Part 2: MTB World Cup With Team Torq
Posted June 25 2010
PART ONE | Words And Photography By Luke Webber
Buried two-hundred deep on a World Cup startline is not the optimum place to be; Tim Dunford, Ben Thomas and Anthony O'Boyle know it. Seconds before the start of the Offenburg round is no time to doubt though and as the gun draws there's only time for a brief hesitation, before business time.
As the first wheels are turned memories of an imperfect week of preparation are forgotten; because travelling the World Cup circuit, holding down a nine ‘til five and being expected to perform against the Worlds greatest is a known impossibility. But none of that matters; rather, it's seen as part of the unique challenge of racing the World Cup as a privateer.
On arrival to a parking spot around half a kilometre from the Trade Team Arena there can only be a rapid status re-evaluation. What would be seen as a pro setup on the domestic scene looks distinctively amateurish when compared to the team motorhomes located in the paddock and inhabited with mechanics, helpers, masseurs and managers; all backed up by instant manufacturer support.
It's the kind of professional assitance which has been earned over years of World Cup victories, something which seems a galaxy away from the preparations of the Team Torq riders; preparations that include the abnormal chores of bike mechanics, cooking, cleaning, organising the next place to stay and escaping from the back of a van.
Because after hammering yourself in a vain attempt to avoid getting lapped, nothing beats getting shut in the back of the team van and having the door handle break. From the inside. Especially when the van is black, sealed from the back seats and has an ambient temperature of fifty degrees.
For Ben Thomas only the race pace was hotter, as Absalon and Schurter went wheel to wheel and the Torq riders had their own battles against random Euro types on a vastly changed Offenburg course from day one of practice. Gone was the muddy trail and Nobby Nics, in their place came Ralphs and a fast, dry racing line in searing heat - it was the Offenburg everyone had billed and a worthy contender for best XC event of the World Cup. Again.
For the challengers tactics varied wildly - Ben and Ant going hard from the gun in an attempt to gain track position, Tim taking a far more reserved approach, joining the back of the queue for the singletrack and then overturning a two minute deficit to finish 166th from 228 starters.
But the result hardly mattered because after four laps completed and three laps down another race started; to drive through the night and return to England, to start the working week which would pay for getting to next weeks national. And there's the compromise.
Because when does it become worthwhile to take the ultimate risk of canning the four day working week, two days travelling and two days riding to taking the pro approach? And when does that risk become justified? Top 150? Top 100?
It's an answer Ben, Ant and Tim are still searching for at regional, national and international races; the Offenburg World Cup was just another step toward refining the options toward the ultimate definition of pro bike rider.