Words + Photos: Chris Kilmurray (1L)
Scott Mears was present at the event as well
Early Monday morning after Lourdes World Cup Rd #1 and it was straight into it. 9hrs driving, €75 in tolls, two stretch stops and 1 coffee too many saw me get back home to Morzine with just enough time to un-pack, polish, re-pack and prep on Monday evening. Next stop was Croatia!
A quick set of road bike intervals on Tuesday afternoon left me with a snapped chain and a serious dose of road rash! All the more fun for the trip to Geneva airport where I collected Point1 trained Perry Gardener, from there it was straight on route traversing northern Italy, a quick duck and dive into and out of Slovenia and some blind crest to flat right 5 turns through Croatia saw us arrive at Brestova ferry port for the 25min crossing on Cres island!
You see this wee C1 DH race we were attending was on an island, something we only realised when Perry & I got to planning the finer details of the trip! Landing on the island just as the sun was setting was pretty rad, but already we were feeling more in holiday mode than race mode so we needed to get the brains in gear and I had to make sure to get the coaching hat on when needed as after all we came here for Perry to come away with some UCI points. 30 are needed for World Cup entry, but getting any on the board was the goal!
Climbing from the ferry port we had to grab a second look at the road sign… Mali Losinj, the area the race was in was 80km away! The road winded for nearly an hour until we reach an absolute gem, small rocky coves, quality hotel and what looked like not really the terrain needed for a DH race.
Friday morning track walk came and we realised that while the hill was small and gradient flat, the terrain wa anything but mellow, rock, boulder, powdery soil and lots of narrow passages lined on both sides by ancient stone wall!
This was gonna be a proper challenge and a great race, add to that the finish line on the Adriatic sea in the small port of Veli Losinj and we were onto a real winner!
Practice proved a real challenge, with unofficial runs allowed on Friday, semi-official practice from 10 a.m. to midday on Saturday and then a short window of Saturday afternoon practice where stopping was not allowed and clean run was next to impossible to come by as speed differences across the entries was HUGE!
Up against some exceptional fast Slovenia World Cup racers, a handful of fast Brits and eventual winner Slawomir Lukasik quality practice and dialled lines were a must, a challenge both myself and Perry were loving but in the end exactly where we feel short. 3 practice run punctures for Perry and 1 for me meant Sunday’s qualifying run was our first full run!
Finals came and Perry and myself knocked 5 sec off of our qualifying times (Perry doing so with another puncture) to finish in 30th and 32nd respectively. Not the result Perry had come for with only the top 15 getting UCI points, but an amazing location, friendly locals, a really fun and interesting race track and plenty of experience banked for the rest of the season for both athlete and coach!
No time to lament what could have been as a dip in the sea and a fine buffet dinner awaited us! Recovery strategies, warm-ups, cool-downs, head cam reviews and quality food and sleep were had all weekend long, but in the end practice quality let the team down; but there is always more to any trip than just the racing and Mali Losinj is definitely somewhere we’ll both return to!