Cam Cole, of Christchurch, New Zealand, has backed up his podium finish in Italy last week with tenth place at the third round of the 2012 UCI World Cup series held in misty conditions at Fort William, Scotland, at the weekend.
The race was won by USA rider, Aaron Gwin, in a time of 4:48.21. Cole, the fastest Kiwi at the event and just over seven seconds off the winning time, now sits in 11th overall in the series despite missing the opening round. "Top 10 is pretty good – I am happy with this," explains 24-year-old Cole.
"Yesterday was a bad day for me so all things considered I am happy with the result today. I would have liked to have been a bit faster, but 10th is okay and I was happy to qualify ninth after the morning I had yesterday." World Cup riders spend the Saturday practice sessions dialling the lines in and optimising the bike for a course. Of Cole's four practice runs on Saturday he punctured on three rendering the remainder of each run worthless. "The flats all happened in the top quarter of the course, so I'd just be rolling down after them and it meant I didn't have a good feel for the course at race pace. I couldn't feel the track or anything, so I did a fourth run, but by then I was quite tired – it's a long course," admits Cole. With the winning time just under 4:50, the course at Fort William is one of the longest on the circuit and physically demanding.
"I think it helped that I woke up to rain this morning," Cole shares. "I enjoyed today a lot more, got some full runs in and had a lot less frustration. It had rained overnight and was raining on and off all day." The rain meant the track became a lot softer and cut up a lot from practice run to the final run. "Coming into the wood section – it looked a lot different, so I wasn't too sure what to expect in the woods and I nearly went off the track at one point – just missed a big stump and was quite lucky to stay on between the tape," he shares. "I felt really good at the top and good through the middle – I hit my turns really nicely, but I felt a bit sluggish at the bottom of the course. I'd like to find a couple of seconds in there somewhere – it'd make a huge difference to my result. I will go away after this and work on that and hopefully get to Mont-Sainte-Anne and Windham with a couple more seconds on the bike."
Race winner, Aaron Gwin, qualified 29th after a disastrous qualification run, but this may have played into his hands. "The track got a bit slower toward the end as it softened up and the holes developed a bit more, but he [Aaron Gwin] is riding fast at the moment so it might not have affected him," considers Cole. The punctures from Saturday meant Cole didn't have enough time to dial the bike in as much as he'd like for the final run. "We had a few ride-height issues – we needed to make the bike a bit stiffer in the rear for this course. Especially on the jumps, when you pump the bike with a slightly soft rear it will chew through your pump and you won't make speed. It's a tricky one to dial in." "I think we've got a great bike heading into Mont-Sainte-Anne where it's rough and rocky. It's in this type of detail that you find one or two seconds."
Cole admitted that the Fort William course was very physical and he said he wished he'd had a bit more in his legs for the pedalling sections. "Today I really tried to enjoy it and I thought less in my run – I got into it after a few corners and was able to switch off and enjoy it. I usually seem to be able to pull guys back in the lower part of the course – I wasn't able to do that today unfortunately. We have a week now to work on that before Canada."
Since the middle of May Cole and his teammates have been on the bike nearly every day and are looking forward to some time off the downhill bike ahead of Canada. "Mont-Sainte-Anne is a similar course to Fort William, but with more technical sections. I feel strong on the technical and I think these in-between sections can make or break a race. I think that's where Gwinny and the fast guys are edging ahead a little bit," he explains.
Just outside the top 10 in the overall, Cole is happy with his progress. "I'm now 11th overall with just two races under my belt, so I am happy. I am always learning and always moving forward." Cole will now spend a week on a photo shoot for the team before flying out from Europe on Sunday to Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada, to prepare for Round 3 of the UCI Downhill World Cup Series. "I got fifth their last year and qualified fourth, so I am really looking forward to racing on this track. I really like Canada as well – I'm looking forward to this one – it should be a good trip with the team."