Madison Saracen 2018 - UCI World Cup 1: Lošinj, Croatia

 

After a long, cold winter in the UK, it was finally time to kick off the 2018 season. The first World Cup of the year is always an exciting and nervous time. Everyone was refreshed and keen to get going, so we set off on a long drive down to a small quiet island off the coast of Croatia called Lošinj.  

With a new track on the cards and after seeing track previews some expectations can be low but the boys came with positive minds to get the job done. The track was looking brutal, fast and it held something that would challenge the whole field.  With it being one of the shortest tracks we've visited over the years, it would create a challenging, tight and exciting race that would test the riders every second. So with track walk done and out the way, the boys were raring to get up for practice to figure it out. 

Blue skies, sharp heat and rock’s… Lot’s of rocks was how you’d describe practice day in a hurry.  It was a tough first session for the lads, finding the right setups, working out the small details in the track and a few mechanicals made the day mentally draining.

First on the list is Matt Walker and in his own words:  

“The track here is seriously rocky with loose marbles on top; having ridden in the mud and rain for the majority of the winter, this track surface inevitably took a bit of getting used to. A few runs in, I was getting my lines dialled and I started to inject some speed into the track. I was on my fourth practice run when I came unstuck. I washed the front in a rocky right hander which sent me over the bars. Instinct took over and I put my arms out to save myself from the body of rocks. Apart from being severely winded; I could feel a serge of pain from my left hand, I just really hoped it wasn’t serious. Not how I wanted my first practice of elite World Cup racing to go. The hand gradually got worse so I (along with the team) made the decision to give this race a miss. I struggle to put into words how gutted I am but moving forward, the focus has changed slightly and I’m now making sure I’m in the best shape I can be, for Fort William in 6 weeks time.”

The Spaniard had solid speed all throughout practice, looking smooth and composed on the tricky terrain. He was feeling confident from all the hard work he has been putting in over the winter to be in best possible form for this season, but a small mechanical in qualifying, on such a fast short track, would cost him a place in the big show for finals.  Alex has his mind set on the next round in Fort William where he wants to make his mark!

When racing is over, there’s always jobs to be had. Nip got his DIY side on and spruced up the interior of the vans!

With a new team for Danny this year everything has been falling into place effortlessly with the people around him. The relationship with Dave, his mechanic, is second to none. It’s important to have the right balance between work and play and these two have it down. After almost 10 years of working together on and off, 2018 is shaping up to be a good year for the Redcar Rocket. 

The brutal track was taking a toll on everyones bikes during the week, so to have the correct setup to minimise the damage was key. Every tweak of the bike was essential to keeping the bike on track.

Putting down a solid run in qualifying is a good gauge on what needs to be worked on for finals.  Danny had a solid ride which placed him into 14th, just 5 seconds back from the lead. Knowing it was going to be tight, he could work on some minor adjustments for Sunday and get everything dialled on his bike and in his head. 

Hot weather, surreal landscapes and a good track made Sunday come fast.  It was a one man band, with only Danny in the big show, so it was all hands on to help him race to his full potential. Everything clicked, he was quietly confident letting nothing distract him. Practice went as planned which only left the hardest part to tackle.. game time. 

Back to the top for the final time, a solid warm up is vital to perform to your highest ability.

It was all eyes on the hill as Hart was riding. His effortless technique and fluidity on the bike made him look by far the most composed in the field. Each split was showing good and bad. A strong pedal to finish into 10th just 3.7 seconds back. The perfect foundation to build from with a stable top 10 for the newest member of the team. Danny has his sights set on Fort William for round 2 of the world cup. 

“My final race run went really well, I was riding good on the majority of the course, just messed the bottom up I guess, and that cost me!” - Danny Hart