Tues 19th August:
Just about rid of the jet lag from my last trip, I repack my bags for a week in Mèribel for some more downhill action. ‘Game face on’, and I’m excited!
We meet at Liverpool Airport and board the short flight to Geneva where the sunshine is a welcome contrast to the rain we left behind. As we approach the Alps in the team vans, I know we are in for some serious mountain biking! Nestled amongst the mountains of the ‘three valleys’, is our chalet, sitting high with far-reaching views of the terrain around us. I spy the hot tub and games room (with pool table!) perfect for some down time, this place is awesome! I can’t wait to see the track!
Wed 20th August:
Today I get to work on the athletes. Gee has been managing his injuries well and I have been updated regularly. With very little time between races, the importance of his focus is paramount to a quick recovery. All riders are on form and head out for a spin before track walk. This is a highlight of the trip for me, a reminder of the skills and courage these guys have to fly down at top speed! The track is long and technical, daunting to me and some parts I have trouble walking! After a 2 hour descent, the riders are pumped! Tired legs are flushed out with a massage and it’s early to bed for an early wake up.
Thurs 21st August:
6.30am start and the air is fresh, plenty of layers are needed for warm up in the pits. Rachel is straight on the turbo, music on and mind focused. The mechanics are already at work, Taylor rolls in after a sneaky lie in and the elite boys are left to snooze. As the boys rock up, the fans have already been filtering through taking pictures and wanting autographs. I am there if the riders need any last minute “chassis tweaks” or taping. They each go up for their practice runs and return to discuss bike set up with their mechanics. Rachel suffers with arm pump so we keep on top of it and talk about relaxing off the bars where possible. Lunch arrives and the riders refuel then finish the afternoon with more practice and line comparisons on the Go Pros. With minimal pedalling, the focus of the evenings treatment is shoulders, thoracic and arms then an early night for all.
Fri 22nd August:
Time has flown by and today is already qualifying! Another 6.30am start, breakfast and out of the door, it’s cold! I arrive in the pits and start work straight away on a cameraman with whiplash and tape Rachel’s shoulders. Any excuse for a spin on the bike, so I join Maurrissen for a naughty pastry run.
Timings go up and the riders focus on their warm ups and my job now is hydration and general gopher duties before they head up the mountain. Qualifying is over and the results are mixed, unfortunately Slugger takes a fall and sprains his wrist. That evening we manage the swelling and pain to prepare for race day. Everyone has an early night to feel good for tomorrow.
Sat 23rd August:
Race day! Early start and straight down to the pits, the mechanics, as usual, are working away and the riders arrive at their set times. Today will run like clockwork, each rider will stick closely to their warm up times and the process begins again. I continue to manage Slugger’s wrist, treatment helped so it’s more of the same. Fortunately the injury is not as bad as Gee’s in Mont Saint Anne, so minimal taping is required, adrenalin of racing will block any pain. The usual words of encouragement are given as each rider leaves for their race run. Gee is the last to leave and we all head towards the finish line to view each run on the big screen. It’s exciting to watch and I join in the cheering and shouting at the screen, as if they can hear us!
It’s all over, the end of the World Cup series and Rachel wins the race, meaning she’s second overall. The results are mixed and it has been a roller coaster of a season! We partied the night away and flew home the next day.
With the World Cup series over, the final trip for me is to Hafjell, Norway for the 2014 World Championships!