Race Report - UEC European Cup 3-4

UEC European Cups 3-4 / 14-15 April 2018 / Zolder, Belgium

Kai

Class: Elite Men

Result: Rd 3: 5th, Rd 4: 16th

Saya

Class: Elite Women

Result: Rd 3: 2nd, Rd 4: 4th

We had a week to settle into our new home and training routine in the Netherlands after the conclusion of the World Cup in Paris, and it was race week again - this time Rounds 3-4 of the European Cup in Zolder, Belgium.

These European events are just huge, and it was another stacked, long weekend, even bigger than the racing at Verona 3 weeks prior. 118 Elite Men and 30 Elite Women, with challenge riders on top. Saturday’s racing went from 9.00am - 9.00pm!

The Zolder track is only 90 minutes away from where we are staying in Wijchen Netherlands, so we got a couple of sessions in prior to the race as well. Hotel check ins, the drive down, and everything else was well organised and ran smoothly on Friday. We were ready for some great racing!

Kai:

This weekend just felt like another World Cup weekend for me. Aside from maybe 4-5 key riders, everyone was there, and racing was very tight. I was feeling great, but the one thing that I struggled with leading into this event was the start gate. From Verona, Paris, Wijchen and Zolder, I rode on gates that dropped slow, fast, slower, and then normal, and I consequently felt a little inconsistency in what I was doing, and was overthinking things.

This really showed in day 1, where I hit the gate in moto 1, missed it by a mile in moto 2, and then hit it again in my 1/8 Final. The situation wasn’t good, but I handled it extremely well mentally, which I was very pleased about. There was even an episode in moto 2 where I unclipped down the second straight and ended up finishing last in the moto - I was able to swing things around to finish 1st in moto 3 and qualify through to the next round.

I went 1, 7, 1, in my motos, 4th in the 1/8 Final, 3rd in the 1/4, and 2nd in the Semi. I got squashed out down the hill in the final, riding the first straight in 8th, but was able push my way back into 5th to finish the day.

Day 2 was a much smoother day with the consistency back in my gates. I went 2, 1, 2 in the motos against GB’s Kyle Evans, 1st in the 1/8 Final and 2nd in the 1/4 Final. I had lane 4 for the semi final, and although I didn’t realise until I watched the video back, was a touch late in my reaction on the gate.

I got stuck in between Kristens Krigers and Romain Mahieu and bumped Kristens in the air on the first jump - sending me sideways and off onto the ground. I came down pretty hard, and this was the end of my day. I was disappointed as I was aiming for the podium in day 2, but feel very lucky that I was able to walk away with only a bruised hip and ribs. Everything is tracking really well and it showed in this weekend’s racing.

I’ll now be preparing for the next rounds of the UCI World Cup to be held in less than 3 week’s time!

Saya:

The racing again was a stacked field, we had all of the podium finishers from the past 2 weeks here and it was almost another World Cup weekend considering the level of the riders.

The key point for this track was the first jump. It was quite small and it was easy to over jump, meaning if you jump it nice and low, it would most likely get you out the front. For me it took quite a few goes to get the feel of that first jump but on my 3rd qualifying moto I finally got the hang of it. 3 wins in my motos and a comfortable 2nd behind Laura Smulders in the semi. I was 2nd qualifier for the final. Had a great start and I was in second place position the whole lap following Laura. Making a few mistakes here and there, I couldn’t make up the ground to catch her. I finished 2nd.

I came into day 2 with a clear goal of taking the win, I knew I was a little slower out of the gate than Laura, but I was confident that I had a chance of catching up and making a move around the track to take the lead.

The day started off a little rusty, we arrived to the track and didn’t realise that the event schedule was moved forward, meaning I missed my practice time! I was shocked but I had to trust my

self to warm up properly and race my first qualifying moto like nothing had happened. I was slow out of the start but I caught up and made my way to the lead. I won all of my motos and my semi final.

In my final I was first qualifier which somehow made me believe I should choose lane 1 and that I will get out in front from the very start. Mentally I told myself to trust my gate and that I will be the first one into the corner.

This backfired, although I had a good gate, Laura from the outside had a better one and I was riding practically on the white line and I was pushed back to 4th. But I wanted to get on that podium. And last straight was my only chance. I dug deep for last effort but I was just short on the line, finishing 4th.

I’m always aiming for the podium position but there is a lot to take away from this weekend of racing. I’m looking forward to some more training and to come back to Zolder again for rounds 5 & 6 of the World Cup next month!

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