Last weekend we travelled down to the South of France for the final round of the 2016 4X ProTour which was held in the town of Roquebrune. Overlooking the fabulous French Mediterranean coastline, the views from the track were incredible. Blue skies met up with blue seas all broken up by a few multi million euro boats sailing around! It was a picturesque end to the 2016 4X ProTour and this new track was certainly a welcome addition to the ProTour.
We arrived on Thursday and headed straight to the track to take a look. It was incredible. Created on the hillside, as we drove to the venue we could see just how much work had gone into this track. Sculptured into the hill it looked great. We walked the track and were stunned at just how steep, rocky and loose it was. It truly was a ProTour track and I couldn’t wait to get riding. As we walked further down onto the last straight, we found a huge step down.It was 45 feet and 20 feet vertical drop! Intimidating but the run in would give you plenty of speed.
Official practice did not start until Friday, so after the long drive I wanted to turn my legs and have a play on the bikes. We drove just 10 minutes to one of my favorite BMX tracks in the world – St Maxime. We had a great session there, taking a few photos and loosening up.
On Friday we started practice. The track was super loose and after talking to the organisers we found out why! There had not been any rain in this area since May! It was dry and dusty which made a welcome change! The track was tough. The steepness meant that the corners were going to be vital. It was a case of braking hard then slamming the turns. We spent 2 hours working on the track, then practice was over.
After practice we had an afternoon free. What bester way to spend it than a sightseeing tour of Monaco! There just happened to be the annual Yacht show on that afternoon so we spent a few hours checking out multi million euro yachts!
Saturday rolled around and it was the next practice session and qualifying. As Current UCI world number 1 I was very happy to be riding with the number 1 plate!
Practice went well and I felt like I was riding good. The qualification run was at 15.05. After some USN re fuelling, we were ready.
The qualification run went ok. To be honest, on the bike it felt good, but at the finish, the time was just a bit slow. I qualified 10th, my worst qualifying of the year, but after looking at the split times, I knew where I had made mistakes. With another practice session on Sunday we knew what we had to work on.
So race day rolled around and it was for the final time in 2016. I had a couple of goals. Currently I was sat in 4th overall in the 4X ProTour. I wanted to hold on to that position. I couldn’t move forward but I could slip to 7th. I was also leading the 2016 UCI World Rankings. I wanted to go into winter holding on to both of these positions.
My draw looked good. I was happy with the races and knew I could make it to the final. I worked on my mistakes from qualifying and went into the race extremely confident. Lining up in my first heat against riders who qualified 7th, 23rd and 26th. I had 2nd gate pick and went for gate 2. The beeps went and I fired out of the gate in the lead. Moving over in turn 1 to protect the inside I started to pull away. Heading into the penultimate turn, I slipped in the turn a little and dabbed a foot. Immediately after the turn was a sequence of double jumps and rollers before the huge step down. I didn’t have time to get my foot in the pedal and headed down the straight with one foot unclipped. Trying my best to get the foot in, a big gust of side wind put me off balance and I hit the brakes. There was no way I was going to take off that huge jump in a cross wind with one foot unclipped. At this moment the 3 guys behind me all flew past me as I rode around the drop off. At this moment I also felt the rear tyre was flat. It was a catalogue of problems that unfortunately meant that I was out in the first round of racing.
I finished 26th – my worst ever result and I think you can see in the image above just how gutted I was as I rolled across the finish line. In fact gutted doesn’t even come close to how I felt. As the racing continued though, the results started to look like it may go my way though. When all was done and dusted, somehow, I had been able to hang on to 4th overall in the 2016 4X ProTour. From the dissapointment earlier this was a bit of a pick up.
At the end of the racing we had the overall podiums. Tomas Slavik taking the win, Felix Beckeman 2nd, Quentin Derbier in 3rd, me 4th and Simon Waldburger in 5th. Quentin was not present as he is recovering from an injury.
So that was it for the 2016 4X ProTour. I would like to thank all of the team sponsors for their support. We could not do this without your help. The fans who support all the 4X athletes in what we do and the organisers for creating tracks that continue to challenge us.
A small break now for me then straight back into 2017 preparation. Updates soon.
All photos by Charles Robertson