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Model racer: The Niki Gudex Journal 2005
Downhill and cross-country racer, graphic designer and model, Australian mountain biker Niki Gudex is nothing if not versatile. Riding for the SRM Power Team, Niki will be the first ever female rider in the team. She'll continue to focus on the NORBA series while making time to race back in Australia. Follow all the adventures in her exclusive diary on Cyclingnews.
Niki Gudex's website: www.nikigudex.com
NORBA NCS Series Rounds 2, 3, 4 & 5
Cracking the top 20 - at last!
The year is now well under way and I have now raced in four NORBA events: Sonoma, Big Bear, Snowshoe, and Mount Snow - two on the West Coast and two on the East Coast.
2003 was my first season racing XC and I finished the NORBA series with a final rank of 32nd. I must admit that I struggled to break into the top 30. However, with a greater understanding of what it takes to race XC, I have set myself the goal for this season of breaking into the top 20. At the Sea Otter Classic earlier this year, I kind of started where I left off, finishing 32nd again. So after a few hard weeks' training at home with the focus of building a little more speed, I was extremely focused on that top 20 coming into the NORBA series.
NORBA NCS #2 - E1, Sonoma, CA, May 15-16, 2004
I skipped the first round in Texas, with NORBA Round 2 at Sonoma just north of San Francisco being my first of the series. Again, with my goal clear in my mind, I pushed hard at the start to put myself into the top 20 on the first lap. I think I got up to about 17th before I started to fade. This wasn't to be my day, finishing a familiar 34th. Maybe I'd have better luck in the short track? The short track was held mostly in the car park with really only two small sections on the dirt. After yesterday, I was ready to try anything, so I put on my training wheels, which are road rims and tyres on disc hubs. My gamble paid off, sitting in the lead bunch for the whole event, even leading out for a lap with only two laps to go. Positioning myself for the finish was difficult on the dirt with the skinny tires, but I came in 19th for my first top 20 NORBA result. Oh yeah!
NORBA NCS #3 - E1, Big Bear, USA, May 21-23, 2004
The following week was at Big Bear for NORBA Round 3. Having no altitude preparation, I went up as late as possible on Thursday night. I had been battling a chest cough that I was trying to shake, so the less time at altitude the better. Not much I can say about Big Bear; my XC race went pretty much the same as Sonoma. I pushed hard, but I suffered with the thin air. I didn't feel the best, but it is rare that you do feel 100 percent, so no excuses. 35th in the XC and 27th in short track.
It was great to see Johnny Waddell at Big Bear. For those that don't know, Johnny had an accident almost a year ago at the World Cup in Quebec that left him in a coma for a month. He is doing so well, I went for a ride with him and he is really strong. He is not competing, but he has come so far that I am sure he will continue to surprise and inspire people.
I spent the next two weeks hanging out with some good Aussie friends in a small place called Annapolis. On the first day I met the cops; it turns out that Americans don't train on the interstate! Oh well... It was great to have time to kick back, and start/finish an art project I had been trying to find time to get to. Oakley sent out a prototype backpack for me to paint, which I really enjoyed. I normally do most of my design work on the computer, so it was cool to be more hands-on.
Some other activities off the bike included a photo shoot for Maxim magazine in Hollywood, which will be coming out in their August issue. Talk about contrasts, instead of riding around in the back of the team truck, I got picked up in a stretch. The shoot was fun, very far removed from the dusty West Coast and the muddy East Coast. I met up with Lokelani McMichael, a Hawaiian triathlete who was also there for the shoot. I had never met Loke before, but she is really nice.
NORBA NCS #4 - E2 Snowshoe, West Virginia, USA, June 10-13, 2004
Then, back to racing, Round 4 of the NORBA series which was held at Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia. Last year, Snowshoe was the first XC event that I raced overseas and I suffered. Some people may have thought that this year was a wet and long race, but for me it turned out to be much more fun than what I might have expected. Again, I had my sights set clearly on top 20. At the halfway mark I was in 17th, but all of the running and carrying the bike through the flat sections of mud was starting to take its toll and it was a long way to the end. I held on for 20th place. Sunday was the short track and all of the tactics that are involved is a steep learning curve for me, but I am really enjoying racing the short track, again finishing in 20th. Two top 20 results in one weekend, my best weekend yet!
NORBA series #5 - E2 Mount Snow, Vermont, June 17-20, 2004
Round 5 was at Mt Snow in Vermont. Of all the NORBA courses I raced last year, this was my favourite. The course is mostly tight technical single track. It is riding courses like this that is the reason I race mountain bikes, just so much fun! I have made it into the top 20 more than once now, so I knew I could do it again. My focus was to just live in the moment and enjoy being out there. It must have been a good strategy - I finished 17th, my highest XC placing yet. I was feeling good for the short track on Sunday. I love the atmosphere from the crowd at the short track events, this time equalling Saturday's PB and again finishing in 17th. This time, two solid top 20 results. Not only that, but I am now ranked 19th in XC and 21st in short track.
The NORBA series takes a break now until the end of July. This week I am in Mont St Anne in Quebec for Round 5 of the World Cup, the final Olympic selection event for Australia's only starting position in Athens. I don't expect that I will be getting that spot, but this is mountain biking and anything can happen. I am feeling great and I absolutely love the Mont Saint Anne course.
Have fun on your bike,