Prague…. Beautiful city. A perfect stop
over on the way to Germany and the 4th world cup of 2014. After
concluding that being at the world cup venue all week in Czech was actually a
bad thing, we (mainly me) decided to scope out what the Prague life had to
We managed to book an apartment right in
the middle of town. We scoped out the town, ate delicious food, had a few
recovery froths and then legged it to Germany, (We also had to leg it from the
Czech Police at one stage, but that is a story for another time and place).
Arriving in Albstadt after a road trip with
Jarod and Peta it was all about scoping out the track and prepping for the
racing ahead. It was slightly disappointing to ride the XC track and it turning
out to be a full climbers course! Super steep climbs, straightforward euro
steep downhill’s, after one lap I felt I knew the track. Everything also felt
familiar, after watching redbull.tv and Dan McConnell’s world cup win last
After course inspection we rolled back to
Kyle, Crosbie, and Scotty’s accom where I found out I was sleeping on a half
couch, half coffee table bed with sun baking chair flat cushions on top! The
life of a pro mountain biker is pretty glamorous sometimes…
In no time at all Friday came along and
race day for the Sprint Eliminator world cup. The morning of the race was the
first real look at the course, as it wasn’t set up in the days before when we
were riding the XC track. It turned out to be a sweet sprint course. It had a
fast start on wooden mats, single trail, open sections, a big wooden berm and
ramp jumps. In the end leading into a long fast finish straight, perfect for a
sprint finish. Tactics as always played a big part and it was hard to know what
to do. Stay for the sprint or go to all out to the finish?
I managed to sneak into the top 10 in the
time trial. Once again the level was super high and with over 100 riders
racing, only a small mistake meant you moved a long way down. Daniel Federspiel
was in front of me and I almost caught the 15-second gap to him, as his chain
fell off in his TT. This was enough of a time loss to put him out of the top 32
and open up a chance for a change in the world cup lead.
With a 7hr wait until finals once again it
was filled with built up nerves and trying not to overthink the racing ahead. I
didn’t look at the draw as that only makes me more nervous about the finals.
Arriving at the track and the Giant pro XC
truck I bumped into Emil and he was getting a 44t chain ring installed on his
27.5 Giant XTC for the final sprint after running out of gears in the 60km/hr
finish straight in the TT. He informed me that we would see each other in the ¼
finals if we made it through the first final, then last weeks winner would be
in the semi final. I was also with Fabrice Mels in the first final. In
conclusion, it was going to be a super hard Eliminator and making it to the
final was seemed like a huge challenge.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed with the task at
hand I warmed up, smashed a torq gel and rolled onto the start line. Off the
start line I didn’t push full pace and slotted into second spot behind Fabrice,
happy not to lead the first race I held his wheel and rolled in top two with a
big sprint at the end. It was going to be even harder than first thought.
The ¼ final added in Emil (Giant Pro XC
team), Fabrice (Belgium Champ) and an unknown French rider who was No.1
qualifier. I didn’t leave anything to chance and launched off the start,
managed to get holes hot and on the climb the French rocket slipped past. I
unclipped, got back into the pedal and then went hard to get on his wheel. He
sat up coming into the last corner and Emil shot past, he opened the final kick
early and I responded. It was a full drag race to the line with Fabrice 1st
and a photo finish for Emil and myself. I was lucky to get through by a
fraction of a wheel. Emil was gracious in defeat and I was still trying to
catch my breath from a crazy hard heat.
Photo story of the 1/4 finals...
Into the semi finals and the night was
getting harder and harder. There was the Italian and German national Eliminator
champ battling for a spot in the big final. Once again I launched into first on
the first corner and controlled the race from the front. I sat up on the grass
straight after the climb, as I didn’t want to tow the other three riders to the
finish. The Italian tried his luck, but I was all over him like a fat kid on a
cupcake! Into the final straight we had another 4 up sprint and I managed to roll
over first and gaining a ticket to the big show!
On the roller before the final race my
right calf was cramping and I was nervous as hell. The only thing I could do
was throw down and hope for the best. I talked to Jarod about just going for
it, but he said I could destroy them in the final sprint…
In the big final the No. 2 qualifier, Leandre
Bouchard and Luthi joined after they had knocked all other rivals in the other
side of the draw. There was a big wait after the women’s final after Kathrin
Stirnemann, went from the start and gapped the field for the win! I said to
Jarod if I had a gap, I would go for it early. In the starters hand, the cheeky
lady changed the gaps between the starting calls and I almost false started!
Not to worry as I got on the power and managed to get hole shot! I sprinted up
the first hill, into the wooded berm and up the next steep pinch. I did a head
check and there wasn’t a big gap so I decided to save energy for the final
kick. Soft pedaling the grass again I wanted Fabrice to loose his nerve and
lead out, it was cat and mouse and the Canadian took the lead into the wooden
jumps and I got on his wheel!
Onto the final straight you could have
thrown a blanket over the 4 riders. I was waiting like a cat ready to pounce… I
launched my sprint and clicked into a harder gear… nothing happened, I clicked
again, and again… Suddenly it dropped down three gears and was over geared! (If
you look at the replay video you can see the stupidly big gear I was sprinting
This small mistake was enough for the strong Belgium rider to come around
me and roll me by less than half a wheel on the line! Fair play to the powerful
Fabrice as he was super strong all night and deserved the win! I congratulated
the elated man and quickly looked at the positives… Mostly the fact I had taken
the leaders jersey for the overall world cup series!!
It was another crazy night of racing and a
true exhibition of what the Eliminator brings to the world cup weekend J Thanks as always to all of my sponsors and supporters. It is
amazing to be able to stand on a world cup podium two weekend in a row and I
feel honored to get the chance to represent the brands that support me all of
the way. Also a special mention to Mum and Dad this week, I was feeling pretty
average before the race and Dad gave me a few stern words of
advice/encouragement to get me back in the zone. I’m so lucky to have such a
strong supportive network.
'There has been a big divide of opinions on my un-shaven legs... I haven't used a razor on the pins for the whole year. I do enjoy the controversy, I don't enjoy people feeling like it is an open invitation to pull on them to try and pressure me to shave. For now the hair stays, until someone can prove that it has a negative impact on my ability to race a mountain bike.'
On a final note, I was super disappointed
to read that the UCI is thinking of getting rid of the world cup Eliminator
series. Just as it is just gaining momentum and I really believe it is a great
event to complement to cross-country on Sunday. We will have to see what
happens, but at this stage it isn’t looking good. The UCI seem like they have
made up there minds already, they will leave it as an option for the individual
world cup event, if they want to run the Eliminator and there might still be a
World title each year. Fingers crossed it is not just left to fizzle out like
other MTB events, like dual slalom and 4 Cross. The decision will be announced
in the next month. If there are any Millionaires out there that want to fund
the series, don’t hesitate to contact the UCI to keep the event alive J
Shortened Highlights of Fabrice and my run
to the final:
The tales of the travels that lead to a European World Cup Podium...
This week the travelling world cup circus
moved to Nove Mesto in the Czech Republic. I got a lift from Leo, the team
manager from the Giant Pro XC team, swapping stories and soaking up his wealth
of knowledge.With little to no preparation
the newly formed combo of Jarrod, Peta and myself applied the ‘just wing it’
planning technique and booked a cottage 4km from the race site on the day of
The weather all week was amazing, I have
been to Nove Mesto twice before and it was mixed conditions. This week was an
exception, mid 20 degrees everyday… Mint! My health however had taken a dark
turn, I had a mild chest infection and a blocked head, I was forced to take it
easy and kick back, to allow the body to overcome the sickness. We also added a
few members to our quiet cottage style accom. Enter, Kyle, Scotty and Crosbie.
There was no real limit to the Aussie trash talk, which is a perfect
environment for me pre world cup races.
The Eliminator was on the Friday. We
started off with the morning time trial and with over 100 elite men in the
event, I was going to need to bring the A-game and lay down a smart time to
make the top 32! Warming up I didn’t feel great, but I was hoping I could ride
smooth and the power would be there.
The course was the similar to two years
ago, so it suited me. Loose rocky start straight, into a three log step down,
burned corner, over a 3m gap jump, into a vicious rock garden, onto the main
climb, through the forest and onto the 250m finish straight.
In the time trial I felt strong and rode my
lines, I was also able to hold good speed in the finish straight in full tuck
hitting over 60km/h! After the TT we had a massive break, I went home and
chilled out. We looked up the results and found out Peta Mullens and I had both
qualified 4th . It was game on for the afternoon knock out finals.
My first final in the round of 32 was
against Sepp (previous sprint winner in Nove mesto), Luthi (Swiss guy who took
me out in France two years ago) and a French rider. Nerves were beginning to
build coming into the finals. I went out hard in the start straight, got the
holeshot (first into first corner), then held the inside to stop overtaking. On
the climb I looked back and saw Sepp charging hard, I responded and held the
lead. Into the final straight I was stupidly leading out and had to kick hard
to hold a top two position. I was through, but only just.
The ¼ final was even harder, with Simon
Gegenheimer (Multiple German XCE champion) and a Czech favorite added into the
mix. I needed to switch my tactic and try not to lead everyone out again. Off
the start I went hard, holeshot again and through the rock garden in the lead,
on the climb I tried to judge my effort so another rider came past. Near the
top everyone sprinted and with some pushing fron the other riders, Sepp flipped
over the handelbars and landed in front of me leaving me no option but to flip
over as well! I turned straight away, picked up my bike and re-mounted my bike.
I was in second with the German machine right on my wheel, I was angry to have
been taken out and channeling the Hulk I launched a sprint from the front and
Gegenheimer dropped back instead of coming around. I was lucky to make it
through to the semi finals!
Like a pressure cooker the heats got even
harder with the Slovenian no 1 qualifier, the Sweedish national XCE champion,
added to battling for the big final. It was going to be fast, once again I went
out fast and held my lines, bouncing through the rocks, the Slovenian came around
at the top of the climb and the Czech rider was in second with myself in 3rd.
Coming onto the finish straight I was holding the slipstream ready to launch… I
sensed the Swedish rider jump, so I kicked also. It was a drag race to the line
and I managed to hold him off. I was into the final and ready to battle.
Stepping onto the start line of the final
was Daniel Federspiel (Austrian XCE champ), Fabrice Mels (Belgium XCE champ), Miha
Halzer and myself. We were held on the line for ages waiting for the Women to
battle in the final, Peta was in the mix, but ran out of legs on the climb.
Current world champ Alexandra Engen showed her power to fly to the finish in
Meanwhile we sat on the line and almost in
a movie storyline, the rain came down hard for the 5 min waiting on the line.
It was a clash of the sprinting titans. The real heavyweights of the MTB
sprinting world, I couldn’t help but smile at the madness of the event, the
grandstands of the biathlon stadium was covered in blue ponchos and crazy Czech
fans. It is hard to describe the experience. I was positive and ready to throw
The digital starting commands came through the speakers, ‘riders ready… Bang!’ We were off and I had a clean snap, into the first corner I was leading, but the others were right behind. Over the gap jump, into the slippery wet rock garden I was like a pin ball hitting bumpers with my semi slick Schwalbe tyres. On the other side my heart sank as I hit the climb! Pisst, pisst, pissst!!!! The tyre was leaking air! I didn’t even look back as I charged up the hill with a leaking tyre hoping the sealant would do it’s job and leave me enough air to nurse it home. I got near the top of the climb before the Slovenian overtook me. I was all over the place in the forest, still in second place. Coming onto the finish straight I could sense a rider on my wheel, I looked back to see the Austrian sprinter, Feder. He knew I has a semi-flat rear tyre from my terrible riding style. He gave me a look of pity and shrugged his shoulders. He didn’t want to take the World cup lead this way, but he had to keep racing.
I sprinted as hard as I could with the little air pressure left, but it was hopeless, Feder launched and gapped me straight away. I rolled across the line in 3rd with mixed emotions, I couldn’t contest the final sprint, but I was still top 3 in one of the hardest Eliminator races to date. Such a crazy and dramatic race once again, anyone can appreciate the madness of this format and I look forward to race again next week. Here is the final in a photo story...
Awesome photos once again by Armin, Andreas and Marius from Ego Promotion. Big ups for all of the snaps this year, as always they are killing it.
On Sunday I had a shocker of an XC race... Body didn't come to the party and I was treading water on the climbs. As they say, 'It felt like I was dragging a fridge through sand!' Nothing I could do about it, just need to do some training and re-focus for the North American world cups later in the year. One amazing thing about the XC was the crowd. With over 20,000 people screaming out on track, it was a magical atmosphere.
As always thanks to all of my supports and
sponsors. Especially Giant Bicycles Australia, for their ongoing support with
everything I choose to do. To everyone else you know who you are. Make sure you
follow the semi-live updates on instagram and twitter: @paulvanderplow
More stories to come! This week we travel
west to Germany, via Prague. So many adventures, not enough time. World cup in
Albsdat this weekend J
Here we go back behind the keys to tell the stories from my travels once again...
Three days before I stepped on the plane to
Euro land I was at one of my best mates wedding in Canberra. I wasn’t in any
sort of mindset to be launching into an overseas adventure. Even after being
here for almost a week I’m attempting to gather myself and focus on the new
The final two days in Aus consisted of
packing up my pimping Giant bikes and receiving a plethora of parcles from my
amazing sponsors and supporters. Special mention to housemate Sam for pretending
to be me and signing for them! Super fresh Aussie made Scody kit, Torq
Nutrition, Bont Shoes, 4shaw swag all arrived as I was franticly throwing
things into my bags.
This year I’m flying solo in Europe and
North America, for anyone that knows me I don’t do well in a solitary
environment! Luckily on the other side a good mate Erik was waiting to pick me
up and take me back to a familiar European home in Offenburg. I spent a few
days getting ready for the world cup assault before jumping in a car and
heading to a HC (uncategorized UCI race AKA hores category AKA 1 step bellow a
world cup), event in Heubach.
On the Saturday there was a sprint
Eliminator race and I was going to use it as a activator for the following
weeks world cup. It was a short 500m course and the TT (time trial), was only 1
lap then in the Elimination rounds it was a 2 lap race. The TT was hard and
fast and wearing the World Champs skin suit was an absolute honor in front of
the festival like German atmosphere. I put down a good lap and ended up 4th
fastest behind Sam Gaze, current world cup Eliminator series leader.
In the start gate...
Sprinting to the finish...
I was pretty relaxed at this event as I
didn’t expect much and just wanted to see how the body had recovered from the
long haul over the Europe. In the round of 32 riders I had a good heat and
managed to control the race from the gun. I did unclip in one corner on the
loose gravel, but managed to recover and get back into the pedal.
Avoiding the carnage...
In the quarterfinal I did the same thing,
fast start, had a gap and slipped out of the pedal. The new Bont shoes were so
stiff, but also apparently quite sensitive to unclipping. I still got through
to the Semi finals, and from there it was game on going up against Sam Gaze and
other flying Germans.
I had a fast start in the Semifinal and got
the hole shot, from that point I kept it smooth and held onto the lead. I
drifted through one corner pretty quick and the sensitive pedal and shoe combo
ejected my foot once again and I slipped into second scrambling to get back
into the pedal. I had a sprint with Gaze in the final straight, but held him
Attempting to keep traction...
Onto the final I was up against the newly
crowned German sprint Eliminator National Champ, the Swedish rocket Emil (Giant
Pro XC team rider) and a big German rider from the Lexware racing team. I was
feeling surprisingly good and once again got the snap from the line to the
first corner. I put the power down on the climb and held my line on the drop
and wooden speed bump section. Frustratingly I unclipped once again in the
loose corner and had both feet on the ground. I clipped back in as the big
German rider slipped past. On the climb I was on his wheel, but it was too hard
to pass and I tried to come around him in the final downhill sprint, but there
wasn’t enough track. Rolling across the line in second. I couldn’t help but be
disappointed as I was leading the race and threw it away half way through.
Start of the final!
Trying to come around on the final downhill sprint.... Not enough road!
The positive thing was that I had strong
legs and surprised myself with the power I had throughout the race. Looking
forward to keeping my feet in the pedals this weekend and battling in Nove
Mesto at the World Cup in Czech Republic.
There was an XC race on Sunday, but I
pulled up pretty tired and fatigued from the Eliminator. I started and did two
laps, but the body was cooked and need to save my energy for the more important
battles. It is hard to call it sometimes, but I know when I’m flogging a dead
horse out there. Especially on the Haubach track, straight up and down is not
my style. It was good to see the Aussies having a crack with most of us
struggling, Scott Bowden (4Shaw Giant) and Peta Mullens both had really good
Huge thank you to the Giant Pro XC team for
helping me in the race and supporting me here in Europe. I had almost forgotten
how important having a team is. Thanks to Giant Bike Australia for believing in
me and supporting me all the way. I can never thank all of the crew enough for
their support in my racing no matter what part of the world I’m in!