The Merida Cup demonstrated the popularity of cycling in Taiwan, both road and mountain biking. Thousands of fans turned out to watch the mountain biking and there were hundreds of racers across all the grades. It was also my first race representing WTB -Wilderness Trail Bikes in the newly made custom-uniform by Champion System. It was good to be racing on mountain bikes again since the grueling Mongolia Bike Challenge. In 2012, I will be doing more mountain bike races but still keep up with my road races. I also have a new team for whom I will race for in 2012. Stay tuned for this announcement.
The formidable Merida Pro Mountain Biking Team lined up at the annual Merida Cup MTB event including multiple world cup winners in Ralph Naef, HannesGenze and Thomas Pfrommer. It was a small field of just over 20 riders with Merida Europe boasting eight riders on the front row; the race was more of a demonstration for the hordes of Taiwanese fans that lined the challenging cross-country course.
It was only a short 4km with one sharp sealed climb that gained 80m each lap. It was good that most of the track was descending and on bumpy rocky single trail through the forest. Both myself and Jason Moeschler ran front Bronson 2.1 and rear Wolverine 2.1 tires, both tubeless. After pre-riding the race-track, Jason was excited that we were both running these types of TCS tires as they were perfectly suited for this type of technical track.
My Perspective: (Strava file: http://app.strava.com/rides/2562454)
Having already 140km in my legs from the day before plus I was on a borrowed Velocite Flux carbon bike with shocks that were locked solid and a dragging front rotor all did not help my case in getting a good result. I’m a mountain biker at heart and this was my first real mountain bike race in a long while, so I was looking forward to carving up some trails.
Typically, I start fast in mountain bike races but fade as the race progresses. It was no different in the Merida Cup race. I had maneuvered myself into a good position during the rolling neutral start before we were unleashed like a pack of baying wolves hell-bent on capturing its prey. When the flag was dropped, I was dumbfounded at the sustained accelerations of the Merida Europe pro guys, they really turned it on as we dashed for the first single track section going up a 20% gradient. I started quite well, even passing my WTB teammate Jason Moeschler. I was enjoying the single-track, but found that I desperately needed proper running suspension forks, as I was absorbing most of the impacts and my hands, lower back and elbows suffered as a result.
I was buoyed along by the large crowd support and heard my name shouted a few times. Despite the mountain bike race being only 20km, it was an hour of pain and I felt myself get slower and slower going up the mean 20% climb on each lap. Apart from a respectable 11 minute flat first lap, the rest of the laps ballooned out to 11min 50s but at least I was consistent. It was impressive to see Jason’s lap times – 10.01, 9.57, 10.19, 10.27 and 10.17. This is a hallmark of a successful cross-country racer: the consistency of lap-times. Despite the rough beating my body received, I immensely enjoyed the technical nature of the track with many tight corners, logs and rocks to jump over, rock garden descents and a couple of stairs.
World winners, Ralph Naef and HannesGenze, provided the crowds with some great entertainment as they both blitzed the course in a super quick time of 50mins 07 seconds. Genze was only four seconds behind at the finish but a massive two minutes lead over third place-getter Alain AlexandreBetremie. PengGuixiang, Taiwan’s no.1 mountain biker, was fourth with WTB’s own Jason Moeschler taking the final podium spot in fifth with a time of 54mins 12 seconds. I was a further eight minutes adrift in 12th position.
Keep scrolling for more photos (they are also clickable for larger view). Photos curtousey of Bikeman.org media.