April 10, 2014

Technically Minded

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With the ABSA Cape Epic firmly behind us, the first round of the UCI World Cup is just days away. Right now as I write this I am making my way up to good old Pietermaritzburg to take place in the 4th World Cup that South Africa will host. That’s excluding the World Championships of 2013

Over the 5 year history of the event I’ve seen the course change from its first version which included a huge amount of climbing per lap with no technical sections really to speak of, to one of the world’s most technically challenging courses that makes most of the top professionals nervous. This is thanks to the amazing work Nick Floros has done over the years by adding infamous obstacles such as Buck Jump Alley, Rapid Rocks, Shaka’s Playground, Cork Screw and Treehouse Rock Garden. It truly is a spectacle to watch guys like Nino Schurter pick lines and commit down these obstacles. They make it look so easy don’t they?

That brings me to the point of this post. What makes guys like that so fast? Generally, when it comes to improving your technical skills most of the emphasis is placed on actual rider skills. Correct braking technique, body position, picking lines through the corners, tire pressure etc. These are all very important while riding, but once these skills are mastered, what else is there to improve on?

Taking a look at guys like Nino Schurter or Manual Fumic hitting the rock garden at such speed and pulling it off lap after lap requires more than great skill, it required great eye speed as well. Ask any downhill racer or racing car driver. Eye speed is critical and riders actually do specific training for it. I was reminded of this over the last week. With Epic having gone badly with me falling ill, there was little I could do in terms of physical training leading up to this event in my bid to recover. Instead I decided to focus on my technical riding, something that I soon realised was a little rusty!

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To do this I chose short, steep technical piece of singletrack that didn’t require much pedalling, about 30-40 seconds long, and timed myself over and over again timing myself from the same start and finish point. Lap after lap my times fell as I picked better lines, became more confident, and my eye speed improved. Increased eye speed enables you to take in the terrain and process it faster, helping you to make the right corrections sooner and come out of an obstacle on top of your bike rather than on the floor next to it. At the start my time for the section was 38 seconds, and by the end it had dropped to 30 seconds. Winning!

So with a new found confidence in my technical skill in my back pocket, I am going into this race purely to have fun. To be honest I have completely no idea how my form is right now. 3 Full stages of the Cape Epic could have been a good training stimulus, or the break could have been too long. There is simply no way of knowing. All I know is that good things happen when you have fun!

If you can’t be out there on the track to support, I strongly suggest you tune in via live streaming on Sunday at 3:30pm!

Keep it rubber side down.

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