Well, tomorrow’s the big day! I, along with almost everyone else on Team USA, spent Thursday and Friday walking the special tests. Since these are the timed sections where you’re really going to be hauling tail, it’s a good idea to have the basic layout in your head, and know where the good lines or any particularly dangerous spots, like drop-offs, stumps or partially hidden rocks are at. On average, each of the tests are around 4 miles long, most of which were up and down – my legs were definitely getting a little sore. We had six tests total to walk, and we hit three a day so we’d be able to get them all done in 2 days. Another good thing about walking the tests is at least it gives me the opportunity to be a tourist at least a little. Some of the views and stuff you get to see are pretty cool. And of course, driving out to the special tests is always fun – we definitely had the 8-seater diesel van racing the Audis down the side of the mountain, and we got the brakes so hot they eventually started to give out, and we had to back it down a little bit.
It really wasn’t too bad for all of the Club Teams and the Women’s Team, but our team manager had the Trophy and Junior Trophy walk them all twice. How does 50 miles of hiking the week before one of the most exhausting races in the world sound? Our Trophy and Junior teams did finish very well last year though, so don’t knock it, I guess.
The weather’s been pretty nice lately, mostly overcast and in the high 60s, with some rain. Usually I wouldn’t get especially excited about rain at an event like the ISDE, but Košice has been in a two-month draught and the ground really needs some moisture. There’s a moderate chance of rain on Monday and Wednesday, but otherwise it’s pretty low.
Yesterday morning we took the team pictures, went through administration and got the motorcycles impounded. Due to the format which allows only riders to work on their machines with no outside assistance (i.e. No one else can work on the bike – they can tell you how to do something, but they can’t do it themselves), the bikes are impounded before the race to mark the point at which outsiders are no longer able to work on the bike. During admin (which is basically just filling out paperwork – fortunately my poorly forged international driver’s license passed without close scrutiny). The bike passed through impound without a problem, and the non-replaceable parts were marked.
We discovered that both Germany and South Africa have dropped their Women’s teams, leaving us, Australia, Finland, France, Slovakia, and Sweden as the remaining teams with a women’s division. So there’s 17 women total. The Slovakian women’s team only has two riders – since they only take the best two scores of the three per day, it won’t be too big a problem for them unless one of the riders times out [is too late to a checkpoint], gets disqualified, or quits.
Here’s one of the better pictures from the shoot. Almost everyone is looking in the same direction. You can see the three of us in the middle. The four guys behind us are the Junior Trophy Team. The six behind them are out World Trophy team. The other riders with the different jerseys from us are the Club riders.
The opening ceremonies were last night, and as always were pretty cool. They were held right in the middle of Košice’s tourist district, past all these cool buildings with a ton of people around. (side note – there were a lot of churches and chapels around as well, and the opening ceremonies parade crashed two weddings. Oops.) We all met nearby about an hour beforehand. It did get a little boring standing there waiting, but I was able to talk with the Aussie girls, who are pretty fun to hang with (even if they usually beat us). The best part was when we found an empty Red Bull can, crushed it, and used it to play a game of hacky sack. It was a lot of fun, but I’m glad we got moving when we did – we accidentally hit Gary Sutherland in the head a couple times with the can, and I think he was getting a little irritated. Anyway, watching over 450 of the best riders in the world parade down the main street in their team colors along with their support crew, all waving their flags is a pretty amazing sight. It’s even cooler when you’re part of it!
First thing this morning I checked my email and saw that the pre-rider has sent out the course description for days one and two.
Hello everybody. Here below is a brief report for Day 1/2 after my inspection. After the start the riders make less than 1 km before getting into off-road. After 9 minutes of easy transfer you get to start of Enduro Test ‘Baska’. Nice drive in forest but not with perfect visibility because of dense vegetation. Duration is estimated at about 7 or 8 minutes. After the finish of the first test after 17 minutes you reach the Time Control 1 [checkpoint] ‘Opátka’. After it takes about 41 minutes easy path to the Time Control 2 ‘Vysny Medzev’ sector without special tests. After the Time Control 2, riders take 6 minutes to arrive at Enduro Test ‘Vysny Medzev’. Special stage very beautiful and varied, around 10 minutes of time.
After, riders need approximately 36 minutes to get to the Time Control 3 ‘Koisov’. From Time Control 3, riders will need about 16 minutes to reach the Cross Test ‘Kosicka Bella’, time of about 6 or 7 minutes, very nice, with steep climbs and downhill, spectacular to see but easy to make with motor bike.
After the Test it takes about 31 minutes to get to Time Control 4 at the Paddock (which is the pit area, where our container and everything is at. Very close to the start and impound area as well). In this sector I recommend riders be very careful because in the last 4/5 km of asphalt road you cross a village and there are two traffic lights clearly to be respected. Before coming to the Paddock, riders will cross a small Special Test, which will be timed, but not counted toward the score. After the Paddock, riders will repeat this same loop again. Note that the time between Time Control 3 and 4 is 5 minutes less on the second loop.
My general comments about transfers is that there are no major difficulties, there are plenty of smooth trails in the forest with steep climbs and descents to deal with but I am sure they will not cause problems. For day 1/2 the estimated time for service at checks will be around 8 – 10 minutes. I also tested track in rain conditions and if that is the case time schedule not need changes. Good luck everybody!
Anyway, the race starts first thing tomorrow morning; my teammates and I take off at 9:13. I’m getting pretty excited, but as always, a little nervous as well. I plan to spend most of today in the hotel, doing homework, resting, and mentally preparing myself for the next six days. After Day One, I will try and send back a report of how things went. Wish us luck! Team USA!!