“I Won The SUP Race Cup… Pumped!”
After spending a couple of kinda chilly days down in Biarritz, Alain, Rico and myself headed over to Sainte Maxime on Friday. That’s where the SUP Race Cup was held this weekend, apparently it’s one of the biggest and most prestigious races in Europe so I was really looking forward to it.
I was also looking forward to seeing how I’d go against some of the top guys in the world… I was injured in the second half of last year so I missed all the big ones like the Battle. I’ve had some good results in Oz recently, and the level there is intense, but yeah, wasn’t so sure where I stacked up on the international stage!
First day here in St. Maxime wasn’t quite what I expected. The cold mistral winds were blowing down off the alps making it pretty chilly off the water and super rough on it. It was howling off shore which made it tough to hold a beach race (a beach race over here is pretty much like a Battle of the Paddle elite race but without the waves).
The organisers were umming and ahhing about what to do, eventually pushing the race back to 6.30pm to try and get some relief from the wind. Didn’t really work as it was still blowing like crazy, so we went ahead with the race on a slightly modified course. It was four laps of just over 1km each, up and down the beach.
I knew Connor would be the one to beat, he pretty much always is, and sure enough he took off right at the start.
In these short little races you can’t really afford to make mistakes, and I made one straight away at the start. I was caught up in the pack around the first buoy, which was like a traffic jam, and by the 200 metre mark Connor was already clear from all of us by 20 or 30 metres.
If you let someone get a break like this it’s gonna be super hard to reel them in, so the top guys all had to sprint to catch back up to Connor as soon as possible. Somehow we managed to do it, despite paddling straight into a crazy headwind, and so about 7 or 8 of us formed a draft train for the first lap.
I’ve gotta say that SUP racing is getting REALLY tactical these days, especially with wash riding (drafting…). In the early days it was way easier for the experienced ocean paddlers, but now everyone’s racing smart!
So back to the race… I worked my way up into second but to his credit, Connor was doing all the work and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get past him. Eventually the top four of us broke free – Connor, myself, Jake and Casper. Connor and I kept dropping the other two, but they kept catching back up…
I was trying to break free from Connor, paddling a little bit wide and seeing if I could get some bumps on the downwind/crosswind portion of the course, but Connor held strong.
In the end it was a sprint to the line between Connor and I.
Connor took his leggie off just before the final turn. I thought “that’s clever I might do the same thing…” but unfortunately my leggie fell off the board and started dragging. Connor sprinted as soon as we turned the buoy for the 100m dash to the line, and even if I didn’t have something dragging behind me, it was always gonna be tough to pass this guy in a short sprint.
So Connor took a much deserved win and I hit the line just 2 seconds after him, feeling like I’d kinda left something out on the course. That was good and bad… I knew there was a chance I could have won, but it also gave me confidence heading into the distance race on day 2. I just had to gain 3 seconds and I’d be able to grab the overall event trophy.
So the Distance Race on Day 2 was totally different from Day 1. The weather was way better and winds way more more calm. And again it was a very tactical race…
A big group broke free and formed a draft train early on, maybe 15 guys or so, but nobody wanted to take the lead and do the work. I found myself at the front after the first kilometre with all the big guns close behind. It’s kind of frustrating when you’re leading and you know the guys are getting a slightly easier ride behind you, but that’s just smart racing on their part.
I didn’t want to blow out though, so the pace wasn’t too high early on. Eventually one of the 14 footer guys took over (Fabrizio from Italy) and the pace picked up.
The first 5kms was fairly flat, then we turned around the corner and into a strong headwind. That started mixing things up and by the time we turned the halfway mark of the 17km or so course, it was me and Connor up front, with Jacko, Casper, Beau, Jake and Chase in the mix as well.
At this point we had about a 4km slight downwind leg. I absolutely love bumps and so I knew this was my chance to make a break. Connor and I were going next to each other, not drafting but not being able to break free either. We ended up breaking the field, a few guys were keeping in touch but I knew it would come down to Connor and I at the line again, just like the first day.
We rounded the last buoy and there was bout 1km to go. At that point I felt I couldn’t break Connor, and that he’d hold on right to the line and win the overall title. I only needed to make up three seconds but I just couldn’t shake him!
I said congrats to him and that we should just go man on man to the finish, no wash riding. He was like yeah ok, so we took off and I got a board length in front straight away. At that point Connor was obviously feeling it because he hopped on my tail. So much for the man on man haha! But that’s exactly what I would have done if I was in his position…
This went on for a minute or so and then out of nowhere I found the tiniest little bump, took a sharp left, which took me off course but also broke the wash for Connor, and then just hammered it as hard as I could. As soon as you get more than a couple of board lengths in front it’s pretty hard to get back on, and Connor must have been feeling it after doing all the work on Saturday because he couldn’t catch back up.
I just put my head down and sprinted the final 400 metres or so to the line and crossed in first. Connor was about 20 seconds back, which gave me enough time to win the overall SUP Race Cup trophy.
It’s definitely no easy feat to beat Connor, the kid is a machine, so I was pretty excited!
My fellow Gold Coast boys Beau O’Brian and Paul Jackson crossed just after Connor, then Chase was in 5th.
>>> Check out the complete 2013 SUP Race CUP Results
Wasn’t sure how my form was coming into this event so it was great to snag a win. Next week we’re heading to the big Lost Mills race for an 18km flat water grind… I much prefer the ocean so this one will be tough. Again, it’s going to be super tactical, probably even more so than today as it’ll be pure flat water… but I’ve definitely gotten a big boost in confidence after this weekend!
Plus we’ll be on 14 footers in Germany, whereas this weekend was all 12’6 for the elite guys. NSP has been made me an awesome 14′ board and the new custom made Quickblade paddle that Jimmy Terrell brought over for me this week worked a treat, so it’ll be interesting to see how we go!
Tonight I’m off to the alps with Alain and Rico. Alain’s got a place up there so we’re gonna do some snowboarding tomorrow. Pretty crazy to think it’s the start of summer next week and we’ll be in the snow!!
Wednesday we drive up to Germany so I’ll keep you posted in a few days!
Cheers and thanks for following my adventures!