Thursday, 2 June 2011

SXC Round 3 - Comrie Croft

When we visited the Hairy Coo trails in February the sun was shining and the trails were dry and loose – it was glorious if a little cold. Fast forward to the end of May and the third round of the Scottish XC and when there should have been blue skies it was overcast, muddy and blowing a gale! Seeing the rain on our short drive over (what a luxury to only be 1.5 hours away from an event venue) Chris switched the tyres from his bike onto mine. Saving his legs for the Trans Germany this week he didn’t need traction for his lap with me before the race.

The top of the Hairy Coo trail back in February

The course was most of the Hairy Coo trail with some added grass switchbacks and a couple of tricky sections through the trees at the bottom of the hill. For someone who usually hates cycling across grass the switchbacks were a surprisingly welcome addition; providing a break from the long dirt track climb. Once you did reach the top the technical descent had a burn crossing, a drop, and some rattley rocky runs. In the mud I don’t think anyone stayed on their bike 100% of the time. My spectacular off was in practice when a rock slab I had easily cut the corner on when riding in the dry was too slippy in the wet - good time to try out my tuck and roll skills.

The drop before it got slippy

I was the only pre entry in the Elite women’s race so was happy to see Lee Craigie (TORQ Performace) and a couple of other riders for the Elite/Expert race. As the race started my aim was to try and stick with Lee for as long as possible but despite getting the hole shot, once she got going on the hill there was no chance I was going to stick on her wheel. Another rider was also climbing faster than I could manage but on a hill that steep you just have to find your pace and stick with it. A couple of slippy moments on the first climb and I was tucked in behind Kim Craigie and Ann Murray who set a nice pace and were good wheels to follow. Not for long though; the gradient of the final section of climb seemed to suit me more and I passed Kim but could only get past Ann on the drop where I decided to take the B line which appeared to be faster. Once past I put my head down and motored along.

On lap 2 I could see that I was gaining on the lass in second on the descent, although she was still climbing better than me. After a few encouraging words from Chris I caught her on a grassy downhill section and passed by jumping off and running in the mud through the trees. Game on, now I just needed to minimise her advantage on the climb. She caught me on the grass switchbacks and sat in behind, before passing once we hit the wider track. I knew I could not climb any faster so had to let her go but pushed as hard as I could to keep the gap as small as possible. Through the top singletrack section I managed to get back on her wheel and then past again just before we hit the descent. Telling myself to be smooth and safe I negotiated down the hill before (and not too soon as I had started cramping) the last little climb to the finish. Having not seen Lee after the first climb I was second – but the gap is shrinking and for me it is a great improvement.
The Elite Women's Podium

Thanks as always to Chris Pedder for cheering and bottling and and Giant for the perfect bike.

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