Thunder Down Under

Here we are again! Crazy to think that in the last month Stefan Garlicki went from Cape Town to Lesotho to France to Australia and back again! Here is the full story…

The last time you heard from me I was sitting in an airport on the way home from Lourdes, France after a rather disappointing World Cup start. I flew home for three days to repack and set off for Cairns, Australia! I was so excited to head Down Under for the first time and hopefully to warmer weather again. I am not too partial to the cold if I am being honest.

It was quite a journey though as I was flying via Abu Dhabi and total travel time was 40 hours, plus an eight hour time difference. I had never dealt with the time difference before so that was a bit of a shock, but it was worth it as Cairns is amazing! It is definitely the best place I have been to around the world, except for the fact that everything is trying to kill you; they have spiders, snakes, crocs, sharks, stinging trees and even deadly jelly fish! The humidity is also insane, 100% humidity is rough and also a first for me. I think I was dehydrated the whole time I was there.

Stefan in action at Cascade in Paarl.
Stefan in action at Cascade in Paarl.

Getting back to the racing, I was really excited to race there as the track looked epic with it being high speed and dry with big jumps. However with Cairns being a tropical region, it decided to rain on and off all week which made the clay based track an ice rink! It was really weird riding in the rain but sweating at the same time! The rock garden was honestly like ice when wet. Practice was absolute carnage with riders going down everywhere. I battled a bit on day one but I think most riders did in those conditions. Qualifying day was a little dryer which definitely helped. I felt good on track and aimed at just having a safe qualifier to make sure I would be racing the finals. I did just that but rode a little too safe perhaps as I qualified 77th. Just the top 80 qualify! I was in and that’s all that matters.

Race day rolled around and in my last practice run I felt the best I had all week so I was ready to let loose in finals. I got to the top well before my run to warm-up and zone-out listening to some music. Next thing I knew I was in the gate and beep … beep … beep, I was off! I hit the first few turns perfectly and then over-steered in a left hander which sent me into the bank and to a stop. I got going again and admittedly was a little flustered, so I pushed harder and then stalled in the rock garden. After that I made more mistakes and just lost the flow which meant I would end in 76th place. I think I was just pushing too hard which is frustrating but we live and learn. It could have been worse, I still made finals, had a great time on track and I am so motivated for the next one in Fort William!

Mastering the Cairns rock garden.
Mastering the Cairns rock garden.

The event was over but the trip wasn’t, the team and I still had three days in Cairns to be tourists. We went out to the Great Barrier which was so amazing and definitely should be on everyone’s bucket list! Alas it had to come to an end and soon we said goodbye to the tropical paradise and headed home. I had no time to rest as I got home at 10pm on Thursday evening and decided to race the third round of the SA National Downhill Series which was being held at Cascade Country Manor in Paarl that weekend. This was just 30 minutes from my house so I could not resist the urge to race at home. The weather on the weekend was perfect after some rain during the week so the track was perfect and felt like a roller coaster. I managed to have a perfect weekend winning both the seeding run and the finals by almost four seconds. I was relieved to have a good run as I feel quite a bit of pressure at local events, the local riders are always pinned!

Until next time…

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