feedzone I crashed into Paul feeding me and had to be caught by Northern to keep me upright. The feeling was like the moment after a max interval and all I could think about was sucking in enough air to get things back to normal. But instead I could only take a quarter of a pull before my lungs were full and the panic button was coming on in my head. I had come all the way to Austria and was not about to pull out without leaving everything on the track. So I pushed off after a few more puffs on my inhaler and tried to foolishly keep going up the hill. I got maybe 50 metres round the corner before Sonja Neff ran onto the track and pulled me over where I collapsed on the track. It was now that I really started feeling scared as I couldn't get enough oxygen into my lungs. I can't really remember too well but the doctor ended up coming and it wasn't until an injection of cortisone that my airways relaxed and was able to get back to normal. I had to get in the ambulance but really wanted to be away and had a good walk of contemplation later when everything was back to normal.

I have only had one asthma attack like this before and I think it was the combination of the lingering sickness, full on race intensity and being on the wrong asthma medication. I am now back in Dunedin and went and saw the high performance Doctor yesterday who told me I have been taking the wrong medication which has caused me to become immune to my reliever medication, which explains why it didn't have any effect during the race. 

So yea, it was a very disappointing end to what has been a great trip. Although it is the tough times like this, that really give me a good kick and really make me want it more than ever before! So in some ways as a first year of four Under 23 rider I'm trying to see it as positive as possible. I learnt a lot of hard lessons and it really made me realise how young I actually am. I know I can put it all together and with a proper build up in Europe, things will start to fall into place for me in the future by keeping focused and committed while having fun on my bike. 

It was awesome to see Anton the following day smash the juniors and hearing the NZ anthem at the world champs was something really special!

Thank you so much to everyone who has helped me have this amazing opportunity, The NZ management of Jeremy and Vicki, Northern mechanic ace, Big Dirk Peters for boosting round with us, Paul Mcdowell for feeding and always looking out for me, Sonja Neff and the rest of the Neff's for looking after me and always offering great chat, Silas Cullen for the hard work and all the support back home,  it really means a lot being away and knowing people back home are thinking of us. There are so many people who have helped me especially the PNP Mountain Bike Club, Foodstuffs Communtiy Trust, Skegg's Foundation. My awesome sponsers R&R Sport, Maxxis tyres and Santacruz, who I have to thank for having a completely stress free trip in terms of equipment and gear everything ran perfect! And last but definitely not least all my family especially Mum and Dad for telling it how it is, and keeping us together!

For now it's time for a few skids and being a student before having fun this summer on the bike,

Cheers
Tom!


Leogang - World DH Champs

After a few days more training in Thal including a good solid smash fest with Markus Neff and Dirk around the best tracks in the area, Dirk and I hopped in our browagon and drove across to Leogang in Austria for 5 days.

The World Champs were a bit odd this year, with the 4x and downhill being weekends apart, I hope this is not a sign of things to come as it always wicked fun seeing how the downhill boys do it. Anyway me and Dirk somehow found some accommodation 2 k's from the downhill so we could check it out, while also being 20 minutes ride away from the XC course for the following weekend to get some early practice on it.

Leogang is an amazing place and the mountains surrounding were incredible, this also meant for temperamental weather and we had one day of pouring rain and a high of 7 degrees. Followed by a 30+ degree day. I think the combination of this, not quite being recovered from Basel and a bug I may have picked in Thal combined to start making me cough and splutter on the Saturday before. I didn't think it was too major but still got some antibiotics in me from the NZ team courtesy of Karen!

Felt better watching the downhill on the Sunday and was awesome to see the big boys in action and everyone going mental for Minnaar.